Before I get to the letter, let me just say that I wholeheartedly disagree with the above tweet. I'm sympathetic to the coming out process, but heart-wrenching isn't the term I would use to describe what's going on here. More on that later...
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.”
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."
As a kid, all I ever wanted to be was a footballer. I wasn’t interested in doing well at school. Instead of doing homework, every spare minute I had was spent with a ball. In the end it paid off. But even now I still have to pinch myself when I run out and get to play each week in front of tens of thousands of people.
However there is something that sets me apart from most of the other players in the Premier League. 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. That’s hard. I spend most of my life with these guys and when we step out on the pitch we are a team.
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 that disclosing the truth about what I am will only make things worse.
So, although my heart often tells me I need to do it my head always says the same thing: “Why risk it all?” I am lucky enough to earn a very good wage. I have a nice car, a wardrobe full of designer clothes and can afford to buy anything I want for my family and friends.
But one thing I am missing is companionship. I am at an age where I would love to be in a relationship. But because of the job I do the level of trust in having a long-term partner has to be extremely high.
So, at the moment, I avoid relationships at all. I dearly hope I will soon meet someone who I think I will be able to trust enough.
^^ Up until this point I agree with everything this guy has said. I've blacked out the closeted portion of my life because it was such a nightmare, but hearing him describe the mental torment brings the pain of that era right back to the surface. I can 100% relate to what it feels like to be in a room full of straight guys when they're talking about girls. I can relate to the pit you get in your stomach when the conversation turns to you and you have to fake it otherwise your deepest, darkest, most shameful secret, one that you don't even talk about with yourself, will come to light. I can relate to the rationalization of living a closeted life because it's easy. But what I can't relate to is the next part of his letter, particularly these two sentences…
The truth is I just don’t think football is ready yet for a player to come out. The game would need to make radical changes in order for me to feel able to make that step.
Saying the league isn't ready is nothing more than an excuse. That's going to upset some people in the gay community, but it's true. You're scared, so you're blaming the league when what you should do is grow a set of balls and come out. The narrative that professional sports leagues, whether it be soccer, football, basketball, or whatever aren't ready for a gay player is bullshit. What does that even mean? That you're going to be made to feel uncomfortable? That people will say mean things? That they'll make fun of you? Probably, but how will you know unless you come out? He goes on…
What those running the game need to do is educate fans, players, managers, agents, club owners — basically everyone involved in the game. If I was to make that step I’d want to know that I would be supported at each step of my journey. Right now, I don’t feel I would be.
^^ And do you know who would be a perfect person to educate them? YOU!!! Straight people aren't going to educate straight people on how to treat gay men in sports. Closeted athletes bitch about education but are too afraid to do the educating. The saddest part of this letter comes next, when he says he plans to come out after he retires…
I wish I didn’t have to live my life in such a way. 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.
It was great last month to see Thomas Beattie raise his hand and admit to being gay. But the fact he had to wait until retirement tells you all you need to know. Footballers are still too scared to make the step while they are playing.
Then why even write the letter, dude? It's mind blowing how soft these guys are. I'm sorry if that hurts feelings, but it's how I feel. Closeted athletes don't need to be coddled, they need tough love.They need someone to tell them that their coming out is more than just about about them. I know they didn't ask for it to be that way, but that's the way it is. Trust that your community will have your back. There is a massive opportunity for closeted athletes to help LGBTQ+ youth and the fact that they don't see it that way is a tragedy. Culture only changes when those negatively affected by it stand up. Fear, while understood, should no longer be accepted as an excuse.
For the past year I have been getting support from the Justin Fashanu Foundation, not least to cope with the toll this is all having on my mental health.
It is hard to put into words how much the Foundation has helped. It has made me feel supported and understood as well as giving me the confidence to be more open and honest with myself especially.
Without that support I really don’t know where I’d be now. I know it might get to the point where I find it impossible to keep living a lie. If I do my plan is to retire early and come out. I might be throwing away years of a lucrative career.
But you can’t put a price on your peace of mind. And I don’t want to live like this forever.
And on and on we go. I wrote a blog on a similar situation last week if you wanna check that out as well. Long story short is that closeted athletes need to come out. It can be a risk, but in my opinion the risk is worth the reward. End rant.