This story, about Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas, made me cry.
The remarkable thing about that is that I'm not typically easy to move to tears. I'm no Vulcan, but I'm not exactly your average Lifetime movie viewer either. Another remarkable thing is that the story is about Rugby. I have no interest in Rugby whatsoever. Another remarkable thing is that this story about rugby that made me cry was in Sport Illustrated. Anyone who knows me knows that the appropriate follow up question to that factoid would be 'Why the fuck were you reading Sport's Illustrated?'
The answer to the last question is easy. It was the only magazine in the bathroom I was using. I'm at a point in my life where I can't even imagine taking a shit and not reading something at the same time. I just don't think I could do it; burn all of the books and magazines and cereal boxes in the world and Spencer Troxell will die of constipation. True story.
So, I was reading the only magazine that was in the bathroom, and I came across this article about Gareth Thomas, the only openly gay male athlete in a team sport.
What drew Gareth Thomas to rugby:
"The brotherhood. That's what magnetized Alf to rugby, what he felt in the marrow of his oft-broken bones. No other sport on earth demanded that a man lay his unprotected body on the line so relentlessly for his mates. Rugby, like the NFL, was a weekly car wreck, only its season lasted twice as long, and its games, with no stoppages for gathering one's breath or wits or heart, were two 40-minute streams of running and colliding that ground down every man, flushed his vulnerability from its hideaways and compelled even the strongest player to realize how much he needed the weakest. No other sport matched rugby's fervor for bonding; no other's coaches directed their buses to the nearest pub for team sing-alongs, drink-alongs and the occasional chair-flying free-for-alls after away games, or ordered their players to report for unscheduled conditioning sessions only to stab a finger at the beer cases stacked in the corner and cry, "We're not leaving till the last beer's done, boys!" ... all in the name of forging brotherhood."
The story goes on to talk about Thomas's coming out experience, his thoughts about why no other player in a major male team sport has joined his ranks, and how his team has gathered around him in support.
As a straight man, gay rights is ostensibly not my battle. 'I don't have a dog in the fight', as they say, but really I do. We all do. It's everyone's business whether or not our fellow citizens have access to the same civil rights as we do, and are not stigmatized because of certain benign traits that they possess. I admire people who come out of the closet. It's got to be tough. We've all come out of the closet in one way or the other (or need to in one way or the other), so this is something we should all be able to identify with.
Another thing about this story that struck me is the way Thomas's rugby teammates seem to have rallied around him. Good for them. Talk about bucking stereotypes. Something that people who feel outcast often have trouble with is the expectation of support. The 'One In, All In' ethos of rugby seems to have held up here.
We need more people to be brave enough to stand up as who they are, and we need more people willing to see reflections of themselves in those who do.
Maybe I'll look into rugby. I think I've found a team to root for.