Carl Hoefkens says "it is a pity" that being gay remains taboo in football and says he played alongside two gay players during his time in England.
The former Belgium international joined Stoke in 2005 and spent two seasons at the club in the Championship before a move to West Brom, with whom he won promotion to the Premier League.
Hoefkens, who returned to Belgium with Club Brugge in 2009, said he also played alongside a gay player in his homeland.
"I played alongside three gay footballers, including one who was a genuinely big name. They did not hide who they were in the dressing-room," he told De Zondag.
"One was at Club Brugge, and the other two were in England. I won't name names as I respect their requests.
"One of them would even arrive at training with his boyfriend. They asked us to keep quiet to the outside world, but don't ask me why. I find it strange that homosexuality is still a taboo in football. It is a pity."
Hoefkens, who is a married father of two, once posed in a gay magazine, and said he hopes the "taboo" surrounding homosexual footballers will come to an end.
"I didn't hesitate for a second to pose for the magazine. That was during a time of renewed violence against gays," said the 39-year-old. "My parents always taught me that all men are equal, including their sexual orientation.
"I hope that a top player will one day stand up and announce: 'I'm gay - so what?' Then the taboo will finally disappear.
"If I were gay, I would do it for certain. This is something that is generally accepted in society after all."