The first gay British rugby league star Keegan Hirst has said it shouldn’t be a taboo for sportsmen to come out.
Reflecting on the huge amount of support since he came out yesterday (16 August), the 27-year-old Batley Bulldogs captain has said he is ‘humbled’ and the reaction is ‘overwhelming’.
In his match yesterday, he said he received nothing but a positive response from his teammates, the opposition, the club and the fans.
Speaking to the BBC, Hirst said Batley is a little town not far from Leeds where ‘everybody knows everybody and everybody knows everybody else’s business’.
‘There’s not any gay people in Batley. Well, not that I know of! I thought it would be a bit of a taboo, bit of an issue, but I’ve got nothing but support and well wishes from the players and the club. Social media has gone mad. It’s really overwhelming and quite humbling.’
When asked how his teammates reacted, he said he told two of his closest friends on the team first. One, Hirst said, told him he had ‘known all along’.
Hirst said by coming out, he hopes to break down stereotypes.
‘[I came out because] I had a change of outlook. It was how I perceived myself and how I perceived being gay,’ he added.
‘We’re living in a society where it’s no longer a problem. In sport it’s still a bit of a taboo but judging by the feedback I’ve had it’s not that big of a taboo anymore. I don’t want to go on a crusade but I hope to pave the way for others to feel comfortable in their own skin, and by doing this, hopefully make others feel better about being open about who they are.’