Former pro Australian basketball player Trevor Torrance says he never considered publicly coming out during his playing days. His career coincided with the apex of the AIDS epidemic, when there was mass hysteria and fear surrounding gay people.

But now, Torrance is finally free. At the start of 2023, he’s shedding his long-held secret.

Torrance, who played 10 seasons and won two championships with the NBL’s Dual Perth Wildcats from 1986-96, publicly came out as gay this week in an interview posted on the team’s social media pages. The timing isn’t coincidental: the Wildcats are set to play their Pride Round game Friday night.

“Carrying a shadow of feeling like I couldn’t come forward was tough and I had very, very dark days,” said Torrance. “I suffered from anxiety. I know I had moments of bouts of depression. It was all kept in so it was a big weight to hold. I wouldn’t do it again. I’m also the person I am today because of it.”

Despite his secrecy, Torrance says he thinks his teammates always knew he was gay. They never treated him differently.

“I need to acknowledge they probably all knew and yet not one of them ever pushed it, asked, inquired, tested. They always had my back whenever I was abused,” he said.

And there was abuse. Throughout the late 80s and early 90s, there was widespread misinformation about HIV/AIDS and gay people. Torrance says the environment made it untenable for him to publicly come out.

“When I was playing and when I knew what was going on, it was the exact same time as HIV and AIDS hit the world and we had the grim reaper on television,” he said. “There was articles and there was information that you could catch HIV and AIDS off sweat or saliva. I was playing on a basketball team.”

Now 56 years old, Torrance is happily married to his partner, Stuart Baker. Today, the world is a much more accepting place, and that includes sports.

There is even an active out gay player in the NBL. Forward Isaac Humphries publicly came out last year. His announcement helped spur the NBL’s first ever Pride Round.

Though some NBL players have refused to wear their LGBTQ Pride jerseys — continuing an odious trend — Torrance prefers to focus on the positive.

His former team, the Wildcats, are supporting the Pride Round.

“I’m pleased that we’re in a world now where it’s celebrated, embraced, and it’s not stigmatized necessarily in sports,” he said.

While Torrance has been out in his private life for years, he recognizes there’s still immense power in telling his story.

“I think it’s a great thing that the league has done this,” he said. “For me, I’m grateful for this opportunity, because it’s almost like I get a chance to come out. Though I’ve been out for quite sometime. It’s a thing I never got to do. I feel quite emotional.”