“I was 10 or 11 when I realized I was different to my friends,” England Rugby Sevens star Sam Stanley tells the Sunday Times in a new interview.
“I didn’t want to accept it,” he continued. “I felt that being different wasn’t right. I had a girlfriend and I was thinking that, like some people say, maybe it is just a phase.”
Now, 23-year-old Stanley, who has represented England a total of five times internationally, is finally speaking openly about his sexuality, and making international headlines in the process. He’s the first English professional rugby union player to come out publicly.
But it hasn’t always been an easy road. Stanley revealed that a few years ago he contemplated suicide after fearing his sexuality would might ruin his rugby career.
“I was standing on a bridge about four or five years ago, overlooking a motorway in Essex,” he recalled. “However, looking back, the idea that I would jump was ridiculous, but it was as if I was thinking that I could get rid of the pain in one go.”
“You are so worried about what people will think,” he continued, “and I thought I couldn’t be a macho rugby player the way I was, and there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life.”
In an interview with BBC Radio, Stanley added that he hopes by coming out publicly he will help others find the confidence to let go of their own “loneliness, anger and hurt” of being closeted.
Stanley’s announcement comes less than a month after rugby league player Keegan Hirst also revealed he is gay. Both players have been met with overwhelming support from family, friends, and fans.