With the #ComeOut2Play campaign gathering momentum and supporters, Nora Calder lists some of the sporting trailblazers who chose to come out.
Nobody should ever be pressured to come out if they don’t want to. Our campaign sends the message that if someone does feel ready to be open about their sexuality, they will have a hell of a lot of support waiting for them around the world.
So, here’s my list. Feel free to suggest heroes you think need our recognition.
Okay so if you don’t know Tom then you must have been locked in the swimming pool changing rooms for the last decade.
When he won a Bronze medal for the 10m men’s platform event at the 2012 Olympics aged just 18 he thought he’d taken the dive of his life. The following year the loved-up heartthrob took an even more challenging leap – out of the closet.
Brave Tom admitted in a video, “In an ideal world I wouldn’t be doing this video because it shouldn’t matter.” He went on to speak about his now husband, Dustin Lance-Black “Come Spring this year my life changed, massively when I met someone and it made me feel so happy, so safe and everything just feels great and well that someone is a guy.”
Pre-empting the media storm Tom said, “People are going to have their own opinions and people are going to make a big deal of this, is it a big deal? I don’t think so.”
Love this YouTube comparison:
London Olympic Dive – views: 1 Million
Coming out – views: 12 Million
World reigning pole vault champion Shawn Barber came out as gay in April this year.
Shawn Barber, 22, is a Canadian track and field athlete who opened up in a post on Facebook, with little fanfare around the news.
He wrote: “Gay and proud! Thank you to my parents for being such a great support.
“I continue to grow as a person and have a great support group. My parents are my greatest support and have helped me through a lot recently.
“To my friends, you are always my friends and I love you too!”
The media obviously thought pole-vaulting wasn’t a very surprising sport for a gay guy and broadly shrugged its shoulders, proving that the sport you play has a huge impact on your ability to come out.
Three other LGBT Olympians represented Canada at the last games. They were Melissa Tancredi, Stephanie Labbe and Marie-Eve Nault.
It’s another diver! One we don’t hear so much about, compared to Sir Daley of Twittershire but Mitcham came out first in 2008 just before the Beijing Olympics when he mentioned in passing that his boyfriend was flying out to China to support him.
It caused quite the splash at the time, particularly in his home-country Australia.
The attention seemed to do him good because he smashed the record for the highest single-dive score in Olympic history and then picked up a gold medal for the 10m platform dive.
Sadly, he announced last year that he was hanging up his trunks. A true sorting hero in the aquatics centre and out.
Rugby has long been seen as one of the most macho male sports and when you’re the most capped Welsh rugby union player who is ranked number 13 among international try scorers coming out as gay must be one of the most frightening things imaginable.
Indeed he said: ‘Telling teammates I was gay was the toughest thing I’ve ever done’
Huge respect then to Gareth who came out in 2009 while he was still playing.
Gareth Thomas first tackled the subject with his coach, “After keeping it secret for so long, I felt a huge rush of relief.” When his coach told two of his team mates who Gareth was due to meet in the pub the 6ft3 16stone machine was terrified. “They came in, patted me on the back and said: We don’t care. Why didn’t you tell us before?”
In 2013, Sam was given an opportunity to introduce himself to his Missouri teammates and, cool as a cucumber, told them he was gay. His fellow-players accepted it without any apparent issues and thus, a gay NFL star was born.
If you’re an LGBT+ activist and you want to know if you’ve really made it there’s only one question to ask yourself – ‘Would the Westborough Baptist Church picket an event I was appearing at?’
In Michael Sam’s case, the answer is ‘yes’ and that’s what they did as he tried to enter a stadium just after coming out. Fortunately a counter-protest built a protective wall around the event, with everyone sporting “Stand for Sam” T-Shirts.
Sam’s position as the first openly gay NFL player gave him a platform to support millions of young American’s struggling with their sexuality.
Helen & Kate Richardson-Walsh
What more could we lesbians ask than being represented on a world hockey stage in the 2016 Olympics?
I don’t know, maybe doubling our luck with 2 lesbians who happen to play in the same team who also happen to be married and have just become the first ever same-sex married couple to win an Olympic gold as part of the same team.
Coming out for women in sport definitely does not carry the taboo that it does for men, in fact sometimes women who are into sports are stereotyped and almost expected to be lesbian which is ignorant in its own right.
Nonetheless, having male and female sportspeople taking pride in who they are shows fans that being LGBT+ does not mean you’re excluded from sport.
One day – perhaps soon – there will be an openly gay or bi male footballer in the English game. They mustn’t be pressured into coming out but the #ComeOut2Play campaign offers us all a chance to show them that, if they feel ready, we are here to support them.