One of the best aspects of coming out for many of us is the support and welcome from other members of the LGBTQ community.
For Scottish soccer player Zander Murray, his messages of encouragement just happened to include an Olympic champion.
After Murray broke through a cultural barrier by coming out publicly earlier this month — the first Scottish senior soccer player to do so — he received congratulations from none other than Tom Daley.
As Murray revealed during a televised interview with ITV’s Lorraine Kelly, the significance of being contacted by an LGBTQ athletic legend hit him right in the feels.
“He messaged me while I was on the way back from football training in a car with four boys,” Murray recalled, “And I had tears in my eyes seeing his direct message. And I messaged him back, ‘Look, I’m in a car on the way back with four boys and I’ve got tears in my eyes and I don’t even care.’”
Even though he’s only been out to the public for a few weeks, Murray already has some of the best DMs in the entire gay universe.
This was just one of numerous emotionally cathartic moments he’s experienced since coming out. But it summed up the impact he’s had on soccer and the entire sports world.
Earlier in the interview, Murray admitted that the lack of out athletes in men’s soccer had influenced him to stay closeted longer than he would have liked.
Since his announcement, he’s heard from numerous players and fans who are now lifting him up as an example of an out gay athlete who can inspire others.
“I’m new to social media,” he noted, “So honestly, it’s been incredible the direct messages that I’ve got. Hearing stories of fans and current players and younger players messaging me saying ‘Thank you so much’ and asking for advice and guidance.”
It seems Murray’s coming out has already unlocked one remarkable achievement: making social media bearable. In and of itself, that underlines the enormity of his role as a trailblazer in the soccer world.
“It just melts my heart because of course football has always been a passion and drive,” he added. “But as I’m getting on now, I thought, ‘What is going to give me that fire?’ I definitely think I’ve found it in regards to inspiring younger generations, supporting current gay footballers, and hopefully being on platforms that can definitely support them.”
That’s an important point. We often hear how coming out lifts a burden for LGBTQ athletes, and that being able to perform openly as their true selves elevates their game.
What Murray is saying here is that he’s found a new level of inner drive that he never had before, because he now knows the importance of setting an example for LGBTQ soccer players and growing the game in our community.
Throughout their careers, every player has to search deep for something to inspire them to keep coming back and performing at the highest level. Coming out provided Murray with exactly the motivation he needed to do just that.
Because he had the courage to come out, Scottish soccer and LGBTQ players and fans are going to benefit for years to come.