Gareth 'Alfie' Thomas's Secret Past shown on TV
WELSH rugby hero Gareth Thomas has told the secret story behind his coming out to the nation.
He has filmed a personal documentary which was shown on Channel 5 last night.
Coming Out — My Secret Past was a one-off hard-hitting documentary highlighting his struggle.
Listed 12th in the world on the international list of leading rugby union test try scorers and the first Welshman to win 100 international caps, Gareth was a leading player in one of the most masculine of sports between 1995 and 2007.
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However, for 20 years of his life, he tried to hide that he was gay from supporters, fellow players and his family.
In the documentary, Gareth goes back to his roots to discover what effect his secrecy had on others, to explain why he behaved as he did.
He also said he wanted to encourage other people to be open and honest about their sexuality.
"I am Gareth Thomas, the only professional rugby union player to publicly say, "I am gay". I have been through 20 years of torment battling with my sexuality," he said in the film.
"I became a master of playing the straight man. I caused misery for those closest to me. I hated being Gareth Thomas. I hated the man I looked at in the mirror. I hated him so much I wanted to die."
In the film, Gareth, who has been starring in ITV's Dancing On Ice, visited his parents Barry and Yvonne, near Bridgend, to see how they felt about him making the documentary.
His sexuality was never something they openly discussed. Gareth told his family he felt he had a responsibility to discuss it because of his position in the public eye.
While at home he also went through some old memorabilia from his time at Pencoed RFC. Alfie, now 38, said watching old videos of his time there reminded him of how angry he was as a young man.
He said he would take his aggression out on the opposition players "to look hard". And he recalled joining in "homophobic changing-room banter" as a way of hiding who he was.
While filming the documentary, Gareth met 17-year-old Olly who had been bullied at school because of his sexual orientation.
"I just wanted to escape from the world," Olly told him, admitting to self-harming and feeling suicidal. It was only when he came out to his family and friends that a weight was lifted from his shoulders and he started his life anew, he added.
During last night's documentary Gareth, who married his on-off girlfriend Gemma when he was 27, also returned to the church where he exchanged his vows.
Five years later, he confessed his sexual orientation to her and moved out.
But even then only his closest family and friends knew the real reason behind the split.
Following one disastrous performance on the pitch, he said he faced up to his teammates and came out to some of the senior players.
"It's hard to admit, but I wasted 20 years of my life hiding who I was," he added.
"I don't want anyone else to go through what I did. I'm really passionate that people should be open about their sexuality as soon as they feel comfortable with it."