“I feel like I’m letting out a long breath that I’ve held in for a long time,” Rugby League star Keegan Hirst told the Sunday Mirror, putting an end to a lifetime spent hiding from his true self.
The 27-year-old has become one of the first in his sport to come out, but more importantly, he’s also opened up about his struggle with fulfilling cultural expectations of masculinity.
Sports fan or not, there’s a lesson there for everyone.
“At first I couldn’t even say ‘I’m gay’ in my head, let alone out loud,” he said. “I had a wife and kids. I’ve been a builder, doorman, worked in factories – I play rugby. I tick every macho box. How could I be gay? I’m from Batley for goodness sake. No one is gay in Batley.”
Clearly, someone was gay in Batley, and we’re guessing it wasn’t just Hirst. Hopefully his story will inspire others to realize they aren’t alone.
“The only time I felt free of the torment was when I stepped on the rugby pitch,” he admitted, adding “Now I feel free.”
Of course, its not a purely joyous event — his wife also just discovered his sexuality a few weeks ago, and the two are now in the midst of a separation.
“I went to her and asked if I could have a word. My stomach was in knots. We sat at the kitchen table and I said, ‘There’s something I need to tell you’.
“I couldn’t get the words out, I felt like I was going to be sick. But I managed to say it.
“She didn’t say anything at first. I explained why and how I felt, it was very emotional. We were both in tears.
“She didn’t ask a lot of questions, but she was supportive. She was totally blind-sided. She’d had
absolutely no idea.
“It was incredibly tough, but for me it was a weird situation because it also felt liberating.
And while Hirst says she’s remained supportive, the pain will need time to heal.
“She blamed herself when we separated but I knew she’d done nothing wrong. I couldn’t bear it any more, the guilt of it all, of her not knowing why I left. It was eating me up.”
The next hurdle will be telling the kids.
“We haven’t told the kids yet, they’re too young to understand. I’m not sure how I’d explain it.”