Gareth Thomas “…the only openly gay male athelete.” Rarely has a headline made me reflect on society and analyze the taboo more than the one I found today on #longreads. Now I only recently found out who Gareth Thomas is, and I still struggle to understand exactly what Rugby is. But this article had me nodding in agreement. It’s right. Why, in the entirety of professional sports, has a 6′ 3”, 225 pound Welsh Rugby player been the only current, active male athlete to come out of the closet?
This article, by Gary Smith, let’s Gareth ask the questions in his thick Welsh accent. Smith portrays Thomas’ struggle with his sexuality by contrasting it with the brotherhood of rugby and the fear of discovery. Smith’s story about Thomas, who goes by the nickname Alf, is both wrenching a hopeful. He clearly explains the dangers of being openly gay and how Thomas battled every day until his declaration to keep it hidden from his teammates, his wife and himself.
Smith writes with a touch of Welsh vernacular, using Thomas’ voice to remind us all, that while a part of a larger picture, this is Thomas’ story and his battle. Thomas’ homosexuality kept him in a constant state of denial and fear. The rumors spread and Thomas’ character changed, the denial was only making things worse. Smith writes with a foreboding style, as if we are watching the fall of a great hero. The confession finally comes following a ministroke that incapacitates Thomas for six months, six months of questions and concern by others and by himself. The reality of who he was became too much for Thomas.
The beautiful part of this story is the outpouring of acceptance for Thomas after admitting his homosexuality. Thomas feared losing everything, his family, his friends, his team, his sport. But with the help of his coach and his mates, Thomas overcomes his greatest fears. Smith empowers Thomas and asks a very important question. Thomas is a pioneer in possibly one of the harshest environment to admit being gay.