Former Bath Rugby winger Levi Davis has opened up about his experience about coming out to his team mates as bisexual earlier this year.
In the modern world it shouldn’t be a significant story, but because so few other rugby players have come out as anything other than hetrosexual it is.
In 2009 former Wales and British and Irish Lions captain Gareth Thomas famously came out as gay but he was at the end of his carer, 35, at the time and in the decade that follows very few others have followed in his footsteps.
But exciting young winger Davis, who is still just 22, has become the first professional rugby player reveal he is bisexual.
In April, in the midst of lockdown, every Bath Rugby player received a WhatsApp message they weren’t expecting.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, Davis explains: “I had hidden it well but I couldn’t keep it secret any longer. I had to tell them, all of them, not just a few. I didn’t want it to turn into Chinese whispers.
“So, on the spur of the moment, I put it on our WhatsApp group.”
The message the talented musician, who appeared on Celebrity X-Factor last year as part of rugby boy band Try Star with Thom Evans and Ben Foden, read: ‘Hi guys. I just want to tell you something that’s been eating away at me for four years now. I want to be open and honest with you boys, as friends and team-mates. I’m bisexual. It’s something I have known since I was 18.’
Jokingly he signed off, ‘None of you lot are on my radar… so it’s OK’.
What happened next brought an overwhelming rush of relief to the former England U18s and U19s player as the supportive messages from his team mates quickly buzzed into his inbox.
‘This changes nothing.’
‘Mate, we support you.’
‘You’re really brave.’
‘Fair play to you.’
Then the banter began and he knew his news had truly been accepted.
Davis, who joined highly ambitious Championship side Ealing Trailfinders over the summer, has praised his former Gallagher Premiership club Bath for supporting him over the last year as his mental health suffered and he turned to heavy drinking as he wrestled with his secret.
He said: “Thankfully we can now discuss mental health more openly. And in the same way, I want people to feel that they can be who they are and that it is OK to be who they are.
“Hiding who you are can kill you – and has killed people.
“I don’t know yet where I am going, but by talking today I can walk hand-in-hand with whoever I want and it won’t matter any more because it’s out there.
“I realise, though, that I am a bit niche and difficult to categorise: a black, bisexual, privately educated rugby professional.
“Even in the deepest darkest depths, I’ve always thought I was destined for good things – and that I’d somehow make it.”
‘This could have ended up killing me, but it hasn’t.
“To anyone else in a similar position who is on the verge of telling people, I say, “Just pull off the plaster and do it.”
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Considering the diversity in society there are staggeringly few professional sports people who are anything other than openly straight in mainstream professional sport. Former Premier League footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger came out in 2014 after he had retired but there are no openly gay footballers currently in the league.
But it is trailblazers like Thomas and Davis who are building the bridge for other sportsman to speak their truth.
Davis said: “There are definitely others out there in rugby. At this moment in time, I feel so free. I am really, really happy that this is coming out and I can be myself.”