Coming Out Day The full interviews, told to ESPN
The words “coming out” represent an almost universal experience, and often a defining moment, for members of the LGBTQ + community. For International Coming Out Day on October 11, ESPN spoke to 17 athletes from around the world about their travels.
Athletes from Argentina to Australia, America to Africa and many other places in between, shared details about their identity search, why they came out publicly and how their lives changed. Consequently.
READ: 17 LGBTQ + athletes share their coming out journeys | In Spanish | In Dutch
“I am braver than I thought”: South African footballer Phuti Lekoloane recounts his coming out
Football goalkeeper Phuti Lekoloane [he/him], 30, is the only homosexual footballer registered in South Africa to play at a high level. He played in the nation’s third division, professionally, but says his absence has seriously damaged his career.
“Love is a human right”: Indian sprinter Dutee Chand recounts her coming out
Indian sprinter Dutee Chand [she/her], 25, went public as a lesbian in 2019 and is one of the first publicly registered LGBTQ + sportswomen in her country. Chand is the current Indian women’s 100m champion and competed in the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.
‘It was the worst kept secret’: Rugby League legend Ian Roberts on coming out
Ian Roberts, Australian rugby league legend [he/him], 56, became gay in 1994 and continued to play top football until his retirement in 1998. He pursued an acting career, appearing in Star Wars II – Attack of the Clones and in Superman Returns.
‘Be true to yourself’: Australian footballer Michelle Heyman shares her coming out story
Michelle heyman [she/her], a former Australian footballer and currently with Canberra United in the A-League Women, came out publicly as a lesbian in 2010. Heyman competed in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and for Team Australia at the Olympics of Rio 2016.
“It’s tiring to live in denial”: racing driver Charlie Martin recounts his coming out
Endurance racing driver Charlie Martin [she/her], 40, turned out to be transgender to the public in 2018 and says he started his transition in 2012. Martin competed in the Michelin Le Mans Cup in 2019 and was the first trans person to compete in the Nürburgring 24 Hours in 2020 Martin is an Ambassador for Stonewall, Racing Pride and Athlete Ally.
‘I don’t know why I was so worried’: Irish Paralympian Katie-George Dunlevy shares her coming out story
Irish Paralympic Champion Katie-George Dunlevy [she/her], 39, won gold and silver medals in cycling at the Olympic Games in Rio and Tokyo, in the blind tandem events, with rider Eve McCrystal.
‘You’re not weird to be gay’: Dutch footballer Merel van Dongen recounts coming out
Netherlands national women’s team defender Merel van Dongen [she/her], 28, plays his club football for Atletico Madrid and played college football for the Alabama Crimson Tide. She played for the Oranjevrouwen in the 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cups, finishing second behind the United States in the latter.
Read the interview with Merel van Dongen in Dutch HERE
“Now I know what the letters mean”: Dutch athlete Ramsey Angela shares his coming out story
Dutch track star Ramsey Angela [he/him], 21, won silver in the men’s 4x400m relay at the Tokyo Olympics. Angela has never released a statement about her homosexuality, allowing Instagram posts with her boyfriend to do the job for him, and says he never felt the need to get out in the press.
Read the interview with Ramsey Angela in Dutch HERE
‘Humanity moves forward’: Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Lola Gallardo shares her coming out story
Lola Gallardo, goalkeeper of the Spanish women’s national team [she/her], 28, has spent most of her club career with Atletico Madrid, with a brief stint at Olympique de Lyon, where she won the UEFA Women’s Champions League. She has participated in the 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cups.
Read the interview with Lola Gallardo in Spanish HERE
“Be your own hero”: Olympic diver Greg Louganis tells about his coming out
Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis [he/him], 61, won four gold medals at consecutive Olympics in 1984 and 1988. He was publicly gay at the Gay Games in 1994, but he was from a young age.
‘I want to be someone to admire’: WNBA star Brittney Griner shares her coming out story
WNBA star Brittney Griner [she/her], 30, was the No. 1 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft and publicly discussed being gay shortly thereafter. She plays for the Phoenix Mercury, who picked her in the draft after a stellar career at Baylor, and is a seven-time WNBA All-Star.
“It’s so scary, but you feel so powerful”: Olympian Adam Rippon shares his coming out story
Former American figure skater Adam Rippon [he/him], 31, is a winter Olympic medalist, winning bronze in the team event at PyeongChang in 2018. He became gay in 2015 and won the 2016 US championships.
“We are here, you are not alone”: American skater Alana Smith recounts her coming out
Skateboarder Alana Smith [they/them], 20, competed for the United States team at the Tokyo Olympics and was among the notable non-binary athletes at the Games, alongside footballer Quinn of Canada. Smith became bisexual at 16 and non-binary in 2021.
“I was ready to be more authentic”: American footballer Collin Martin recounts his coming out
Collin Martin, loyal San Diego footballer [he/him], 26, came out publicly as gay in 2018, while playing for Minnesota United FC in Major League Soccer. At the time, he was the only male professional athlete outside of an American major league.
‘I could be free and go play hockey’: NHL prospect Luke Prokop shares his coming out story
Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop [he/him], 19, publicly declared his homosexuality in 2021 and is the only active player to have signed a contract with the NHL. The Canadian defenseman, who was selected by the Predators in the 2020 NHL Draft, is currently in the lineup with the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League.
“When you’re ready, you won’t be alone”: Brazilian volleyball player Douglas Souza recounts his coming out
Brazilian volleyball star Douglas Souza [he/him], 26, is an Olympic champion, winning gold in men’s volleyball at his home Games in Rio 2016. His team from Brazil finished fourth in Tokyo. He is currently the most followed volleyball player on Instagram and went public as gay in 2020.
Read the interview with Douglas Souza in Portuguese HERE
“Seba, you look so happy”: Argentinian basketball player Sebastian Vega shares his coming out story
Professional basketball player Sebastian Vega [he/him], 33, came out publicly as gay in March 2020 and says he did so to fight what he calls macho stigma in sports. He plays in the Argentine first division, for Gimnasia de Comodoro.
Read Sebastian Vega’s interview in Spanish HERE
Reporting by: Lucas Benicio, Lucie Bertoldo, Kyle Bonagura, Bethan Clargo, Pablo Cormick, Lindsay du Plessis, Sjors Grol, Emily Kaplan, Alex Kirkland, Niamh Lewis, Kathleen McNamee, Susan Ninan, Jean Santos, Leonard Solms, Josh Weinfuss