Since becoming the first NFL player in history to openly come out as bisexual in 2019, Ryan Russell has been using his platform to raise awareness for LGBTQ visibility in sports.
Speaking with Yahoo! Life, the three-year veteran who’s played for the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers says he loves living in his truth and is “unstoppable.”
“To me, visibility is hope,” Russell said while discussing Bi Visibility Day, which is aimed to raise bisexual awareness and celebrated every year on September 23. “I think it should be readily available for everyone, no matter who you are, how you look or who you love.”
“To go from someone who did not see a lot of visibility, and in turn did not have a lot of hope, to now, hopefully being visible and being a beacon of hope, even if it is the combination of so many trials and tribulations, now I understand why I went through them and why they happened. And that feels good,” he told the outlet. “I feel unstoppable. like I could do anything.”
Russell, a current NFL free agent, recently partnered with Encircle, an LGBTQ Resource Center that provides life-affirming services, programs and therapy to the LGBTQ community. He says their work is crucial to social acceptance and progress.
“Education, I think, is always the first hurdle,” Russell said. “The understanding of bisexuality is so different for everybody because the definition of bisexuality has changed and grown so much, especially when we evolved conversations around gender and nonbinary people.”
Russell says that many people who are bi grow up in families who either don’t understand their sexuality or define it through anatomy.
“Historically, I think for a lot of people, my family and myself included, bisexuality was about two genders. It was about men and women,” Russell says. “I understand now that bisexuality, for me and my definition, there is an attraction to my own gender and genders outside of my own. It has opened up conversations to include everyone who at one time not only did their sexuality seem valid, but also their gender identity and who they actually are.”
He continued: “I think for men, it’s like you get hit with almost this triple whammy, for lack of a better term. You’ve been taught at a young age that the most important thing about your male identity is your masculinity. So if you feel a need to protect it, instead of nurturing it or allowing you to experience your femininity or allowing whatever to come to you naturally, you begin curating things of masculine figures instead of letting genuine creation come from within who you are in your own soul.”
“You can’t really be understood or understand anyone else until you do the work, until you empower yourself with knowledge,” he added. “I think one of the things that bisexual people across the board, I think, face is feeling as though we need to defend our sexuality — that may have been a hurdle I’ve had, but also a hurdle that I haven’t jumped because I don’t do that. Like, I don’t feel the need to validate my sexuality for anyone. You ask me a question, I tell you, we move on.”
To learn more about Bi Visibility Day, click here.