Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Who Do You Look Up To?

Remember Gareth Thomas? The rugby player who recently came out of his own volition and at the top of his career? Well Gareth has popped up again, This time on the cover of Attitude.

This article, along with yesterdays conversation about how some people are bothered when gay men refer to themselves as "straight acting", has spawned a thought process in me about how we select our role models, and more specifically...gay role models. I wonder how they would recieve the news that Gareth Thomas wants to be a role model to young gay people and other gay men in the sports world? Do they also consider him offensive because he backs up the stereotype of the traditional Jock? Not pointing fingers...just wondering..

Everyone has a different interperatation of what strength is. Some find it in the feats of physical ability, some in appearances, some in emotional resilience, and still others find it as a character trait. When chosing role models, all these differing definitions factor in to who inspires us or who we want to emulate.

Personally I think Gareth is awsome....and I admit to having a small crush on him. The reason why I respect him though has less to do with his sports prowess and more to do with his character. I respect the fact that he chose to come out when he was popular, when the choice could actually hurt him, and when it could do some good. That to me took a strength of character that we don't often see in celebrities. I have never seen Gareth play...I don't know if I ever will, but his story has still reached out and inspired me a whole ocean away. That says something.

I have to say...I think my favorite pic of gareth is this one:

Its not pretty ..he looks like a total madman, but its also totally real and it changes peoples perceptions of what it means to be gay. To me, its as awsome as this one:

This one shows the softy thats inside every hard shell....not to mention being unbelievably sexy.

That Gareth wants to be a role model for young gay kids is also a great thing in this day and age. We sure don't have a great deal of gay role models in sports who wish to put themselves in that role. There are lots of people from the sports world who have come out but usually after their career has begun to wind down or they have been forcibly outed(Matthew Mitcham being a notable exception).One I can remember that really spoke to me was body builder Bob Paris. As a teen I used to have his pictures up to inspire. I was scawny and using weights to help boost my self esteem. I desperately wanted to look more like him. It actually shocked me when, years later, came out with his also buff and uber tanned boyfriend. It was another piece in my puzzle of what it meant to be gay.

Going further into our past, our role models were usually singers....many gay men looked up to Barbara Striesand or even Madonna because they embodied qualities of survival and confidence that all of us so deeply need when we have to hide who we are, when we look longingly at lives that society wouldn't allow us to have. We saw what we needed in straight women because we didn't know any faces within the gay community who could show us those same triats...though they were out there.

Harvey Milk and Billie Jean King were some of the first faces to change this dynamic and give us some actual gay people to look up to. Since those days the number of gay people who step up and show the world that awsome things that gay men and women do everyday has increased a great deal. We can look to politics and find out names like, Tammy Baldwin and Barney frank(whatever you think of them). We can look to entertainment and see Ellen DeGeneres, Wanda Sykes, Portia De rossi, Neil Patrick Harris, T.R. Knight and many others. And now in sports we have a growing list of names Matthew Mitcham, Greg Louganis, Bob Paris, David Kopay to name a few...and now add Gareth Thomas to the list. Everywhere you look you can find a gay man or woman doing something awsome ...and even further...Transgendered faces are coming out. This is a far cry from the world I grew up in.

So yeah...I look up to Gareth Thomas, as much for his abilities as the man that he is showing himself to be. He and everyone else I mentioned earlier adds to the spectrum of examples that show us what we can be...and that is without limitations. I don't see in him pressure to conform to any stereotype...straight or gay. I think  to put that on this man would be to dishonor what has been a courageous and honorable choice. I hope that his story serves to inspire others as it has me.


  1. hey bryan just so you know... In regard family you and jay are my role models

  2. You are my gay role model Bryan because you are hot, nice and a parent.

    One day I hope I can be two of those things.

  3. I think Irish Hurling Star Dónal Óg Cusack is as a role model to me as Gareth Thomas will be for young gay welshmen. Both sports stars epitomise masculinity in a way and will show many that there are other aspects to being a gay man than the stereotype might suggest.

  4. That is a great article, Bryan! As usually!

    But you screwed up Portia de Rossi’s name. Again! :(

    And Erik McCormack is not gay, he has a wife, he only played a gay character on Will & Grace; in your list you suggest that those people are gay, so, as much as we admire his contribution, it’s kinda weird to have him there.

    T.R. Knight’s last name should start with the capital K.

    Sorry for going grammatic on your ass :)

    Anyway, in terms of role models, I prefer to have real people, and who can be more real than the Leffew family we see on YouTube and on Blogspot every day? Cheers to you, guys!

  5. I coulda SWORN erik McCormack was gay. If he isn't he should be dammit.

    anyway...I never claimed to be the sharpest tack in the box....or the best speller. Errors corrected. ;P

  6. @ mush

    I wan'ted to include Dónal Óg Cusack too but I couldn't remember where I saw his story at last and you know what my readers do to me when I misspell a name ....

