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Inside Out: Straight Talk from a Gay Jock

by Mark Tewksbury

For years, swimmer Mark Tewksbury was a magician in the pool. Among his many aquatic achievements, the muscle-bound kid from Calgary won a gold medal for Canada at the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona.

But his swimming achievements weren’t his biggest trick. Tewksbury’s most astonishing feat was living a double life for more than two decades as both a closeted gay man and an internationally celebrated athlete and corporate motivational speaker.

From playing dress-up with his grandmother to the devastating ridicule he endured at school, Inside Out traces the story of Tewksbury’s life. It recounts the extraordinary lengths he went to to keep his sexuality a secret in a homophobic world, and the havoc doing so wreaked on his mental state. But this is also a story of triumph and of learning to love one’s self.

Now proudly open about his orientation, Tewksbury writes with the same combination of self-deprecation and confidence that has made him a regular on the motivational speaking circuit, as well as an Olympic ambassador and TV personality.

Tewksbury’s memoir mixes raw emotion with humour and camp as he tries to reconcile his public life with his deeply hidden private life. In a self-consciously cinematic moment in his mid-twenties, for example, Tewksbury realizes he has to get out of small-minded Alberta following an epiphanic moment courtesy of Tina Turner’s 1984 hit “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” He eventually moves to Australia.

Anyone who has ever been ostracized will empathize with the rejection and shame Tewksbury is made to feel about his sexuality, but the most interesting part of the book is his insider knowledge of the graft, corruption, and bribery that led to the Olympic scandal of 1998.

Although this book only touches the tip of the sleaze, former Canadian Olympic chief Carol Anne Letheren, in particular, comes off looking like a nakedly ambitious ladder-climber who was fond of the regal perks and power that went along with membership in the International Olympic Committee, though she was hardly alone. (Letheren died in 2001.)

Later on, in an interesting turn, Tewksbury discovers that the gay world can be just as controlling as the straight one. He gets involved in Montreal’s bid – railroaded in the end by power brokers of the gaytocracy – to host the 2006 Gay Games, which leads to the creation of the rival Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA), and the 2006 World Outgames in the same city.

It’s in keeping with much of Tewksbury’s life. Whether the road ahead is clogged with bigotry, discrimination, or just people throwing hissy fits, he simply detours and makes his own.