In Emotional Post, Professional Soccer Player Comes Out as Gay

Friday June 26, 2020

A professional soccer player from England came out as gay in an emotional post published on ESPN.

"My name is Thomas Beattie. I'm a brother, son, friend, former professional footballer, entrepreneur and annoyingly competitive lad," he writes. "I'm a lot of things, and one of them is gay."

Beattie played professional soccer from 2008 to 2015, ESPN wrote in the story's introduction. "

A native of England, he came up through the Hull City youth academy, but his career took him across three continents as he searched for his true identity. This is his story, as told to Emily Kaplan," the site adds.

He opens his story describing how when his club, Singapore's Warriors FC, was playing in the Asian Champions League in 2015 in a Myanmar stadium filled with 40,000 fans.

"As a lad in northern England, I dreamed of being on a stage like this," the athlete wrote.

The game hinged on a penalty goal that Beattie scored.

"We won the match, a massive moment for both me and the club," he wrote. "But when we landed back in Singapore, I felt empty."

He then began isolating himself.

"I'm usually super social, but I was becoming antisocial to avoid scenarios that might expose me. This was a pattern that had also taken me all over the world," Beattie wrote.

Anxiety overwhelmed him, and he prayed his homosexuality would disappear.

"Although deep down I knew I was praying for the wrong thing. I needed to ask for the strength to accept myself," he wrote.

Beattie remembers saying it out loud for the first time, "but it sounded like someone else saying it."

That was five years ago. Today he has "never been more comfortable with who I am -- not pieces of me, but all of who I am."

After chronicling the small number of British soccer players who came out (including the first Justin Fashanu in 1990, who "tragically took his life" eight years later, he points out how being gay is incompatible with the sport.

"Society told me my masculinity was linked to my sexuality -- something we of course know is a false assumption -- but I felt as if I couldn't be a footballer and accept who I was," Beattie wrote. "Everything around me suggested these two worlds were pure enemies, and I had to sacrifice one in order to survive."

He cites that homophobia is rampant in the sport, citing that "You're so gay" is the worst thing for players to say to each other. But adds that he has grown to see it as more rhetorical than serious: "I don't think many people who say those things mean them to be what they are. They're just repeating things."

It was, though, a serious injury he had nine months after the Myanmar game that led him to no longer hide who he is.

"When I got out of the hospital after surgery, I told myself, if I get through this, I'm going to allow myself the time and space to embrace who I really am. Life is so fragile, and the things that once mattered no longer did, Beattie wrote. "No amount of money, houses, cars or achievements in football was ever going to bring me contentment if I didn't look inward and understand my feelings.

"I call the injury 'my beautiful nightmare.' The beauty that came out of it was an epiphany that I no longer had to run from myself," the soccer star added.

Beattie's injury forced him to retire at 29, and he began a career as a serial entrepreneur. But he still lived in a "gray area" — not publicly acknowledging he was gay. "In 2019, I was named one of Singapore's most eligible bachelors, which brought me a lot of attention I could have done without." In this situation, he wondered, "why am I still doing this?"

He also hopes his coming out will help other.

"Statistically, it's impossible to say there aren't perhaps many other footballers like me -- living in silence, just like I did. If they are reading this, know I am here and can be a source of support. And they will realize that in self-acceptance, you become powerful. I ask that you be kind to yourself because the thoughts you speak to yourself become words and words become actions. Once I learned that, I became the best possible version of Thomas Beattie."

Read his entire post here.

For more on Beattie, visit his website.