Isaac Humphries: ‘I’m basically starting a new life,’ says only openly gay man to play high-level basketball




CNN

As he begins to talk about his sexuality, he says he is able to lift 25 years of weight off his shoulders.

Humphries, who plays for Melbourne United in Australia’s National Basketball League, had never spoken publicly about his sexuality for fear it would negatively impact his career.

But now he says he feels ready to “live my real life” and become the only openly gay man in the world to play high-level basketball.

“Forever I thought that being a professional basketball player and gay were mutually exclusive and that I had to hide that aspect of my life and that I had no right to be who I really am,” Humphries said in exclusive to CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies.

“I’m making the decision to come out…because I believe I can be who I am in my environment, and I can change the trajectory of how we view being gay in sport. .”

In 2013, former NBA player Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete in one of North America’s big four sports leagues when he came out late in his career.

More recently, Josh Cavallo, who plays for Adelaide United in Australia’s A League, became the only top openly gay men’s football player when he was released last year.

As for Humphries, he says coming to terms with his sexuality took him to a “very dark” and “very lonely” place before he felt comfortable enough to come out.

“My self-hatred, my self-homophobia – everything about that was very, very real in my brain and it got so dark that I absolutely thought about leaving this world,” he adds.

“I didn’t want to exist like that, I didn’t think I was allowed to exist like that in my basketball world.”

But it was his love of basketball that Humphries says saved his life, along with the idea that he could help others in a similar position.

While he says his team at Melbourne United are “so accepting” and that he feels “honored and privileged” to play basketball, the six-foot-11 center says the locker room atmosphere is the one of the obstacles to feeling comfortable as a player. a gay man in sports.

“The environment is very masculine,” says Humphries. “It’s not as progressive as the rest of the world. It’s a bit back in time in these locker rooms. We talk about it quite negatively, the idea of ​​being gay.

“It’s ultimately our work environment,” he adds. “We are there every day and we become a family. Why wouldn’t they want their family members to be comfortable in their surroundings? »

Humphries, 24, has experienced different athletic environments around the world, previously playing NCAA Division 1 college basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats before moving to the NBA, G-League and Europe.

Humphries, seen facing Hofstra Pride in December 2016, played college basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats.

He returned to Australia to play for the Adelaide 36ers in 2020, then signed for Melbourne earlier this year.

Humphries has found his form in the last four games, averaging 16.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, but he says it was in Los Angeles last year that he was able to feel happy about his sexuality after seeing members of the LGBTQ+ community. community living in a positive environment for the first time.

He says making the decision to come out changed his life significantly.

“I have a weight lifted off my shoulders, 25 years of weight,” Humphries says.

“And it’s not just a bit of weight – it’s deep-rooted feelings and weight that can be lifted from you – it’s euphoric. It’s an amazing feeling to not have to hide everyday , not having to pretend, not having to make up stories and lies.

“I’m basically starting a new life – it’s like a birthday,” he adds. “I can’t believe this is happening; from the darkness I was to now it’s night and day. I’m super grateful for that.


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