'I want to be someone to look up to': WNBA star Brittney Griner tells her coming out story

LGBTQ+ athletes on the rewarding aspects of being out (1:36)

Out athletes from a variety of sports share their stories on the most unexpected benefits of coming out. (1:36)

WNBA star Brittney Griner [she/her], 30, was the number 1 overall pick at the 2013 WNBA Draft, and publicly discussed being gay soon afterwards. She plays for the Phoenix Mercury, who picked her at the Draft after a stellar career at Baylor, and is a seven-time WNBA All-Star.

What was the 'coming out to myself' process like for you?

Coming out to myself? That's a damn good question... It was probably when I went from collegiate to pro. It's not like I ever told anybody I wasn't gay, but I wasn't giving everybody my whole authentic self. I feel like I came out to myself and the world at the same time.

READ: 17 LGBTQ+ athletes share their coming out journeys

Did you have a specific reason for coming out to the media/public, rather than keeping your private life private?

I didn't want anyone to go through what I went through. That feeling of not being true to yourself, and looking in the mirror and not liking what you see, is a horrible feeling. I didn't want anyone to feel like that. I never really had anyone to look up to that was, like, huge... Billy Jean King? But that wasn't my era, I didn't grow up as a little kid looking up to her. So I wanted to be someone to look up to, in this present time. Everybody who reaches out to me, they tell me, 'You helped me, you inspired me,' and I think that's bigger than basketball, honestly. Bigger than a gold medal, any award. Knowing that you helped someone not feel down, or have horrible thoughts, because I've been there.

Has coming out impacted your career and opportunities at all?

I don't think so. Before I went pro, I said if I have to change how I look, how I dress, then I don't want it [being a pro]. If I've got to put on a bunch of make up, or look extra girly, just to get an endorsement or be on someone's commercial... they can have it. I'm not going to sell out myself for any dollar, or fame, or anything. I'm happy with my life, and this is how I'm going to be.