Rugby pro Devin Ibañez has opened up about the “incredibly emotional experience” of coming out as gay.
The Major League Rugby (MLR) star came out publicly on 29 December in a heartfelt, candid Instagram post. In the post, he told fans he wanted to “start 2021 by celebrating the love of my life and partner Fergus”, adding: “I am openly gay”.
Devin Ibañez, who believes he is the first MLR star to come out as gay while actively playing, told PinkNews that ever since, life has been a “whirlwind of media and trying to be as visible as possible”.
He said he hoped his story would inspire more LGBT+ athletes to share their stories and for rugby to one day become the “most inclusive sport”.
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Devin Ibañez and boyfriend ‘can finally celebrate’.
Coming out and the media attention he received as a result made Ibañez consider all the “ups and downs that brought me to this point”.
“I reflected on all of the times that I had struggled with depression and seeing a path forward for myself,” he told PinkNews.
“I have a tremendous sense of pride that I followed through with my goal of becoming the first openly gay MLR player.
“There were so many times that I felt like I had failed or that I wouldn’t be able to take that step.”
The “amazing positive reception” Devin Ibañez and his boyfriend have received has made the pair feel empowered.
“We finally feel as though we can celebrate our love publicly and not have to hide our relationship,” Ibañez said. “It is a relief that we can now look ahead at our future together.”
‘I want to make rugby a more inclusive sport for everybody.’
Devin Ibañez said he wants his experience with coming out to show other athletes – rugby players in particular – that “our community is a space that will support LGBTQ+ athletes”.
Having his coming out story featured in the media “showed me that my experiences truly resonated with people and that my voice could be impactful,” Ibañez said. “It was an empowering moment for me.”
He explained that he wants to make rugby a “more inclusive sport for everybody”. The first step he wants to take is encouraging people to speak out against the recent World Rugby ban that excludes trans athletes from international competition.
“I am hoping that the rugby community as a whole will recognise that this ban goes against the core values of our sport and is unacceptable. As long as this harmful and discriminatory ban is in place, rugby can never be considered the most inclusive sport.”
Devin Ibañez told PinkNews he hoped rugby could one day be the “most inclusive sport”. He said: “I want it to be a game that everyone has the chance to experience and enjoy without fear of backlash or exclusion for being who they are.”