“”I’m ready to say it out loud so everyone can hear it: My name is Thomas Beattie. I am a brother, a son, a friend, a former footballer, an entrepreneur and ambitious in an annoying way. I’m a lot of things, one of them is gay.’
Thomas Beattie chose these words in a report on the website of the American sports channel ESPN. Under the headline “My Hidden Journey,” the now 33-year-old former professional footballer explains why he kept his homosexuality a secret, why he felt compelled to do so – and why he is now going public.
He wants to make a difference. Because, and he leaves no doubt about it, homosexuality is still a taboo subject in football. “I hope that one day it won’t be an issue,” he says. “But it still takes a lot of work.”
Shortly after the ESPN report, he also posted a post on his Instagram page. In it, he writes: “It is easier to remain silent, but the real challenge is to open your mouth. And now is the time for me to live my truth and hopefully bring about change in some way.” It took him a long time to accept who he was. “And I hope it’s a little easier for the next generation.”
Beattie had no choice, so he felt it
Beattie was included in Hull FC’s junior team in his youth, and later went on a scholarship to Limestone College in South Carolina, where he continued to play football. He went back to Europe, played in Scotland, Norway, went to Canada and finally as a professional to Singapore. “It’s probably no coincidence that football has taken me as far away as possible,” he says. “Football was my salvation and allowed me to hide who I was. I was able to concentrate fully on the sport and thus ignore this torturous thing in the back of my mind.”
Why did he remain silent during his time as a player? Beattie felt she had no choice. “I never thought about going out during my career,” he writes. ‘I felt like I couldn’t be a footballer and myself at the same time. Everything around me has suggested to me that these two worlds are true enemies and that I have to sacrifice one for the other.” So he hid his true self.
In other areas, the situation is different. “In music we love Freddie Mercury and Elton John. Homosexuality is also accepted in the film fallow.” Beattie cites other examples that are far removed from the reality of football. “There is still a fear that a gay professional will disturb the team atmosphere.”
“Don’t be afraid”
At just 29 years of age, Beattie had to end his career: during one match, there was a fatal collision with an opponent in the air, followed by surgery. When he came out of the hospital, it was clear to him: “If I get through everything well, I will give myself the time and the space to accept myself as I am. No money, no houses, cars or achievements in football will ever bring me satisfaction if I don’t look inside and try to understand my feelings.”
Beattie stayed in Singapore, where she now works as an investor. Slowly, he opened up to his private environment. And now also to the public. “I feel obliged to tell my story now,” he says. He himself had never read anything like it in his youth.
Then he turns to those readers who may be similar, who struggle with their identity. “The moment when you learn to accept yourself and really understand who you are makes you strong. I hope my story sticks with you so you know you’re not alone. I hope that at some point we will live in a world where you don’t have to sacrifice yourself to become an athlete.” He had to sacrifice himself, his innermost.
And therefore also explicitly addresses all those people in professional football. Players, coaches, consultants, fans – to everyone. “I urge you to be compassionate. Ask yourself: What do you really think about diversity, inequality, and social injustice? Be mindful of how you shape the environment around you,” he writes. “Don’t be afraid of the day a gay athlete wears your jersey. Fear rather the long period in which there is still none.” After all, there is also the danger of missing the next Lionel Messi – because he is gay.