Zander Murray, who plays for the Lowland League side Gala Fairydean Rovers, has become Scotland’s first senior male player to come out as gay.
The 30-year-old striker went public about his sexuality last week on social media, a decision he says was impacted, at least in part, by attending his first Pride event while on holiday.
“I have always been that closeted never to go to these things, but I loved it,” Murray told BBC News. “The vibe was brilliant and everyone was just being free and happy and it was great to just be me.”
He says he’s been inundated with messages of support since coming out publicly.
“It’s been crazy, I’ll be honest,” he told the BBC. “I didn’t anticipate the reach and how many people it’s inspired and motivated and the lovely messages. The private messages of people and fans alike, people from other communities, from other sports, football players in the leagues messaging me support, asking for guidance and help. It fills my heart with so much joy, and to be sitting here I’m so humbled.”
He added that being closeted was “playing havoc with my life,” so he decided to post a statement announcing he was gay to social media.
Murray told Sky Sports in an interview that he initially came out to close friends in April 2021 and began telling family and close acquaintances, but held off from coming out publicly. He said he hesitated to come out primarily due to fear of how people would react.
“I was terrified that my teammates, colleagues, opponents, people on social media would not take it well,’ he said. ‘It’s all in my head. Now I can be my full self and nothing’s changed. It means the world to me.”
He says his teammates and the club have largely accepted him, and that nothing has changed in terms of how he’s treated now versus how he was prior to coming out.
“We have the same banter, we have the same fun, and we enjoy our football. I’ve been blown away by the club from top to toe, they’ve been amazing,” he said.
Murray says he’s been inspired by the examples of Jake Daniels, the 17-year-old forward for Blackpool who became the first out Premier League player in more than 30 years after coming out in May, as well as Scottish football referees Lloyd Wilson and Craig Napier, who came out in June, Australian professional soccer player Josh Cavallo, and former American professional soccer player Robbie Rogers.
He said he personally feels as though “the weight is lifted off my shoulders” since coming out.
“I can’t express how difficult it was. I want to promote the positives of just accepting yourself, but there is no shying away from how difficult and challenging that was for me and I don’t want anyone to go through that,” he said. “You can live your full life and not be fearful of anything. If I can play a small part on the younger generations and current players’ lives to inspire them and not do what I did, then it is one of my life ambitions complete.”
Fraser Wishart, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association Scotland, commended Murray for his bravery and told BBC Scotland’s Drivetime he was sure there are other gay footballers who have been thinking about revealing their sexual orientation publicly.
“For me football has unfairly been tarred with a negativity around LGBT+ issues and I think the game has been ready for this for quite some time,” Wishart said. “If [Murray’s coming out] leads to others having the strength and finding a safe place to do the same then I think it can only be a positive message.
“When I played, which was many years ago, there was not a chance that a gay footballer could come out within the game, within the dressing room or within the industry,” Wishart added, “but that has completely changed.”
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