The 2017 Mr. Gay World delegate from Belgium is already using his local victory to fight homophobia in sports teams across his country, and the rest of the world is next.
22-year-old Raf Van Puymbroeck has been a sportsperson all his life, as a gymnast, swimmer, and a dancer, but unfortunately, he has had to deal with a lot of homophobia.
Speaking exclusively with Eikon, Puymbroeck said the chance to set up a campaign and work on a theme that bothers him in the LGBT community was one of the main reasons he wanted to reach the finals of Mr. Gay World.
“I participated in Mr. Gay Belgium because I knew it was more than just looks,” Puymbroeck explained to Eikon.
“Because I’ve been a sporter all my life, I have seen a lot of things.
“As a competition gymnast, swimmer and dancer I have dealt with a lot of homophobia and mean comments.
“Also in college where I studied physical education, not everyone was open-minded and that’s really a shame.
“I wanted to do something about the way people think and see LGBT’s in the sports world.”
Puymbroeck was in a battle right from the start with the Mr. Gay Belgium competition finding 12 finalists from 125 people that entered.
From the moment that he won the title, he set to work to put his plan in motion.
“I created a document, a charter, with a sports college and the head of the ‘Equal Rights Departement’ of the city where I live and the sports clubs could sign.
“If they signed the document, they meant that everyone was welcome and they would never have prejudgements towards LGBT’s.
“More than 70 sport clubs spread over all of Belgium participated and made this project/campaign a success.”
But the athletic young Belgian from the small city of Turnhout in the north of Belgium wasn’t going to stop there, with the chance of impressing Mr. Gay World judges, he has set a cracking pace on changing the face of sport in his country.
“After winning the title, a lot of national and international sports organisations worked with me on a lot of projects.
“I wrote a guide with a national sports organisation about how to deal with transgenders in sports.
“I’ve set up the ‘United We Are United We Win’ campaign to support our (Belgian)Red Devils but also to point out we have to be open-minded.
“And now I’m working with Heroes of Football as an ambassador, a European project where six national football federations participate to deal with homophobia in the football world on a european level.”
The current Mr. Gay Europe believes it’s his drive and motivation that will help him stand out above the rest of the delegates in Spain come May.
“I’m a teacher, a sportsman and am really motivated in everything I do.
“I’ve been doing so many things for the LGBT community and want to take my vision to a new level.
“Also I’m spontaneous and can work really hard for what I want.”
Raf Van Puymbroeck is one of 20 delegates heading to the Mr. Gay World finals to be held in Spain from 5-10 May.
For more information visit our special Mr. Gay World page including videos and where to vote for your favourite.
Eikon will be live from Madrid and Maspalomas through the entire Mr. Gay World competition so to stay in touch follow us across our social media here.