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International Rugby Player Comes Out
December 19, 2009 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Gareth Thomas is the first Welshman to have played in 100 rugby union test matches for his country. He also played in three tests for the British and Irish Lions on their tour of New Zealand in 2005, captaining the side in two of those matches. The 6'3", 226 lbs. utility back now plays for the Cardiff Blues. At one point, the Welsh rugby legend held the try-scoring record for Wales. In today's Daily Mail, Thomas revealed he is gay.

The article details how his inner circle of friends on the national team offered their support immediately when told he is gay, and how his current Blues teammates now know - and apparently don't care.
posted by jleisek (51 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm glad his teammates don't care. On the other hand, how many people, including professional rugby players, want to pick a fight with this guy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:14 PM on December 19, 2009


I was confused for a second, as I was think of the other Welshman named Gareth Thomas, known primarily for his rile as Roj Blake in Blake's 7.

At least we're on our way (albeit at an almost glacially slow pace, as cultures do), to the point that one's preference for gender in a relationship will be about as important as one's preference for a certain model of automobile. People will still argue and debate about it, but in the end, it's no big deal.
posted by chambers at 12:25 PM on December 19, 2009


I know it's dorky but I always like these OMG $STAR IS GAY stories when the actual content of the story is people talking to the friends and them saying "Yeah, who cares?" That's a surprisingly candid article with him talking about his marriage, how and when he decided to come out, and all the grappling he's been doing with all the conflicting ideas in his head. Good on him for doing this before someone did it for him.
posted by jessamyn at 12:28 PM on December 19, 2009


Good for him. I'm surprised he chose(?) the Daily Mail, but the article is pretty good.

He's the highest profile British sports person I can think of to come out while still actually playing.
posted by selton at 12:33 PM on December 19, 2009


Normally I'm allergic to The Daily Mail, but this was actually quite a good article. It reminds me of the rather heartwarming story of the openly gay young British soldier serving in Afghanistan. They too accepted him and didn't care about his sexuality (beyond, "harmless banter").
posted by jonesor at 12:35 PM on December 19, 2009


A couple more people. A few weeks ago, Brendan Burke, the student manager of Miami's hockey team, and son of the Leafs'/US National team's GM Brian Burke, came out. Reactions from more players which seems a bit ambivalent. Personally, I think the 'uncomfortableness' in the last link is an unwillingness to step into a family matter, rather than any issues with Brendan being gay.

It's good to see the macho culture accept gays and shrug about it. Reducing the "signs" of being gay to, well, who one gets excited over makes it easier both to be openly gay, and to be outside of the norm in other ways.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:46 PM on December 19, 2009


At 6ft 3in and 16st of pure muscle, his masculinity has always been an absolute given.

Um, it still is? I'm going to pretend I don't understand what they're suggesting.
posted by Sova at 12:50 PM on December 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Has the Daily Mail fired Jan Moir then?
posted by Solomon at 1:03 PM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


"The Earth has always been round" != "The Earth is now square"
posted by scrowdid at 1:06 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Probably the most famous gay footballer I can think of down under was Ian Roberts - who represented NSW a bunch of times & played 13 tests for Australia.

Well known in Sydney gay circles for some time, Roberts came out publicly in 1995, discussing his sexuality in magazines and on television over the following year. The rugby league world was generally very supportive, with other players commenting that it was important to be "true to yourself", while The NRL Footy Show principals Paul Vautin, Peter Sterling and Steve Roach appeared in a poster campaign against homophobia conducted by the Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project.

I think this was the cover photo of him in a gay magazine around about the time he came out, while still playing professional rugby league. And I just came upon this bizarre portrait of him [nsfw] from the National Portrait Gallery.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:31 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm also wondering why he gave an exclusive interview to the most homophobic newspaper in Britain. Maybe they were about to run a kiss-and-tell and offered him another option?

Anyway, not that it matters, but his sexuality has been an open secret in Welsh rugby clubs for years. I'm amazed that it's taken this long.
posted by afx237vi at 1:34 PM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, one of the top rugby referees - Nigel Owens - came out a few years ago.
posted by afx237vi at 1:35 PM on December 19, 2009


I'm going to pretend I don't understand what they're suggesting.

