England women’s football captain Casey Stoney says she has decided to speak publicly about being gay after the positive reaction to diver Tom Daley saying he was in a relationship with a man.
Former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger retired before revealing he was gay last month, while former Leeds and current LA Galaxy forward Robbie Rogers has also come out.
But Stoney, who has 116 caps for England, is now the most high-profile active gay footballer in England.
“I was living a lie,” she told the BBC. “I’ve never hidden it within football circles because it is accepted. But to the outside world, I’ve never spoken about my sexuality.”
The Arsenal Ladies defender added: “I feel it’s really important for me to speak out as a gay player because there are so many people struggling who are gay, and you hear about people taking their own lives because they are homosexual. That should never happen.
“How can I expect other people to speak about themselves if I’m not willing to do that myself?”
Stoney, who also captained Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics, continued: “For the last 10 years I’ve always cared too much what other people think. I was frightened of the stereotypes, frightened of being judged, frightened of what other people might say, especially the abuse you can get through social media.
"But I think I’m in a place where I feel so comfortable in my own skin, I feel so loved by the person I’m with, that I feel I can face anything.”
Olympian Daley received a deluge of goodwill messages after announcing he was in a gay relationship last December.
The Arsenal Ladies defender added: "I feel it's really important for me to speak out as a gay player because there are so many people struggling who are gay, and you hear about people taking their own lives because they are homosexual. That should never happen.
Stoney said: “I looked at the response that Tom Daley got. It was incredibly positive, and I thought ‘wow the world is changing and it’s time for me to stand up and tell my side of the story’.
“Those three or four people have given me the courage to say I’m gay.”
Stoney also said it was “incredible” that World Cups have been awarded to Russia and Qatar given their attitudes towards homosexuality.
Russia, who will host the 2018 World Cup, recently brought in laws banning ‘gay propaganda’, while Fifa president Sepp Blatter said gay fans going to the 2022 tournament in Qatar should “refrain from sexual activity”, with homosexuality illegal in the host country.
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