Aussie Rugby Star Shares Coming Out Struggle, Has A Message For Australian Prime Minister

Former AFL player Lachlan Beaton has released an emotional online video sharing the years of torment and self-destruction he faced while hiding his sexuality before finally coming out seven years ago.

The 34-year-old confessed he hated himself because he thought being gay was wrong and is now sharing his harrowing story to raise awareness of the effect the marriage equality debate and gay rights has on a person’s mental health.

“You feel like you’re not normal because of that inequality. The law precludes you from doing something so you feel unequal and it can cause disastrous consequences,” Beaton told Daily Mail Australia. “It’s hiding and feeling like you’re not normal that can lead people to do silly things.”

“From an age of probably 14 or 15 I knew that I was gay, that I was attracted to men,” he said. “I felt like such an outcast. I felt like if I was to come out and say I was sexually attracted to men that I would be disowned and that people would stop loving me.”

“It made me feel like it was wrong so for years I hated myself. I would cry on a weekly basis wishing I wasn’t the person I was born into this world.”

Beaton, who played and coached AFL for the Melbourne University Blacks, resorted to drinking excessively to mask his emotions while he hid his sexuality.

“My lowest point was in my mid-20s. I would drink excessively because I wanted to escape. I would tell myself I wasn’t fit to be in this world,” he said. “I would over-compensate and try to be more manly and blokey. I would use fake names to meet people. I would lie to all of my friends in terms of what I was doing and where I was. I would be angry and lose my temper very easily – sometimes I would damage property.”

“Four or five years ago, I admitted myself to hospital because of my anxiety – I couldn’t cope. I can honestly say I hated the person that I was and that is one very tough thing to live with.”

He finally decided to come out to his family and friends when he was 27. Beaton currently lives in New York with his American partner Marcin because he can’t get a visa to live in Australia.

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Beaton (left) and his American partner Marcin (right)

“It got to a point where I met someone and it was impossible to hide it any longer. I wanted to share the joy I was experiencing. I forced myself into it because I couldn’t keep the lies up,” he said. “I couldn’t say the words ‘I am gay’. I told them ‘I’ve met someone and that someone is a man’. I did that over a period of a few months. It took me two to three hours to blurt it out to my parents. Once it was all out it was a huge weight off my shoulders.”

Read Beaton’s open letter to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott below:

Dear Prime Minister

I write to request a meeting with you to discuss the issue of mental health, associated with inequality. In particular, I’d like to talk to you about marriage equality.

Whilst I can imagine your advisors will be telling you not to meet me in order to see my media story “go away”, I know you are a caring man and your attention to my issue would mean so much to me and thousands of young people around the country.

For years, I suffered mental health issues because I refused to accept my sexuality. I had no identity at all, for years. I hated myself. I cried weekly and I wished I wasn’t a part of the world I was living in. The issues I encountered, in my head, still haunt me. I knew I was gay for 12 years before I came out. I didn’t come out because I thought being gay was not normal. No one talked about being gay in the country and the fact that gay people can’t marry justified the way I viewed my sexuality as not being normal.

I thought that if I were to come out, I would lose everything near and dear to me. This thought frightened me every day. I suffered extreme depression and anxiety. I often contemplated suicide and I admitted myself to hospital to save myself at one point. I hid my secret from friends and family. This really hurt and should not be something anyone should have to do.

The reality is that my fears were unfounded. I was accepted. Society has moved on but whilst we are not legally equal, we will feel like it is not “right” to be gay. The debate is so much more than a declaration of love; it’s about making young people feel “OK” to be gay. It’s about putting an end to the emotional and mental torment that is unnecessarily harming youth, still to this day.

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Beaton (right), pictured with twin brother Charles (left)

My story is not a lone one. Last week, I released a video detailing my experiences. The response has been overwhelming. The video has been viewed tens of thousands of times and there have been over a dozen articles written. I have received hundreds of emails from young people who are now going through what I went through – unnecessary pain. I’ve had countless stories about suicide and some from young men who are on the edge of giving life away, all because they feel society looks at them differently. The stories are gut wrenching and there are some simple things we can do to make sure no more lives are lost.

One man told me “I remember my issues when I was struggling with coming out, including my two suicide attempts” whilst another “I lived two lives in the early 90’s it was exhausting and to this day I still struggle with hating myself because I’m gay” I am so saddened by this, it has to stop.

Marriage equality won’t fix the issues I have outlined but it will be a wonderful first step. You have the power to stop the pain; suffering and torment people are putting themselves through. People are telling me that I am changing perceptions already but my efforts would pale into insignificant compared to the difference you could make by allowing a free vote on marriage equality and paving the way for equality in our hearts and minds.

I currently reside in New York but will be on the first plane home to meet you, at your earliest convenience, should you find the time.

Yours faithfully

Lachlan Beaton
[email protected]