Rugby pro Devin Ibañez comes out as gay and in love: ‘I have decided to embrace what I once felt embarrassed of’
Rugby pro Devin Ibañez came out as gay Wednesday (30 December) in a candid Instagram post.
The former New England Free Jacks player, from Brookline, Massachusettes, shared photographs of himself and his boyfriend Fergus Wade smiling, kissing and embracing one another. Maybe love isn’t dead after all.
While many openly queer sportspeople have come out after retiring, Ibañez defied the playbook by stating his truth after earning a top contract with a US Major League Rugby (USMLR) side. He said that he is the first USMLR player to do so.
Ibañez noted that as much as LGBT+ athletes are celebrated for their heroism, he has seen many queer rugby players “blackballed” from competing in the higher leagues due to their identity.
“As 2020 comes to a close I took the time to reflect on my life and what aspects I could control and make positive changes to that would impact my day to day life and happiness,” Ibañez wrote on his new Instagram account, @ThatGayRugger.
“It became clear to me that living my life with more transparency and openly celebrating who I love would have an immediate positive impact on me and those I care about.
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Devin Ibañez feared coming out before scoring top contract would make him a ‘token’.
“I want to start 2021 by celebrating the love of my life and my partner Fergus Wade who has been with me through the highs and the (very) lows of the last three years,” Devin Ibañez continued.
“I am openly gay,” he added. “This is something that is not a secret to those close to me and even several people not close to me.
“But I always felt a need to keep it separate from my rugby career. I always came up with a reason why being more vocal would be a distraction, detrimental, or unnecessary.”
Ibañez described how the decision to come out dropped down his list as he wrestled to make it in rugby after graduating from the University of Massachusetts.
“The final goal became ‘Once I sign a pro contract I will be more vocal and become the first openly gay MLR player’,” he said.
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“As the day came and went that I signed a contract with the USMLR, I moved the goalposts even further. This was largely fueled by a narrative I told myself that unless I left no doubt about deserving my spot that I would be viewed as a token and not a true professional.
“But what I considered as casting a shadow I’ve slowly realized can also act as a beacon. So I have decided to embrace what I once felt embarrassed of and be proudly and shamelessly myself.
“I have met some incredibly talented LGBTQ rugby players over the years, many of whom were blackballed from playing a high level solely due to being gay.
“I hope that I will meet others Iike myself playing a high level of rugby and hoping to inspire the next generation of proud LGBTQ rugby players.
“So I will proudly call myself ‘that gay rugger’ in hopes that one day it won’t sound strange in men’s rugby.”