Watch: 'Gay Athletes Can Be Heroes,' Says Out Rugby Pro

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday February 23, 2021

Watch: 'Gay Athletes Can Be Heroes,' Says Out Rugby Pro
  (Source:Devin Ibanez / Instagram)

When Devin Ibanez came out on Instagram last December, he didn't just free himself from the closet - he became the first openly gay professional player in the Major League Rugby, and a role model for LGBTQ athletes.

Boston news channel WCVB reported that the 27-year-old Massachusetts native "hopes he just made it easier for some people to live and be their authentic selves."

Though out to his family and friends, Ibanez wasn't ready to come out as a gay professional athlete before accomplishing a string of goals, including having "represented the United States at the 2017 World Maccabiah Games in Israel, where he was part of a gold medal-winning team," the news channel reported.

On Dece,mber 29 of last year, Ibanez tok the plunge with an Instagram post in which he announced he was gay and partnered, and expalined hte timing of his disclosure.

"The final goal became 'Once I sign a pro contract I will be more vocal and become the first openly gay MLR player,' " Ibanez wrote in his post. But, he added, "As the day came and went that I signed a contract with the @usmlr , I moved the goalposts even further."

"I have met some incredibly talented LGBTQ rugby players over the years, many of whom were blackballed from playing a high level solely due to being gay," Ibanez went on to say.

But finally, he wrote, "what I considered as casting a shadow I've slowly realized can also act as a beacon. So I have decided to embrace what I once felt embarrassed of and be proudly and shamelessly myself."

That has become the rugby pro's new mission, he told WCVN. "Being able to connect my passion for rugby with my passion for being outspoken about LGBTQ rights and equality I think that being able to marry those things together is an incredible opportunity, and something that I'm really grateful for."

No that he's ready to be an inspiration to others, Ibanez has not forgotten an inspiration of his own - the openly gay rugby player Mark Bingham, who helped lead the fight against terrorists aboard United Flight 93 on 9/11 and died an American hero.

"Gay athletes can be heroes," Ibanez noted in his comments to WCVB. "They can be tough; they can be what would be perceived by society as a manly man, and he was all those things.

"But he was also proud of being gay."

Watch the WCVB news clip below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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