Entertainment » Books


by Chris Kelly
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Dec 1, 2015

At 35-years-old, Gareth Thomas, Welsh rugby star and team captain, was a household name in the UK when he announced that he was gay in 2009. It was an act he'd feared for most of his life and it happened only after he'd come literally to the edge, standing in his underwear cliff-side, steeling himself for a leap to the sea below.

"Proud," Thomas' acclaimed autobiography, relates his difficult journey from fear to pride, detailing parallel lives: the talented, hard-charging rugby player who racks up acclaim and the respect of teammates and sports fans, and the frightened young man who slinks into gay bars, fearful of revealing gestures or lingering glances. For years, that secret second life, fretfully hidden, gnaws at the first, shadowing Thomas' accomplishments, and leaving him hollow.

Chapters dealing with Thomas' slow, painful journey toward honesty are absorbing and recognizable for readers who've made their own way along that path. As a young man, Thomas does his best to play the straight cad, and even falls in love and marries a woman. His love for her is genuine but compromised by deceit and guilt, as he slips away to satisfy his desires.

"Proud" is a worthy addition to the canon of coming-out stories that may give gay teens and closeted adults a welcome shot of courage.

The book picks up steam once Thomas reveals his homosexuality to a British newspaper and is vaulted to worldwide celebrity, meeting Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John, who recalls attending a rugby match where thousands attempt to mock him, chanting "Elton John is a homosexual." Sir Elton simply laughed and waved in acknowledgment. He encourages Thomas, "Let's not give some people what they want, which is a car crash. Let's move forward positively, and show that others can gain spirit from what you have done." Thomas specifically thanks London's gay community, whom he credits with protecting his secret until he's ready to share it.

Lengthy sections focusing on Thomas' rugby career may bewilder U.S. readers: hard-fought victories, painful losses, and candid opinions on teammates and adversaries will mean little to those unfamiliar with the sport, but insight into team dynamics and the ways that his fellow players support and encourage him are interesting and in some cases, surprising.

Highlighting the diversity of the gay community and the challenges of coming out in a traditionally straight arena, "Proud" is a worthy addition to the canon of coming-out stories that may give gay teens and closeted adults a welcome shot of courage.

Gareth Thomas
Ebury Press

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