Reprinted from so so GAY 20 FEB 2015
To celebrate LGBT History Month, we’ve compiled a list of our Sporting Heroes; those people who came out and paved the way for every lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person who followed with a dream of becoming a professional footballer, rugby player – or even MMA star.
Justin Fashanu was a football player who made history both in his personal and professional life. When Nottingham Forrest bought Fashanu from Norwich City in 1981, he became the first black footballer to break the £1 million transfer fee. It wasn’t until 1990 that Fashanu came out publicly. He was the first footballer to ever come out. However, it all ended tragically in 1998 when he committed suicide following accusations of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old male.
Former Aston Villa and West Ham midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger came out at the start of 2014, five months after retiring from football. The 31-year-old, who won 52 caps for Germany, said: ‘I’m coming out about my homosexuality because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards.’
Two years ago, in a post on his own blog, Robbie Rogers wrote, ‘Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently.
‘I always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined… I will always be thankful for my career.’
Rogers posted this after initially retiring from the game due to injury but soon after he signed for LA Galaxy, coming out of retirement to become the highest profile openly gay footballer in the world.
Amelie Mauresmo is a Grand Slam winning former tennis player who came out early on in her career, at just 19. Mauresmo went on to become the number one ranked player and win Wimbledon and the French Open. Mauresmo is now Andy Murray’s coach making him the highest profile male player with a female coach.
Gareth Thomas was a fixture of the Welsh Rugby side’s starting lineup for over a decade, representing his country 100 times. In 2009 he came out in a national newspaper whilst still playing for the Cardiff Blues making him the first openly gay professional rugby player.
Thomas announced his retirement after a short spell playing Rugby League in the Super League.
Fallon Fox became the first transgender athlete in MMA history and has won five of her six matches. After coming out Fox faced fierce criticism with some, not least UFC commentator Joe Rogan who attacked Fox in a rant on his podcast.
Rogan said ‘She calls herself a woman but… I tend to disagree. And, uh, she, um… she used to be a man but now she has had, she’s a transgender which is (the) official term that means you’ve gone through it, right? And she wants to be able to fight women in MMA. I say no f***ing way.
‘I say if you had a dick at one point in time, you also have all the bone structure that comes with having a dick. You have bigger hands, you have bigger shoulder joints. You’re a f***ing man. That’s a man, OK? You can’t have… that’s… I don’t care if you don’t have a dick any more…’
Greg Louganis was one of the most famous divers in the world. He was the Tom Daley of his era; talented, tanned and a sight for sore eyes in a pair of Speedos. He dominated in both the 3m springboard and 10m platform event for several years and he still holds the record for being the only male diver to win gold in both events at two consecutive Olympic Games. Louganis came out in 1994, six years after his last Olympics.
Matthew Mitcham, on the other hand, came out at the start of his career. In 2008, in an interview prior to the Beijing games, Mitcham mentioned in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald that he was gay. Mitcham would go on to win gold at the Beijing games, denying the Chinese divers a clean sweep of the medals.
Tom Daley was the poster boy of the London 2012 Olympics. His good looks, tanned skin and perfect smile had the gays and the girls up and down the country transfixed as he fought his way to a bronze medal. 18 months later Daley posted a video on YouTube where he came out saying ‘Of course I still fancy girls, but right now I’m dating a guy and I couldn’t be happier. I just feel safe. And it just really does feel right.’ Five months later Daley said ‘I am a gay man now’.