British distance swimmer Dan Jervis has come out as gay.
In an interview with the BBC for their LGBT Sport Podcast, the Welsh athlete said it has taken “24 years” for him to be comfortable with his sexuality.
“Everyone’s journey is different, but I think I’ve always known,” said Jervis, who is now 26.
“It was something in the back of my mind, bugging me. I thought I was bisexual and had girlfriends that I loved – but it came to about three years ago where I knew I had to deal with this.
“It wasn’t affecting my swimming, but me as a human being. It sounds quite drastic, but I wasn’t enjoying my life. Yeah, I was smiling, but there was something missing to make me properly happy.”
Jervis first confided in a counsellor and his best friend about his sexuality.
Reminiscing on when he came out to the latter, he continued: “At that point, I’d never said the words out loud to myself. I said to her: ‘I think I’m gay.’
“I couldn’t even say: ‘I’m gay.’ It was still… I couldn’t say it.” I was basically punching the words out. She was quite shocked but great, and it was exactly the reaction I wanted.
“I’ve had all good reactions, and the way I’ve described it is I’m not going to change as a person. I’m still the Dan you’ve always known. You just know something else about me now.”
Following his Olympic debut in Tokyo last year, where he placed fifth, Jervis will be competing in his third consecutive Commonwealth Games this summer in Birmingham.
Acknowledging that there are “so many countries” in the Commonwealth that still criminalise homosexuality, Jervis said it’s important for him to be visible for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as inspire viewers who might be wrestling with their identity.
“There are going to be kids and adults watching who will know that I’m like them, and that I’m proud of who I am,” he said.
“And for so long, I hated who I was – and you see it all the time, people who are dying over this. They hate themselves so much that they’re ending their lives.
“So if I can just be that someone people can look at and say, ‘Yeah, they’re like me,’ then that’s good.”
On the podcast, he revealed that he was inspired by Blackpool FC forward Jake Daniels, who became Britain’s first active openly gay male professional footballer when he came out as gay earlier this month.
Fellow swimmer Michael Gunning was also a “fantastic help” throughout the process.
“When I was younger in swimming, I wasn’t aware of any out swimmers so didn’t have anyone I could look to who was like me. I want to be that person for someone,” he added.
As a “devout Christian,” Jervis said he also wants to be a role model for queer people of faith.
“I love God, and out of all the things in my life my faith is what I’m most proud of,” he said. “And there is this thing where people say you can’t be Christian and gay together, and I was sitting there knowing you can be because I am!”
You can listen to Dan Jervis’ full conversation on BBC Sounds.
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