Leinster scrum-half Nick McCarthy has publicly come out as gay after admitting he considered walking away from rugby due to the difficulty of carrying the secret part of his identity.
After coming out to his “delighted” teammates in January, the burden was eased for the number nine, helping give him the confidence and bravery to reveal his sexuality.
McCarthy described the mental turmoil coming out gave him and how it nearly ended his playing career due to his worries when speaking to Leinster‘s website on Monday afternoon where he went public.
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“I came out to my teammates in January and I was obviously pretty nervous about doing so,” said McCarthy. “But I’m really happy that I did it. I struggled with coming out for a while and it was starting to impact on me and my happiness so it was the right decision.
“It affected me so much that I agonised over my future and contemplated walking away from rugby altogether because I just didn’t think I could come out while playing rugby.
“But, I spoke to Leo (Cullen) and Stuart (Lancaster) last November and the support that I got from them straight away was unbelievable. They helped and guided me over the months that followed so that I felt more comfortable to come out to the group.
“When I suppose because it’s not really ‘a thing’. It’s not common for a male athlete to come out in sport, never mind professional rugby, and it’s probably something that I didn’t want to believe or accept myself either.
“I needed to accept being gay myself before I could address it with others. I have great friends in rugby but I didn’t know how they would take it.
“My experience, since coming out though has been entirely positive. I have realised that anyone who cares about you, just wants you to be happy. I’m lucky to have grown up in a loving environment. My parents, my sister, grandparents and wider family, are totally accepting of me and I’m very thankful for their support.
“I only made a quick announcement. But I just remember the room erupting! They were all delighted for me and it was immediately a weight off my shoulders.
“I felt they understood my situation. It’s hard to perform at your best when you are carrying something, anything, and that’s the same for all the lads. For me it was my sexuality, for others it could be stuff at home, or studies or whatever.”
The former Munster half-back also spoke to other athletes, who were once in his position, for advice and support with his decision.
“I’m a private person so I was unsure about coming out publicly,” he revealed.
“But looking at Carl Nassib (American Football player) or Josh Cavallo (Australian soccer player) coming out and Jack Dunne here in Leinster and how he spoke publicly last year about his bisexuality, has helped me a lot. I’ve had good conversations with each of them and they’ve been hugely encouraging.
“In turn, I feel if I can now help others come out in professional sport or in their everyday lives and make being gay more normal and not a thing to be worried about, then that is a positive. I’m so much happier than I was a few months ago and I’m optimistic for the future.
“If one other person, one other kid, keeps playing their sport because they see a Leinster Rugby player has come out and is accepted, that would be a great outcome.
“I’d love people to see, from my experience, that coming out has been really positive, and the biggest hurdle may be in your own head.
“Surround yourself with good people, because anyone that cares for you, wants the best for you. Your sexuality is just a part of who you are, and life is so much better when you can be yourself.”
Head coach Leo Cullen was pleased to hear McCarthy open up about his sexuality and offered unwavering support to the scrum-half who he views as a role-model for other members of the community.
“Nick told us a while ago and the main thing when I talked to him first, was that it was great that he was able to talk openly to us,” said Cullen.
“Nick is a brilliant individual and we are supportive of him. That’s the most important bit for me. We want to make sure that all our guys are able to maximise their ability and be able to bring all of themselves to Leinster Rugby while they are here.
“Nick has definitely had a battle going on in the back of his mind, and I’m sure there are other young people going through something similar.
“He will be an amazing role model to people because he’s a great person in the group. He’s very popular in the squad.
“We just want what’s best for Nick but he’s going to be an amazing role model, we hope, to lots of young people out there.”
Leinster and Ireland captain Johnny Sexton also voiced how proud he is of McCarthy.
“I’ve known Nick since his time in the Academy so to hear him talk to us so openly about his struggles has been tough but we are now just delighted for Nick and that he can be himself,” he said.
“We talk about looking after our brothers a lot in here and the last few months has been about that, looking out for Nick. And that will continue.
“By speaking openly about his sexuality, Nick will be a role model for others and we couldn’t be prouder of him.”
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The article Nick McCarthy: Leinster scrum-half comes out as gay after fantastic support from his team and family appeared first on Planetrugby.com.