Ryan Russell is hoping to land back on his feet in the National Football League, but he wants to do so by being true to himself.
The free agent defensive end was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 after a successful college career at Purdue, playing one year with them and two more for the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Ryan Russell needed a change in his life after watching his dear friend and college roommate, Joe Gilliam, battle cancer for a year. Watching his best friend die of cancer in his 20s made Russell want to live his truth, which is why he told both ESPN and Outsports that he is bisexual.
“That was my wake-up call for a lot of things,” Russell said. “I just wanted to live my life to the fullest, seeing how short life could be.”
“I started living openly as a member of the LGBTQ community, and living unapologetically, and living without second-guessing. I’ve been able to live this genuine existence and hold my boyfriend’s hand in public.
“For me now, there’s no going back.”
“My boyfriend was adamant that being bi was a phase and I was just ashamed to say I was gay. And this being my first introduction to the queer community, I kind of believed him.”
Russell quickly found out that a football locker room was pretty much black and white on the issue.
“He said respected veterans like Tony Romo and Jason Witten were the epitome of the white-picket-fence, standard American family. Any casual talk about sexuality with the guys in football made it clear that people were expected to be one or the other, gay or straight. “Bi” was viewed as just a “phase.”
It wasn’t a phase for Russell. As he dated men and women alternately, he came to realize that he was naturally, truly attracted to people of different genders. At the time, it was just easier for him to keep one of those attractions a secret from his football family.
“Being a bisexual individual and dating women publicly and dating men privately, I felt a duality in my life,” Russell explained. “It was easier to just blend into a locker room and blend into society.”
Quietly observing from the closet while playing for three NFL teams, Russell hasn’t found NFL locker rooms to be hostile despite the occasional misinformed comment about bisexuality.”
You can read his entire story here.
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