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Gareth Thomas ... the only openly gay male athlete
May 03, 2010
He's 6'3" and 225 pounds of muscle. He's broken his nose five times, fractured both shoulders and lost eight teeth. He's drunk his mates under the table and brawled by their side. He's been named to the Welsh national rugby team more times than any other man. And, among active players in major professional team sports, he's ...
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May 03, 2010

Gareth Thomas ... The Only Openly Gay Male Athlete

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Rugby for pussies: That's what he and his teammates call American football.

Why has America created an environment that's not open to gay sportsmen, butt?

No helmets, no pads, just balls: That's how he describes his own sport.

So tell me, butt. I really want to f---in' know what's going on in America!

Sometimes you have to go far away to see yourself. Sometimes you have to go to a land where people use different words and have different rituals and sing different songs. Sometimes you have to watch people play an unfamiliar game to see your games.

So how do we answer Gareth Thomas? Where is our pioneer? Why hasn't one gay male athlete in a major professional team sport in our country—one who's still playing, not one retired—ever come out?

Even the U.S. military is preparing to cross the line that 25 other countries' armies already have. Will team sports be the last place in the U.S. where a gay man feels he must hide and lie?

Maybe, when we sit down in front of our games this weekend, if we peer into the players' eyes and realize that one of every 10 of them may be living the nightmare that Gareth Thomas has lived, the spell would be broken. Unless, of course, the one in 10 has long since been frightened away from our playing fields and courts and rinks and been winnowed to the one in 20 or 30.

Maybe, if we really understood what hiding and lying does to a man, what's still happening in American sports couldn't possibly happen.

He tried to become invisible as he took the field in Toulouse that Saturday four months ago, his first honest day in the two decades since sex hormones began flooding his bloodstream. He glued his eyes to the grass during warmups. He kept his headphones clamped on his ears. Once Gareth had been a fan favorite in this French city, starring for Europe's preeminent rugby club, but who knew what awaited him now as a member of the visiting Cardiff Blues, headlined in that morning's papers for having just revealed his homosexuality? Especially since he was gift wrapped in that pink jersey that the team occasionally—and by sheer chance, today—wears for away matches.

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