Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour, badminton’s highest-ranked openly gay player, said on Monday that she is relishing competing without having to hide her sexuality.
The world number 17 came out last year and says she had “absolutely no negative feedback” from anyone in badminton, describing the reaction as “the best I could have hoped for”.
But the 28-year-old thinks it could be difficult for other players to follow in her footsteps given cultural differences in Asia, the sport’s heartland.
There have been other openly gay badminton players, but the number remains small.
“I think Asian countries are making huge strides, with Taiwan becoming one of the first countries to legalise gay marriage,” Gilmour told AFP in Tokyo after losing to Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung in the first round of the world championships.
“But I think there’s a lot of countries at the top of badminton that have quite strong religious views.”
“I’m not saying you can’t be out and gay and religious, but I think that’s maybe one of the small factors in it,” she added.
Gilmour says she was “sick of giving energy” to cover up her sexuality and came out so that she did not have to “hide such a key part of me”.
She says her announcement was “not about blazing a trail” in badminton and that she hoped it was “not this spectacular thing for anyone”.
“It’s nice that we live in a world where it’s such a non-point, but there’s still a long way to go,” she said.
Gilmour went into the world championships having finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this month.