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GB's Bosworth: Stars should come out publicly

From ESPN - August 12, 2017

LONDON -- Tom Bosworth wants more top gay sports stars to feel comfortable enough to follow his example and come out publicly.

The British race walker revealed his sexuality on UK national radio two years ago and has since become an unofficial spokesman for his country's sporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] community.

But as he prepares to compete for a medal at the track and field World Championships in the 20 kilometers on a historic course along The Mall between Buckingham Palace and Admiralty Arch Sunday, few other active athletes have risked telling the world they are gay.

"I saw Manchester United teaming up with Stonewall [an LGBT charity]," said Bosworth, who remains the only athlete on the British team to have come out publicly. "That's a big statement for a club like United to do that. We need more of that, and I applaud them.

"Sport needs to catch up -- slowly but surely we are getting there. Of course, coming out should not be something [that you have to do] and the more people do, slowly it will not be news any more.

"In the rest of society, especially in the UK, you do not need to come out. No one is going to care at all. It shows that sport needs to catch up. Big time."

Soccer is by far the biggest and highest profile sport in Europe, and much of the rest of the world. It dominates in the UK, too, but no male professional player has come out while playing in England since Justin Fashuna in 1990.

Former England women's captain Casey Stoney -- a much lower-profile player -- also came out in 2014, and it is telling that when a referee in the sixth tier of the British game came out last week it made widespread headlines.

Ryan Atkin, the first openly gay professional referee in the British game, will also operate as a fourth official in the Football League this season, but that is the least visible of the officiating roles on matchdays.

Many soccer fans will be unaware of race walking, which is low profile even in track and field terms, but Bosworth has been working to help other sports and the British government improve equality for athletes and tackle LGBT issues.

"I know the FA are working positively to try to change things but you ca not force somebody to make a decision to come out, and the FA realise that," he said. "I follow that situation regularly and have some contact with them to try to help in any way I can.

"It's a difficult one. It's people's lives, regardless of whether they are a footballer or involved in another sport. It needs to be looked at very carefully.

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