Former professional footballer Thomas Beattie has come out as gay, becoming one of just a handful of English players ever to do so.
The 33-year-old played for Hull City's youth team before a long career in professional football in the US, Canada and Singapore.
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Beattie said he didn’t feel comfortable coming out during his playing career, but felt it was time to send a message of acceptance for anyone else struggling with their sexuality.
“It's time to share something very personal to me. It's easier to sit in silence but the real challenge is to speak up,” he wrote in an Instagram post on Wednesday.
“For me it's time to live my truth and hopefully affect change in some way. I am a brother, son, friend and I'm gay.
“It took me a long time to accept who I am and I hope it is a little easier for the next generation.”
Beattie is believed to be just the second male professional player from the UK to come out as gay after Justin Fashanu did so in 1990.
On Wednesday, Beattie told LGBT news website Advocate he felt pressure to keep his sexuality under wraps while he was playing.
“I never thought about coming out whilst playing,” he revealed.
“I literally felt like I had to sacrifice one of the two: who I am, or the sport I loved before I could remember.
“I used football as a form of escapism and in many ways it saved me, until I reached the point in life where there was some personal growth.
“I was standing still on that front. Society (told) me masculinity is linked to sexuality and so being an athlete playing a physical sport felt like a huge contradiction.”
Thomas Beattie hopes admission will help others
Beattie said he told his family and friends three months ago and felt it was important to make a public statement.
“As an athlete it was something that was unspoken about, which is why I want to share my story in hopes that there will eventually be more support for people in a similar situation,” he said.
“I recently started to tell some of my old teammates who have been amazing and treated me not a single ounce differently.
“They know I’m the same lad I was 10 minutes before telling them so that’s been refreshing.”
It’s time to share my truth. Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey. I appreciate you https://t.co/KC7UVazSfx— Thomas Beattie (@IamTomBeattie) June 23, 2020
Beattie’s announcement has sparked an outpouring of support.
Thanks for sharing this Tom. I am sure lots of people will relate strongly.— Adam Crafton (@AdamCrafton_) June 23, 2020
Very happy for ex-@USLLeagueTwo player Thomas Beattie, who in a first-person piece for @ESPNFC came out and detailed his career as a gay soccer player.— Nicholas Murray (@NJEMurray) June 23, 2020
Long-time @OttawaFuryFC fans will probably remember Beattie, who played for the club a few years ago.https://t.co/bCnNEtdOPZ
It comes after Watford striker Troy Deeney recently said there’s probably at least one gay player on every football team.
“They're there, they are 100 per cent there,” Deeney said.
“I think people that are gay or from that community definitely are very worried about having to shoulder the responsibility of being the first. I think once the first comes out, there would be loads.”