Alfie Thomas and Rick Welts and Jared Max: coming out

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Gareth Thomas, whose friends call him Alfie, is a gigantic toothless Welsh rugby player who has had the guts to come out of the closet. He has become an icon in the gay/athletic community. He’s done talk shows and interviews, and he’s established a foundation for young people, encouraging diversity.

 

 

He is, by the way, the only professional male team athlete in the world! who has come out as gay.

 

 

Last week, Rick Welts (whom I’d never heard of but who is president of the Phoenix Suns basketball team), also came out of the closet, with some very well-chosen words about being tired of leading what he called “a shadow life.”

 

 

I was watching the sports channels while I was on the treadmill the other night, and they were all chattering about this. Is it, they wondered, because male team sports create an environment hostile to free expression of anything other than heterosexuality?

 

 

Gawrsh. I wonder.

 

 

I’m not enough of a sports buff to know the names and faces, but I clock them in when they’re brave enough to out themselves:

 

 

  • Johnny Weir and Rudy Galindo, both of whom are as gay as Christmas at Bloomingdale’s, but who are both brave enough to address it – and be proud of it – in a sport which is just sloppin’ over with closeted gay men. (If you ever get a chance to see a replay of the “Smuckers Stars on Ice” edition of “Family Feud,” I highly recommend it. The interplay between Kurt Browning and Scott Hamilton made me giggle. And, yes, I know they’re both married to women and everything. But, um – guys? Anything you’d like to tell us?)

  • John Amaechi, the very thoughtful former Utah Jazz player, who retired from pro basketball, came out of the closet, and is now a counselor.

  • Martina Navratilova, God bless her.

  • Poor sad beautiful Greg Louganis.

  • David Kopay, from back in the 1970s, who actually came out, wrote a book about it, and was written off as an aberration.


 

It will keep happening. As Rick Welts said the other night, society is changing. Slowly – perhaps more slowly in some places than others – but gradually, and always in the same direction.

 

 

And after a while it will seem beside the point. Because we are – and have always been – everywhere.

 

 

It’s not like we’re popping out of the woodwork by spontaneous generation, after all. We were here all the time. We’ve always been here.

 

 

It took me a long time to have the guts to come out, even a little bit, to a few people. I didn’t come out to members of my family until I was in my forties (coward that I am). And I still know people who haven’t really come out at all.

 

 

Bless Alfie, and Rick Welts, and all the rest of them, for helping the young and timid and frightened to find their way.

 

 

(Postscript: I see that ESPN anchor Jared Max has also come out. That’s three sports-related people in one week.)

 

 

(Keep comin’ out, kids. I love it.)

 

 

(And we need it.)

 


 

 

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