âI was aware of it. But it was something that I always tried to push down, sort of like I didnât accept it,â he says. âOne of the hardest things is you hear so many homophobic comments at school and just in life in general. It makes it harder âŚ I thought to be gay was to be 'less than' and felt sorry for other people who were [gay] because of all the homophobic language you hear. When you are gay and you know that you are, it really strikes a chord. You take it really personally and that makes it even harder to come out and accept yourself.â
He says people saying "thatâs gay" as a put-down and snide comments about people who were gay and out were things he found hard to hear. âThatâs one of the biggest ones. If you see people who are already out and then you hear other people making fun of them or making digs, it kind of affects you.â
Manson says as he has grown older heâs become almost immune when people say âthatâs so gayâ, âwhereas when you first start hearing that when youâre younger, itâs a lot harder to deal with. I donât think itâs right for people to say âthatâs gayâ but you hear it so often nowadays, and I guess I am so comfortable with myself now, that it doesnât bother me the same. But when I was struggling with it, Iâd take it really personally.â
He says he did have gay role models, âbut hearing people making fun of the people you look up to makes it hard as wellâ.
Manson says he would take it personally, and feel bad about himself when he heard this type of rhetoric. âIt hurt. Itâs almost like a knife through the heart. You feel like theyâre talking about you when you hear comments like that. One of the biggest things Iâve learnt since coming out is that even people that have made comments like that in the past, they were just saying them, it was just an off remark, itâs just the thing to do, is to say that sort of thing, and they are not actually meaning it personally â and have been fine with me coming out and really supportive â but itâs just, especially for school kids, just a thing to do almost, to make homophobic comments. To them itâs nothing and if they knew you were gay they probably wouldnât say it and would feel really bad â but they donât know that and you donât know that. Itâs not until you come out later on in life. Some of the people that I thought wouldâve been really homophobic have actually been really supportive.â
Manson has in fact not had a single bad reaction since coming out, which is not what he expected. âI donât know what people say behind my back but Iâm sure 99 per cent of people are 100 per cent supportive. But I havenât had one person say anything bad, or had a bad reaction at all.â
He says his parents were fine when he fronted up about his homosexuality. âI told mum a long time before I told dad, and she was really supportive. My older brotherâs gay as well and he came out a couple of years before I did, so obviously knew it wasnât going to be a problem with mum. But then you think âoh shit, one in the familyâs ok, what about two?â and then you worry about that.â
It took him a bit longer to tell his dad. âHe was a bit quiet for a start and didnât really say anything. And I think that was more because he didnât know what to say. But now I talk to him about anything and heâs fine and doesnât have a problem with it at all. I think dads just probably donât know what to say, or how to handle it initially.â
Manson says although his first relationship only lasted a few months, being with another guy had felt âreally normal. It just felt right. I had tried to have a relationship with a girl in the past. It felt like we were more good friends. But when I was in a relationship with a guy it just felt normal, like it should, like how I imagine that other people felt in a relationship.â
In fact he says it felt so right, it almost seemed even more special. Now heâs so comfortable being gay he wouldnât even think twice about the fact heâs with another guy if he was out to dinner with them, or wherever. He's just begun seeing someone but it's early days.
He says he believes in âthe fairytaleâ romance thing, âthe happily ever afterâ. âI want to settle down with someone and, in a way, have a conventional life. Iâm not sure yet what that entails, whether it means getting married and having kids â whether that happens or not I want to be with someone and have that kind of thing, whatever it is.â
Of course the demands of being a national representative rower make it difficult to have a relationship and he says his future really depends on what he does when he finishes competing. The Rio Olympics are looming in 2016. He has also just started studying and is interest in the sport, exercise and nutrition field, where he possibly sees a future.
It was almost two months ago that Manson came out to the world via a personal essay where he stated he was proud and glad to be gay â and wants to show people that "not only that it's ok to be gay, but it's a good thing, and it won't change who you are or limit what you can achieve."
He tells GayNZ.com he has always looked up to gay role models and wanted to come out in the hope it would make othersâ paths easier â as others did for him. âIn the year or two before I came out I watched a lot of YouTube videos and stuff of people coming out. Also any time there was a story about a gay athlete, like [UK rugby international] Gareth Thomas and [Australian Olympic diver] Matthew Mitcham âŚ stories like that have always struck a chord with me. I think every person who is in the public eye in some way who comes out, it makes it easier for other people to do so. And I feel like now so many people are coming out and itâs not an issue.â
Manson is surprised by the publicity his own story gained, saying heâs not a high profile athlete in New Zealand. âHardly anyone knew who I was before. At the same time Iâve been completely living my life out to all my friends and anyone who knows me for the last two years, so it wasnât something I needed to do. I just thought that in some way, someone might read that article and it might help them. And, I donât know, I might be able to be a role model to them in some way. Because I thought at one stage that I wouldnât be able to row if people knew I was gay â I thought it was that big of a deal.â