Premier League star says ‘I’m gay but I’m afraid to come out’ in a heart-wrenching open letter to fans
An unnamed English Premier League player has penned a heart-wrenching letter to sporting authorities and fans with a simple announcement: “I am gay, but I am afraid to come out.”
After major league footballer, Thomas Beattie, became the second English player to come out as gay in June, it has ignited discussions among sporting bodies and lawmakers on how a sport so seeded into English culture slumps when it comes to LGBT+ representation.
Other international players such as Robbie Rogers and Thomas Hitzlsperger have come out since retiring from British football, but the spectre cast by Justin Fashanu, the first professional player to come out as gay who died by suicide in 1998, as well as a fanbase “sheltered”, Beattie said, from diversity, has stopped many more players from coming out.
This was all amplified by the unnamed Premier League player. In the letter, he discussed the daily torment he feels and explains how prejudice in football has prevented him from coming out.
The letter has been released by the Justin Fashanu Foundation, a charity started by Fashanu’s niece in his honour, which is supporting the player discretely during this time.
Gay player in Britain’s top ranking football league says being in the closet is an ‘absolute nightmare’.
In the letter, published in full in The Mirror, he wrote: “I am gay. Even writing that down in this letter is a big step for me.
“But only my family members and a select group of friends are aware of my sexuality. I don’t feel ready to share it with my team or my manager.
He continued: “But still, something inside me makes it impossible for me to be open with them about how I feel. I dearly hope one day soon I will be able to.
“I’ve known since I was about 19 that I was gay. How does it feel having to live like this?
“Day-to-day, it can be an absolute nightmare. And it is affecting my mental health more and more.
I feel trapped and my fear is disclosing the truth about what I am will only make things worse.
The player in the top level of the English football system explained that a feared firestorm from fans blocks him from coming out, stopping him from living his life authentically and having a partner of his own.
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“The truth is I just don’t think football is ready yet for a player to come out,” he wrote, “the game would need to make radical changes in order for me to feel able to make that step.”
Gay Premier League player: ‘I wish I didn’t have to live my life in such a way.’
As much as football’s top trade union, the Professional Footballers Association, offers counselling to closeted players, he said, it’s education that is the key to inspiring more people to come out.
“I wish I didn’t have to live my life in such a way,” he said. “But the reality is there is still a huge amount of prejudice in football.
“There are countless times I’ve heard homophobic chants and comments from supporters directed at no one in particular.
“Strangely it doesn’t really bother me during the matches. I am too focused on playing.
“It’s when I get back on the plane or the coach and I have time to think that it gets to me. As things stand my plan is to carry on playing for as long as I feel able to and then come out when I have retired.”
The anonymous player praised Beattie for coming out but acknowledged that Beattie is a wholesale example of a player having to wait until retirement to come out.