Cricket and sexuality

The hardest decision of my life

Steven Davies

Steven Davies will leave Horsham for Edgbaston at the close of day one, Sussex v Surrey, County Championship Division One, Horsham, June, 6, 2012
"Hopefully I've proved that being a gay cricketer is not an issue" © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Steven Davies
Teams: England

I'd always known I was gay, but for a long time it wasn't an issue. It helped that I was good at sport, because at school that was a route to popularity. But when I started touring with England, the dynamic changed. I couldn't face long trips away from home trying to hide my sexuality the whole time. So before the last Ashes series, I made sure my team-mates knew. That was two and a half years ago. And it was the best decision I've ever made - even if it was the hardest thing I've ever done.

But I knew I had to: it was eating me up inside. When I was at home I felt all right, because I was with my family, and I'd told them when I was 19. I hated being on tour, though. The actual cricket was fine, but the social situations were not. If you go out in the evenings as a sports team, you sometimes attract interest from girls, and I found that uncomfortable. A two-week trip would feel like two years. And the Ashes tour was going to last three and a half months. I'd had a couple of instances where I'd been out in gay clubs and been recognised, and I knew I couldn't go on like that. Keeping it quiet all that time would have been horrific.

The players' response was amazing, and Australia turned out to be a very special trip. My life has changed since I came out. I feel so much more confident and happy. And I can now count Elton John among my friends, which is something not many cricketers can say...

Your sexuality is no one's business but your own: whether you choose to come out or not is an incredibly personal matter. No one should be made to do it, and you've got to choose a moment you feel completely comfortable with. But hopefully I've proved that, since the announcement was made publicly in February 2011, being a gay cricketer is not an issue - that it can be done.

I think it's difficult telling people you're gay in the sporting world. But it's getting a lot easier, to the point where I honestly don't think people care. Being a cricketer helps, because it's a decent world, and I haven't had a single jibe. In fact, the banter has been good, in both the England and Surrey dressing-rooms, and I occasionally like to get a reaction out of team-mates by pretending to take offence on behalf of the gay brethren. One county colleague - I won't name and embarrass him - has even learned a thing or two: he thought all gay guys were as camp as Christmas. I hope I've opened one or two eyes.

I've been asked why, if coming out as a cricketer isn't an issue, other professionals haven't followed suit. I can see it's a bit of a contradiction: if something really isn't taboo, why the silence? I think it goes beyond cricket, both because sexuality is still an issue in some parts of society, and because of the personal nature of the decision.

Everyone has a different set of circumstances. Being gay and not being able to tell anyone can be a lonely place. I know a few people who have told their parents and then been kicked out of their own homes. But the ingredients were there for me to tell people. I'm lucky to have a supportive and loving family, and the way Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss handled breaking the news to my England team-mates was brilliant. But I can't pretend I didn't have sleepless nights worrying about their reaction.

What has been encouraging, apart from the indifference in the cricket world, is the response from elsewhere. I was hoping my story would help others, and I got plenty of support on Facebook, Twitter and in letters. One guy aged 21 and really into his sport wrote to me saying he was gay and that no one knew about it. He said he felt fake socialising with his friends, and that my story helped a lot. Plenty have said that. It makes me feel like I can do some good.

The one thing that does annoy me at times is when people say: "You must know whether so-and-so is gay." I don't - and I don't think I have what some people call a "gaydar". I also find the idea that I might be attracted to my team-mates in the shower a ridiculous one. They're more like family to me.

The truth is, I don't know if there are other gay county cricketers out there. If there are, I do hope they will look at my experience and realise that coming out is not necessarily an ordeal. But I would stress again that the decision has to feel right. And I'm certainly not here to lecture them.

The process has been surreal at times. When the story broke, I went to buy the papers at my local garage, and could see my face on the front pages from 30 yards away. That was an uncomfortable time. But it turned out to be the right thing to do. Now, I just want to be recognised as a good cricketer. If people aren't mentioning my sexuality by the time I retire, I'll be happy with that.

Steve Davies has kept wicket for England in eight one-day internationals. He was talking to Lawrence Booth

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