Dan Palmer Becomes The First Openly Gay Wallabies Rugby Player

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Dan Palmer, an athlete who had a lengthy history in the world of rugby, just came out as gay in an emotional column with the Sydney Morning Herald on October 30.

The 32-year-old held nothing back when it came to what his life was like prior to announcing his monumental news. Dan’s roller coaster journey, like many others who are part of the LGBTQ community, was filled with several heartbreaking moments as he struggled to accept his true sexuality.

“I was incredibly frustrated, angry and desperately sad. I despised myself and the life I was living. I was trapped in a false narrative and could see no way out,” he wrote. “Most nights, I cried myself to sleep and routinely numbed myself with a heavy cocktail of opioids.”

“I fantasized about disappearing, changing my name and starting my life all over again,” Dan continued. “It is not an exaggeration to say my own death felt preferable to anybody discovering I was gay.”

Former rugby player Israel Folau (screen capture via GoFundMe)
Former rugby player Israel Folau (screen capture via GoFundMe)

His partial inspiration for coming out happened due to the “ignorance” of fellow rugger Israel Folau. Israel has a lengthy history of homophobic remarks (he claimed “hell awaits” gay people for one) that resulted in him being canned by his former team The New South Waratahs. 

“Although it wasn’t the primary impetus for me doing this, the longer the Folau saga dragged on, the more I felt a responsibility to say something,” Dan said in his column. “To me, what is more important than the damage he has caused rugby is the deep impact he has undoubtedly had on kids who looked up to him, and who struggle every day with understanding their sexuality. He will never see the impact he has had on these young people, but if he could, I doubt he could live with himself.”

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Dan also made sure to bring up Gareth Thomas, who paved the way for him in their sport by being the first openly gay professional union rugby player. He announced his decision to come out way back in 2009.

“Although I didn’t have the strength to follow his lead at the time, the descriptions he gave of his experience resonated with me and I was inspired by what he had done,” Dan said while adding, “It is a slow grind, but we need to build a culture, both in and out of sport, where people are comfortable being themselves, whatever that may be.”

Dan joins a number of other professional sports stars who have come out in 2020. Others include decorated Olympic gymnast Danell Levya and former soccer pro Thomas Beattle. 

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