FOR Casey Stoney, coming out publicly wasn’t about telling the world she is gay.
The England football team captain was already open about her sexuality among her friends, family and footballing circles.
Instead, the Basildon-born defender wanted to add weight to the burgeoning campaign to stamp out homophobia in sport.
After seeing the positive feedback Tom Daley received, Casey, 31, who has been in a serious relationship for three years with Lincoln and England footballer Megan Harris, felt comfortable enough to do the same.
She said: “I was asked to announce it last year, but because we were going to the European Championships I didn’t want any distractions.
“I saw all the positive feedback Tom Daley had, but I didn’t know how people were going to respond.
“In the end it was down to my partner who said my friends, family and others have known for a while, so why do I care? When you feel safe and loved you feel comfortable to come out.”
She added: “I have had hundreds of people coming to say thank you. I don’t know how to respond, because they don’t have anything to thank me for.
“The reason I have done this is to put across the key messages. People need to know there’s nothing wrong with them – it’s other people’s problem, it’s their ignorance and it’s completely normal.
“Every person is different and we shouldn’t be judged on that.”
Casey’s revelation comes while pressure mounts on Russia over homophobic laws.
It is illegal there to communicate positive messages about homosexuality, while it is legal to spread homophobic messages. Some Russian propaganda has even likened homosexuality to paedophilia.
Although the women’s World Cup will not be held in Russia or Qatar, Casey said she would not go to the matches due to attitudes to gay people.
She added: “In Russia you can’t talk about being gay and in Qatar it’s illegal.
“I think it’s incredible these countries get World Cups and Olympics when they don’t accept everybody.”
Although homosexuality is largely accepted in the female footballing world, Casey still went through a turbulent time coming to terms with being gay in a high-profile profession.
She hopes her revelation will lead to more men and women from all sports feeling comfortable enough to come out.
Casey said: “Sport can speak so many languages and it’s so powerful. I can use my sport as a vehicle to give the message so people don’t feel alone.
“I would love to live in a nicer world and if I can help one person feel they are not alone, that would be amazing.
“Whether its racism or homophobia, prejudice is not acceptable anymore.”