One of the world's strongest men happens to be gay.
Rob Kearney, currently ranked as the second in the world as a middleweight professional strongman — took to Facebook last month to announce that he is happily dating another man. It’s the first time the 22-year-old professional strength coach had publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation, according to head coach and Next Level founder Christian Matyi.
And with a nonchalant — yet sweetly romantic — Facebook post on October 20, Kearney became the first openly gay man actively competing in professional, international strongman competitions, reports The Next Level.
Using the hashtag for “ManCrushMonday,” Kearney thanked his boyfriend, Joey Alexio, for giving him a reason to smile. “So I guess this is me coming out and saying… I’m gay!!” Kearney wrote. At press time, the post had garnered more than 1,200 “likes, and nearly 200 comments. The vast majority of those were supportive and congratulatory.
Kearney says he knew that coming out at this early stage in his career could have a negative impact, especially in the hyper masculine world of strength athletics. But he wanted to showcase his strength in a new way, and give his boyfriend the validation he believes their relationship deserves.
"I thought it was important to be honest," Kearney told Next Level. "People need to know that one of the top strength athletes on the planet is also gay. But I didn't want it to affect my ability to compete. And that possibility definitely crossed my mind before I made that post."
Discover more about why Kearney’s coming-out matters in the world of strength athletics in Next Level’s report, authored by Matyi, himself an out queer strength trainer and athlete.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article included several errors, including misidentifying Kearney's title and age. The initial version also neglected to link to the original source of the story, first published by Matyi on NextLevel, and later reprinted on OutSports. This story has been updated to reflect accurate information; The Advocate regrets these errors.