LIFESTYLE

Keegan Hirst Says Being Gay In Sport Is 'Still A Taboo' After Becoming First UK Rugby League Player To Come Out

17/08/2015 16:22 BST | Updated 07/10/2015 12:59 BST

Keegan Hirst became Britain’s first rugby league player to come out as gay this weekend. Now, the 27-year-old has said he wants to help "break down stereotypes" around men and sexuality.

Speaking on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show on Monday, the Batley Bulldogs captain said he believes we are "living in a more accepting time".

"People are okay with it [others being gay] and it's not as big a deal as it used to be," he said.

"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 some kind of crusade, but I hope to pave the way for others to come out and feel comfortable in their own skin, and by doing this, hopefully make others feel better about being open about who they are."

In the interview, the father-of-two explained that he used to think his feelings towards men were "just a phase".

"It was inconceivable for me to think that I could be gay. I didn't know anyone who is gay, it wasn't the done thing," he said.

"And I thought I'd just live my life 'normally', as society says we should. I'd have a girlfriend, have a wife..."

He went on to explain that he did always love his wife, but the feelings he was having about his sexuality grew "stronger and stronger", which eventually led to the breakdown of his marriage.

"It's come to this point when I feel comfortable enough in my skin to tell people," he added.

To any men wondering whether or not they should come out, Hirst had this honest insight: "It's not as bad as you think it will be".

In an interview on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday, Keegan spoke further about the stigma still being attached to openly gay sportsmen: “I think because one, as a man, it’s hard to admit to your friends and family, even though it’s more acceptable there’s still a bit of a stigma attached to it and definitely in sport because there’s not many gay sportsmen that are playing currently," he said.

"People think, ‘I don’t want to be the first’ or ‘I don’t want to put myself out there.’ I suppose you’re exposing yourself a little bit to potential abuse or whatever, whether it be from fans or players or social media and that’s what I thought, that’s how I had it in my head but the reaction has been nothing like that.

"I suppose you always think the worst but it’s been really good, really positive so hopefully - I don’t think it will be a Spartacus thing where everyone comes out and says ‘I’m gay!’ - but if a couple of people [are encouraged] then that’s a good thing, that will help normalise it and hopefully one day a sportsman who’s playing being gay won’t be news."

Hirst spoke publicly about his sexuality for the first time this weekend in an interview with the Sunday Mirror.

"At first I couldn’t even say ‘I’m gay’ in my head, let alone out loud. Now I feel like I’m letting out a long breath that I’ve held in for a long time," he said.

Since the interview went live, Hirst has received an outpouring of praise and support from members of the public, celebs and fellow rugby players on Twitter.

He took to social media himself to thank everyone for their positive reaction.

Let's hope Keegan Hirst's honestly helps breakdown taboos around homosexuality in sport once and for all.

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