US basketball star Brittney Griner has come out as gay, and offered advice for young women looking up to her to “just be who you are”, and not worry about what other people might be thinking.

Griner did not make an official announcement that she is gay, not wanting to make a big deal about the fact that she is a lesbian, however referred to her sexuality when it was relevant to the topic of discussion during interview.

During the interview with USA Today, Griner brought up the fact that she is gay, and said her parents had always encouraged her to be herself, no matter what people might say.

“My parents didn’t know at the time,” said the former Baylor Bears star. “I hadn’t come out completely. It was kind of like, YOU KNOW … I just hadn’t said it. My dad and my mom have always told me, ‘Be who you are.’ At the time, they probably weren’t sure what I was interpreting that as.”

She also referred to her sexuality during an interview with the Associated Press, on Wednesday, when she talked about being bullied as a child.

“It was hard, just being picked on for being different, hust being bigger, my sexuality, everything,” she said. “I overcame it and got over it. Definitely something that I am very passionate about. I want to work with kids and bring recognition to the problem, especially with the LGBT community.”

In a third interview with Sports Illustrated, alongside fellow WNBA draftees Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins, Griner was asked why it is less of an issue for female athletes to come out, compared to men.

“I really couldn’t give an answer on why that’s so different. Being one that’s out, it’s just being who you are,” she said. “Again, like I said, just be who you are. Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because they’re always going to say something, but, if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are.”

She was later asked if her status as a famous athlete had made it more difficult to come out.

“It really wasn’t too difficult, I wouldn’t say I was hiding or anything like that,” Griner said. “I’ve always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn’t hard at all. If I can show that I’m out and I’m fine and everything’s OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way.”

Earlier this week, it was announced that a mixed martial arts fighter, who was forced out as transgender last month, is to make her television debut in what will be her third fight since she came out.

Robbie Rogers recently  explained why coming out as gay meant he had to retire immediately as a professional footballer. The 25-year-old went public about his sexuality in a post on his personal website in February.

The issue of coming out is particularly topical in US professional sports, and in the US there is currently no openly gay player in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association or National Hockey League.

The National Hockey League recently became the first major professional team sport in the US to announce a formal partnership with You Can Play.