Trailblazing gay rugby player and bobsledder Simon Dunn dies, aged 35
The Australian rugby player and former bobsledder was found dead in Surry Hills, Sydney, on 21 January. He was 35-years-old.
A police spokesperson said in a statement: “The body is believed to be that of the 35-year-old occupant. Officers from Surry Hills Police Area Command have commenced inquiries into the circumstances surrounding his death, which is not being treated as suspicious.”
Simon’s agent, Ruby Rose Management, said he was “loved by family and friends, adored by fans, media and social platforms all over the globe,” and that he’s left an “amazing” legacy.
“Simon was passionate about giving back to the community and volunteering,” they continued. “Simon never said ‘NO’ to donating his time to any organisation who wanted to grow Diversity and Inclusion footprint from Woolworths to Lion – helping them all to better understand their LGBTQIA+ employees and customers. “Simon represented us all, he always said ‘I am not the spokesman, I am just a gay white male telling you about my experiences, and experiences from those with whom I listened and learnt. The sharing of these stories gives us all an appreciation of what has lead us to where we are today’.”
Ruby Rose Management ended their statement: “Simon will be missed, not just for his sportsmanship, not just for his valued views on our community and sport but mostly for being who he was a genuine all-round nice guy, who had time for everyone.
Simon made history in 2014 when he became the first openly gay man to join a national bobsleigh team in any country.
After retiring two years later, he moved to London and joined the LGBTQ+ rugby club King’s Cross Steelers. He was shortlisted for the Australian LGBTI Awards Sports Personality in both 2018 and 2019.
In 2021, he announced his return to bobsleigh in an attempt to represent Australia at the 2022 Winter Olympics. A bicep injury, however, ruled him out of the competition.
Simon’s former partner, Eli Crawford, said he’s “absolutely shattered” over his death.
Alongside a picture of the pair, he wrote on Instagram: “I’m so proud of everything you’ve achieved and you still had so much ahead of you.
“I’ve not only lost my first love but a very special life long friend. I will cherish the beautiful moments we spent together and you will be in heart forever.”
Simon was outspoken about various LGBTQ+ issues from HIV/AIDS to homophobia in sport. He memorably shared a kiss with Crawford in defiance of rugby player Israel Folau, who claimed gay people would end up in “hell” unless they “repent of their sins and turn to God”.
At the time, Simon told GAY TIMES: “Unfortunately the sporting world is still a place where kissing my partner after our team’s victory is still seen as an act of defiance or rebellion.
“It’s an environment where someone’s homophobic comments can be defended as ‘just his opinion’ and that truly is worrying.
“I’ve devoted my life to sport, and as an out and proud athlete I’ll continue to do what is natural for me, and hopefully break down stereotypes in the process.”
HIV charity The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, for which Simon was an ambassador, hailed him as a “selfless, compassionate and kind individual who treated everyone equally, stood up for marginalised and vulnerable people and called out injustice.”
Their statement continued: “He was a passionate advocate for LGBTQIA+ representation in sport, speaking about his experiences of homophobia in his younger years.
“He was determined to make a positive change in sporting culture throughout the world and his tireless efforts to promote inclusion and equality in sport will continue to inspire future generations.”
Our thoughts are with Simon’s family and friends.