FROM BuzzFeed to The Advocate, Simon Dunn has been popping up all over the place in recent months, tackling gay stereotypes and homophobia in sport one story at a time.
It’s partly because the rugby union player, a longterm member of the gay-inclusive Sydney Convicts team, grabbed media attention when he made the switch to elite bobsleigh and became the first openly-gay man in the world to do so.
Since moving to Calgary, Canada almost 18 months ago, Dunn has already competed in bobsleigh tournaments in various places around North America as part of the Australia 2 team.
“As an openly-gay athlete, I feel passionate about representing my country, and redefining the identity of the sport, one unmarred by sexual orientation,” Dunn told the Star Observer in December.
In an interview with the UK’s Attitude magazine in February, Dunn said he knew he was gay from a very young age but his passion for rugby made him take a very long time to come to terms with it.
“I didn’t come out until my final year (of school). There’s only so many excuses you can use as to why you won’t date girls before people start to ask questions… I used them all,” he said.
“When I first came out I tried to fit into the ‘normal’ gay image: I gave up sport, spent a lot of time in clubs, etc.
“It wasn’t until I started playing (rugby again) for the Convicts and found a group of guys with similar interests that I was truly happy with myself.”
Dunn’s loyalty to the Convicts is such that he made a quick trip home in August last year to play with them and help them win the Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 gay rugby world cup tournament.
He said the crossover from rugby to bobsleigh all came down to “luck”.
When he relocated to Calgary, he began working for at the Winter Sports Institute. In his spare time he played for the local rugby team, and it was during one of these training sessions that he was invited try out for the Australian bobsleigh team.
He succeeded, and is now the brakeman for Lucas Mata, who competed in Sochi.
“The rest is history,” Dunn told Attitude.
His newfound fame sparked a lot of interest and attention: he has over 20,000 Instagram followers and thousands of Facebook fans. His photos have also featured in various stories and viral “listicles” around the world, including ranking number 76 on BuzzFeed Australia’s hottest 100 Australian men for Australia Day.
Despite his legion of fans, he remains single.
“I’ve had a few offers, mostly in Australia, which isn’t very convenient considering I live in Canada,” he joked, before going on to admit his crushes on One Direction’s Liam Payne and English Olympic diver Tom Daley.
“I’m good friends with Matt Mitcham, and I tried for years to get him to set me up with Tom Daley. Obviously it didn’t work.”
Nonetheless, Dunn hoped to inspire other young gay sportsmen with his internet fame, believing it would be a win for him if even one kid grew up realising their sexuality wasn’t an issue in the sporting environment.
“Unfortunately the majority of the gay community have been bullied, me included,” Dunn told Attitude.
“So speak up. If you suffer in silence the only person that suffers is you.
“Speaking up can easily resolve the issue.”
**This article was first published in the April edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.