Levi Davis poses for a portrait for the 2018-19 Gallagher Premiership Rugby season (Dan Mullan/Getty)
Th ex-Bath and England rugby player Levi Davis has proudly come out as bisexual after overcoming a “sense of shame” that led him to drink and mental health issues.
Davis, 22, is the first professional rugby union player to come out as LGBT+ with his career still ahead of him, and the first to reveal he is bisexual.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Davis explained how he posted the announcement on the team’s WhatsApp group as a “spur of the moment” decision.
He said: “I had hidden it well but I couldn’t keep it secret any longer. I had to tell them, all of them, not just a few. I didn’t want it to turn into Chinese whispers.”
The young player wrote in a message: “Hi guys. I just want to tell you something that’s been eating away at me for four years now.
“I want to be open and honest with you boys, as friends and teammates. I’m bisexual. It’s something I have known since I was 18.”
He then added to his teammates: “None of you lot are on my radar… so it’s OK”.
Thankfully he experienced none of the pervasive homophobia that is so common in sport, as all his fellow players were overwhelmingly supportive of him.
“And then they began taking the p**s in a good-natured way, which I was relieved about,” Davis said. “If they had been too tender-hearted, I would have been worried. I’m still a rugby player, after all!”
Davis, who appeared on Celebrity X-Factor last year as part of the rugby boy band Try Star, admitted he’d struggled in silence with “a sense of shame, because I felt, and still do, as though I’m not normal”.
In an effort to suppress his feelings he “over-compensated” by sleeping with a succession of women. “I felt I needed to be this macho man, which I still am, but it felt like I needed to reinforce this more,” he said.
But his attempts to live in denial only made his mental health deteriorate and led him to heavy drinking, which in turn caused his form to dip.
To rebuild his career and his wellbeing he has dropped down a league, joining Ealing Trailfinders in West London last month on a two-year deal, which he described as an “amazing opportunity.”
Davis recognises that there will be many others like him struggling with the same burden as he did, and decided to go public with his sexuality to encourage more people “to be themselves within rugby”.
“Thankfully we can now discuss mental health more openly. And in the same way, I want people to feel that they can be who they are and that it is OK to be who they are,” he said. “Hiding who you are can kill you – and has killed people.
“I don’t know yet where I am going, but by talking today I can walk hand-in-hand with whoever I want and it won’t matter any more because it’s out there.”
To the other closeted players reading this, Davis says: “Just pull off the plaster and do it.”
“There are definitely others out there in rugby,” he continued. “At this moment in time, I feel so free. I am really, really happy that this is coming out and I can be myself.”