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Zander Murray
Zander Murray came out publicly as gay in September 2022 and has used his voice and platform to offer advice to other footballers.
image: @photographybygph (Instagram)

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Zander Murray feels ‘powerful’ a year after coming out as gay

Exclusive: The Scottish striker is one of very few active male pro soccer players anywhere in the world to be out as LGBTQ. He talks to Outsports ahead of the U.K.’s Football Pride event.

There’s a tweet pinned to the top of Zander Murray’s account, containing a screenshot of a text message.

The message was sent to the footballer by an old teammate back in March, a couple of days after a TV documentary called “Out on the Pitch” had first aired on the BBC.

Murray is the presenter of the program, which explores the effects of homophobic attitudes in Scottish football. This hypermasculine culture was a major reason why the striker felt unable to share with anyone in the game that he is gay until he reached the age of 30.

“When I got the offer of the documentary, I sat down and thought, ‘Why do I want to do this? What do I want out of it?’” he told Outsports.

“I wrote down that I wanted to empower a young Zander Murray and help them to say, ‘I’m not going to give up just because I‘m different to everyone else in my changing room.’

“I wanted them to know they should keep doing it. And I wanted them to try to be their true authentic self from the get-go, because I know how instrumental that can be for a fruitful football career.”

Murray made the film with this ambition at the forefront of his mind. The documentary picked up considerable media buzz across the U.K.

“After it went out, a friend I used to play with sent me this text message. It’s about one of the young boys he coaches who watched the documentary and who had come out to all his teammates before telling my mate as well.

“I just think it’s amazing. The coach said to me that this boy is so much more confident now. I’m like, ‘Bingo — that’s why I did it.’ It was the most awesome, powerful moment.”

“Powerful” is a word Murray often comes back to when he reflects on how his life has changed in the last 12 months.

In September 2022, he came out via a Facebook post to his extended family and close friends, including teammates at his old club, Gala Fairydean Rovers.

As his personal news began to travel, he agreed with the Scottish fifth-tier outfit that they would post a short article about his positive experience on the club website.

The story went viral on social, Gala were inundated with media requests and suddenly Murray was propelled into a small but influential group of male professional footballers who are gay or bi, actively playing, and publicly out.

By Outsports’ count, there are only six in the world at this time.

Murray is currently playing for Bonnyrigg Rose F.C., who are based near Edinburgh, but the contribution he is making to the game in Scotland stretches all the way up to Glasgow giants Celtic and Rangers, and beyond through media appearances and his social reach.

He is now preparing to speak at an event called Football Pride, a conference celebrating the LGBTQ community and allies in roles right across the sport.

It’s being put on this Friday by Football v Homophobia — the international awareness campaign — as a fringe offering at Manchester Pride, which is one of the U.K.’s biggest Pride festivals.

Murray was a parade leader at Edinburgh Pride in June, the first male footballer to have such an honor at a Pride march in Britain. It’s an example of how confident he has become too.

“I’m aligned in my own self and I’m happy and content,” he says. “I still get stressed with generic stuff like everyone does but other than that, life is ridiculously better and I would encourage anyone going through anything similar to myself to do what I’ve done.

“Of course, it depends on where they are in their journey. But if you’re comfortable with your teammates, you’ve got the personality for it and you know what you want to achieve, you’re probably ready.

“If you’re not ready for that, just being in a position where you feel you can be honest with your teammates about what you’re doing at the weekend — for me, that’s enough.

“But to have someone who’s another pillar, a really important one for this community… there is space for that. There’s not that many of us.”

Zander Murray
Zander Murray will be among the speakers at Football Pride, an event being held in Manchester on Friday.
@photographybygph (Instagram)

Murray has dedicated time and energy to working closely with TIE (Time for Inclusive Education), one of Scotland’s leading LGBTQ charities. PFA Scotland, the national players’ union, and Football v Homophobia Scotland have also been among the supportive organisations.

His ambassadorial roles include being a Sport Champion with Stonewall U.K on their Rainbow Laces campaign and he jetted out to Hong Kong to speak at a Gay Games conference ahead of the event in November.

Murray’s old Gala Fairydean Rovers shirt has even been added to the exhibits on display in the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park, the national stadium.

He says being able to share his experiences directly with young people in particular has been incredibly fulfilling.

“It’s a blessing,” he adds. “Particularly all the work that TIE has asked me to do.

“I’ve worked as a careers advisor for six years, I’ve done lots of public speaking, so I don’t feel daunted by that. A year down the line from coming out, I’m busier than ever!”

He also mentions the benefits of being part of the LGBTQ+ Professionals in Football Collective, a network group that was set up a year ago.

Scottish referee Lloyd Wilson, who came out publicly as gay three months before Murray, is a close friend and fellow network member, along with around 40 other people in professional or semipro roles in the game who are lesbian, gay, bi and trans.

“It’s been a new world for me so to be connected like that and to get advice and guidance, it’s so valuable,” he says.

He is looking forward to Football Pride, which is his first conference-style gig south of the border since coming out. The format of the event has been largely modeled on Outsports Pride activities from previous years.

Football Pride 2023 graphic

With teenager Jake Daniels the only other out gay pro male player in Britain, Murray feels a sense of responsibility to keep spreading the good news in person.

“I feel the passion in my veins about this type of work because I know how much it helps others,” he adds.

“It’s not just to inspire other guys like me but to change minds and perceptions in football.

“If you grew up in a homophobic environment, and you’re beginning to see the light and you’re thinking ‘wait a minute’, then come and listen, with an open mind.

“If you understand us more, it’s only going to help the game. You can’t change who you are — and we’re just trying to make the game a bit more inclusive for everybody.

“So if that gives someone a light bulb moment or extra insight, that’s great. Because everyone at Football Pride is going to be speaking from the heart.”

For updates across the Football Pride weekend, follow on Instagram, Twitter / X and Facebook at @footballprideuk.

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