  7. @goblin, you are hto and sortf of nice... And you are going to be an amazing parent dude. really

  8. That’s weird because my gaydar always showed “straight” on McCormack (long before I watched his interview where he talked about his wife), but I never relied on it because any gaydar needs a proper calibration by life experiences which I never had.

    Portia de Rossi: de — small d, Rossi — capital R. :-)))

    I only bug you about names because these are names of good people, they should be spelled correctly :)

    Dónal Óg Cusack was mentioned on AfterElton.com, for example.

  9. Like others, you are 1 of my biggest gay role models right now Bryan. I'm not just saying that, you and your family really are. You're the first and only gay family I know of, you guys are awesome, and you are attractive (yes I'll own up to being shallow).

    I too was glad Gareth Thomas came out. I didn't know who he was before he came out, but learning how popular he is and such a good athlete in a popular sport was great to hear about. And like you said, he came out while being at the top of the sport which was even more courageous. It was also another example to me (along with Brokeback Mountain and others) of a gay man who tried to live the heterosexual lifestyle and couldn't keep it up. Not too long ago, I had decided that I would still try to marry a woman and be as straight as I could be regardless of who I was attracted to. Examples or role models like that have certainly given me the 2nd hand experience I need to re-evaluate that decision though. It's another example of the importance of role-models who allow us to learn life lessons without having to go through them ourselves and help envision another path that may not be mainstream.

    The increased amount of positive gay role-models has also helped me come to terms with my sexuality better and willingness to come out. I haven't come out yet, but now I think it is inevitable thing that will happen when I'm ready (I've got a plan) as opposed to before where I was never going to come out. Seeing the gay family values videos has also helped me on my willingness to not marry a female and staying closeted, because now I see you can live a fulfill and exciting life on an alternative path. I understood the theory, but seeing a real life role model in front of my eyes has done wonders to my reality and goals. I also never seriously considered adoption before seeing your videos, but now I am thinking that one day I might.

    I think the most important thing is having lots of role-models and having a diversity of them, to show that we are all different even within a social group and help society get over its predisposition to stereotype us.

    As a generality, gays are usually stereotyped as being effeminate and this is usually considered negative. I don't think there's anything wrong with being effeminate now(I used to, but education helped me get over my socialized sexism), but at the same time I do really like it when a masculine gay role model helps to bust that stereotype wide open like Gareth. Now that I'm older, I know of much more masculine gay role models like Bob Paris or Kopay but back when I was younger I didn't see gay role models like that.

  10. @everyone..../blush...shyguy time...thanks

  11. YOU are my role model!

  12. OK like your other readers I'm going to have to flatter you, You (and your family) are my biggest roll model. OK now that I'm done flattering you time to make sure that your head still fits threw the door. My other roll modle odd as it may sound is Kathy Griffin, gota to love some one who is funny, works hard, has a don't give a fuck what others think about me attitude, and is not afraid to go after what they want.

  13. Hey ..you don't have to worry about the size of my ego...it took such a kicking earlier in life that it would take a life time of such flattering comments for it to return to normal size.

  14. You are my role modles. i wan to have a loving family like yours one day. thank you so much.


  15. GayFamilyValues
    I totally know what you mean, I know my ego took a lot of kicking when I was younger. It still dose unfortunately the major chunk of the hitting it still takes seems to come from me.

  16. Let me help in getting your ego back to its normal size, Bryan (and Jay), because like several people have already written, you are my role model(s). I'm only a few years younger than you guys, but I want to be even more like you. I love your integrity, kindness, activist spirit, concern for others, quiet demeanor, sincerity...I see a lot of myself in you, if I do say so myself! haha And I'm glad people are making you blush, because you deserve the praise.

    Thank you for allowing us into your home! You have no idea how much it has brightened my days.


  17. being from the bible belt in texas, where at that time it was one step shy of gay=death(and it did happen even then), and having had conversations with my mother about 'not being known "like that"' as a child; even though i had some few options of gay role models in the 90's it was nigh impossible for me to really 'know' anything about them and i do not accept 'flaming queens' as personal role models-i do have a penis dammit. it was really only as an adult that i got any gay role models and by then 'gay' meant back alley hustlers running from the cops and suckin off desperate husbands who werent gettin any at home..o and spreading aids, raping babies and going to hell.' i tried to reject the majority of that but i did give up on having a family of my own and a husband, even if i had to call him partner. then life went to hell in a hand basket in other ways and i very nearly died as a result of that combo, by my own hand. in coming out of that i had a massive and unrealistic crush on my straight friend who is the best man i have ever personally met. then i found your channel. i have over shared and i am creating boundaries for my own sanity-but dont be shy in telling me to stfu if you feel the need(i probably need it as well). i dont even know yet the extent to which you have helped me, you guys are the family i had given up and jasun mark is the asshole i aspire to be like-cause he is really just all kinds of cuddly. things hurt like they had not and things shine like never before, i am reborn and you are helping me to be a better man than i ever thought possible for myself. thank you does not seem enough but that is all i have. i kind of feel like the grinch..my insides are growing bigger everyday.
    love always and blessed be.
    your willing and devoted minion