By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)

Other than Thomas Hitzlsperger, there has been no representation of gay male athletes in professional sports in Germany. While being the sole exception, Hitzlsperger, like most openly gay professional athletes around the world, waited until after he retired from his professional career to come out.

However, that has recently changed thanks to Lucas Krzikalla, a professional handball player for SC DHfK Leipzig of the German Bundesliga. Krzikalla came out as part of a feature segment on the German television channel, MDR where he talks about his life story, becoming a handball player and dealing with his conflicting identity as an athlete and gay man. Of course, this is familiar to every gay person who has been an athlete and an ongoing theme within professional sports regarding gay athletes.

“It shouldn`t matter who you love, also in sports,” the desire go public is the reason behind the coming out of Lucas Krzikalla. “Sexuality, who wants to live in what ways, simply shouldn`t matter – in any profession. And for something to finally change, we professional athletes must now do something. The change must also come from within, from the sport itself,” the 28-year-old from SC DHfK Leipzig said in an interview with the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. “After years of discrimination, if we all have the courage, we now have the chance to actually change something once and for all. Every coming out is a great liberation.”

 

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With this coming out, Krzikalla is Germany’s first and only openly gay male professional athlete who is still actively playing, marking an important milestone and step toward the representation and inclusion of gay athletes in professional sports. The reactions of Krzikalla’s coming out have been largely positive, including a lot of support from his club and the German Handball Association with the president, Andreas Michelmann stating, “for Lucas Krzikalla and his entire environment. His outing shows healthy self-confidence in the best sense of the word.” Krzikalla has also received positive words and support from teammates and handball colleagues.

While in 2022, it may feel frustrating that such player coming outs are still news making stories, there is still a lot of progress to be made toward ensuring proper representation, inclusion, safety, and accessibility for gay athletes in sports, especially professional sports. Within his feature on MDR, Krzikalla expressed how he hopes that his coming out will inspire others and promote change,

“Perhaps it will encourage one or the other to deal with it more openly and no longer play hide-and-seek.” He knows of five handball players in the first and second leagues alone, “who may say it within the team, but are afraid of damaging their careers by coming out”. But the change must “also come from within, from the sport even”.

Photo Credit: Lucas Krzikalla Facebook