10 most successful LGBT athletes of all time

Hitzlsperger came out after his retirement and is the most prominent gay footballer

Each of these athletes has had immense success, and in addition to their laurels has become a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ cause worldwide. The greatest in their respective sports, many of these athletes came out in a time that was not conducive to their sporting careers, that was not as understanding, aware or accepting of gay rights as it is today.Many lost sponsorships, fans and faced immense backlash, while others found public support.Each of them has now become a voice for the community at large, and use their fame to help other athletes and youth who may be struggling with their own sexualities.Here, we profile the 10 most successful LGBTQ athletes in sporting history.

#10 Thomas Hitzlsperger

Former German international Thomas Hitzlsperger played for a series of Premier League clubs during his career, in addition to his time in the Bundesliga, where he spent the majority of his career. Hitzlsperger played for English club Aston Villa in the earliest part of his career as a professional footballer, following which he returned to Germany to play for StuttgartThe former midfielder became known for scoring long-range goals, and in his Premier League career was most notable for his stint at West Ham.He was capped 52 times for the German national side, and was part of the side that finished third at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which saw Italy beat France in a contentious final, since part of footballing history for Marco Materazzi's headbutting incident with Zinedine Zidane.Plagued by injuries throughout his career, Hitzlsperger retired in 2013, last having played for Everton.It was following his retirement that the German came out as gay, making the announcement in an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit. He spoke to the paper about self-acceptance and coming to terms with his own sexuality, talking about how 'uncomfortable' it had been for him to hear jokes directed as homosexuals as he sat around.“It’s been a long and difficult process,” he said in the interview of his coming out."Only in the last few years have I realised that I preferred living together with a man. I was never ashamed of being who I am but it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays."He mentioned that there was a serious lack of desire to address the issue in football, saying  "You let them get on with it as long as the jokes are somewhat funny and not too insulting. Being gay is a topic that is ignored in football and not a serious topic in the changing room.”Hitzlsperger spoke of his desire to help other queer sportspersons and said “modern football has no place for people from the Dark Ages or people with old-fashioned prejudices and I hope this will give courage to young people about to get into professional sport."Addressing sadly still commonly-held beliefs that gay men all display what are considered 'feminine' characteristics, he said in the interview that "... homosexuality and masculinity are not contradictions."He is the most famous footballer to have come out of the closet to date.

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