Australian rugby champion and Olympic gold medalist Ellia Green has come out as transgender. He made the announcement in a video that will open the Bingham Cup International Summit on ending transphobia and homophobia in sport on Tuesday.
A former player for the New Zealand Warriors, Green won an Olympic gold medal in 2016 as a member of Australia’s rugby sevens team.
“As a kid I remember I thought I was a boy in public,” Green told The Associated Press. “I had a short [haircut] and whenever we met new people they thought I was a boy. I always used to wear my brother’s clothes, played with tools, and ran around with no shirt on. Until I grew breasts, and I thought ‘oh no.’”
The 29-year-old says he experienced sever depression after retiring from rugby last November. That experience, as well as seeing the increasing animosity toward transgender athletes – including World Rugby’s decision to bar transgender women from playing women’s rugby – spurred Green to speak out.
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“I’d like to help someone not feel so isolated by telling my story,” he said.
“Banning transgender people from sport is disgraceful and hurtful. It only means the rates of suicide and mental health issues will get even worse,” Green said in the Bingham Cup video. “To those listening or to those who might have a story, even the slightest bit similar to mine, I would just love to tell you that it does get better, and it has taken me so much courage to even take the steps to sit here at now and talk about it.”
Green is only the third Olympic gold medalist to ever come out as transgender, alongside Caitlyn Jenner and Canadian soccer player Quinn. But he says he has no rugby-related plans in the near future. He’s focused on life with partner Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts and being a full-time dad to the couple’s newborn child.