Meet your everyday heroes in the Truth to Power Café
Truth to Power Cafe is a global platform for free speech and political activism. This year we are proud to honour Matthew Mitcham, who celebrates 10 years since winning Olympic gold for his world record 10m platform dive at Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Jeremy Goldstein writes for GC2018.com about his experience:
They say you should never meet your heroes, so it was with some trepidation that I went to Sydney last week to interview Matthew Mitcham for the international premiere of the Truth to Power Café on the Gold Coast in April.
Matthew is the first openly gay male athlete to win an Olympic gold medal, and of the 11,000 athletes participating at Beijing 2008, he proudly says “I was the only gay in the village”. This simple and courageous act of being who you are, in the full glare of the world’s premier sporting event spoke truth to power and made him an international hero and global ambassador for the LGBTQI+ community. Reflecting on his decision to disclose his sexuality before his Olympic debut, he says “I wanted Australia to know exactly who it was they were supporting. The reaction I had from the media and public was 99.999% overwhelmingly positive and supportive. This was heartening, and made me very proud to be an Australian”.
When I asked him to name a time in his life when telling the truth and standing up for himself had a memorable impact, he said “my decision to come out before Beijing was the best decision I ever made in my entire life, and continues to influence how I engage with the public today”. He said “people appreciated my honesty and candour. They felt if he can do it, I can too”.
He says "people feel safer sharing what’s going on with them, when you share what’s going on with you and if you share your vulnerability with others, it takes the shame and the power imbalance away”. Once that power imbalance is removed, as in the case of the Truth to Power Café, participants feel comfortable responding to the question ‘Who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?’ before a live audience.
After everything Matthew did for his country, his response to this question surprised me. He says he wants to do a lot more work in television and radio, but no matter how much he does to create his own opportunities, it’s still other people commonly known as the 'gatekeepers' who control his access to the entertainment business. When I asked him what he wants to say to them, he said “get rid of your fears”. I asked him if would stand up and say that in the Truth to Power Cafe and he said “of course” so watch this space.
At the end of the interview I asked him when all is said and done, is love really the answer and this time his answer did not surprise me. He said “yes I think so. Love comes in lots of different forms including acceptance of who I am”.
This article was provided to GC2018.com by Jeremy Goldstein.