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Former New Zealand pro rugby player said life in the closet was suffocating

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Ryan Sanders was a highly regarded young pro rugby player in his native New Zealand who says he never was able to reach his full potential because he was deeply in the closet. Sanders gave an interview to the New Zealand Herald where he detailed his fears of being found out.

"I kept it to myself - I didn't come out ... you have to be pretty guarded," says Sanders. "You have to watch what you say and what you do. You have to be always on your guard, which can get quite tiring and it can take a toll emotionally.

"If I felt I was able to come out at that stage and still continue playing, then that would have been ideal, but I didn't have the confidence to do that at that stage of my life - it was far too daunting. ... As I got older, it was hard to take my rugby as seriously and I guess the gay stuff did play a factor in that."

Sanders, now the owner of a successful tour business in New Zealand, Haka Tours, decided to play rugby in Scotland in the early part of the 2000s, saying that playing in his own country while closeted was "suffocating and emotionally draining." His story is one very familiar to anyone who has tried to keep their sexual orientation a secret.

He also spoke about the importance of role models, and cited how big it would be if a member of the All Blacks, New Zealand's beloved national rugby team ever came out. "I can honestly say that would have made a massive difference to me. For me, it would have been huge if I was young and growing up and an All Black had come out as gay."