Irish martial arts master Jack Woolley has spoken up about discrimination within his sport. Woolley claims that some of his opponents refused to shake his hand after he came out as bisexual.
Woolley became the first Irishman to qualify for the Olympics in Taekwondo late last year. He also came out as bisexual in a 2016 interview. He says coming out had a dramatic effect on how he was viewed within the sport.
“It is tough, my sport,” he told Etra.ie. “I have had some opponents who wouldn’t shake my hand and I’m just thinking, ‘You need to cop on’. Some have, though. One of the top fighters in the world came up to shake my hand after I won the European silver. I appreciated that.”
Woolley also revealed he resents coming out at all. “I just wish I never labeled it,” he confesses. “I still don’t like labeling it. People are just hell-bent on giving everyone labels nowadays. I don’t want to be that. I want to be the first Irish Olympian in my sport, the lad from Tallaght who went to the Olympics, not Jack the gay athlete.”
Still, Woolley realizes the visibility he’s created among athletes and understands that it can inspire others to live openly. “Maybe it can be good, maybe I can be an inspiration to some young people. And if someone wants to talk to me about what they are going through, they can but I’m not throwing it in your face.”