From what I understand, the Daily Mail's bread and butter is the knuckle-dragging conservative homophobe demographic, so when they actually want to sincerely laud someone they have to include those type of qualifiers.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:36 PM on December 19, 2009


So basically what I take from this is that Gareth Thomas is now the most terrifying-looking gay man alive. Seriously, look at that fucker. He looks like he could rip you apart with his bare hands and not even work up a sweat doing it.
posted by mightygodking at 1:37 PM on December 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


Huh, a gay rugby player. Who'd have thunk it?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 1:40 PM on December 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Brendan Burke, the student manager of Miami's hockey team

miami has a hockey team???
posted by billybobtoo at 1:40 PM on December 19, 2009


Sorry, my bad. Miami University, which is in Ohio. I don't know why I assumed it was in Miami.

Wait, yes I do.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:57 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


UbuRoivas: I just came upon this bizarre portrait of him from the National Portrait Gallery.

Sweet baby Jesus! That's an amazing portrait. If I ever move someone to do a portrait like that I'll know that my life has been well lived.
posted by Kattullus at 1:57 PM on December 19, 2009


Interestingly, there is a serious contingent of gay men who like to play rugby and have formed gay rugby teams around the world. Can't really say the same about other team sports, I don't think. There are many gay athletes in individual sports, like track and field, tennis, golf, etc. but when it comes to teams, I think rugby has the kind of exposure and inclusiveness that pretty much all other professional sports lack. So this news and the players' reactions do not surprise me in the least.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:29 PM on December 19, 2009


Probably the most famous gay footballer I can think of down under was Ian Roberts...

Ian Roberts on Gareth Thomas's coming out:
"It's great that the times have allowed for it. It's so bewildering to me that other people haven't allowed for that to happen to themselves. There are so many gay sportspeople ... gay people playing league. I'm just like, 'How can you be controlled by all these other people?' It doesn't have to be a problem, as long as you don't allow it to be a problem. I think it's great ... at long last someone else has done it! It's almost like, that's the breaking of the ice for me. The fact that someone else has done it, it shows that it can happen and it does happen."
posted by ericb at 2:31 PM on December 19, 2009


Out Athletes/ LGBT Sportspeople.
posted by ericb at 2:53 PM on December 19, 2009


Good for him.

A few months ago, one of Ireland's elite sportsmen, Donal Óg Cusack came out as gay. He is the goalkeeper for the Cork hurling team. After an initial round of "Holy shit!", people have been wonderfully unconcerned by it.

Here's a Guardian article as it's the first thing I found.
posted by knapah at 2:56 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gareth,you could be a green guy from out of space for all i care. You still are,and always will be one of my biggest heros in the game that i have always loved. What you and the boys have done for our country makes me proud to be a boyo.
Nothing to be ashamed of at all fella. I have lots of gay mates.
Keep up the good work buddy.
All the very best for the future,and give my love to Gods country


Not the sort of online comment I would have expected from a Daily Mail reader.
posted by tim_in_oz at 2:57 PM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can't really say the same about other team sports, I don't think.

Au contraire mon frère.

There is a significant number of gay teams in towns/cities around the globe -- many of which compete in the Gay Games in:
Badminton, Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Bowling, Cycling, DanceSport, Darts, Diving, Field Hockey, Figure Skating, Flag Football, Golf, Handball, Ice Hockey, Inline Speed Skating, Martial Arts, Physique, Pool (Billiards), Power Lifting, Racquetball & Squash, Road Races, Rowing, Rugby, Sailing, Soccer (Football), Softball, Sport Climbing, Sport Shooting, Swimming, Synchronised Swimming, Tennis, Table Tennis, Track and Field, Triathlon, Volleyball, Water Polo, and Wrestling.
posted by ericb at 2:58 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


A shame this is FP-worthy MeFi news.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:58 PM on December 19, 2009


At 6ft 3in and 16st of pure muscle, his masculinity has always been an absolute given.

Um, it still is? I'm going to pretend I don't understand what they're suggesting.
posted by Sova at 8:50 PM on December 19 [has favorites +] [!]


The Guardian also managed to mention his height & weight. Though compared to other pro Rugby players he's not that particularly heavy or tall.

But maybe they also thought they'd have to tell their readers that "he doesn't mince around or look effeminate" without actually using the words.
posted by selton at 3:01 PM on December 19, 2009


In related news: An exhibition of William Yang's photos of Australian Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham rawr! has just opened in Sydney at the Maunsell Wickes at Barry Stern Galleries.
posted by ericb at 3:04 PM on December 19, 2009


as my mom always says, "There's nothing wrong with being happy."
posted by philip-random at 3:29 PM on December 19, 2009


Sure she didn't mean gay?
posted by notreally at 3:51 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Main Entry: gay
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: happy
posted by philip-random at 3:55 PM on December 19, 2009


Though compared to other pro Rugby players he's not that particularly heavy or tall.

