This Sports Illustrated article describes Gareth Thomas, a gay Welsh rugbyman, and his reign as one of the very few openly gay athletes in the world. A few articles highlight openly gay athletes in the Olympics, but by and large these athletes are mostly female and/or athletes in less publicized sports like diving. Of course, these athletes should be commended for their courage and openness. However, there is a noticeable lack of gay male athletes in mainstream sports like football, basketball, and baseball - and rugby if you happen to live outside of the United States. Some athletes have come out after retirement, but the amount of male athletes that have come out while playing professionally is lacking. And quite honestly, I can’t blame them.
It would be awesome to live in a world where people could show who they really are. And additionally, I think it would be amazing to have professional athletes to serve as role models for gay athletes everywhere, to normalize homosexuality. But the truth is, an athlete that comes forth as gay risks his career, just as soccer star Justin Fashanu did. Upon coming out, Fashanu was never offered a full-time contract with a club. While this happened twenty years ago this October, it is easy to believe that we as a society have not come far enough to where male athletes are lauded for their talents no matter their sexuality.
Regardless, the story of Gareth Thomas is pretty incredible. After years of suppressing his sexuality, Thomas took off his mask and showed the world who he truly is, and received tremendous support as a result. As of now, Thomas is about the only gay athlete that we have to look up to. While serving as a role model for gay athletes everywhere who yearn to pursue their interests in sports, Thomas also represents gay men in a vastly straight world and shows the world that gay men can be successful in sports, too.