Birmingham-based footballer, Jake Williamson, has always had a love for sports that runs deep. But growing up gay in a sport-loving community wasn’t always easy for him. “In my own head when I was growing up… [I thought], ‘I don’t fit in, I’m never going to come out, I’m going to live this life with a wife and kids, and that was going to be me,’” Jake recalls.
At the age of 16, Jake started playing semi-professional football, which continued into his university years, and even after, when he played for a Polish football team. But eventually, he left it all behind to become a personal trainer. However, plans to move to Chicago to work as a trainer in a gym were halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which left him alone with his thoughts.
That all changed when Jake met his partner at the age of 21. It was then that he came out and started playing in a Sunday football league in Birmingham. But the newfound confidence was short-lived. Jake was met with homophobia for the first time from his own football team and was completely shut out. The experience still angers and upsets him to this day.
Jake’s coming out experience highlighted the lack of representation of LGBTQ+ individuals in men’s sports. “I’ve played football for 20 years and I’m yet to meet an actively gay football player or manager,” Jake says. This lack of representation is a big part of the problem and is compounded by the toxic fan culture in sports.
Determined to make a difference, Jake started using social media to speak out about his experiences as a gay athlete. His bravery and advocacy caught the attention of many, and he has since become a sports ambassador for LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall. “I’m no one special – I just thought that I needed to have a voice and show that these are the difficulties that people face,” he says. And with the impact he’s had, it’s clear that his voice is making a difference in the sports community.