Earlier this month Keegan Hirst, captain of the Batley Bulldogs — a professional rugby league club based in the UK — became Britain's first openly gay rugby league player. With it, he has set a powerful example for GLBTQ people everywhere who have struggled with their sexual orientation.
Before coming out, Keegan reportedly suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts.
"I wanted to take a moment to thank Keegan Hirst for his courage," said Scott Ridgway, the executive director of Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) and chairman of the Bingham Cup Host Committee. "As he explains, the conflicts he experienced with his roles as an athlete, father and public figure and his true self nearly destroyed him. They are all too common with the GLBTQ community, often with disastrous and fatal results."
He continued: "A recent study by the FS magazine found that 24% of gay men survey had tried to kill themselves while 56% said they thought about it. It is my hope that Keegan's story will inspire other GLBTQ people in the UK and beyond to be honest with themselves and others and to encourage the people closest to them to try to be compassionate and understanding"
Of his teammates, Keegan said "You go through blood, sweat and tears together – and they’ve been there for me when I needed them most.”
The Bingham Cup is the biggest gay rugby tournament in the world and will be hosted by the Nashville Grizzlies here in 2016. The Grizzlies are grateful for the strong example set by Keegan and his teammates. Gay rugby teams like the Grizzlies are dedicated to the goal that sports should be inclusive of everyone regardless of sexual orientation and athletes like Keegan are helping make that goal a reality.
TSPN is the Charity of Choice for the Bingham Cup and is an association of counselors, mental health professionals and other community members who are dedicated to the goal of reducing suicide rates in the state of Tennessee. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained counselors are standing by 24 hours a day, 7days a week.
In this video from the UK Sunday Mirror, Keegan talks about coming out and the difficult discussion he had with his wife when he realized she'd blamed herself for the end of their marriage.
Graphic via mirror.co.uk