- ‘By talking today I can walk hand-in-hand with whoever I want and it won’t matter any more because it’s out there.’
English Rugby pro Levi Davis has come as bisexual.
It’s a first for a professional player with his career still ahead of him.
Davis, now 22, previously played for top-flight Bath rugby club. And he was an under 18 player for England.
But he’s also famous for his other love – music. Last year he formed a band to take part in the Celebrity X Factor competition and got through to the semi-finals.
Right now Davis has just signed to London team Ealing Trailfinders – dropping down a league from Bath. But he hopes to return to top-flight rugby once he’s rebuilt his career.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday yesterday (13 September), Davis explained he had come out to his Bath teammates in April. And the 22-year-old winger admitted he was nervous:
He messaged them on WhatsApp saying: ‘Hi guys. I just want to tell you something that’s been eating away at me for four years now. I want to be open and honest with you boys, as friends and team-mates. I’m bisexual. It’s something I have known since I was 18.’
Revealing his nervousness that they may look at him differently in the locker room, he added:
‘None of you lot are on my radar… so it’s OK.’
However, he shouldn’t have worried about how the team, which includes England stars Sam Underhill and Anthony Watson, would react.
He reveals they soon messaged back: ‘Mate, we support you.’ ‘You’re really brave.’ ‘This changes nothing.’ ‘Fair play to you.’
Davis adds: ‘And then they began taking the piss in a good-natured way, which I was relieved about. If they had been too tender-hearted, I would have been worried. I’m still a rugby player, after all!’
‘I felt I needed to be this macho man’
Telling the world through his interview, he says it was a ‘spur of the moment decision’ to tell his teammates.
He adds: ‘I had hidden it will but I couldn’t keep it secret any longer. I had to tell them, all of them, not just a few. I didn’t want it to turn into Chinese whispers.’
However Davis reveals his relief came after battling shame.
He says he silently struggled with ‘a sense of shame, because I felt, and still do, as though I’m not normal’.
One of the ways he says he dealt with this is by sleeping with multiple women.
He adds: ‘I felt I needed to be this macho man, which I still am, but it felt like I needed to reinforce this more.’
Moreover his poor mental health led him to heavy drinking and his form on the rugby pitch dipped.
In his interview, Davis also indicates that he has struggled to fit in.
He says: ‘I realise, though, that I am a bit niche and difficult to categorise: a black, bisexual, privately educated rugby professional. Even black people who hear me on the phone sometimes say, “You don’t sound black, you sound white.” ’
Despite this, he thinks his sport – and Britain – will accept him now he is being true to himself.
He recognizes social media may be toxic but says: ‘Who gives a fuck about Twitter?
‘On the whole, the country is far more tolerant and less homophobic than it was a decade ago.’
Meanwhile he also took time out last year to pursue his love of music. He formed the band Try Star with fellow rugby stars Thom Evans and Ben Fodden to enter Celebrity X Factor.
The band left the contest in the semi-finals.
‘I can walk hand-in-hand with whoever I want and it won’t matter’
Davis’ coming out is still unusual in professional Rugby Union. He is the first professional player to come out as bisexual and the first to come out while still early in his career.
Former Wales captain Gareth Thomas came out as gay 11 years ago. However he was at the end of his playing career and had retired from the international game. Notably, he also says he struggled with his mental health before coming out.
Sam Stanley was the only other pro to come out as gay since Thomas. And he was also at the end of his career.
Meanwhile, World Rugby – Rugby Union’s official governing body – has made the wrong kinds of headlines in terms of LGBT+ inclusion recently. It has indicated it may ban trans players.
Now Davis has signed a two year deal to play with Ealing Trailfinders in West London. He hopes this ‘amazing opportunity’ will give him time to rebuild his career and play at the top level again.
However, his decision to come out has lifted a burden.
He says: ‘I don’t know yet where I am going. But by talking today I can walk hand-in-hand with whoever I want and it won’t matter any more because it’s out there.
‘At this moment in time, I feel so free. I am really, really happy that this is coming out and I can be myself.’
He says he realized he was bi at the age of 18. He has had girlfriends and ‘interactions’ with men and reveals he likes athletic girls but not athletic men. Meanwhile, he indicates he is open to a long term relationship with a guy, saying ‘Who knows what the future holds?’
Moreover, he hopes his decision will help the other closeted players he says are ‘definitely out there’.
He adds: ‘Thankfully we can now discuss mental health more openly. And in the same way, I want people to feel that they can be who they are and that is OK to be who they are. Hiding who you are can kill you – and has killed people.’