The first openly gay strongman in Ireland has been featured on BBC Northern Ireland’s online series This Is Pride.
Chris McNaghten is 30 years old and competes as a strongman, which is an extreme weight-lifting sport. The main task in the competition is to pick up heavy objects and move them.
The mini-documentary series follows Chris and several other LGBT+ people as they prepare to take part in their first Pride parade in Belfast.
Speaking about coming out in a sport considered one of the most ‘masculine’ in the world, Chris said: “I’m the first openly gay strongman to come out in the UK and Ireland, possibly even Europe.”
Chris said it doesn’t matter to him when people are shocked that he’s gay. “I generally just think it’s gossip,” he added.
Chris believes his passion gave him the confidence to come out and that there are some parallels between his sport and drag queen performances.
“I absolutely love drag queens, they’re the mummies of the gay world,” he said. “Drag is about putting on a performance and about performing for people. It’s the exact same way whenever I’m on stage competing.”
However, Chris said he was nervous coming out to some of the people he’s surrounded by in his sporting career, including his coach and best friend.
“It was important for me that he was okay with it, and he accepted it. I was just as nervous about telling him about it as I was about my dad,” he said. He described coming out to him as a “massive weight off my back”.
Chris said this was his first Pride with his fiancé John.
“It’s my first pride with my fiancé John. Introducing people to John has been dead on.
“Whenever we have been in London together, there’s no issue with holding hands; there are no issues being in restaurants with each other or kissing or showing any type of affection with each other. But back home we have yet to do it.”
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Last month Westminster MPs voted resoundingly to extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland.
Just a few days later, landmark legislation passed the final stage in Parliament and will become law ending the 158-year-long abortion ban and legalising same-sex marriage.
The new laws are set to come into effect in October.
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