England’s women football captain Casey Stoney has revealed she is gay.
The Arsenal ladies defender is the latest sportsperson to come out following NFL hopeful Michael Sam, former international soccer star Thomas Hitzlsperger and Olympic diver Tom Daley.
Stoney, inspired by Daley, said she wanted to make it public to help other young people struggling with their sexuality.
‘I feel it's really important for me to speak out as a gay player because there are so many young people struggling with being gay,’ she told BBC Sport.
‘You hear about people taking their own lives because they're homosexual, now that should never happen. They should never feel those pressures.
‘How can I expect other people to come out and speak about themselves if I'm not willing to do that myself?
‘Now is the time because I'm in a loving relationship where I feel strong, I feel safe and I don't care what other people think any more.’
While Stoney’s sexuality was an open secret, as being gay is less of an issue in women’s football than it is with the men, she’s hoping it will help the world become more accepting of gay athletes.
‘I've never hidden it within football circles because it is accepted,’ she said.
‘But to the outside world where I've been employed or I've gone to meals and I've gone and met people, I've never spoken about my sexuality.’
She added: ‘If I can help other people in some way shape or form feel more comfortable or feel at ease with themselves then this is what this is all about, this is the bigger picture.
‘It's not about me. I'm comfortable now, it's about making sure we live in a world where it's accepted, we live in a world where it's not news any more.
‘I looked at the response that Tom Daley got and the incredible positive response that he got and I thought “wow, the world is changing” and it's time for me to stand up and tell my side of the story.’
The 31-year-old also revealed she would boycott an invitation to travel to Russia for the World Cup in 2018 if the gay propaganda law still exists.
‘I won't be going to Russia or Qatar to watch a World Cup because I wouldn't be accepted there,’ she said.
‘I think it's incredible that these countries get World Cups and Olympics when they don't accept everybody to go there and be part of it.
‘There will be athletes competing out there who are gay. I can't imagine how frightened they must feel going out there and competing.
‘When Russian President Vladimir Putin says that gay people can come over but please don't go near the children, what sort of message is that sending if he is that uneducated and he's ruling that country? It seriously worries me.
‘It's about educating the people at the top, all the way down.'