Kruze Tangira in action against the Silver Ferns. Photo: @SilverFernsNZ Twitter

In the second episode of Pure As, Kruze Tangira provides an emotional recount of the societal struggles of playing netball as a gay man.

Navigating the world of netball as a male has never been simple. But for New Zealand men’s netball captain Kruze Tangira it required him to be a trailblazer for other gay men to follow in his footsteps.

In the second episode of Pure As, Kruze Tangira provides an emotional recount of growing up in a religious household as an LGBT identifying man, and dealing with the societal pressures of playing netball as a male.

“School was interesting to say the least. I made a lot of great friends,” he said.

“But I think for myself it was a little tough because I knew from a very young age that I identified as being gay.

“To navigate school through those years was tough because there was no one I could talk to.

“We grew up in a religious household and my mum and dad are very much into the church and I’m truly grateful for their upbringing including the religion that they instilled in us from a very early age.

“On the other hand, being gay is not really accepted in the church.”

It was a juxtaposition that would propel Kruze Tangira into an unwanted position from an early age.

“I told a friend of mine via text message that I was gay and identified as a LGBT community member, and her brother picked up her phone and read the message and started telling people.

“I knew that I didn’t want anyone else telling my parents but myself and so I had to find the courage to talk to my mum and dad and tell them who I truly was.

“It was tough,” he admitted.

“I told my dad first and I knew he would probably be the easiest out of both of them because hes such a chill guy and very loving and such a great father.

“Then I told my mum and, yeah, that was probably the toughest thing for me to do because I knew how she felt about me being guy and about what they bible says.

“Telling her was tough but what made it beautiful and what made the experience easier was her saying to me she still loved me at the end of the day, and I didn’t think I’d hear those words from her.

“Im very proud that my family were open to take these steps forward with me and be accepting of the person I truly am.

“It just makes me feel so lucky to be from a family that loves me for who I am,” Tangira said.

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Despite his family’s acceptance of his sexuality, Tangira’s preference to play netball from an early age resulted in murmurs from other parents at games, and societal pressure to choose a different sport.

“Having those snarky remarks from parents about a boy playing netball, you know, I was just a child and I was just doing what I loved.

“It was tough to sort of feel like it was ok for me to be playing netball because I was getting all this backlash.

“Thankfully, even at the age of six or seven I was a strong boy, and I didn’t let these harsh comments affect or navigate where I should go.

“I just stuck at netball and I’m grateful I did.”

His next roadblock would come in middle school, where he was not allowed to participate in netball.

“It was like a dream ending because that’s how much netball meant to be, so to be told I wasn’t allowed to play because I was a male, it was gut wrenching,” he said.

When he got through that period of schooling, Tangira immediately came back to netball and showed his ability.

“Come 15 or 16 [years of age], I was back playing netball. I just found that fire again and I’ve never looked back.

“I found an environment where I can be fully myself, without any sort of negative comments about being shamed for being a male netballer.

“I felt very accepted. It sort of saved my life in some respects, it gave me a sense of purpose and it gave me a community that would have my back when no one else would.”

Finally, Kruze Tangira was doing what he knew was his passion. His natural talent saw him make the men’s New Zealand team in 2009, and we went on to captain the side as he does to this day.

“When I made the New Zealand team for the first time… it was like all that heart ache, and all that pain, and all that sorrow and that struggle that I went through as a young boy playing netball, and being picked on and being made ashamed of for playing the sport, it made it all worth it,” Tangira stated.

“There were times when I wanted to give up and not even play the sport, I was so tired of just being made fun of and being sort of the poster boy for male netball, but not in a good way.

“So there were a lot of times where I wanted to give up, but when I made the NZ Mens team for the first time, it made it all worth it and made me sort of pat myself of the back because I got through those tough times.

“Netball is for everyone, if you have the talent then you have the talent, and there’s no stopping you from playing.”

Pure As is available to watch on the Silver Ferns website.

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