On Aug. 29, 2019, ESPN published an article on Ryan Russell, a former NFL player for the Dallas cowboys, detailing his upbringing and how he has recently gained the courage to be open and honest about his sexuality.
Russell, who's currently a free agent for the NFL, has always known he was bisexual, yet he hid behind his true feelings. He explains how he was reluctant to express himself to his teammates and the world alike, due to the lack of representation in the professional sports world.
Being a professional athlete comes with making sacrifices and Russell believes that one of the many he has made was, "not publicly acknowledging my sexuality....just one of those hundreds of little interests or passions a pro athlete puts off until their playing days are long gone."
However, after his Cowboy career, he gained the courage to confide in a few people close to him.
"I started feeling the freedom of transparency -- even if it was small at first -- and the fear of people finding out and rejecting me slowly dissipated. Being more comfortable in my own skin made me a better teammate. I was able to play and start at the highest level in the world and felt like I belonged."
Russell credits his third season in the NFL as his best season to date. However he was soon faced with back to back disappointment. Russel failed to get signed to the NFL due to a shoulder injury, which ultimately led him to suffer from depression.
These life-changing events helped open his eyes and "truth became a part of my survival. I didn't make a Week 1 roster last season, but life was too short to do anything other than what I loved."
Russell made the decision to live his life the way he had always deserved. He moved to California, became an author, and started dating, openly.
"Today, I have two goals: returning to the NFL, and living my life openly. I want to live my dream of playing the game I've worked my whole life to play, and being open about the person I've always been. My truth is that I'm a talented football player, a damn good writer, a loving son, an overbearing brother, a caring friend, a loyal lover, and a bisexual man."
He wants to change the narrative for being an openly LGBTQ athlete, hoping to inspire other players who may have been afraid or ashamed to come out. Society has played a huge role in determining what is deemed as “normal” today.
The fear of being ridiculed and rejected because of who we choose to love makes being open and honest seem stressful. However, let Russell’s story and bravery be a reminder of how liberating it feels to live in your truth, regardless of what society says is right or wrong.