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
News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits