Thomas Beattie has come out as gay, the second Englishman to come out from the major soccer leagues and yet still no playing footballer from the Premier League has ever taken the step.
He has made the decision to go public five years after a serious head injury ended his playing career, Beattie has been living in Singapore working as a model and businessman, in an environment he says has allowed him space to embrace his identity.
He said that by coming out publicly, he hopes to “find contentment”, but also make life easier for others in his shoes.
“I don’t want people in sport, especially, to continue to feel like they have to sacrifice who they are to co-exist in sport,” he told The Advocate.
“Silence is safe and I could have gone down that road but I have found purpose in the challenge of speaking and being a voice for a community that until very recently petrified me.”
Beattie is only the third male major league footballer in UK sporting history to come out as gay following Fashanu and Robbie Rogers, an American player who came out after leaving Leeds FC in 2013.
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It’s time to share something very personal to me. It’s easier to sit in silence but the real challenge is to speak up and for me it’s time live my truth and hopefully affect change in some way. I am a brother, son, friend and I’m gay. It took me a long time to accept who I am and I hope it is a little easier for the next generation. Thank you to everyone who has supported me through this process and the journey to come, I appreciate you. Thank you to @espn @espnuk for the platform to speak openly.
Rumours have swirled around sports circles for many years about impending gay announcements by Premier League players but as yet no one has felt the atmosphere is right for a public outing. Of this atmosphere of discrimination, Beattie wants to help create real change.
“This is a systemic and institutional issue, therefore there needs to be a real plan to address this systemic challenge that keeps our athletes living in silence and secretly in the closet.
“I think that LGBTQ+ athletes need to be at the table to help and I’m hoping I can be one of those voices for change in football.”
The former pro began his career with Hull FC’s youth academy at 10 years old. At 19 he moved to the US on a scholarship and played college soccer before playing at a professional level in Scotland, Norway, Canada and Singapore.
“I never thought about coming out whilst playing,” he told The Advocate.
“I literally felt like I had to sacrifice one of the two: who I am, or the sport I loved before I could remember.”
Beattie said football became “a form of escapism”, and credited it with saving him for many years – until he realised he had to come to terms with his sexuality.
“I was standing still on that front,” he said. “Society [told] me masculinity is linked to sexuality and so being an athlete playing a physical sport felt like a huge contradiction.”
Beattie came out as gay to family and friends three months ago. He then got in touch with some of his old teammates, who he said has “been amazing”.
“They know I’m the same lad I was 10 minutes before telling them so that’s been refreshing.”