Thomas Beattie, the first openly gay English pro footballer since Justin Fashanu, was ‘exhausted’ before coming out
Thomas Beattie has said he told the world he was gay because he was tired of “coming out on a daily basis”.
Beattie came out publicly as gay last week, making him the first English professional footballer to come out since Justin Fashanu in 1990. Other international players such as Robbie Rogers and Thomas Hitzlsperger have come out since retiring from British football.
The retired footballer told Sky Sports that he had already come out to “a few friends and family” before coming out to the world last week.
“I started to get asked by certain people and I felt like I was coming out on a daily basis – it was really exhausting,” Beattie said.
“I thought, I’d rather do this in one fell swoop, and find some purpose in it.”
Gay retired footballer Thomas Beattie sought advice from Keegan Hirst before coming out.
Reflecting on his early career, Beattie said he knew he was “different” from his friends, but was unable to pinpoint exactly how.
“I didn’t want to dive deeper and self-analyse that, because that process was pretty daunting to even consider.
“When you’re playing and training, you’re in this zone of ‘nothing else matters’. You’re completely engulfed in what’s going on. It consumes you. The more I played, the more it allowed me to escape.”
I started to get asked by certain people and I felt like I was coming out on a daily basis – it was really exhausting.
Beattie struggled to accept his sexuality, and said he used to censor comments on Instagram that suggested he might be gay.
“It took up a lot of my time and energy. Any time I posted a picture, I had to be in a space where I had no meetings and no obligations because for the next two hours, I felt I needed to be sat by my phone and police these comments.
“Obviously I was always self-conscious about the ones that were coming in from people who I assumed might be gay, so I would hide or delete them.”
Before he came out publicly, Beattie sought advice from rugby player Keegan Hirst, who came out publicly in 2015.
“Everyone’s journey’s different, but Keegan was also in a very masculine physical sport – he went through the fire and came out doing OK,” Beattie said.
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“He’s someone whose story really resonated with me and offered some motivation for me to do the same.”
He never considered coming out while playing football professionally.
The former professional player began his career with Hull FC’s youth academy at 10 years old. At 19, he moved to the US on a scholarship and played college soccer before playing at professional level in Scotland, Norway, Canada and Singapore.
“I never thought about coming out while playing,” he told The Advocate last week.
“I literally felt like I had to sacrifice one of the two: who I am, the sport I loved before I could remember.”
Beattie came out to friends and family three months ago, and then told some of his old teammates, who have “been amazing”.
“They know I’m the same lad I was 10 minutes before telling them so that’s been refreshing.”