Mel Reid is a Solheim Cup hero and a six-time Ladies European Tour winner. And now she's an out athlete, hoping to be a visible ally and advocate for LGBTQ athletes.
"Looking back on it, I knew from quite a young age, but then never thought about it during my teenage years," Reid said in an interview with Athlete Ally. "It then crept up on me again when I started playing on Tour, meeting new people and traveling the world.
"I fell in love with a girl and I was excited about it, so I told my sister who was completely cool about it, and then my brother. My parents are older than most, but they couldn’t have been better about everything. They just assured me that as long as I love a good person, it doesn’t matter what race, gender or background they come from."
The Englishwoman said there has never been a social problem in being out among her LET and LPGA peers. However, the realities of the women's golf calendar make coming out admitting to a crime in some countries where she has played or will play.
"The only problem we run into is that being gay is still illegal or frowned upon in certain countries we play in," Reid said.
In particular, being gay is considered a crime punishable by death in the United Arab Emirates, where the LET had ended their season for several years before not having a tournament there in 2018. The LET plays in Morocco the same week as the Trophee Hassan II is played on the European Tour. In Morocco, there are censorship laws prohibiting so-dubbed "propaganda" to encourage LGBTQ identities or communities.
The European Tour plays three tournaments in the UAE, as well in Qatar, which also considers being gay a capital offense. Saudi Arabia will host a new event in 2019, and the kingdom kills people for being gay.
Reid also acknowledges many potential sponsors are not looking to specifically support out players, something which led her to "protect her sexuality" in hopes of landing more endorsement deals.
"There are also a lot of male-dominated sponsors that are looking for certain types of players, so that’s why I have felt I can’t be quite as open as I would like to be when it comes to my personal life," she said.
The 31-year-old said she would like to see more female-led businesses support the LPGA and LET with sponsorship. She would like more equipment companies to put women in their advertising campaigns, particularly with women being the fastest-growing demographic in recreational golf.
Reid's advice to LGBTQ athletes (or anyone for that matter) is one to repeat again and again:
"There is only one of you in the world and you have one life, so be the best version of yourself and be proud of who you are," she said. "That’s when you attract the right people around you to make you better, and ultimately, happier."