Coronation Street star Nathan Graham has met with LGBT+ rugby hero and high profile sportsman Keegan Hirst.
“This storyline is important because it is clearly an issue as there is no one currently playing professional football who is openly gay. After talking to Keegan Hirst, I can see that in football, homophobia is not seen as being on the same level as racism so it is good to spark that conversation and then hopefully it will educate people that discrimination is discrimination no matter what it is; race, religion, sexuality.” – Nathan Graham
Keegan, who in 2015 became the first openly gay rugby league player in Britain detailed his journey of coming out in the public eye and shared his experiences of working with the FA to combat discrimination of the LGBT+ community.
“If a sportperson is gay, it doesn’t take away from their ability and with any type of discrimination, until people are educated then nothing will change. If someone is going through this struggle, I hope they see themselves represented and they know that it is okay to own who you are.” – Nathan Graham
Nathan Graham plays James Bailey, a footballer who is hiding his sexuality from everyone apart from his family. He fears that his career will be over if he comes out publicly and is scared of the resulting press coverage and repercussions from fans due to homophobia in the sport.
Keegan visited the set of Coronation Street where he discussed the storyline with Nathan and talked through his own experiences with the actor as part of the research for the plot centring around homophobia in football.
Though James has been known to viewers as a gay man for some time, next week a dramatic series of events will force him to to decide whether to go public or to continue to live a lie. His family are panic-stricken and torn over what is best for James, his career, his safety and his life.
Currently there are no out, gay professional footballers in the top tiers of men’s UK football.
“Being able to say that I am gay out loud was difficult for me to do for a really long time, I couldn’t say it. To have someone on TV who is representing what you might be or want to be is really important; there was no one like me to look up to when I was growing up and maybe if there was, I would have thought a bit differently about what it is to be a gay man. It’s about educating people and suddenly this starts to dispel all the stereotypes.
“It’s also about making that environment safe, if people know homophobia won’t be tolerated in this environment and everyone is welcome then that message is hammered home and people can see that and then that empowers people to be their authentic self.” – Keegan Hirst
James Bailey’s story continues tonight at 7.30pm on Coronation Street. ITV, STV and UTV.