Here, Attitude Hot 100 winner and former rugby player (now bobsledder) Simon Dunn writes about the impact the coming out of Keegan Hirst and Sam Stanley will have on young gay guys...
My passion is, and always will be, rugby.
I played rugby league from the age of 5 until I was 18, but I never felt like the rest of my teammates - for the simple reason that I was gay. I had never seen a gay man play what was and is considered such a “macho” sport, because growing up in working class Australia I was told, “poofs can’t play league”. As a result – I gave up the sport. It was soul crushing, because it was something I loved and it felt a part of me.
Having professional rugby players Keegan Hirst (rugby league) and Sam Stanley
(Rugby 7s) recently come out publicly as gay has really hit home for me. Openly gay rugby players are few and far between: not since the likes of Aussie Ian Roberts in 1995 and Gareth Thomas in 2009 have we had any other examples of gay men within these sports. You begin to ask yourself, is it because gay men don’t excel in such masculine sports - or is it that society has led us to believe we can’t be involved in such masculine sports?
Ian Roberts was always my glimmer of hope; someone who showed me that I could do what I love and be who I am. But his efforts weren’t enough to change stereotypes and the public’s perception - therefore I never really felt fully accepted playing team sport until I was an adult. Admittedly even now at 28, and having played for two rugby clubs AND being a member of the Australian bobsleigh team, I still worry about how I’m perceived.
Having openly gay players at the highest level within all sports shows the world we ARE capable athletes regardless of what traditional perceptions of gay men mandate. I feel stereotypes for all types of communities will exist in some capacity – but as more and more elite sportsmen and women come out it will hopefully widen that stereotype. Our community is large and its diversity is what makes it so amazing!
As I grew up I slowly realised what this small town boy had been told was in fact,not true. I CAN play rugby, CAN partake in sport and CAN be exactly who I am. I don’t think Keegan or Sam will fully grasp the enormity of what their coming out has done and what they mean to young gay people, who were just like we were struggling with our own sexualities. They both have become the role models we desperately yearned for growing up! The day will come when we will no longer be the “first openly gay” making headlines - but until this day the courage and inner strength of people like Keegan and Sam is helping change the world as we know it!
Words by SIMON DUNN.
Sam Stanley is first English rugby union player to come out
Behind the scenes with Hot 100 winner Simon Dunn