In May of this year, 17-year old Jake Daniels became the first UK male pro-footballer in 32 years to come out as gay. Brilliant news, but why, in 2022, is there still such a stigma for professional athletes to come out?

32-year-old Ireland Olympic hockey player Peter Caruth joined Jennifer Zamaparelli in RTÉ 2FM to discuss his journey to becoming the first international hockey player, and the second Irish male Olympian, to publicly come out as gay.

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Despite knowing he was gay from the age of 14, Caruth didn't come out to anyone in his life until the age of 33 when his friend probed him about his relationships with women.

"I knew from a very young age but it wasn't a comfortable scenario in those days to come out," he explains.

"My family are quite a religious family, do you know what I mean, my mum is an RE [Religious Education] teacher, but look if people like my mum and my dad and all my best mates can truly be comfortable with it and accept it, it's class."

"They slag me off a lot," he adds, laughing. "My sister says it's the most ridiculous group of lads she's ever been around. They're all able to take the piss out of each other, but we're there first for each other. If something happens, we're all around the house."

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Although one friend "almost passed out" and another "actually did pass out", the reaction Peter has received when coming out from both friends and fans around the world, has been largely positive.

"It just shows you that there are a lot more athletes out there, male athletes, that are suppressing their feelings, but they shouldn't need to. That's the biggest thing I'm trying to do by publicly coming out. I came out in November, but my whole public coming out is to let people know that you don't have to suffer like that. I suffered for 20 years by not being true to myself."

Reflecting on why there is still a stigma about being gay as a male athlete, Caruth says that it comes down to how we as a society - particularly in the sporting world - view masculinity in relation to strength and weakness.

"In the world of it, it is just harder for lads to come out. We keep things bottled up a bit more, and that's not good and it shouldn't be the norm. That's what I'm trying to get to, it doesn't have to be the norm. Sporting wise, it all comes down to that edge, and for me that's the biggest factor."

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Keeping his sexuality a secret and repressing his feelings for so long nearly destroyed his mental health, which Peter believes led to him being diagnosed with an OCD anxiety disorder.

Despite seeing "nearly every psychologist in Northern Ireland and Ireland", and having physio therapists question is physical health, Caruth never felt comfortable opening up.

Since coming out, he says both his mental and physical health has improved, and he encourages anyone feeling stressed about their situation to reach out to a friend or to find a support system online.

"If you have a problem and you don't have mates around you, reach out."

Listen back to Jen's full chat with Peter Caruth on The Jennifer Zamparelli Show above.

If you have been affected by issues raised in this story, please visit: www.rte.ie/helplines.