'Now I know what the letters mean': Netherlands athlete Ramsey Angela tells his coming out story

LGBTQ+ athletes on how they came out to themselves (2:53)

Out sports stars from across the globe detail their experiences of coming out to themselves. (2:53)

Netherlands track star Ramsey Angela [he/him], 21, claimed silver in the men's 4x400m relay at the Tokyo Olympics. Angela has never issued a statement about being gay, allowing Instagram posts with his boyfriend to do the work for him, and says he has never felt the need to come out in the press.

What was the 'coming out to myself' process like for you?

To be honest, I did wonder whether it was normal. I had this brief period of doubt whether this was right. But I soon thought, 'There it is, I can't change it, I'll go for it.' I guess now that I have a boyfriend, my first one, it has gone public. The other relationships I had, or whatever, I did post about them [on social media]. Now I post about my first boyfriend, but not like it's a surprise. It kind of happened naturally, it's part of being Ramsey Angela.

Did you have a specific reason for coming out to the media/public, rather than keeping your private life private?

The socials are quite important for my career. I'm convinced it has a big effect on things like sponsor deals or commercial interests. I share a part of my private life and this is part of that. That's how I see it.

READ: 17 LGBTQ+ athletes share their coming out journeys

Has coming out impacted your career and opportunities at all?

Definitely not. Before I had first posted that I had a boyfriend practically everybody in my circle already knew. So it didn't affect my career in that I had to behave differently or people looked at me differently or I felt different in training or during matches. It was just in my daily post. I have been to places that are different from the Netherlands. But even in that respect, I never felt I should behave differently or anything.

How has your sport changed with regard to the LGBTQ+ community during your career?

Maybe it's weird, but I've only known about that [LGBTQ+] community since last summer. I knew it existed, but I never paid any attention. At least now I know what the letters mean. But no, I never noticed a link between that community and my sport. I guess I had a special position in their eyes even before that. But I never really knew about it and now I've become more aware of it. Before we went to the Olympic Village we did a training camp in Shiba, near Tokyo. I woke up one morning and found I had a few thousand new followers, thanks to a post by Attitude magazine. So I was like, huh? I love having more followers, but who are they? That's when I discovered.

What would your advice be to folks who are struggling with their identity?

Very cliche: Life is short, be yourself. If you are not yourself, that's going to hurt. You know? I'm personally not very interested in other people's opinions. I understand if you want to feel good in a certain environment. But I'm sure that if you are yourself, and you present yourself as the person you want to be, people will accept that as normal. But if you're not yourself, it will become a [negative] thing.

When debating coming out in your mind, what were your worst - and best - case scenarios? And did either come to pass?

Well, I didn't come out as such, but my biggest fear was that my father and my sister wouldn't accept it. If that had happened that would have been really awful. But even as a child I felt it wouldn't be an issue in my family.

Did you ever feel any pressure, either internally or from speculating fans, to be a role model or an ambassador for the queer community? And is that something you embrace now?

I never felt pressure until the focus shifted [onto me] just before the Olympics. And then most of the pressure came from me because I thought, 'What should I do with this? I want to do something with this.' But I'm not sure how, because like I said, I'm not into attracting media attention. I hadn't thought about any of this until I got all those new [Instagram] followers. Then I started thinking, 'What if this gets more attention?' So I've developed a little bit now in that respect. I don't feel any pressure there, but I do feel like Ramsey Angela is a person who wants to be heard. But I'm not really a guy who jumps on the barricades or anything.

Read Ramsey Angela's interview in Dutch HERE