England captain Casey Stoney reveals she was concerned by social media reaction but has been 'overwhelmed' by positive response after speaking openly about being gay

The Arsenal ladies defender says she was inspired by Tom Daley

England football captain Casey Stoney says she has been overwhelmed by support after speaking for the first time about her “loving relationship” with another woman.

The decision to go public makes the Arsenal defender the most high-profile active footballer in the country who is openly gay. Stoney, 31, said that she was inspired by the positive response to Olympic diver Tom Daley telling the world about his happy relationship with a man.

The footballer first went public about her sexuality in the Independent on Sunday Pink List in 2012, after captaining Great Britain’s women’s team in the Olympics. Whilst she was happy to be included on a list of Britain’s most inspirational LGBT people, she chose not to speak to the media about it until now.

“I was living a lie”, she told BBC Sport in an interview broadcast on Monday. “I’ve never hidden it within football circles because it is accepted, but to the outside world, I've never spoken about my sexuality.

"I feel it's really important for me to speak out as a gay player because there are so many people struggling who are gay, and you hear about people taking their own lives because they are homosexual. That should never happen.”

She said it was “incredible” that countries with homophobic laws such as Qatar and Russia were allowed to host international sporting events. "I won't be going to Russia or Qatar to watch a World Cup because I wouldn't be accepted there," she said.

"I think it's incredible that these countries get World Cups and Olympics when they don't accept everybody to go there and be part of it. There will be [Olympic] athletes competing out [in Russia] who are gay. I can't imagine how frightened they must feel going out there and competing.”

Speaking to The Independent after the interview was broadcast, she said: “The response has made me quite emotional. I didn’t know what to expect but it’s been so overwhelmingly positive. I’d say I’ve had about a thousand tweets today and maybe one wasn’t positive.”

Gary Lineker and Stan Collymore are amongst the former professional players who have congratulated her since the news broke.

Stoney met her partner through football and she says they have been together for almost three years. She was one of the people encouraged Stoney to go public: “I sat down with my partner a long time ago and she said ‘I don’t understand why you won’t go public because all the people that love you and matter in your life already know’. But I had to feel comfortable in my own skin.”

Fears of abuse on social media held her back from being open in the past, she says. “I was worried about people judging and the abuse you can get over social media. I think social media can be used in a positive way but by going on it you open yourself up to people being able to say what they want. Some people say disgusting things to people on Twitter and I was afraid of that. There are still bigots in this country.”

Another factor which made her worried about speaking publicly about her sexuality was that she was concerned it would confirm stereotypes about female players. “The thing that frustrates me about women’s football is that because it’s deemed a male, masculine sport there’s an assumption that all the players are lesbians, but that’s not the case”, she said. “I’m not gay because I play football.

“I hate these stereotypes and that’s something that concerned me in the past [when thinking about coming out]. That people would say she plays football so she must be gay anyway. I’ve got so many friends in football who could not be any more heterosexual.”

Stoney believes the higher profile of the men’s game and its macho culture makes it harder to for male players come out. “We’re not as high profile so we don’t have 50,000 people who could abuse you every Saturday. Women’s football is a bit more of a family culture.”

Growing up in London, the defender got her first break playing for Chelsea Ladies when she was just 12. Now she has 116 caps for England and Great Britain.

She came 50th in the 2012 Pink list, moving up to 37th place last year after winning FA Player of the Year for a second time and writing columns advocating tolerance and diversity within sport.

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday the week before the Olympics she hinted at her sexuality. She said her partner would be attending her debut game at London 2012, adding: “I’m one person on the outside but a different person on the inside and very few people get to know what’s going on on the inside. That’s about trusting people enough to let them see that.”

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own