Gay Rugby Player Proves He’s Tough Enough
Photo: Huw Evans Picture Agency
For all of those naysayers out there who falsely believe that gay men aren’t tough enough to play professional sports, I suggest you look up Gareth Thomas.
Thomas is a perennial all-star in the world of rugby—one of the toughest and most brutal sports in the world. Oh, and did I mention the fact that Thomas is also gay?
Thomas, a former Wales captain, told the UK’s Daily Mail, “I don't know if my life is going to be easier because I'm out, but if it helps someone else, if it makes one young lad pick up the phone to ChildLine (a LGBT teen suicide line), then it will have been worth it.”
And that’s the whole point in a nutshell. Thomas basically summed up the formidable effect a visible gay or lesbian professional athlete can have in that single quote. Not only does it have a positive influence on LGBT youth, but it also breaks down needless stereotypes that are still present in professional sports.
Thomas admitted to the The Daily Mail that he spent his life trying to hide from the truth. He even got married, in hopes that his orientation (which we all know is determined at birth) would be altered. Obviously, it didn’t work. After years of personal torment, Thomas finally admitted his true sexuality to his team in 2006.
“A coach named Scott Johnson, a great man, came up to me in the dressing room after the game for a chat and I just broke down in tears,” Thomas described. “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.”
The coach also suggested that Thomas share his personal story with the rest of the team. And the team embraced him wholeheartedly. “I felt everyone was protecting me and closing in tight around me,” said Thomas. “No one distanced themselves from me, not one single person.”
This is a jarring revelation. Imagine standing in front of a group of toothless, muscular, bruised and battered men and telling them all face-to-face that you are gay. Then imagine those same men embracing you and telling you that it doesn’t change a thing. They support you. They have your back.
John Amaechi, a former NBA player for the Utah Jazz who came out in 2007 after he retired, believes that Thomas’ coming out will challenge the world of professional sports.
Professional football players could stand to learn a thing or two from rugby players. Maybe this will be their first lesson.
Blogger Bio: Lyndsey D'Arcangelo is a versatile writer, having experience as a journalist, copywriter, author, freelancer and blogger. She is the author of the Golden Crown Literary Society Award-winning book, The Trouble with Emily Dickinson (also a Lambda Literary Award finalist). Her recent novel, The Crabapple Tree, was published in May 2009. In addition to writing short stories and novels, Lyndsey also contributes regularly to a variety of national and local publications. (lyndseydarcangelo.com)