And on a Brighter Note

Former Wales and Lions [that’s rugby–I didn’t know either] captain Gareth Thomas has come out. Big burly manly sport that it is, professional rugby is surely not an obvious pick for gay-friendly profession. And Thomas, from what I hear, is about as big, burly, and manly as they get. He describes a terrible time in life, with his marriage to a woman who he clearly loved very much falling apart for obvious reasons. He was, from the sound of it, forced out of the closet. So what happened when he made his announcement? A heartwarming story perfect for the Christmas season, that’s what:

Cardiff Blues utility back Thomas said he had been through “all sorts of emotions” over the issue, since first knowing he was gay in his late teens.

He revealed that he was “anxious about people’s reactions” to him being gay and that he felt he could not have come out earlier in his rugby career.

“Somehow, the coach had guessed,” said Thomas. “He took me out of the team room to the medical room, locked the door and I told him everything.

“After keeping it secret for so long, I felt a huge rush of relief.

“Scott said: ‘Right, I’ve got to speak now to three or four players in the Welsh team because you need the boys to surround you and support you. You can’t cope with this on your own,’ and he was right.

“He told two of my team-mates, Stephen Jones and Martyn Williams, and as I sat in the bar waiting for them, I was absolutely terrified, wondering what they were going to say.

“But they came in, patted me on the back and said: ‘We don’t care. Why didn’t you tell us before?’

“Two of my best mates in rugby didn’t even blink an eyelid.”

You can read the full story on BBC online sport.

4 thoughts on “And on a Brighter Note

  1. (btw it’s not actually *quite* so heartwarming a story as i made out. the story he tells about coming out to his coach took place in 2006; his teammates kept quiet about it, and he didn’t make his sexuality known publicly then. he’s waited until now to come out publicly because he’s now semi-retired, and feels the benefit to others of his coming out now outweighs the potential damage to his career. and it’s yet to be seen what the public reaction is going to be. but (a) i think it’s an excellent sign of change that his teammates were so supportive, and (b) i think it’s awesome that he’s chosen to tell his story publicly in order to lend support to other gay sportspersons.)

  2. A similar incident occurred in ’07 when former NBA player John Amaechi came out by way of publishing a book, “Man in the Middle.” (Notably, Amaechi never came out to his teammates or coaches while he was playing; he did write, however, that some players knew that he was gay anyway and were kind to him.)

    L.Z. Granderson, an openly gay sportswriter for ESPN, criticized Amaechi’s decision to wait, saying: “An athlete in 2007 who stays in the closet during his playing days does more to support homophobia in sports than coming out after retirement does to combat it.”


  3. oh sorry, no it’s still very heartwarming. i just didn’t want to make out as if things were so happy and lovely and inclusive in rugby that he could just come out when he pleased. the fact that he chose to wait until he was semi-retired, even tho keeping the secret was a weight on his shoulders, says to me that there’s still much progress that needs to be made. that’s all. (from his own description, it sounds like he would’ve rather been out much sooner, but felt he couldn’t without risking his career.)

    thanks for this link! you’re right, it’s another excellent good-news story! and the head of the army being quoted as saying “Respect for others is not an optional extra,” is *awesome*.

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