Keegan Hirst speaks to My Icon: Rainbow Laces about LGBT visibility in sport
Watch Keegan Hirst on My Icon - available On Demand
By Sky Sports
Last Updated: 26/11/17 4:45pm
Keegan Hirst wasn't expecting there to be much interest when he came out publicly as gay in August 2015, while playing for hometown club Batley Bulldogs.
Two years on, the prop forward is playing in Super League with Wakefield Trinity and has become one of the most prominent LGBT role models in British sport.
The 29-year-old has been talking about his personal journey on the latest episode of Sky Sports' groundbreaking My Icon series, which has returned for Rainbow Laces week with a focus on the lives and achievements of professional sportsmen and women who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Changing your laces isn't a big deal but it means a lot to a certain section of society.
Hirst recalls the relief he felt after overcoming his own fears of rejection to confide in those closest to him that he was gay.
"The first person I told was my wife, at the time," says Hirst. "She had the right to know first. Obviously then my family, friends and then team-mates.
"It felt a lot better after those conversations had taken place. I think, as human beings, we have a tendency to catastrophise and think things are going to be worse than what they are, which is just human nature.
"But I felt a lot better when it was all out in the open."
He also quickly found support in rugby league, which he acknowledges can appear from the outside to be a 'macho' world. In reality, says Hirst, the sport is a hugely inclusive environment.
"Rugby league is a family game, a community game," he adds. "The support I got came from fans and clubs, and I got letters from the directors of those clubs who didn't have to do anything, but felt that they wanted to show their support."
Hirst has thrown his support behind Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign, which is helping to create more conversations about LGBT inclusion in sport.
"I think visibility of any kind is really important, whether it's role models or campaigns like Rainbow Laces," adds Hirst.
"Getting people talking about it, doing little things to get involved - even just noticing that there's an LGBT fan group at your club.
"Changing your laces isn't a big deal but it means a lot to a certain section of society."
Don't miss the Keegan Hirst interview in full on My Icon. All episodes are available on Demand.