Speaking with The Evening Post, Hooper says he’s decided to come out as a professional gay athlete to help other young rugby players “come to terms with their sexuality.”
“I met someone earlier this year who said he could not be with someone who was in the closet. That, basically, was the catalyst that I needed.
“Before that, I think I had already told about ten friends and their reaction was very positive so that gave me an inkling of what might happen. And I also thought if the crap really hits the fan then at least there are ten people on my side!”
After litmus testing the empty closet with friends and family, Hooper took the news to his team and the Bristol community, both of which also welcomed him with open arms.
“Being captain is a huge privilege, so when I made my announcement one of the first people I spoke to at Reds was our then chairman, Ray Massey.“I said that if the club doesn’t want a gay man as its figurehead I would understand and step down. But he was brilliant and said ‘you’re our captain and this doesn’t change anything’. That support was massive to me.”
With the positive reception, Hooper couldn’t help sharing enlightened advice for closeted colleagues.
“If anyone is reading this and they’re in the same situation as me, all I want to say is don’t bottle things up because, trust me, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The world’s not against you. If my story can help one person then this has been worth it.”