Unlike many of us, Chris “Big Bear” McNaghten can lift an adult male over his head. Like many of us, though, he’s also obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race. “Drag is about putting on a performance and about performing for people,” he says. “It’s the exact same way whenever I’m on stage competing.”

McNaghten attended his first Pride celebration in Belfast, Northern Ireland, this month, and his experience is one of the stories chronicled in the new BBC documentary My First Pride.

Related: Field hockey players strip down to battle homophobia in sports

It’s a historic occasion for a man who has already made history. “I’m the first openly gay strongman to come out in the UK and Ireland, possibly even Europe,” he says in the documentary.

The 30-year-old said it was difficult to come out, even when it came time to tell a coach who had become a best friend. “I was just as nervous about telling him about it as I was about my dad,” he explains. “It was a wee bit emotional. That was just a massive weight off my back.”

Once out of the closet, though, McNaghten looked forward to attending his first Pride in his home country with his fiancé, Jon, even though same-sex marriages are still illegal in Northern Island.


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“Whenever we have been in London together, there’s no issue with holding hands, there’s no issues being in restaurants with each other or kissing or showing any type of affection with each other,” he observes. “But back home we have yet to do it.”

Related: Meet Connor Mertens, who kicked down barriers in college sports

As the world changes — and hopefully becomes more accepting — McNaghten wants his sexuality and his sport to exist side by side. “I want to be Ireland’s strongest man,” he says. “I don’t want to be Ireland’s strongest gay man.”

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