Welsh Rugby
Thomas 'prayed to be straight'
ESPNscrum Staff
January 5, 2011
Cardiff Blues' Gareth Thomas takes on the Toulouse defence, Toulouse v Cardiff Blues, Heineken Cup, Stade Municipal, Toulouse, France, December 19, 2009
Gareth Thomas in action for Cardiff Blues in 2009 © Getty Images

Former Wales captain Gareth Thomas has appeared on a hit US chat show and revealed the struggles he endured when confronting his sexuality.

The British & Irish Lions international, who is now playing rugby league with the Crusaders, publicly declared that he was gay in 2009 and chose to re-live the agony leading up to that day on The Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this week when he told the host that he used to visit church and "pray to be straight" before his marriage.

Thomas has attracted great interest in the US following a profile of him appeared in Sports Illustrated and actor Mickey Rourke revealed recently that he hoped to play the Welshman in a biopic of his life.

Thomas, who grew up near Bridgend, recalled how he broke the secret of his sexuality to his wife, Jemma, who he divorced last year, as well as his parents. He also spoke of how he kept the secret from his Welsh team-mates.

"I became the master of playing the straight bat. I would go to bars with the boys, I would always be the one to start a fight, to be outrageous and drink the most," he said. "I even went to the extreme of marrying the perfect woman for me.

"I remember I used to go to the church we were due to get married in and I would sit there in the graveyard and look up to the steeple... clench my hands and close my eyes as tight as I could and pray to be straight."

Thomas revealed that his parents immediate reaction was muted but that they soon came round to supporting him. "My mother said 'Fetch the champagne from the fridge' and I replied that I didn't know why we were drinking champagne," he recalled. "My father, who is a tough guy and doesn't say much, said 'Son I just want to sit here and toast to the rest of your life'. I knew then that was an acceptance from my family.

"I don't try and coax people to come out because it needs to be right for them as an individual but when I speak to some people I realise that the power and influence that famous sportspeople have is amazing and to show such a positive message can change the world."

DeGeneres, who is also gay, later posted on Twitter: "Gareth Thomas is the first openly gay male athlete on any pro team. He's a hero, and I talked to him today."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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