Keegan Hirst, the first British professional Rugby League player to come out as gay, has expressed his admiration for gay teens who are bullied at school.
Hirst, 29, who plays as a prop for the West Yorkshire club Wakefield Trinity, first opened up about his sexuality in August 2015.
The father of two only told his now ex-wife that he was gay just weeks before coming out to the public. He has since become a proud role model, activist and fundraiser for the LGBT community.
In a new interview with The Guardian, Hirst said that in the darkest times while grappling with his sexuality he thought about committing suicide.
“You start to think: ‘Right, if you’re going to do it, and end it all, just do it.’ But then I’d see the kids and they would help snap me out of it. I guess the thing that always stopped me was the thought of who is going to find me and why have I done it? No one knew I was gay and so they wouldn’t know why I’d killed myself. They’d think: ‘Have I done something wrong?’ I didn’t want to pass my guilt on to them – even in my darkest hour.”
Hirst revealed that life in the closet also led to self-destructive behaviour, including at times drinking excessively, which affected his sporting career.
He went on to say that while he’s been described as brave for coming out by the likes of Elton John and Emma Watson, he doesn’t feel that he deserves the accolade.
“I envied the lads who were brave enough to come out when they were at school. Those kids who got beat up at school, the more effeminate lads. I always think they’re the brave ones who were getting dished up at school for being honest about who they are. I just bottled it up for so many years. They didn’t. So, for me, they’re the unsung heroes.”
Hirst told The Guardian that he expects his rugby career to last another five years. After that, he may pursue his childhood dream of being a teacher.
“So maybe I’ll explore that. It would be good to teach and pass on a little about everything I’ve learned.”