The 31-year-old – who has 52 international caps for Germany – retired in September last year after spending time at Villa, Chesterfield, Stuttgart, Lazio, West Ham, Wolsfsburg and, most recently, Everton.
Speaking to German magazine De Zeit, he said: “I’m talking about my homosexuality because I want to open up the debate about homosexuality in football.”
“I only realised over the last few years that I’d rather live with a man.
He went on to add: “In England, Italy and Germany being a homosexual is no big thing, at least not in the dressing room.
“I was never ashamed of being who I am but it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays.
“You let them get on with it as long as the jokes are somewhat funny and not too insulting.
“Being gay is a topic that is ignored in football and not a serious topic in the changing room.
“Fighting spirit, passion and winning mentality are intrinsically linked, that doesn’t fit the cliché: ‘gays are soft’.”
Hopefully, Hitzlsperger’s announcement will give other athletes the confidence to be completely open about their sexuality.