Keegan Hirst, an openly gay rugby league player, offers advice to those struggling with the idea of coming out as part of the Tackle The Tough Stuff campaign. Launched by Super League players and backed by State of Mind and RL cares, Tackle The Tough Stuff aims to shine a light on issues facing men’s mental health.
“It’s not like a physical injury that people can see and if you don’t talk about it, then people don’t know,” said Keegan in an Instagram video detailing his struggles with his sexuality.
Four years ago, Keegan came out and since then has gone on to talk about being an openly gay rugby player on Good Morning Britain and Celebrity First Dates. Though rugby in the LGBT+ community has grown more prominent with the recent Union Cup Dublin 2019, there is currently no other openly gay professional rugby league player. The sporting world at times can feel exclusive of the LGBT+ community yet the current campaign and the reception to the Union Cup shows the power of inclusivity.
Keegan spoke about his own struggles with coming out and the difficulties in finding support during a time when he didn’t know what he was looking for. “Bottling things up is the worst thing that you can do, it festers, it sits inside of you and it gets heavier and heavier,” Keegan said. The campaign was a response to a study showing men in the UK were three times more likely to die by suicide than women.
“It’s something that an individual has to be comfortable with themselves, being able to tell the family and then, if they see fit, to share it with the wider public,” Keegan advised. By being open with his own struggles, it adds weight to his advice of being ‘ready’ to come out.
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