Bisexual rugby pro Levi Davis didn’t plan his momentous coming out – but he’s learned a very important lesson since
Levi Davis woke up one day in September and decided it was time to stop hiding who he is. And he hasn’t looked back since.
What’s more, he was met with a wave of love and support from the LGBT+ community and learned that coming out “is never going to be as bad as you think it’s going to be”.
It was a striking moment for the LGBT+ community and for the sporting world. A young rugby star opening up about his sexuality on the world stage showed just how far we have come in the fight for equality. His public coming out went off without a hitch: there were no abusive messages; nobody rejected him.
This might come as a surprise to some. Rugby is often seen as a hyper-masculine sport – you would be forgiven for thinking it might not be the most welcoming environment to come out in – but Davis’ experience shows a different side. His coming out experience was affirming and empowering, with everybody on his team accepting him with open arms.
“I just woke up one day and I was like: today is the day. It wasn’t like I planned it or anything,” Davis tells PinkNews.
“I felt comfortable doing it at that point with so much awareness around Black Lives Matter and people generally being more kind in lockdown, and mental health being a huge issue around that time. It was a time when everyone was talking, and I felt that it was the perfect time to do it.”
Davis was greeted with open arms by his teammates, who rushed to tell him that he would continue to be accepted among their ranks regardless of his sexuality – and there was some good-natured banter for measure, too.
“I haven’t had a single bad message yet,” Davis says, noting that his team is “massively proud of him” for coming out as bisexual in such a public way.
“Nothing’s changed,” he adds. “That was the most important thing.”
Levi Davis first began to question his sexuality when he was 18 years old.
Levi Davis first began to question his sexuality when he was 18, and he gradually became aware that he was bisexual. As he came to terms with his sexuality, he began to think about how he would come out to friends and family.
Ultimately, he came out to his parents on the same day he came out to his teammates. Because of coronavirus restrictions, he wasn’t able to tell them in person, so he sent them a message.
“I was just messaging them about it and then we spoke on the phone, and it was all good. They support me, that’s the most important thing,” Davis says .
Coming out came as a huge relief. There is a weight that comes with hiding your identity, and he felt this keenly. Davis has experienced depression and anxiety throughout his life – beginning when he was a child – and his mental health began to deteriorate in 2019 following a stint on Celebrity X-Factor, where he competed as part of the boy band Try Star.
Rugby has been painted as a man’s sport, but that’s just the tradition of it – it’s changing, the face of it is changing.
“I came off the X Factor and went back to the rugby club and then all of a sudden I had come off this rollercoaster,” Davis says.
Returning to normal life was not easy, and Davis began to rely on alcohol to help him cope. Reflecting on that time, the rugby player says the weight of concealing his sexuality had started to drag him down.
“It was a burden hiding who I was,” he says.
Davis knows that there are likely many LGBT+ athletes out there who, like him, have struggled to come out for fear of being rejected by their teammates. But Davis’ experience shows that sport may be more accepting than people think.
“Rugby has been painted as a man’s sport, but that’s just the tradition of it – it’s changing, the face of it is changing. I can only say what I know, and my experience of coming out was only positive.”
He adds: “Rugby is absolutely ready to welcome anyone from the LGBT+ community.”
LGBT+ athletes should ‘wait until they’re ready’ to come out.
Davis also wants to remind LGBT+ people considering coming out – and especially those in sport – that they don’t have to rush into anything. While coming out may help to alleviate the burden on some LGBT+ players, it is important to wait until you feel ready to open up.
“You’ve got to do what’s best for you, whether that’s telling your friends and family or holding it back for a while because it might not be the right time to say it. Wait until you’re ready.
The biggest message is that coming out is never as bad as you think it’s going to be.
“There’s no rush to tell everybody, but if it’s plaguing you, and if it’s something that is hurting your mental health and the solution you feel is to tell people, do it. If not, there’s professional help out there, helplines, people who can chat, and use that. If it’s hurting your mental health you need to make sure that you know there are people there for you.
“The biggest message is that [coming out] is never as bad as you think it’s going to be.”
Since coming out, Davis has been keeping busy. Alongside his rugby career, he is a singer-songwriter, and he is gearing up to release music in 2021.
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He is also fronting a new Virgin Media campaign around online dating in the age of coronavirus. He is an advocate for virtual dating, and for finding ways to connect more generally – but he says it can be hard to “feel somebody’s vibe” through a screen.
“The challenge of virtual dating is you’re in a room and you’ve got your internet on which could be a bit laggy. It’s just different in person,” he says.
It has been a massive year for Davis, and while coming out as bisexual helped to alleviate his mental health issues, he remains pragmatic about the future.
“There are things around the corner all the time that people don’t know are coming, and I think it’s really important that you understand that people’s mental health will break down,” he says.
“The most important thing is talking about it and having your strategies, and you’ll always come out the other side.”