Professional rugby referee Craig Maxwell-Keys has come out as gay.
We’ve seen many different coming out stories. From coming out through YouTube videos or coming out over the phone, to coming out through stage performances or in news interviews. But coming out through WhatsApp? That’s exactly what Premier referee Maxwell-Keys did when he wanted to share his sexual orientation with his colleagues at Twichenham and his local club, Lichfield RFC.
“You could say it’s modern day,” said the 29-year-old, speaking to the BBC’s LGBT Sports Podcast. “I sent a WhatsApp message at 6am before I was due to go on a family holiday to Greece.
“I then turned the phone off and didn’t turn it on again for a good couple of hours. Then after a few too many wines in Greece, I read the messages back.
Thankfully, Maxwell-Keys says that the response to his messages were overwhelmingly positive. After receiving the support, the referee noted how he spent two years in the closet at work. While he’d always considered his work to be a lovely place and an extension of his family, those heartwarming messages truly opened his eyes to the joy surrounding him.
Craig Maxwell-Keys now joins Nigel Owens, who came out in 2007, as an openly gay official in the world of rugby. In fact, Maxwell-Keys was able to talk to Owens about coming out.
“I can’t sing as well as Nigel can, I certainly can’t dance as well as Nigel can and I’m definitely not as funny as Nigel is, so there are a lot of differences!” says Maxwell-Keys.
“When I did come out to our boss at Twickenham, he put me in touch with Nigel and we had a chat, which was really helpful.
“Nigel had some good words of advice and support, which I was really grateful for at the time and still am.
“They made it really clear that you could be a part of pro sport, that you can be true to who you are and still have that life in sport.”