Footballer Murray 'blown away' by support after coming out as gay

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Zander Murray became the first Scottish senior footballer to publicly come out as gay

Footballer Zander Murray says he has been "blown away" by the reaction to him becoming Scotland's first senior male player to announce he is gay.

The Gala Fairydean Rovers striker went public about his sexuality last week.

Since then, the 30-year-old says he has been inundated with messages of support.

"It's been crazy, I'll be honest," he told the BBC. "I didn't anticipate the reach and how many people it's inspired and motivated and the lovely messages.

"The private messages of people and fans alike, people from other communities, from other sports, football players in the leagues messaging me support, asking for guidance and help.

"It fills my heart with so much joy, and to be sitting here I'm so humbled. It's amazing."

Murray, whose Gala Fairydean Rovers side play in the Lowland League, revealed the news on Friday following the examples of referees Craig Napier and Lloyd Wilson in June.

He is the first openly gay player in the men's professional ranks in Scotland since Justin Fashanu with Airdrie and Hearts in the mid-1990s.

Since publicly coming out, he said nothing has changed between him and his team mates.

"I didn't do the whole 'everyone sit down, I'm gay'," he said. "I just said it's out in the open, it's exploded online, if you want to ask me about it, if you want advice or guidance - pick my brain about anything.

"However you treat me the exact same. I want the same banter, the same fun and the same deep chats we have. Nothing changes."

Image source, Gala Fairydean Rovers

Blackpool's Jake Daniels became the UK's first openly gay active male professional footballer in May - a move that Murray said made him a "pillar" of the LGBT community.

He made his own decision to come out after attending his first pride event while on holiday.

But even with people like Daniels paving the way, Murray said revealing his sexuality felt like the weight of the world was lifted off his shoulders.

"It's been so challenging," he said. "Mainly in my head, I'll be brutally honest. I've just created so many issues with it.

"And obviously with things that have happened in the past it's been preying on my mind and not having a lot of role models growing up, that was a huge challenge for me."

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In sharing his story, Murray hopes to act as a role model for younger players coming into Scottish football.

He pointed to women's professional football, which experts have previously called more inclusive and accepting than the men's game - although players including Jess Fishlock received homophobic abuse when she came out.

Murray said: "I went through the worst of it, so much so I'm so passionate about getting the word out there. I don't want anyone to suffer like I did.

"Women's football is exemplary - we need to aspire to get to that level where people are out and open and it's not news.

"I think there has been so many pillars [like Jake Daniels] that we're very close to getting there. That would mean the world to me when that happens."

Fraser Wishart, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association Scotland, paid tribute to Murray's bravery in coming out and said he was sure there were other gay footballers who were thinking about doing the same thing.

He told BBC Scotland's Drivetime programme: "For me football has unfairly been tarred with a negativity around LGBT+ issues and I think the game has been ready for this for quite some time.

"If it leads to others having the strength and finding a safe place to do the same then I think it can only be a positive message.

"When I played, which was many years ago, there was not a chance that a gay footballer could come out within the game, within the dressing room or within the industry but that has completely changed".

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