Shane Wickes has opened up about being out and proud in the world of sport.
A gay high school football coach recently gave an emotional TED Talk about his experience with homophobia in football and why he decided he had to come out of the closet.
Shane Wickes says he realised he needed to come out to fellow coaches – as well as his players – while attending a coaching clinic.
After hearing an inspirational talk, Wickes decided that the best way to coach and inspire athletes is to be honest with them – which for him meant coming out as gay.
“My truth is this. I am a former college football player. I am a current high school football coach, and I am gay,” Wickes says during the speech.
“I battled with this truth for a long time, personally, professionally and certainly in my coaching and athletic career.”
When he was younger, Wickes says he would tell himself he was “gay and you will take it to the grave.”
He says his attitude towards his sexuality was heavily influenced by the blatant homophobia he experienced in the world of football.
The coach says the sport taught him that “being gay is not okay.” In the locker room, he says “the word ‘faggot’ is used almost as much as the word ‘football.’”
Eventually, Wickes came out to his family. However, he still kept his sexuality a secret from everyone else – which he says created an identity crisis.
He quickly turned to drugs and alcohol to help him cope, before “a lack of the will to live began to catch up with me.”
After narrowly escaping an overdose, he came to more fully realise the value of coming out.
“Sharing our truth is the only way we can have the impact we want to have. One day being gay in football will be normal,” he says.
“But in order for that to happen, those of us who are gay need to stand up and own it.”
He adds, “a healthy person cannot live life in the dark.”
Watch Shane’s emotional TED talk, below: