It’s been more than 12 years since cricketer Steven Davies first spoke in the media about being gay.
At the time, he was an active England international player. Equal marriage hadn’t yet been introduced in the UK and the launch of the Rainbow Laces campaign in British sport was still two years away.
In sharing his truth with the world, Davies made headlines as the first active athlete in men’s professional cricket to come out publicly.
Now, after spending the last seven seasons with Somerset CCC, he’s announced he’ll be retiring when his current contract expires.
In his career, the wicketkeeper-batsman played in more than 600 first-class matches, scoring over 23,000 runs.
Davies represented his country in eight one-day internationals and five T20 internationals between 2009 and 2011. Although he did receive a squad call-up after coming out, he never played for England again.
The impact made by his story was considerable. Back then, rugby player Gareth Thomas was the only other active British sportsman of note to be out as gay - the Welshman had switched codes from union to league in 2010.
Davies had been out to friends and family for several years but said Thomas’s visibility had inspired him to go public too.
Aged just 24, Davies did the rounds of TV and radio interviews and spoke eloquently about his sexuality at a time when the media’s language and line of questioning on such matters was, at best, clunky and might even be considered offensive by modern standards.
As an example, Davies’ Daily Telegraph interview, still online, features a line that refers to him as “the first active international cricketer to admit he is homosexual”. It would be rare to read a description today that sounds so confessional and medical.
He is now 37 and although there is no mention of his coming out in his quotes carried on the Somerset website, Davies did acknowledge the milestone in an Instagram post on the 10-year anniversary.
“My life changed for the better,” he wrote in February 2021. “I felt a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I was finally taking control of my own life.”
He added: “To anyone reading this who may be struggling, just know that when you are ready, there is so much love waiting for you. Thank you to everyone for the kind words that I’ve seen.”
Davies also posted to his Insta in May 2022 to congratulate Jake Daniels, calling the teenage footballer’s landmark coming out “a huge deal”.
The England and Wales Cricket Board’s support for Rainbow Laces has grown considerably in recent years, helped by the elevation of the women’s game which has made players like married couple and team-mates Natalie and Katherine Sciver-Brunt household names.
Through the governing body’s own storytelling and in the wider media, there have been several examples of gay male cricketers at an amateur level who have explained why Davies’ story was so significant.
“Steve Davies has been a huge role model to me,” said Sam Chambers in a series of Rainbow Laces feature interviews on Sky Sports in 2019.
Steve Gillies, another gay cricketer playing in local leagues, echoed that sentiment. “Steve Davies helped me realize that being gay wasn’t something that I should be afraid of, and that I could still achieve great things if I worked hard enough,” he said.
Also referencing Davies in that series was Lachlan Smith. The Australian has since gone on to set up Birmingham Unicorns CC — only the second LGBTQ-inclusive club in England — while Gillies has recently established the third, Leeds Kites CC.
In his original coming-out interview with the Telegraph back in 2011, Davies said: “If more people do it, the more acceptable it will become. That must be a good thing.”
That additional visibility hasn’t happened in professional men’s cricket, although in August 2022 former New Zealand Test bowler Heath Davis did speak about his journey as a gay man in the sport.
In the article announcing his retirement, Davies thanked his first coach, Rob Wood; his family; and the members, supporters and staff of Somerset and his previous clubs, Worcestershire and Surrey.
Somerset’s director of cricket Andy Hurry added: “The calm assuredness and experience that Steve brought to the dressing room was a key element of our success over the last few years and he will be missed by all those who have played and worked alongside him.”
Outsports thanks Davies for his trailblazing visibility and wishes him every future success.