Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gareth Thomas

Welsh rugby sporting legend Gareth "Alfie" Thomas came out in 2009, while still an active player. He had captained Wales in 2005 to their first Grand Slam victory since 1978. He had one of the fiercest reputations on the field – and a row of missing front teeth to prove it. He married in 2002, but confessed the truth about his sexual orientation to his devastated wife in 2006, unable to cope with the guilt of deceiving her. They soon separated. He spilled his long-kept secret to a coach and felt a huge wave of relief after living a lie for almost 20 years.

Astonishingly, his team mates offered support; their reaction was basically, “We don’t care. Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” Thomas said, “No one distanced himself from me – not one single person.” He continued to play as an openly gay athlete. Although he retired from international rugby in late 2007, he went on playing with the Cardiff Blues.

By 2009 he made the bold decision to go public. He felt attitudes had changed, and the time was right for sport to start accepting openly gay people as other professions had in recent years. He didn’t want young gay athletes to have to hide in the closet to suffer in silence, too terrified to tell anyone.

“I'm not going on a crusade, but I'm proud of who I am. I feel I have achieved everything I could ever possibly have hoped to achieve out of rugby, and I did it being gay. I want to send a positive message to other gay athletes that they can do it, too.”

At age 17 he realized that he wasn't attracted to women the way his teammates were, but he was unwilling to accept it. He made up stories about sexual conquests with women to fit in with the overly-macho world of rugby players. He sometimes got into fights to affirm his masculinity, thus cementing the ruse. His first sexual experience with a man (a non-rugby player) left him feeling ashamed and afraid. During his marriage he sometimes gave in to his same-sex urges when his team was on the road. The guilt was crippling. Reaching the breaking point emotionally and psychologically, he at last confessed his secret to his wife. She tried to be understanding, but realized that her husband’s feelings for men would never dissipate. They separated, but remained firm friends based on their honest feelings for each other.

“I don't want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player first and foremost. I am a man who just happens to be gay. It's irrelevant. What I choose to do when I close the door at home has nothing to do with what I have achieved in rugby.”

Of late Thomas has become an in demand representative for gay activism, and he started a hot line for young people who are grappling with their sexuality. He has become a positive role model working against stereotypes.

One of Gareth's more revealing moments:

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