The first person playing top-level sport in Italy to come out as gay has rapidly become a hero to the country's LGBTI community.
Nicole Bonamino, a 22-year-old girl from a small town close to Alessandria, in Northern Italy, is little known outside her home country. But her revelation she is lesbian sent a shockwave through the Italian sports scene last month (February).
Bonamino's speciality is in-line roller hockey, playing as a gatekeeper. She competes for two local teams and the national Italian team.
Speaking to Gay Star News, Bonamino revealed: ‘I’ve always known I was lesbian. I came out to my family when I was 18, while I was in a relationship with another girl.
‘The sports environment in Italy is still homophobic, but not more so than Italian society. I know a lot of gay and lesbian sportsmates, but they don’t want to come out, they fear they will endanger their careers.'
She also spoke about the challenges facing all gay and lesbian Italians.
‘For gay men life is easier, this is what I think,' she said. 'Being lesbian means being ignored most of the time. Gay men live surrounded by clichés, of course, but this means recognition. There are no clichés for lesbian women, and this is even worse.’
Bonamino is now planning her 2014. She said: ‘The World Championships will be in July and now I’m competing to be the official gatekeeper.
‘I have loads of plans. Sports, first of all, then university. I’m studying design at the Milan’s Politecnico. However, I’d like to have a girlfriend as well and, why not, in the future, to have children.’
Playing for Le Gatte Nere in Piacenza and for Real Torino in Turin, Bonamino is hoping her sports career will now really take off.
She told us: ‘Since I came out, my life has not changed at all. I received messages of support and solidarity, Facebook has been inundated by my fans’ comments.
‘I did not expect it. Coming out is easier than I thought. Of course, we are in 2014… and the first Italian coming out in sports has come a bit late. Better than nothing, however.’