BRITISH RUGBY UNION PLAYER
I guess I was looking for advice when I came out. I’d come to terms with who I was, and accepted it myself, but every time I went into training, and every time I played a game, something was keeping me down. I hated taking myself to work, and having to lie about what I got up to at the weekend because I didn’t want to share what I was really doing. Now I’ve been open and honest, I’m in a much better place mentally. I ended up looking to the likes of Ben Cohen for advice. He has a foundation that tackles bullying and homophobia. I met Ben and spoke of his experiences with other players and what effect it might have on my career. I thought maybe I could be that brave.
I’d already told my family I was gay, but I gave it another year before telling my team. the leap and just did it. I sent a message on WhatsApp to some of the boys I felt closest to within rugby and got so many messages of support back. For me, coming out is totally on the individual. Everyone’s circumstances are different. I always tell young people to think about their parents, their career if possible, and the support you’ve got before you make the leap. But if you’re in the public eye as well, it does make it harder.
There’s still 100% homophobic people in rugby, even with the great reaction I got. I guess those people are still weirded out by it, but it’s down to a huge lack of understanding from when they’re really young. When you have these feelings towards gay people that are negative, you’re obviously questioning them because you think what you’ve learnt is right. What if what you’ve been told is wrong? What if they didn’t get it right at school? Being gay needs to be in the public eye to show youngsters that it’s OK to be gay, and you can make it as far as you want in your chosen sport. But sadly, it’s still quite a big thing to be seen as a gay man in our industry. When it comes to working together with the Olympics in Rio, the likes of Russia has its own philosophy on sexuality. You know that there’s people competing from countries where it’s criminal to be gay. Think of the likes of Kenya. When I played there, you stay in the same hotel as the other guys. I wouldn’t be afraid to be there, but I’d be cautious. It’s obvious who is around you, and in their country, being gay is punishable by death so you automatically get this negative perception of what they might think. Not everyone in the country might be like that, but I guess the majority could be. When I look at my life now, I’m 100% happier. I’m able to share my life with my loved-ones and I’m actually living my life fully. I was never trying to lie about anything, I just can’t believe only a few years ago I was in such a bad state. And now, I can focus on my game and get myself back up in the rugby world.