CORONATION Street star Nathan Graham hopes James Bailey’s gay storyline will help footballers come out.
Fans of the ITV soap will see the character decide whether to go public and face public scrutiny or to continue to live a lie.
Corrie newcomer Nathan got advice from professional rugby league player Keegan Hirst, who in 2015 became the second openly gay rugby league player in Britain, on how to approach the upcoming scenes.
He said he came away from the scenes hopeful that the storyline will bring the problem to light.
Nathan said: "This storyline is important because it is clearly an issue as there is no one currently playing professional football who is openly gay.
"After talking to Keegan Hirst, I can see that in football, homophobia is not seen as being on the same level as racism so it is good to spark that conversation and then hopefully it will educate people that discrimination is discrimination no matter what it is; race, religion, sexuality."
He continued: "If a sportperson is gay, it doesn't take away from their ability and with any type of discrimination, until people are educated then nothing will change.
"If someone is going through this struggle, I hope they see themselves represented and they know that it is okay to own who you are."
Keegan added: "Being able to say that I am gay out loud was difficult for me to do for a really long time, I couldn't say it.
"To have someone on TV who is representing what you might be or want to be is really important; there was no one like me to look up to when I was growing up and maybe if there was, I would have thought a bit differently about what it is to be a gay man."
Last year it emerged a Premier League footballer had a secret gay relationship for four years – but would not come out fearing a backlash from fans could wreck his career.
The international ace, who told close pals in the game he is bisexual, has a child with his female partner.
But he was also having an affair with an openly gay fashion worker.
The player’s 21-year-old lover has spoken of the star’s emotional torment. He said: “The Premier League’s a very weird environment for a gay or bi man.
“It’s a modern institution nothing like the rest of society. If two men want a consensual sexual relationship in this country, in most cases, no one would blink an eye.
The Football Association marched at Pride in London for the first time last year while they have backed Stonewall’s rainbow laces campaign in recent years.
Former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger is one of the most high-profile figures to come out as gay in recent times.
The ex-Germany international had already retired before making his sexuality public.
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