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Leading English rugby referee comes out as gay: ‘You can’t ask others to love you until you’ve fully loved yourself’

Patrick Kelleher December 5, 2019
Leading English rugby referee comes out as gay

Craig Maxwell-Keys (Stephen Pond/Getty)

English rugby referee Craig Maxwell-Keys has come out publicly as gay three years after he first told family and friends about his sexuality.

Maxwell-Keys is a leading official in the Gallagher Premiership and opened up about his sexual orientation and the challenges of coming out, Wales Online reports.

“You can’t ask others to love you until you’ve fully loved yourself,” the referee noted.

The 29-year-old – who is from Birmingham and now lives in Gloucestershire – also spoke about the Rainbow Laces campaign which encourages sports stars to wear rainbow laces in solidarity with the LGBT+ community. Reflecting on the campaign, he said that it reminds him of the decision of Nigel Owens and Sam Stanley to publicly come out.

Watching others coming out as gay in rugby was ‘a source of support and comfort.’

“While I was in the closet they were a source of support and comfort,” he said.

“It made it really clear to me while I was struggling to accept who I was, you could be part of elite sport.

“It’s not about who you love but how good you are and that message resonated with me massively,” the rugby referee added.

Maxwell-Keys also revealed that he thought he was ready to come out two years into his pharmaceutical job – but he was then given the opportunity to start refereeing.

You can’t ask others to love you until you’ve fully loved yourself.

“I very quickly realised I hadn’t fully accepted it myself,” he said.

It would be another two years before he got to that point. He opened up about the experience of coming out to friends and family in 2016.

He explained that he came out by sending a WhatsApp message and then turned off his phone for eight hours. When he turned it back on, the reaction was “very positive.”

Coming out has been ‘truly liberating.’

“I forgot how much effort it was to keep up that false pretence you spend a lot of energy on ‘what story have I told to this person, what’s the name of this imaginary girlfriend I’m seeing,’” he said.

He said that he is now able to live his life “authentically” since coming out.

“That energy I spent living a lie can be reinvested into just being me and that was truly liberating.

“My personal experiences have been really positive, it’s not an issue or people are overly supportive. That’s both here at Twickenham and across the professional game and also the community game.

“I can understand how powerful other people’s problems were when I was in the closet, so if I can help just one person in that position I was in years ago, it’s a positive from my perspective.”

More: Craig Maxwell-Keys, Rugby

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