Former football player, Thomas Beattie recently admitted he struggled to picture himself in the LGBTQ+ community before coming out in June of this year–making him the first openly gay player in three decades.
“I never thought about coming out while playing,” he told The Advocate. “I literally felt like I had to sacrifice one of the two: who I am, or the sport I loved before I could remember.”
In a new interview with The Sunday Times newspaper, Beattie reflected on the response he received.
“It’s been really intense… honestly I’ve had thousands of people reach out to me who are in the same position, from the age of 15 to 80.” Beattie said, “The negative messages I can count on one hand. I’ve had unbelievable support from football supporters, players I’ve played against, coaches.”
Thomas Beattie cites his need for space outside the sport to figure himself out, but also the lack of role models in the game he loves so much.
“There were not really people I could look at and say: ‘It’s been OK for him, I’m sure it will be OK for me.'” Beattie continued, “I just didn’t grow up with enough examples that resonated. The only real understanding I had of the LGBT+ community was something I didn’t think represented me. So it was, that’s not me.”
Beattie also reflected the tough situation of being a younger closeted player, “It was definitely not a conducive environment to self-analyse and to comprehend that you might be something that goes against 99 per cent of what you see around you. The pressure of being in the spotlight, of being in an environment that is under a magnifying glass, is daunting when you don’t really know who you are. I was, like, I need to figure this out but there is no way I can even start to open that up or allow myself to open that up while I’m in this space, mentally, emotionally, physically.”
Two other international players, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Robbie Rogers have come out after playing in the top tiers of English football but only after their retirement.
The last English football players to come out prior to Beattie was Justin Fashanu, who came out in 1990 but was hounded with relentless homophobia before his death from suicide eight years later.
However, much has changed in the last thirty years, and Thomas Beattie isn’t the only player apart of the LGBTQ+ community. Players like Collin Martin and Quinn have also come out publicly, becoming a part of a precedent for a better and more accepting world for future players.
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