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Nigel Owen’s coming out story

January 6, 2009

 This morning’s piece in the Guardian G2 about now openly gay rugby referee Nigel Owens made for refreshing reading this morning.

His story is dramatic. One of those stories I instantly connect with.

Owens, had a girlfriend. He wanted to be married. The only son wanted to provide grandchildren for his parents. But there was a problem. He also realised he was attracted to men. Usher in a big problem and an overwhelming sense of internal conflict. It’s enough to push a man over the edge and it nearly did. He tried to commit suicide writing a note and taking a dose of sleeping pills before positioning himself high on a hill where noone could find him.

It didn’t work. Someone found him. The emergency services airlifted him to hospital and now he’s come out. Not only that, he’s written a book about it.

I understand that pain. I’ve been in the situation myself. Total conflict, total confusion, total fear. It’s the most hideous experience. Time stands still. Appetite goes. Personal cleanliness requires additional effort and is fundamentally pointless. Everything weighs down on your shoulders like a ton of bricks. You need a release. You want someone or something to lead you away from under the dark clouds.

His subsequent experience coming out to his rugby union bosses and colleagues was a brave one. It was also successful. Everyone was supportive. By all accounts no-one gave him a negative response.

When I read the piece in the Guardian G2 this morning I felt refreshed and enthused. I’d happened on something as I jostled for foot room on the 0816 from Hither Green. I’d read an uplifting story even though my early rise (5am on account of an over-insistent cat requiring food) meant I desperately wanted to drop off.

His experiences were positive and exactly what the gay community needs. Here was a normal looking bloke, doing a reasonably normal job with a vitally positive story to tell to the rest of the otherwise closeted gay community. His brush-off of the “banter” from the stands the cherry on the top:

“”Hand on heart,” he declares, he has not heard any homophobic abuse from rugby crowds either. “I’ve heard the odd comment like ‘We’ve got the bent referee today’ and everybody laughs because they think the referee is bent because he’s going to award tries to the home side. That’s a joke and banter. You laugh about it and that’s the best way to deal with it.”

It’s this kind of skilfully contextualising of what some regard as unforgivable gay taunts which sends out a powerful message, a message which communicates exactly what being gay is all about. It’s about nothing.

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