Rugby pro Devin Ibañez comes out as gay and in love: ‘I have decided to embrace what I once felt embarrassed of’

(L) Devin Ibañez hugs his boyfriend Fergus Wade from behind, (R) Ibañez kissed Wade on the cheek

Rugby pro Devin Ibañez came out as gay Wednesday (30 December) in a candid Instagram post.

The former New England Free Jacks player, from Brookline, Massachusettes, shared photographs of himself and his boyfriend Fergus Wade smiling, kissing and embracing one another. Maybe love isn’t dead after all.

While many openly queer sportspeople have come out after retiring, Ibañez defied the playbook by stating his truth after earning a top contract with a US Major League Rugby (USMLR) side. He said that he is the first USMLR player to do so.

Ibañez noted that as much as LGBT+ athletes are celebrated for their heroism, he has seen many queer rugby players “blackballed” from competing in the higher leagues due to their identity.

“As 2020 comes to a close I took the time to reflect on my life and what aspects I could control and make positive changes to that would impact my day to day life and happiness,” Ibañez wrote on his new Instagram account, @ThatGayRugger.

“It became clear to me that living my life with more transparency and openly celebrating who I love would have an immediate positive impact on me and those I care about.


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A post shared by Devin Ibañez (@thatgayrugger)

Devin Ibañez came out publicly amid the pandemic for the ‘man he loves’

“I actually have been planning on coming out for a few years now,” Ibañez admitted to PinkNews.

“Ever since I met Fergus, it became a goal of mine to be more open so that we wouldn’t feel like we had to hide our relationship.

“For many years I was comfortable with the idea of keeping my sexuality private and separate from rugby, but it became much different when I was now influencing how open Fergus could be.”

Ibañez explained how the machismo culture of the game pulled him back from coming out for years, even as his years-long relationship blossomed and he came out to his parents aged 12.

Then the coronavirus pandemic happened, upending his life and pausing the game he loves.

“We had lost complete control over when we could see each other or even if we could,” he described.

“I had a realization that this was something I had complete control over that could have an immediate positive impact on me as well as the man I love.”

Devin Ibañez (L) and his partner, Fergus. (Supplied/Devin Ibañez)

The pair, Ibañez said, first met in 2017 on a dating app. Both based in Boston, Massachusetts – the England-born Fergus being there for the year for his studies – they traded stories about Britain before linking up at a Thai place: “We talked and laughed for hours.

“I was instantly drawn to his infectious smile and laughter, but also his genuine nature and loving heart.”

They shared their first kiss later that evening on the rooftop fo Ibañez’ apartment.

“Unfortunately, the time went by far too quickly and his year abroad came to a close,” he continued.

“We came to the inevitable realization that we were likely going to have to leave our love and adventures behind as a distant and treasured memory.”

They shared a “gut-wrenching” final night together but, ever resilient and passionate, the couple vowed to remain together as long-distance – “we are the verge of celebrating our three-year anniversary,” Ibañez said.

Looking forward, Ibañez shared his own advice to athletes in the closet considering coming out.

Devin Ibañez playing a match in Scarborough, England, in 2016. (Supplied/Devin Ibañez)

“Everyone has their own unique circumstances to overcome, there is no easy solution that will apply to everybody,” he said. “Take your time to become confident and comfortable in yourself.

“There is no age or time that you have to reach that point by, so don’t put any undue pressure on yourself. 

“Use that time to find close friends or family who you can build trust with and eventually confide in. Having a strong network of support can make a huge difference as you start to find that inner confidence.

“Make sure that you have that group of people that you know you can rely on no matter what. This way if you do decide to come out, you will know that those people who matter most will have your back.”