As a great queen once said, we as gay people get to choose our family.
Many years ago, before I came out to myself or anyone else, I stumbled across Outsports.
The many articles I’ve read on this website helped me to find my place in sports, as part of a worldwide family that’s forever expanding.
For a Brit who was in search of his tribe, getting to learn about so many role models and trailblazers from the US — athletes who were often otherwise unheralded, at least on this side of the Atlantic — helped me to forge my own “special relationship” with Outsports.
A connection that made me feel less alone. A bond that gave me a sense of purpose.
The stories shared here helped me to love myself and to love sportswriting again. How in the hell did I manage without this website?
That’s why I’m thrilled to be welcomed in as the newest member of the Outsports editorial team. It feels like coming home.
Even though most of its storytellers live several thousand miles away from me in London, we’ve been in a similar headspace at one point or another.
Our passion for sports is a universal language. It’s just that some aspects of who we are aren’t always easy to talk about.
For me, it’s been football — OK, we can go with soccer — that’s been the sport with the greatest emotional pull.
However, at the nadir of my struggles with my sexuality, my fandom was put under severe strain. I would ask myself — will I ever come out in my industry? If I did, would I fit in?
When I eventually found the words to bring my two worlds together — the LGBTQ+ and the sports media — my self-confidence returned, my career took off, and I found my calling.
Working for Sky Sports, Europe’s biggest commercial sports network, I started writing about the LGBTQ+ experience for a mainstream UK audience.
The hook was Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces inclusion initiative, which Sky had signed up to support.
I met Cyd in person for the first time at a campaign event held at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium in 2017. I quickly gained not just an excellent mentor but a great friend.
A year later, I would travel from London to New York City for my first Outsports Pride. I connected more closely with Jim and so many of those storytellers whose first-person accounts had inspired me so much.
Here was the living proof that “courage is contagious.” People like track and field coach Jarrin Williams, sports executive Joe Altenau, swimmer Lauren Neidigh, baseball umpire Dale Scott and college football player Conner Mertens, to name but a few.
These people had thrived after coming out in sports and wanted to pass on their “power-up” to others, creating a unique sense of community.
I was invited to contribute to Outsports Pride the following year, traveling to Los Angeles, and although the pandemic has prevented further meet-ups in person, my ties with Cyd, Jim and the rest of the editorial team have only grown stronger.
I was motivated to set up Sports Media LGBT+ as an industry network, and it’s since developed into a consultancy and advocacy group, as well as a digital platform.
We’ve offered opportunities to other groups and inclusive clubs to get their news published; we’ve championed content and produced our own, such as ongoing episodes of the Football v Homophobia podcast; we’ve created media resources and workshops; and we’ve run industry surveys and campaigned for less sensationalist coverage in mainstream media.
In all this, the Outsports ethos and “courage is contagious” message has never been far from my thoughts. As queer people, our Team LGBTQ+ lens means we often see sports differently and what we find newsworthy may not match the mainstream view.
More than this, each of us is energized by the exploits of our fellow lesbian, gay, bi, trans or queer siblings. They don’t have to be elite athletes to win our acclaim. Whatever a person’s achievements in sport, authenticity is the gold-medal standard we appreciate the most.
I feel fortunate that so many LGBTQ+ sportspeople have trusted me to convey their truth through my journalism — from the football referee Ryan Atkin whose coming-out story went global back in 2017, to the trans cricketer Maxine Blythin and her first sit-down interview, from Lionesses legend Anita Asante and her wife, Beth Fisher, to Olympians Dom Clarke and Lewis Gibson.
Thanks to Outsports, there have also been opportunities to work on content with Ryan O’Callaghan, Katie Sowers and RK Russell, widening the reach of their stories for the benefit of a burgeoning NFL audience here in the UK.
I’m particularly proud of the assistance I was able to provide to referee Raymond Mashamba, who sought asylum in Britain after being publicly outed as gay in his homeland of Zimbabwe. After working closely with Raymond to publish the account of his remarkable journey in football, he won the right to remain and start again, in safer surroundings.
That was 4 1⁄2 years ago. Since then, state-led homophobia has been on the rise in many African nations — 32 still have anti-gay laws, part of a total of 67 countries worldwide that criminalise homosexuality.
Mega-rich Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the U.A.E. are in that group, all now using football to exert global influence. Meanwhile, Russia has expanded its so-called ‘LGBT+ propaganda’ legislation and Hungary’s ruling party wants to follow suit.
The voices opposed to our visibility are getting louder and the skewed algorithms of social media pump up the volume even further.
There will be plenty of LGBTQ+ athletes and coaches who feel lost amid all that noise. I want to inspire them to speak their truth. I want to show them there will always be an audience that appreciates how sports isn’t solely defined by point-scoring and pressure — it’s also about culture, community, love and identity.
Every story matters, and there are more ways to tell them than ever before. Here in England, there has been high praise in recent weeks for Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale who wrote movingly for The Players’ Tribune about the importance of family, and his bond with his gay brother Oliver.
Aaron has approximately 1.5 million followers across Instagram and Twitter, while Ollie — a West End actor — has around 6,000. The latter tweeted that he felt “deeply moved” by the article and its amplification brought an outpouring of love and empathy to his mentions, including from Matt Lucas and Eric Wahl, brother of the late, great Grant.
What Outsports has offered for nearly a quarter of a century is a platform and a readership for each member of the LGBTQ+ family and for our allies. Whether you’re well-known, a rising star or venturing into the spotlight for the first time, this is the home field where you belong.
To all those who stepped up to the plate before me — thank you. To those in the wings — we’re right here waiting and we’re ready when you are.
I’m really looking forward to this next chapter. Contact details are below — please reach out and let’s connect.