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Why is a sports star’s sexuality so important?

I would like to write about another sports star who had the courage to come out as gay.

Well I’m aware of the importance of English professional footballer Jake Daniels coming out this week, oddly enough I wish it wasn’t significant.

I wish it wasn’t a remarkable act of bravery.

I wish many would have laid the foundation by now.

I wish these stories didn’t need commentary, athletes didn’t need to disclose their sexuality, sexuality wasn’t implied, and we all could just be – fall in love with who we fall in love with and without having a label slapped on us .

I am aware of the current need for labels, a term that allows us to be better understood and sometimes allows us to help ourselves to better understand our being and our preferences.

Jake Daniels in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Peterborough United and Blackpool at London Road Stadium May 7th. Image: Lee Parker CameraSport via Getty Images

I wish the remarkable performance of a young current professional footballer wasn’t so remarkable. That day has yet to come. is it closer

Given that this young professional is only 17 years old and ready to reveal his sexuality in a sporting environment that has so far been more than shy about reflecting the diversity of society, it gives me hope.

It gives me hope that there is a new generation of young people who have grown up with their sexuality and people’s sexual orientation.

I had the same hope when Cork’s own Donal Óg Cusack came out in October 2009, but I was naïve to think it would allow more sportsmen to come out and be accepted.

It’s highly unlikely that Donal Óg has been the only gay man to hold a hurley or kick a ball for his county since then.

It amazes me that the world of sport doesn’t reflect a more progressive society – a society that I have witnessed maturing and evolving in relation to sexuality and LGBTQI+ issues.

regression, not progress

In my eyes, the world of men’s sport has rather receded.

There hasn’t been a single male intercounty player who has come out publicly. I sometimes feel uncomfortable with the announcement. I think no player should feel compelled to come out and talk about their love or personal life. Why should they?

Straight people don’t have to. I understand the current need for this as we normalize it and get to a point where it’s not going to be a big story and where the terms bold and courageous don’t have to be used for someone who wants to be true themselves.

So what are the factors that cause players not to come out?

Is it that there are no gay men who play sports? Very unlikely.

Is there a fear of rejection, a fear of backlash, a perception that they won’t be accepted by their teammates?

Does the conversation in the dressing room warn her to be quiet and protect herself?

Do you feel like your contracts with pro players are about to expire?

I remember an article years ago saying that professional football players were advised by their agents not to come out because they feared they would be treated negatively and that it would seriously affect their future careers.

Imagine a young Jake Daniels reflecting on the fact that he’d be better off keeping quiet about his sexuality — at least until he retires.

Well, you don’t have to imagine that, Jake has thought about it and mentioned in an interview that he wouldn’t consider coming out until he retired. Then he realized that this would take too long.

It would have been a farce if he had to deny himself part of his identity and keep up a show just to feel safe in football.

Unfortunately, this is the case for many.

Jake explained that he didn’t want to keep the lies up and living a lie by dating girls to cover up his sexuality.

Donal Óg Cusack: Came out in 2009.  Image: Cillian KellyDonal Óg Cusack: Came out in 2009. Image: Cillian Kelly

He spoke about how this had affected his mental health and stress levels.

Of course it would be if you keep checking yourself and hoping you don’t come out. Go to extreme measures to protect your secret.

I don’t know if Jake expected the positive comments from big names in the football world like Gary Lineker, his teammates and the club.

The response was overwhelmingly positive. He welcomed the questions and the interest – it shows they care.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson even tweeted: “Thank you for your courage Jake, it would have taken tremendous courage to come out and you will be an inspiration to many, both on and off the pitch.”

But for anyone who thinks we’re in a time when this isn’t an issue and thinks nobody cares, just have to look at the negative comments that were attached to the tweet announcing his sexuality became.

Unfortunately, homophobia is alive and well with a certain element of society, an element that speaks loud and clear about this man being happy and living his life the way his heart desires.

Sky Sports had to remove the comment option, which I think was a protective step to prevent negative reactions from getting airtime.

Near their home in Dublin, two women were recently assaulted and assaulted because of their sexuality.

This is just weeks after the murders of two Sligo men, Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee.

My own experience

Ironically, I’ve had a very positive experience with being gay. The hardest thing for me was accepting it about myself. I’ve grappled with this for years and fought to keep it a secret.

Looking back now, I made it such a big deal in my own head and lived in turmoil for fear of rejection for being the real me. A real fear of letting others down and a fear of being less.

I was my own worst enemy, thinking the worst case scenario, playing out unnecessary things in my head and having a negative narrative about what it means to be gay.

I have never experienced homophobia from my teammates, the opposition or the public. The only thing I fell prey to was a bit of gossip.

Thankfully, the women’s wardrobe reflects a more progressive society and a healthy, safe space – space to be free and expressive.

Valerie Mulcahy: Has had positive experiences with being gay but found it difficult to accept it about herself.  Image: Eddie O'HareValerie Mulcahy: Has had positive experiences with being gay but found it difficult to accept it about herself. Image: Eddie O’Hare

Many female athletes in my own sport are confident and proud, something I envy I have to admit.

It’s wonderful to see players being able to bring their whole selves to their passion. Essentially, knowing that they are fully engaged and fully present will allow them to perform better. Not distracted by worry or fear that you might reveal your whole self, a self you fear might be rejected.

I have taught in secondary school for 15 years and it is encouraging to see the level of education and awareness of the LGBT community in first graders.

I had a student who was able to educate her classmates on the difference between nonbinary and pansexual. (For those wondering, pansexual is not limited in sexual choice in terms of biological sex, gender, or gender identity; non-binary is used to describe people who feel that their gender is not within the boundaries of gender binary can be defined).

Less taboo

Topics of this kind are less taboo and the conversations flow. The acceptance is much stronger.

There are more students who identify with the LGBT community in their school years.

Allies are supportive and the support of our straight friends will go a long way in creating a more inclusive society where diversity is celebrated and people can feel valued and loved for who they are.

We all know the value of role models and trailblazers. Jake Daniels referenced Josh Cavallo, an Australian soccer player who came out as gay in October 2021.

I believe Josh can and will be a role model for others to be themselves in their public lives.

I hope that one day the divide between football and sport in general and its LGBT members can be fused a little tighter so that the sporting world can reflect the broader society that it encompasses.

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