Former English footballer Thomas Beattie has come out as gay in an article for ESPN where he opened up about his struggles with the sporting world and journey towards self-acceptance.
In an ESPN article titled, My hidden journey: A professional soccer player reveals he is gay, Beattie shares how he felt he could never come out while also competing professional. He said, “Being gay and having a career in football never felt like an option. Society told me my masculinity was linked to my sexuality — something we of course know is a false assumption — but I felt as if I couldn’t be a footballer and accept who I was.”
The former player further shared, “But in football, there’s still fear a gay teammate might disrupt the team environment. Sometimes it’s brushed away, like homophobia isn’t an issue in football anymore. Obviously that’s not true if there are so few examples young kids can look to as role models.”
Beattie’s sporting career spans over 10 years in professional leagues across America, England, Canada, and Asia. After sustaining a serious head injury in a game, he ended his time in football early and currently works in business in Singapore.
Speaking about his career, Beattie expressed, “I call the injury “my beautiful nightmare.” The beauty that came out of it was an epiphany that I no longer had to run from myself. The injury forced me to retire from football at 29, and I began a career in business. I’m now a serial entrepreneur. Only over the past three months, I started coming out to close friends and family. I’m the first professional male footballer in Asia to come out.”
Though Beattie played football for 10 years, he opened up about losing his love for the sport because he was hiding who he was. He further highlighted how ingrained derogatory slurs and discriminatory language have become in the sporting world.
On Instagram, the former football player wrote, “It’s easier to sit in silence but the real challenge is to speak up and for me it’s time live my truth and hopefully affect change in some way. I am a brother, son, friend and I’m gay. It took me a long time to accept who I am and I hope it is a little easier for the next generation.”
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It’s time to share something very personal to me. It’s easier to sit in silence but the real challenge is to speak up and for me it’s time live my truth and hopefully affect change in some way. I am a brother, son, friend and I’m gay. It took me a long time to accept who I am and I hope it is a little easier for the next generation. Thank you to everyone who has supported me through this process and the journey to come, I appreciate you. Thank you to @espn @espnuk for the platform to speak openly.
Thomas Beattie has become the first major male English footballer to come out since Justin Fashanu in 1990. There has been a noticeable increase in players from around the world who are opening up about their sexuality, including American soccer player, Robbie Rogers, South African soccer player, Phuti Lekoloane, and Argentinian football player, Nicolás Fernández.
Across the world, players are speaking out about their experiences navigating the sporting world. In many cases, they highlighted a difficulty in competing while also being open about their sexuality due to a pervasive discriminatory attitude among team mates and fans.
Beattie shared, “It’s impossible to say there aren’t perhaps many other footballers like me — living in silence, just like I did. If they are reading this, know I am here and can be a source of support. To be fair, I also understand why they haven’t come out. During my 10 years playing professionally, that was me. Professional sport can be quite volatile, quite ruthless.”
However, despite this hostile environment, Thomas Beattie believes wholeheartedly that change is possible, “I hope in time these things no longer have to be spoken about. I realize to get to that point, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. But I would love to be part of that conversation, and have a seat at the table.”
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