He's a back. He's not going to be the biggest guy out there.
posted by electroboy at 4:09 PM on December 19, 2009


A gay rugby player, meh. A Welshman with vowels in his name, now that's something.
posted by Quietgal at 4:18 PM on December 19, 2009 [13 favorites]


Yeah, it's a shame this is newsworthy. It reminded me of this.
posted by various at 7:06 PM on December 19, 2009


Though compared to other pro Rugby players he's not that particularly heavy or tall.

He's a back. He's not going to be the biggest guy out there.


Right. He's pretty big for his position, and a serious brickhouse on the run. Here, here, Mr. Thomas!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:11 PM on December 19, 2009


Good for him. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, we don't have a single out gay All Black. It'd be great if it were ho-hum news and I missed it, but I don't think we're ready for that yet.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:12 PM on December 19, 2009


Gareth Thomas is the first Welshman to have played in 100 rugby...

You had me at rugby.
posted by humannaire at 8:57 PM on December 19, 2009


A few months ago, one of Ireland's elite sportsmen, Donal Óg Cusack came out as gay.
About the worst comment I read about Donal Óg was cynical speculation that the timing of the announcement coinciding with him promoting his autobiography was calculated to bump us sales that bit more.
posted by Abiezer at 9:52 PM on December 19, 2009


At 6ft 3in and 16st of pure muscle, his masculinity has always been an absolute given.

Um, it still is? I'm going to pretend I don't understand what they're suggesting.
posted by Sova


See also: "'If I walked in [to a gay bar], there would always be an element of fear. I would wonder who I was going to bump into, who was going to see me?' says Gareth, who insists he always practised safe sex."

Oh please.
posted by creeky at 4:36 AM on December 20, 2009


I'm shocked that the Daily Mail article is so bloody good. It's not just not stupid or not full of seething hatred, it's good!

Thomas was a great player (his best is in the past). Welsh rugby fans are always torn between wanting Wales to win and wanting them to play like Welshmen (and usually getting neither). This bloke always played like the Welsh might once again insouciantly win.
posted by hawthorne at 5:08 AM on December 20, 2009


...but additionally, a lot of Welsh rugby fans, including me, hold him partially responsible for the complete shambles that followed the 2005 Grand Slam, which eventually led to the coach (the best one we had in decades) getting the sack. Who can forget the cringe-inducing Scrum V appearance where he got so wound up by the interviewer that he literally popped a blood vessel and had to be rushed into hospital?

Great player, yes... gay, so what... he's still a bit of an idiot IMO.
posted by afx237vi at 5:58 AM on December 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


What a great article! I particularly like how they ran so much about him talking about his ex-wife, the mixture of love and regret and confusion with his relationship with her. That's a much more subtle story than the usual "omg he's homo!" coming out articles you read.
posted by Nelson at 7:04 AM on December 20, 2009


I also hear he runs like a Welshman.
posted by electroboy at 10:36 AM on December 20, 2009


I'm also wondering why he gave an exclusive interview to the most homophobic newspaper in Britain. Maybe they were about to run a kiss-and-tell and offered him another option?

Quite possibly - or possibly not even a kiss and tell. The classic stitch-up model is from the Times' treatment of "Girl with a One Track Mind", when, allegedly, the Sunday Times worked out the identity of the anonymous sex blogger, sent a delivery of flowers to get a photo, and then offered her the chance either to have a sympathetic interview with India Knight and a flattering photo shoot done, or to be outed with the unflattering candid snaps of her running alongside the story. The fuller story is here. It's by no means unusual for British tabloids to try to smoke people out into giving them an exclusive with the promise of a sympathetic hearing.

The funny thing about the Daily Mail is that its readership is so large and so broad that it is frequently to the left of the paper they are reading. The Mail reader, insofar as one can assign a type, is middle-class but not particularly well-educated or wealthy, and is ideologically incoherent; it has no problem with feeling affection for fluffy, adorable and somewhat sexless gay men (like Matt Lucas or Stephen Gately, hence the immediate, pre-Twitter Jan Moir backlash), despite a feeling of incoherent but profound unease about the tide of "political correctness" sweeping the land - essentially, they want freedom from hatred and persecution to be a gift they can offer to worthy gay men, foreigners and women, rather than a universal goal pursued by the state.

So, it's very possible that either the Mail or another paper had the goods, or was getting close (the official story is that Belle du Jour broke cover because the Express was going to expose her through an interview with her ex), and spiking the guns of a potential exposé was best achieved by placing the story in the big-seling Mail - it would certainly fit the profile. Also, giving the Mail the story means the editor, Paul Dacre, who personally controls its editorial line in a way that most editors do not, will keep the guns of the columnists off him - and given that those columnists include Jan Moir and Richard Littlejohn, that might be a powerful argument.
posted by DNye at 11:09 AM on December 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


I was going to do a front-page post on this, but it seems to have been superseded by events. Outsports links to three blogs by closeted athletes.
posted by joeclark at 11:49 AM on December 20, 2009


I have it on good authority (ie from someone who plays the sport at an international level) that 90% of rugby players are gay....
posted by subbasshead at 12:44 PM on December 20, 2009


And then there's the French rugby team that poses nude -- alone and together -- for an annual homoerotic calendar: Dieux du Stade.
posted by ericb at 3:39 PM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


ericb: your "alone and together" link just gave me whiplash. I'm sending you the doctor's bill. I will, however, waive all charges for a copy of the 2010 calendar.
posted by hippybear at 7:03 PM on December 20, 2009


Yeah, I'm boringly straight but I was also brought up short by the photos of the Stade rugby players.
posted by Kattullus at 7:39 PM on December 20, 2009


Does the US not have the tradition of the nude calendar? You can't move for them round my way - the last time I was back at my college, it seemed the Women's rowing team had just put one out, to raise funds, which given that the majority of them will be under 21 seemed a bit much, but of course the nudity is very tasteful and jolly.

I'd probably quibble with subbasshead's friend's 90% - not even the Church of England priesthood is 90% gay, and that sort of critical mass is very hard to conceal indeed - but it does highlight another element. Rugby's an incredibly homosocial game, especially Rugby Union (rather than Rugby League, the hard-as-nails Northern English version which was professional for decades before Union finally abandoned shamateurism), and hand in hand with intense homosociality go bursts of homosexual panic - when you spend a lot of your time grabbing each other's bottoms in the shower, you need a well-constructed homosexual other. Alternatively, if you are not the bottom-grabbing type, all that bottom-grabbing might look quite gay to you, when to those doing it it's nothing of the sort - it is, if anything, an inoculation against the gay.

It's a funny old game, essentially. With some very hot Frenchmen, as it turns out.
posted by DNye at 10:21 AM on December 21, 2009


Thomas can expect hard time after gay revelation - Amaechi
" Former NBA player John Amaechi has warned Gareth Thomas to expect a tough time after the ex-Wales rugby captain revealed he was gay.

...'When people learn you are gay, often that can squash your definition so all the good stuff goes and you just become "some gay rugby player," which is quite difficult for many athletes to deal with,' Amaechi told the BBC.

Amaechi, who revealed he was gay after retiring from basketball in 2007, added homophobia was still present in sport.

'Sport still needs to grow up in certain areas,' said the Briton. 'As much as society has moved on, sport is still dragging behind.'

Clive Woodward, who coached England to their 2003 World Cup triumph, said rugby would react positively to Thomas's news.

'I am sure rugby will take it in its stride,' Woodward told the BBC. 'If anyone doesn't take that attitude then they've got the problem, rather than Gareth having a problem.'"
posted by ericb at 1:30 PM on December 21, 2009


Ex-Wife of Rugby Star Gareth Thomas on His Coming Out
"I still love Gareth and I will never stop loving him,' says Jemma, in her first interview since he publicly announced he was gay. 'What happened to us is just so terribly sad. He really was the perfect husband in every other way.

"I'm incredibly proud of him for coming out and if anyone thinks any less of him because of it, then they are stupid. I know it was a massive relief when he told me, his family and close friends three years ago, and it will be even more of a relief now that everyone knows.

"He is now free to be who he is and I, and everyone else who knows and loves him, am happy for him because he is a very special person. I don't feel angry, embarrassed or humiliated, nor do I regret marrying Gareth for a second. I know with all my heart that he adored me as much as I adored him on our wedding day, and I had the most fantastic years of my life with him.

"It would be easy to wallow in self-pity and dwell on the negatives, but I am a positive person and I'm grateful that he loved me so much he had to tell me the truth because he felt I deserved better.

"He released me and in doing so he released himself. Gareth could have waited for years to tell me, wasted my life, and where would that have left me? I was only 30 when he told me, still young enough to meet someone else and have children."
What an incredible and loving statement.
posted by ericb at 2:05 PM on December 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


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