Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay man to play in a major American sports league when, having come out in February 2013 and temporarily retired, he returned to professional soccer and, buoyed by the supportive response he received, signed with the LA Galaxy. In the year and a half since, Rogers has helped pave the way for other athletes, including Jason Collins and Michael Sam, to come out; has found love with his partner, Greg Berlanti; and has now released his first book, a memoir titled Coming Out to Play.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Rogers reflects on the many changes in his life since coming out, including the new attitude he’s noticed from teammates in the locker room.
On why he wanted to write a memoir: I’m the only gay man in my locker room and I’m the only gay man in my league, so I had to kind of come to terms with that and be like, all right, well, that’s fine. I’m different than these guys, but they treat me with such respect, and they treat me like any teammate. Last season it was difficult for me, but now I’m really proud of being an out gay man playing this sport. I remember how hard it was for me, and I realize how hard it is for other guys. There’s obviously guys who are closeted who are playing sports in the United States, but I’m hoping that by playing and by writing this book that these guys can see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel and think, “OK, if he’s doing it then maybe I can.”
On how the locker room has changed for him since coming out: When I was closeted, I would hear the most ridiculous homophobic things . . . and now it’s totally different. People are more sensitive and more aware of what they’re saying. They’re very, very supportive, and we’ll talk about things like marriage equality. I would be petrified, so scared to bring up a conversation like that with my teammates, but my teammates come to me. We still have the banter and the jokes, and yes, there still are a bunch of naked men taking showers together, but it’s a very different atmosphere. I’ve been naked and had discussions with guys in the shower and them asking me, “Is it hard for you to shower with guys?” I’ve been doing it for so long and teammates become like brothers.