Keegan Hirst has come out as gay.
The Batley Bulldogs prop, 27, became one of the first players in his sport to open up about his sexuality, and his battle with the ‘macho’ image of Rugby League. He is the first British player to come out as gay while playing the sport, although he is second openly gay Rugby League star in the UK.
Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, the sports star said: “At first I couldn’t even say ‘I’m gay’ in my head, let alone out loud.
“Now I feel like I’m letting out a long breath that I’ve held in for a long time.”
More from PinkNews
|Stars You Didn't Know Were Gay Or Bisexual||The Stars You Didn’t Know Have An LGBT Sibling||The Straight Stars Who Went Gay For Pay|
The player added: “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.”
“The only time I felt free of the torment was when I stepped on the rugby pitch. Now I feel free.”
His revelation is not without pain – he told his wife about his sexuality “a few weeks ago”, and the pair are now going through a separation.
He said: “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.”
“We haven’t told the kids yet, they’re too young to understand. I’m not sure how I’d explain it.”
The player also revealed he considered taking his own life, saying: “On the worst days I’d think, ‘I can’t do this, I’d rather be dead than for it all to come out’.”
Gareth Thomas came out in 2009 while playing Rugby Union and moved to Rugby League in 2010. Australian Rugby League player Ian Roberts came out on 1995.