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Thomas Beattie Urges Young Athletes To Stay In Sports

After coming out last month, English former soccer player Thomas Beattie opened a global dialogue about being out in sports.

In his newest interview with ‘The Advocate’, the football star discussed how the world received the news of his coming out and incurred you queer athletes to stay involved in sports. 

“I made the decision a few months ago that I was going to go on the journey, firstly, of setting myself free,” Beattie says. “On a personal level, that was the end [goal] for me.”

“It was a long two weeks leading up to this because I knew it was coming,” he says. “I think that as former athlete, you get good at hiding or burying certain feelings or emotions, and you get good at avoiding certain situations. You have this insane response to move away from these things, whereas now I’m coming out by choice.”

Beattie is the third professional payer in British sports history to come out and only the second British soccer player to come out.

“I never really comprehended what it was,” he recalls of when he was a young athlete and same-sex attractions started bottling up. “I knew I was different around 17. I felt different from a lot of my friends, but being gay was the last thing I thought I was. I couldn’t really comprehend it, especially having not been exposed to people from the LGBTQ+ community at that point in time. For me, it was more around 22 years old that I started to understand, maybe I’m gay.”   

“I think for me the biggest struggle was self-acceptance,” he says. “Some people know [they’re LGBTQ+] at an early age, while others know but they don’t let themselves believe it. I was one of them. I was like, There’s no way that’s me. But obviously deep down, I knew that’s what I was… Once I became content with who I was, I felt a sense of obligation to [come out] in one swoop and try to make a little bit of change in perception.”

“Sport brings people together, so there is that sense of community within sport,” Beattie, explains when asked how sports can be an avenue to discuss LGBTQ+ issues on a larger scale.

“It will definitely be a good place to start. We already have large groups of people congregating for something they already have in common so you already have an audience. I think it takes awareness and exposure as the first step. There are things on a systemic level which need to be improved and changed, but the first step within sport is to normalize it outside of sport. People to bring more awareness to it; families, teachers, to start having these conversations with younger people so they will hopefully grow up in an environment where we’re moving toward that.”

Beattie’s message to young athletes who feel like they can’t come out is simple: find at least one person to speak to.

“To be in silence and alone is a difficult path. Having the ability to speak to one person is going to be a huge benefit,” he stated. “It’s a shame if you never fulfill a potential of a dream. You never know what you might be missing out on if you decide to go the opposite way and decide not to pursue sport as a career [because you’re queer]. That’d be a real shame to look back and say ‘What if?’ You never know. We could be missing out on the next Cristiano Ronaldo.”

He also talked about young athletes who might be afraid to enter sports because of preconceived ideas of homophobia: “I would definitely persuade anyone in that position to continue playing and learn about themselves through sport. Learn about their character: their morals, their values, their beliefs,” he said.

“I think within sport, people are largely quite accepting on the professional level,” he argued. “You’re dealing with people with different ethnicities, different religions, different cultures… So ‘different’ in professional sport is something that’s normal. The younger level, there’s probably not as much emphasis on that. I don’t think you really comprehend the ‘different’ when you’re young, and kids can be quite cruel.

“Be passionate about whatever it is that sets your soul on fire,” he concluded. “If that’s sport, then go for it.”

Read related myGwork articles here:

Former Football Star Thomas Beattie Comes Out

"LGBTI athletes' first biggest challenge is being accepted." | Interview with Simon Dunn

Watford Captain Troy Deeney Says “There Is Probably A Gay Or Bisexual Player In Every Football Team”

Senior Tory MP: “Football Is Still Intolerant Of Gay People”

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