When Levi Davis first realized he was bisexual, the rugby star struggled to accept his identity. Life would be much easier if he were straight, he thought, or even if he were gay. At the least, he would be more easily definable. Though Davis knew he was bisexual as a teenager, he kept it a secret for years, while his rugby career blossomed. Meanwhile, his inner-anguish continued to fester, and it was only getting worse.

Then last April, Davis sent the text message that would change his life: he told his teammates he was bisexual. So far, he’s received overwhelming support, and is now going public with his story in an effort to show others it is OK to live their truth.

Davis told his story to The Daily Mail, which ran the piece on Sunday. In it, Davis talks about how difficult it was for him to comprehend his bisexuality. It caused him to question himself whenever he would enter a relationship with women, and conversely, whenever he would approach men. “I feel that if I were to be in a relationship with a woman then people would say, ‘Oh, he is not really bisexual,’” Davis said. “At the same time, the woman might think that, as I’m bisexual, my focus is not going to be on her. And if I were in a relationship with a man, people would think, ‘He’s not bi, he is gay.’ Yet none of this is true. I think I’m attracted to the person not the gender.’”

Davis did not have an easy childhood. He was taken into foster care at seven years old, and rugby became his lifeline. At 12, he earned a rugby scholarship to a highly regarded boarding school, where he further immersed himself into the sport. In due time, Davis joined Bath Rugby, a well-known club in the English Premiership. His athletic career was taking off, and he even competed in the Celebrity X-Factor, in a nod to his musical prowess. On the surface, it seemed like Davis was on top of the world. But the 22-year-old was facing an identity crisis. He started drinking heavily, and denying his identity.

“I felt, and still do, as though I’m not normal,” he told the Daily Mail.

The positive reaction from Davis’ teammates and coaches has helped quell his anxieties. After sending the initial text message, Davis says he sunk back in his chair, uncertain how they would react. Much to his relief, the messages of support started flooding in almost instantaneously.

“Thankfully we can now discuss mental health more openly,” Davis said. “And in the same way, I want people to feel that they can be who they are and that it is OK to be who they are. Hiding who you are can kill you – and has killed people.”

To rebuild his career, Davis recently dropped down a league, signing a two-year deal with a club in West London. His new teammates have been just as supportive. Though it’s been 11 years since former Wales captain Gareth Thomas came out, Davis is currently the only out active professional union rugby player.

“Sometimes I feel it would be easier if I was gay and nothing else,” Davis said. “Then I could identify myself and it would be easier to explain. As it is, I’m in a kind of vacuum. My family have reservations about me going public, but they love me and they support me, and for me that’s all that matters. I love them.”

The journey to inner-peace is long and winding. But since April, Davis has been making strides. Now, he wants to be a role-model for others.

“To anyone else in a similar position who is on the verge of telling people, I say, ‘Just pull off the plaster and do it,’” he said. “There are definitely others out there in rugby. At this moment in time, I feel so free. I am really, really happy that this is coming out and I can be myself.”