As I was questioning about what to base my blog on ... I surfed the web for numerous topics in regards to sexuality. I started to adjust my focus to sexuality in sports and came across Gareth Thomas and his story. First off I’ll start with a little back ground info on Gareth himself and the sport of rugby…. (a)
Gareth Thomas is a Welsh professional rugby footballer. He plays rugby league for the Crusaders in
Thomas’ public confirmation of his sexuality made him the first openly gay professional rugby player. Thomas told the Daily Mail, “I don’t want to be known as the gay rugby player. I am a rugby player; first and foremost I am a man.” (1)
Thomas was the master of disguise as a straight man. He would play off the “macho man” stereotype. He would go to the bars with the guys and would always be the first one start a fight. This relates to Michael Messner’s article Becoming 100% Straight. Messner discusses how in the sports institutions peers manually construct the definition of ‘masculinity’ and ‘heterosexuality’ and how players will act to control others’ perceptions of them and avoid allowing the true inner self to come out. Messner says, “…heterosexuality and masculinity were not something we ‘were’, but something we were doing.” (2) Heterosexuality is a constructed identity and institution that men engage them in to avoid shame and embarrassment if even being suspected of being gay and to conjoin with the titles of power and privilege. Male athletes have this persona that they have to live up to as being the “macho-man” and heaven forbid if you can be a homosexual athlete and still be just as amazing of a player as a heterosexual athlete. In Masculinity as Homophobia by Michael Kimmel, homophobia is referred to as a fear that other men will “emasculate us, reveal to us and the world that we do not measure up, that we are not a real man.” (3) Especially in the sports world, you don’t want to be the “weak link” and be called a “faggot” or “sissy” so you live up to the normal standards of the athlete.
Gareth Thomas is a hero to the gay community. Thomas commented, "I don't know if my life is going to be easier because I'm out, but if it helps someone else…then it will have been worth it.” (1) I think that it goes to show how strong of an individual Gareth is for continuing to still play rugby and to pave the way for other gay athletes to come out as well. Well done Gareth Thomas, lets hope that if there are any other gay athletes (male or female), you have shown them that they can be unmasked and not have to fret over the ridicule. I don’t really understand why it matters so much to society what an athlete, or anyone for that matter, does behind closed doors. It doesn’t change the fact that Thomas is a superior athlete at rugby. Unless this stereotype is broken, society will never learn to change or accept anything else. I’ve attached the link to an interview on the Ellen DeGeneres show in which I leave you with a powerful message from Thomas himself:
The power and influence that sports people have on the world in general is such an amazing thing and sport can change the world
and being gay in a sport and continuing on with that sport sends
such a positive message to children and adults.