Ex-Aussie rugby international comes out after former teammate's homophobic comments

Former forward Dan Palmer became the first Australian rugby international to come out as gay, saying he wanted to speak out after homophobic comments from Israel Folau.

Former Aussie rugby player comes out as gay, Dan Palmer stands in a field.
Image: Alex Ellinghausen

32 year-old former rugby forward, Dan Palmer, has come out as gay, making him the first Aussie rugby international player to do so. Palmer, spoke out for the first time about his struggles in a column for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Few rugby players have come out as gay, the highest profile being former Wales captain Gareth Thomas. Palmer, who played for the NSW Waratahs and ACT Brumbies in Super Rugby and also had a stint with French club Grenoble before retiring in 2015, disclosed the constant inner turmoil he faced throughout his career.

“I was trapped in a false narrative and could see no way out. Most nights, I cried myself to sleep and routinely numbed myself with a heavy cocktail of opioids.” Palmer wrote.

“I fantasised about disappearing, changing my name and starting my life all over again,” he continued. “It is not an exaggeration to say my own death felt preferable to anybody discovering I was gay.”

However, Palmer insists that “the battle for me was primarily with myself,” and that he enjoyed his time at the Waratahs and Brumbies and never felt discriminated against.

When fellow rugby player, Israel Folau, the Super Rugby’s record try-scorer who played 73 times for the Wallabies, made homophobic comments last year that “hell awaits” gay people, it caused him to be fired by Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby.

The fallout that followed Folau spurred Palmer to speak out. “Although it wasn’t the primary impetus for me doing this, the longer the Folau saga dragged on, the more I felt a responsibility to say something,”

“To me, what is more important than the damage he has caused rugby is the deep impact he has undoubtedly had on kids who looked up to him, and who struggle every day with understanding their sexuality.” Palmer states.

“Thankfully, from my experience in rugby, views like Israel’s are the exception, not the rule.”

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