A gay Irish rugby star has written to Israel Folau in an effort to explain to the former Wallaby the dangers of homophobia.
Lindsay Peat, an Irish rugby international, said she felt compelled to respond after Australian star posted that hell awaited homosexuals unless they repented.
Writing for The Sports Chronicle in Ireland, the 38-year-old said: “If I had two minutes with Israel Folau, I would say I’m Lindsay Peat – proud Dubliner, proud wife, proud mother, proud daughter, proud sister, proud rugby player.
“Like you, I’ve had the honour to represent my country at the highest level in the game… But I’m gay.
“I don’t want special treatment. I don’t need to sing from any altar that I’m gay I just want to be like everyone else because I am like everyone else. I live and I love. I let live and I let love.
“When you judge me, when you judge all of us, you make me fight. I will fight to not go back to that dark place that you will never understand.”
Peat has previously spoken of the homophobic abuse she suffered on the field saying she was called a “dirty dyke” in an All-Ireland final.
The 38-year-old is one of our most talented athletes having represented Ireland in soccer, basketball and rugby as well as winning an All-Ireland GAA football medal for Dublin.
But the mother-of-one said she went through a very dark period when she was younger and was struggling with her sexuality.
She suffered panic attacks, self-loathing, weight loss and drank to oblivion as she struggled with the prospect of coming out to friends and family.
The Dubliner said she even contemplated suicide thinking “it would be better not to be here because I couldn’t take it anymore.”
“The lying to everyone. The lying TO MYSELF because, in the Ireland that I lived in at that time, it just wasn’t ok to be gay – you were judged,” she explained.
Peat who works in the HSE as a clerical officer is now happily married to Claire and the couple have a three-year-old son Barra.
Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia over the homophobic post he made on Instagram having been warned last year over a similar tweet.
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Folau, a devout Christian, has argued that he shouldn’t be punished for expressing his own religious beliefs and according to reports he may now sue for unfair dismissal based on religious grounds.
Peat says she feels “pity” that a player “in such a privileged position, getting paid for doing something he loves doing” chose to use his power to target gay people.
And Ireland rugby star had a positive message for anyone struggling that "better days are ahead."
“I can only imagine having the power and influence that someone like Israel Folau has and how I would use that to do good, to wrap my arms around those that are suffering and give them a bit of hope that there are better days ahead.
“To tell them that life is for living and that it’s your own life – no one else’s. To tell them that the day you start living your life at the mercy of other people’s beliefs is the day you’ve rendered yours almost lost.
“You risk missing out on all those possible moments of feeling alive and the happiness that come with being yourself.”
You can read Lindsay Peat’s full letter here.