SAM STAN­LEY

BRI­TISH RUGBY UNION PLAYER

GT (UK) - - COMMUNITY - in­sta­gram.com/ sam­stan­nerz, @sam­stan­nerz

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.

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