‘If it helps just one person then it’s worth doing’
By NATHAN CLARKE
Former World No.1 Rachael Grinham and former World No.2 Jenny Duncalf have become the first active professional squash players to openly identify themselves as gay, with the pair exclusively revealing their romantic relationship to U.S. Squash Magazine in a move that they hope will help others ‘feel more comfortable in their own skin’.
Grinham, the 2007 World Champion from Australia, and Duncalf, the Englishwoman who reached the final of the 2011 World Championship, have been together for several years, travelling the world competing both alongside and against each other – meeting 20 times on the PSA World Tour and sharing 44 Tour titles between them.
While their relationship has long been known within the inner-circle of professional squash the pair believe that by openly ‘coming out’ they can help others to embrace their sexuality, especially within the realms of professional sport.
“To us our relationship has been public for many years now but we were made to realise that we are in a unique situation where our relationship could make a difference,” said 34-year-old Duncalf, who moved to Brisbane, Australia in 2015 to live with Grinham.
“We felt that if by openly ‘coming out in professional sport’ we could help just one person feel more comfortable and encouraged about their own journey, then it would be more than worthwhile doing so.”
Sentiments echoed by 40-year-old Grinham: “I don’t personally see it as suddenly making our relationship public. There was a period in the very beginning when Jen was afraid of people finding out, but we’ve not hidden it for a long time now and it’s not going to come as news to most people who know us.
“I think some people in sport, especially high profile sports, feel that they are contracted to have a certain image and are afraid that being gay would lose them fans and endorsements.
“But I also think it is way better today than it has been in the past thanks to all those who have endured tough times and rallied for gay rights. 20 years ago I would have been afraid of coming out publicly but I’m proud of the way people’s minds have opened in recent years and I can certainly say that I was confident that this news would get more positive feedback today than negative.
“And if we can help others, then it’s worth doing.”
Duncalf has picked up over 100 caps for England during her career – winning Commonwealth Games silver in both 2010 and 2014 – but collected the biggest Tour title of her career in 2009 when she beat Grinham to win the Qatar Classic, the only PSA World Series title of her career.
A factor which both say can makes life on Tour more difficult than normal.
“To travel with your best friend and closest companion around the world and share experiences is amazing – we’re very fortunate,” said Duncalf.
“For many of my successful squash years I felt like I was almost on a constant holiday and didn’t think life could get much better. Of course when it comes to playing against each other it can be tricky – especially for me if I lost!
“The good news was that at least one of you is always through and I couldn’t take too long to get over a loss as I knew she won’t put up with me sulking for too long!”
The 2006 and 2014 Commonwealth Games Gold medal winner Grinham said: “It’s great for us to have each other at events, whether you have a bad loss or a great win, you have your person there to share it with which is great.
“It can be tough though if you’re both playing and one has lost. As the one who has lost you need to be aware that the other is still playing and probably doesn’t need that negative energy – and the same goes for the one still playing, they need to keep up the positive energy but also need to be aware the other probably doesn’t need it all in their face.
“It can be a little complicated, but overall I’d say we are definitely lucky to have each other.”
The original U.S. Squash Magazine article by James Jug is available to read here: http://squashmagazine.ussquash.com/2017/05/love-is-love-is-love-jenny-duncalf-rachael-grinham-champions-on-court-pioneers-off-court/
Pictures courtesy of PSA, US Squash and social media