Gay rugby star hosts 'coming out' party to thank friends

Sport and stage stars turn out to show solidarity with Wales's 'role model' player

For one of the rugby world's more eloquent stars, the speech was surprisingly brief – but then Gareth Thomas has done a lot of talking in recent weeks. Just before Christmas he did the unthinkable and became the first professional player in Britain to admit he is gay. Last night was his chance to celebrate the announcement.

"Everybody here tonight is celebrating that the world is changing," he said. "We are here to send the message that it's OK to be a sportsman and it is also OK to be gay."

The venue was Movida, a glitzy London club with a bright pink bar and equally garish cocktails – not a very likely hangout for burly rugby players. But this was no post-match celebration, rather an opportunity to tell the world that the sport was longer a place in which gay players had to hide their sexuality. Last night, the former Welsh captain's friends and supporters joined Britain's gay glitterati for Thomas's official "coming out" party – a remarkable display of solidarity that many hope will signal the beginning of the end of homophobia in sport.

Former and current rugby stars including Will Carling, Matt Dawson, Gareth Williams and Lee Byrne were present, along with the likes of Sir Ian McKellen, Will Young and Graham Norton. The gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said he hoped Thomas's decision to publicly declare his sexuality would inspire others.

"If more top-class professional sportspeople came out as Gareth has done they would win huge amounts of public respect for their honesty and courage," he said. "It would boost their public standing and provide a very powerful and positive role model for young lesbian, gay and bisexual people who are coming to terms with their sexuality for the first time."

The positive reaction from the public, particularly in Wales where Thomas is a national hero, has convinced him to throw himself into an active campaigning role for gay rights. In the six weeks since he came out, he has already signed up to be a patron of the annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month, and is in the process of filming a documentary about homophobia for ITV.

Thomas told The Independent last night: "The most important thing in my life is rugby and that will always be the case. But I will inevitably become something of a role model and that's something I'm happy to embrace. It's not about self-promotion, it's about actually doing something positive that will help other people."

Matthew Todd, editor of the gay magazine Attitude, which co-hosted the party, said it was clear that Thomas intended to be known as more than just a rugby player.

"Not since Sir Ian McKellen came out have we seen someone throw themselves into the gay rights cause with such enthusiasm," he said.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes