Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Stories travel fast in sporting circles, and while many of us may have heard the rumours a while back, Gareth Thomas publicly admitted the truth about his sexuality this past weekend.
Thomas, capped over 100 times for Wales and former captain of the British & Irish Lions, is the epitome of masculinity. Big, strong, and anything but pretty, he's managed to fool everyone for years as he slotted into the role of your typical male rugby player.
In his own words, he became a 'master of disguise' as he learnt who to like, what to say, and how to react to the usual banter that goes on amongst the macho male rugby fraternity.
Plunged into a state of anxiety and depression, and having split up with his wife, he's now come forward to tell his story, in the hope that others will realise that there's nothing to be ashamed of.
One of the top referees in rugby, Nigel Owens, announced that he's gay a few years back, and has since found that his career hasn't been tarnished in the slightest from it. He feels that Thomas will be pleasantly surprised at how few people actually consider it an issue.
"I can understand why it is big news because he's the first professional rugby player to come out but as far as people are concerned it's just a case of 'so what, let's just get on with it'.
"It comes with a bit of a taboo, still, that you will be known as 'the gay rugby player', probably as I am known now as 'the gay referee'.
"It certainly has died down but there's still that bit of stigma that you can expect from certain people.
"But as far as the rugby community goes as a whole, I'm sure he will be very pleasantly surprised, like I was, that you're able to just get on with it," he added.
Thomas, now 35, has appreciated the positive response from the majority of fans so far.
"I just want to thank everyone for the amazing response I have received, on behalf of me, my family and friends. I hope that by saying this I can make a big difference to others in my situation. But for now, I just want to focus on being a rugby player."
Thomas is a Welsh legend, and a rugby player first and foremost. Highly respected already, this difficult decision that he's made will hopefully change the attitudes of many when it comes to accepting that one can be gay and not only play rugby, but achieve great things in it.
In this interview clip, we've included a nice try that he scored against Edinburgh for Cardiff a few months back, as it wasn't shown on the site at the time.
Thomas is a big supporter of Childline in the UK, who you can contact if you ever need to discuss anything that's troubling you. You can call 0800 1111 free of charge, or visit their website at www.childline.org.uk
More info: We posted this story, in more detail, here a few days back.
Full interview: You can watch the in-depth, 28 minute interview with Thomas here.