This article originally appeared on Stuff and is reproduced with permission.
In a momentous moment for New Zealand’s Rainbow community, Campbell Johnstone has outed himself as the first openly gay player to have represented the country’s most influential sporting brand.
All Black No.1056 has publicly revealed his sexuality for the first time on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp program on Monday evening.
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Johnstone, who played three Tests for the All Blacks all in 2005, did confide in some teammates and his family during his playing days. He made his debut against Fiji and played his last against the British and Irish Lions.
The tighthead prop said by coming out publicly he hoped it would remove any stigmas of what it meant to be an All Black and a Crusader.
“If I can be the first All Black that comes out as gay and take away the pressure and the stigma surrounding that whole issue then it can actually help other people,” Johnstone told Seven Sharp.
“We’ll know that there is one amongst the All Blacks.”
Johnstone played 67 games for Canterbury and made 37 appearances for the Crusaders. He also represented Hawke’s Bay and the Tasman Mako before playing professionally overseas.
When he dreamed of being an All Black as a child, Johnstone thought he needed to be manly and strong and possibly even have a wife with children.
He went to some “interesting places” in his struggle for his own acceptance.
“I’d push that side of me down deeper and deeper,” Johnstone told Seven Sharp.
Johnstone was, at times, plagued by self-doubts that he didn’t fit the mould.
“It would come to the surface when I may have had a bad game and I would look at that side of me and blame that side for it.
“It slowly starts to affect you and it’s hard living a double life or living a lie.”
Johnstone’s courageous act follows former New Zealand Test cricketer Heath Davis coming out publicly in August last year.
Davis was New Zealand’s first international male cricketer to speak publicly about his experience as a gay professional athlete.
Johnstone hoped an openly gay All Black could be one of the final pieces in the puzzle of New Zealand sport to show that there is acceptance and normalise sexuality for any young athletes making their way in their chosen sports.
Coming out publicly as the first All Black to do so will throw Johnstone’s name into the spotlight and reluctantly, he believes he’s ready for that knowing it will help others.
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