Keegan Hirst has discussed being Britain’s first rugby league player to come out, saying he hopes the positive reaction will encourage other sportsmen to discuss their sexuality.
The 27-year-old captain of Batley Bulldogs is a father of two, and made the decision to open up about his sexuality following the break-down of his marriage.
Since his announcement in an interview with the Sunday Mirror, he has trended on Twitter and been inundated with support from fans and members of the LGBT community.
"The worst part is telling people closest to you," he said on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show. "Even if they don’t take it well, which some of my family didn’t, they’ve got their head round it now."
I'd just like to say a big thankyou to everybody who's taken the time to send all these best wishes.It's very humbling and much appreciated.— Keegan Hirst (@KeeganHirst) August 16, 2015
He said a "change of outlook" prompted him to change how he perceived his sexuality, and though his relationship with his ex-wife is "still a bit rocky", he says she just needs time to come to terms with the news, which he admits she "didn’t see coming".
Hirst discusses how he dealt with his feelings, admitting that he thought it was just a phase, but over time they got stronger and stronger despite his love for his wife and children.
"I would just go out for days at a time, I didn’t act like a good husband [or] father… looking back it was never a conscious decision, I just did it, and maybe thinking back it was a bit of escapism and grief," he said.
He admitted no other closeted sports stars had got in touch yet, but that it shouldn't be taboo for them to come out, saying his experience has already taught him that gay sports players were accepted far more than he anticipated.
"Judging from the feedback I’ve had, it’s not as taboo. Hopefully this will pave the way for more people to be able to come out."
He went on to say that though he had only just come out publicly, he would offer as much support as possible to any sports stars in the closet who were struggling with their sexuality.
"I would always be willing to help as much as I can," he said. "I’d do my best to help people. It’s not as bad as you think it’ll be."Reuse content