You made the decision to come out as bisexual via social media in January. Tell me about the process you went through to come to that moment, to get to a place where you were comfortable opening up like that.
I kind of knew for nine years, probably longer. And it actually all came to a head when I’d watched the Aaron Hernandez documentary on Netflix with my housemates around November last season. He had similar issues, and he obviously snapped. I kind of related to the struggle that he was going through. It was getting to the point where this issue was affecting my game. I think we played against Nottingham Panthers and we lost 4–0 and I was minus-4. I just kind of sat down and spoke to myself. I was kind of like, ‘I need to confront this, and I need to accept this.’
I messaged my best friend, Josh Grieveson, in Glasgow and told him. His response was, ‘Yeah, I know.’ Which was a bit of a shock. But once he kind of went ‘Yeah, I don’t care, it doesn’t bother me,’ all the doubts and worries left. It was, ‘Okay well, he’s known for this long, he’s still been my best friend, so he obviously doesn’t care.’ After that, I was kind of comfortable — I started seeing someone in December, and slowly started telling my teammates, my teammates were really supportive. And then, yeah, it came to January. The Elite League had announced they were doing their first league-wide Pride Weekend — a few of the teams had done their own individual ones, but this was the first league-wide event. All the fans were behind it, all the players were behind it.
On the Wednesday before, I messaged Josh again. I was like, ‘I think I’m going to tweet.’ He helped me out with the wording quite a lot. I wanted to make it clear and concise, so there were no doubts. And then I tweeted.
What do you remember about that moment of pressing ‘send’?
I actually wrote it the day before. We played in Sheffield on the Saturday, and I told my teammates after the game that I was going to tweet on Sunday. When we got back, I couldn’t really sleep so I actually wrote the tweet then, because otherwise I knew I’d chicken out and I wouldn’t send it. I wrote it the night before, it was saved in my drafts, and all I had to do was press ‘send.’ I just remember waking up at 10 and pressing the button. Cam Critchlow, one of my other roommates, walked [into the room soon after]. He was like, ‘How you feeling?’ I went, ‘I feel like I need a hug.’ So, he gave me a big hug, and that was kind of that.
It was very daunting — like I said, I had no idea what the reaction would be. I didn’t know whether it would be positive or negative. It could’ve even just been ignored completely. It was definitely quite scary to put that out there, being the first in the UK. I think it was definitely a risk. But I’d weighed it up in my head that it wasn’t for myself, it wasn’t for my own fame or publicity, it was just, when I was 16, if there had been someone publicly out, it would’ve made my journey a lot easier. If me being out in the public eye can help someone else going through the same thing, and make them feel more comfortable or confident, then that’s the only aim for what I’ve been doing. It’s not about me, it’s about other people going through the same thing.
It’s kind of gone viral now — it’s definitely not the response I was expecting, but I think it’s a really positive response. Hockey’s kind of branded with a stigma that it’s not been very accepting, that it’s an old boys’ club. I think the response to my announcement has kind of shown that that’s not the case — it’s not true at all. There were players coming up to me that I’d never met personally, saying, ‘I’m really proud of you for what you’ve done’ after games. So, it was quite a shock.
How did the experience of telling your teammates go? Who was the first you told?
The first guy I told was a player called Tyson Fawcett. We hung out every day, we’d go to the gym together every day, we lived together as well. I was driving him to the airport to meet his family, they were flying over, and I just kind of said to him, ‘I’ve got a date on Tuesday.’ And he went, ‘Oh, who with? Where did you meet her — did you meet her off Tinder? Did you meet her off Instagram?’ I was like, ‘Um, I met him off Instagram.’ He’s like, ‘Him? Oh. Okay, cool.’ So, he was the first teammate I told, and his response was kind of like, ‘Okay, cool — doesn’t bother me.’
I think the big thing about this kind of news is, especially for myself, I’d worked up what I thought the responses would be. And I worked up in my head that they were all going to be negative. It made me more scared to kind of speak my truth, to come out publicly. And the responses from my teammates were just, ‘Yeah, okay, doesn’t bother me.’ My two other housemates were like, ‘Yep. Cool. As long as you’re happy, we’re happy.’ That was kind of the response throughout my whole team — I think I was very fortunate to have such an open-minded team. They were just happy that I was happy.
Tell me about the night you told the whole team in the locker room after that game against Sheffield, before you sent out your tweet.
My housemates knew I was going to tweet on Sunday — I’d kind of been talking to them about it, whether I should do it. I spoke to my two coaches before the game, they were really supportive about it. I think they knew, because I’d been dating a guy for about two months by then, so I think everyone on the team kind of knew, they were just waiting for me to say something — which again, I think, shows the teammates that I had. They were waiting for me to say something rather than calling me out on it.
We’d just lost [4-2], but it was one of our best games of the season. We felt we were really unlucky not to win — Sheffield fans might feel differently about that, but that was our feeling in the dressing room after. All day, I was kind of thinking I wanted to tell my team, and I was thinking, ‘Should I tell them before, should I tell them after?’ We analyzed the game after as a team, and then I just kind of stood up and said, ‘Look it’s nothing about hockey, but I’m going to tweet tomorrow, and I’m going to come out as bisexual. And I didn’t want you guys to hear through Twitter, I wanted you to hear through me.’ They kind of applauded me, everyone came over and gave me a hug and a fist bump. It was great. Because it just completely took away all that fear — my main fear was that I’d lose the respect and the camaraderie with my teammates. I didn’t want to be kind of left in my own little circle by myself. Their response to that was just unbelievable. It was perfect. And even going a step further — when I came in on the Sunday after I tweeted, my Twitter and my Instagram had blown up quite a bit, I just walked in the dressing room, a couple guys gave me a pat on the back, and then it was just, ‘Right, okay, time to play a game.’ That was the perfect response for me — I hadn’t changed and they didn’t treat me any differently. I was still the same person and still the same teammate, which was just the perfect reaction.
What stands out to you thinking back to those first couple days after you put it out into the world, and the reactions you got from everyone in your life?
I didn’t actually tell my family I was going to tweet. I had a feeling that they would try and convince me out of it, and I felt like I would let myself be convinced out of it. So I didn’t speak to my parents until after. I can’t remember exactly what my dad texted me but he said, ‘We’re very proud of you — you’re still our little boy’ [voice breaking]. Sorry, I’m getting a bit emotional here. But yeah, my parents messaged me saying, ‘We’re really proud of you,’ which was really nice. And then I got messages from ex-teammates, phone calls from guys that live in Glasgow.
There was a little part of me that hoped it would kind of go unnoticed by the mainstream media, but when I woke up on the Monday, Ryan Finnerty, my coach, phoned me and he said, ‘Look, we’ve been asked if you can do an interview for BBC and ITV today.’ Which kind of took me by surprise, because it was so quick. I remember going to Media City in Manchester, which is where the BBC headquarters are in England. I asked Tyson to come with me for a bit of moral support because otherwise I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it. I think I did four interviews on my first day. It was definitely scary, because I’m quite a private person, and all of a sudden I’m live on BBC News. So it was a pretty drastic change.