We've given newly-out rugby player Keegan Hirst the Editor's Special Award for the 2015 Attitude Awards, and in the accompanying issue we have the first gay press shoot - eight pages, in fact - with the man who recently became the first British Rugby League Player to come out. Here's a snippet...
Keegan Hirst says that while the intense media focus on his new gay life is a little scary, it’s equally exciting. Life has pretty much continued as normal for Keegan, with his usual set of friends. Except for two new ones, that is. At Manchester Pride he found himself in the company of Ian McKellen and fellow Attitude Award winner Corrie’s Antony Cotton.
In coming out as the sporting world’s new dream boy, he’s skipped the transition of everyday gay life to join queer celebrity high society. “It was really surreal. On the Friday night at Manchester Pride I went for dinner with them and I was driving so I gave them a lift back to Antony’s. Ian McKellen was sat in the passenger seat with Antony Cotton in the back, and we were just chit-chatting. Then, suddenly you realise this is weird! Because of who they are you think they’ll be different, but it’s just their job. They’re still just a normal person.”
So, how was Serena McKellen? “He’s proper thespiany,” Keegan says, grinning. McKellen’s advice to the newly out rugby player? “He said I should get into showbiz,” he laughs.
His new celebrity pals haven’t stopped there. Emma Watson direct messaged him on Twitter and he got a call from HRH Elton John. “His PA rang for my number and I thought it was the lads taking the piss.” Elton praised Keegan’s bravery, saying how the world is changing and people like him are helping change it. They swapped emails and have been exchanging messages since.
As a relative newcomer to the gay world Keegan’s yet to dip his toe into full on gay abandon. “I haven’t really experimented. It’s not like I started going around the gay scene or anything. I still go out where I’d normally go. I have a couple mates that I got to know quite recently. But before I didn’t know anybody who was gay. It was like going from one extreme to another, from zero to one hundred.”
At Manchester Pride he got on stage to huge applause to speak about the strength in coming out, and even wore a Stonewall ‘It Gets Better’ t-shirt. As coming out experiences go, he’s not holding back. And no, in case you’re wondering, he hasn’t downloaded Grindr. “I know about it but I haven’t downloaded it. I don’t think there’ll be a lot to pick from in Batley.”
You can read our full interview with Keegan in the Awards issue of Attitude, out now in shops. Order the digital copy from attitudedigital.co.uk or the print copy from newsstand.co.uk/Attitude.