2020 has been a hell of a year so far. Seriously. But, a shining point among all the chaos is the fact that we’ve seen a surge of openly gay/bi professional athletes this year. From North America to South America and Europe, here are the pro athletes who came out as gay/bi in 2020 (so far).
Back in January, UK hockey player Zach Sullivan came out after his team, the Manchester Storm, won the first-ever Pride Weekend game within the Elite League. Specifically, Sullivan came out as bisexual through social media.
“I have battled with mental health problems over this issue and with the support, understanding and acceptance from my family, friends and teammates, I finally feel ready to say; I’m bisexual,” he wrote on Instagram.
In February, Olympic Canadian swimmer Markus Thormeyer came out as gay. In an open essay, he wrote that he felt ashamed for hiding in the closet when his teammates were so open with “exposing their most raw essence in the pool everyday.” He also wished to come out publicly and act as representation for athletes coming up after him.
“I want to share my story and be able to spread the message that it’s OK to be gay. Life is much better when you fully embrace you for who you are.”
In March, Curdin Orlik came out through an interview with a local news source. The Swiss athlete is a champion within the world of traditional Swiss wrestling. Because of that, he felt it was hard to be his authentic self in public. But eventually, hiding became too much for him.
“For far too long I have pushed out who I really am,” he told The Magazine. “I am not someone who kisses in front of people, but I want to lie down with a man and be able to touch him. … I always knew that I was gay, for sure since I was 12. But I thought: this is wrong, it cannot be. I heard things on the school building square [like] ‘you gay pig,’ ‘you f****t.’ Or in soccer, ‘such a gay pass!’ Even when swinging [wrestling]. Sure, nobody really meant that, but if you’re like that yourself, you think, ‘Shit, that’s not a good thing.’ I thought: I don’t want to be gay. But it’s me. Now it’s out.”
Also in March, Argentinean basketball player Sebastián Vega made history by coming out.
“When I started to feel attracted to a man, I had a very bad time,” he confessed in an interview. “I felt shame, guilt, a lot of rejection, but at the same time the desire to be with someone.”
Despite his fear, Vega decided to come out anyway. And he says he was met with love and support from his teammates.
“The most beautiful thing of all is that nothing has changed – on the contrary, it has changed for the better. We formed a stronger bond.”
He now hopes to help create a world where being gay is no longer big news.
Irish track champion Denis Finnegan also came out to the public in March. The 10-time national track-and-field winner did so on Outsports’ Five Rings to Rule Them All podcast. In the interview, he shared that growing up in sports was great. It defined a large part of his life and identity. Unfortunately, that also created pressure for him to stay in the closet. Finnegan fought that pressure, however, and now hopes to show younger athletes that they can do the same.
“For younger people, it will hopefully give them more confidence in what they’re doing,” the 33-year-old said. “There are still people who are scared or unsure of what’s happening, so I hope just telling my story might help one person notice there’s more acceptance out there.”
Dennis Del Valle
Another Dennis then came out two months later. Dennis Del Valle from Switzerland came out in May. A Swiss pro volleyball player from Puerto Rico, Del Valle, like Orlik, came out in a local newspaper interview.
“Now is the time to speak,” Del Valle said. “There must be lots of young athletes who live in secret, in Switzerland and elsewhere. On my level, I have had a successful career being gay. I hope they will say to themselves: ‘Why not me?’ Maybe I could change someone’s life. My speech could allow some to gain confidence, to feel safer, not to stop [playing a] sport for fear of rejection.”
French Figure Skater Guillaume Cizeron then came out later in May. To do so, the four-time World Champion and silver medalist at the 2018 Olympics shared a picture of himself with his boyfriend.
“I wanted to share this publicly because it was world day against homophobia and transphobia,” Cizeron shared at the time. “I told myself that by living in Montreal, one of the cities where we feel the most free as a person from the LGBT community, we tend to forget how this is not the case everywhere in Canada and in other countries, even in France. So exposing oneself serves the cause.”
Next, Chilean basketballer Daniel Arcos came out through an Instagram post last week.
In the post, Arcos shared his fear of coming out. He especially worried over it after having a one night stand, but later decided to love himself.
“It was time to move forward. I began to tell my close friends, then my family, always with the fear of being judged. My sister, mother, father and friends all has the same response: ‘You just have to be happy, I am here for you, the rest does not matter.’”
Lastly, we have Thomas Beattie, who came out earlier this week. The former English soccer star came out as gay through an interview with ESPN. He then wrote about it on Instagram.
“It’s time to share something very personal to me,” he wrote. “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.”
2020 has been a good year of professional athletes coming out as gay or bi. Will we see more in 2020? We shall see. No matter what, the men listed above have created the visibility needed to make the world of sports a more LGBTQ-inclusive space.