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Team GB's Tom Bosworth reflects on coming out as gay: 'I wanted to do it on my own terms'

"After I came out, all my performances went through the roof," the Olympic race walker tells the Attitude February issue.

2022-01-18

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Markus Bidaux

Team GB's Tom Bosworth has reflected on the impact that coming out has had on his career, saying his performances went "through the roof" after he was able to be himself both in and out of competition.

Tom, 32, came out publicly in 2015 on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme, where he expressed his hope that within a few years a top athlete coming out wouldn't be considered news. 

While he celebrates how far we have come in the intervening seven years, he thinks there is more to do and it's incumbent on those athletes that can be openly LGBTQ to lead the way for those who can't. 

"I was doing it for selfish reasons"

Speaking in the Attitude February issue - out now to download and to order globally - Tom says he looks back on his coming out with pride but admits he didn't realise what he was doing, or why.

"I was doing it for selfish reasons to protect myself, to protect Harry [his partner] and my family and I wanted to do it on my own terms," he says. "I never thought I was anybody of any sort of importance," he adds.

Recognising that things are better now he says questions over why there are Pride events within sport show that there is still progress to be made. "You just have to look on social media and that’s why, or you have to look at people still in school, not wanting to do sport because they feel unsafe," he says.

"[Not being open about your sexuality] stops you from being the best version of you; it’s going to eat away at those energies. I think I’m evidence of it. After I came out, all my performances went through the roof. I would love other people to have that opportunity."

And he doesn't regret his decision to come out in 2015. To this day, he still receives messages from people telling him how he inspired them, which he says makes him realise how lucky he is to be able to live a visibly as a gay man. 

While Tom thinks it's good news that there were a record number of LGBTQ+ athletes taking part in the Olympics and Paralympics in 2021 he points out that the majority of those athletes are from Western countries, where LGBTQ people are typically more accepted.

"I certainly think there are plenty of people who are hidden away," he tells Attitude. "That’s not fair at all, but some [athletes] will be coming from countries where it’s not legal to be openly LGBTQ+.

He continues: "It’s those who are visible, who are able to come out publicly who can show that this life is OK, you can be incredibly successful and you’re not alone."

On what leaders in sport should do to improve things, Tom thinks they should encourage environments and platforms to be more accessible and educate people about the power of language, and the impact it can have. 

"I think that message can be relevant from the very top of elite sport all the way down to the grassroots," Tom notes.

"I do think visibility is key. I don’t think we should be sending competitions to countries where not everybody is free to be themselves. That’s a plain obvious one."

The Attitude February issue is out now. Get your copy here.