Four years removed from the day that modified his lifestyles forever, Keegan Hirst remains committed to making a difference. “No count who you’re and what you do, being gay shouldn’t get in the way,” he says. “I’d like to suppose I’ve shown that.”
In 2015, Hirst became the primary openly gay rugby league player in Britain – Gareth Thomas changed into gambling union when he went public on his sexuality – even as playing for Batley and given that then, his lifestyles has modified in ways he never imagined.
“When I got here out, I was clean that I didn’t need to head on a crusade and be a homosexual icon, a pin-up,” Hirst says. “I simply wanted to be me – but almost straight away, I became getting messages from men who had been married but knew they have been gay, those who performed game however stopped due to the fact they have been gay and didn’t need it to pop out. You then comprehend you’ve were given a role of responsibility you ought to supply on.”
Hirst dreamed of becoming a rugby participant from a young age but becoming a function model for homosexual human beings became by no means his purpose. Before popping out, the very concept of being open about his sexuality in a game together with rugby league become unbearable. “I simply didn’t need to suppose I changed into gay for quite a while,” he says. “It became buried deep down inside me. You sooner or later learn how to be given who you are and doing that is a big first step. Instead of being a weak spot, it turns into power. When I began, rugby had an attitude where you have been mocked for not gambling on with damage. Sharing stuff like that wasn’t even on the radar.”
Hirst admits that the struggle surrounding whether or not to reveal his sexuality took him to a dark vicinity. He taken into consideration suicide as he handled the capacity implications for his family if he got here out, however additionally how he could be perceived in the game. “I’ve been candid approximately how awful things got,” he says. “I needed to consider my ex-spouse and youngsters, whose lives I notion I became going to ruin if I told people. But after recreation in 2015, I simply sat down and instructed the lads at Batley. Their response turned into extraordinary and I haven’t regretted whatever considering the fact that.
“When it went public, it coincided with an afternoon while Batley was playing in a one‑off crimson package to sell breast cancer consciousness. You couldn’t make it up. I clearly notion I’d cop some stick someplace however there’s been not anything.
“I wasn’t definitely speak to my circle of relatives due to it, although, and started thinking if it becomes a mistake. But John Kear, my train at Batley, just stated: ‘It doesn’t rely on me in case you’re gay, you’re my captain and that’s all that subjects.’ Then I knew I’d completed the proper factor.
Hirst’s profession has long gone from strength to energy due to the fact coming out. He has spent the past 4 seasons in Super League with Wakefield and this weekend he is one of the names helping to promote their Wellbeing Round. The opposition has related up with numerous leading charities to try and spotlight urgent issues in guys’ intellectual fitness, with leading gamers inclusive of Hirst sharing their very own struggles to encourage others to be greater open.
He played for Wakefield on Friday and will be a guest at another game on Sunday, as lower-league Keighley commemorate 50 years of the Pride movement. It is a far cry from the lifestyles Hirst envisaged whilst he got here out however it’s far clear he could now not have it any other manner. “Did I assume it would be like this? No,” he says, smiling. “But I’m proud to be me, I’m proud to be a rugby league participant and I’m proud to be homosexual.
“I didn’t set out to be a role model or something like that, however, I’m very happy to be that for someone if that’s how they see me. If it makes a difference to just one man or woman, then outstanding. Seeing us massive brutes sitting down and speak approximately our troubles … optimistically that helps to save you just one suicide. If it does, we’ve finished our jobs.”