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Moment #18: Gareth Thomas comes out

Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.

Rugby, 2009. Athletes at the high school, college and pro level had come out before, even in rugby. But Gareth Thomas' coming out spoke to people in a way that many had not before.

For one, he was an active pro athlete; The number of male active pro athletes in team sports to come out before him is desperately low. Second, Thomas had been married to a woman; He'd tried to be straight and it just didn't work. Third, and maybe most importantly, he was one of the toughest athletes in one of the most physical sports. The photos of him with his front teeth knocked out swirled quickly around the Internet when he came out: This wasn't your stereotypical gay man.

Sports Illustrated had even considered making Gareth Thomas the first out gay male athlete ever featured exclusively on its cover...but they went with the New York Yankees instead. Thomas' story even grabbed the attention of actor Mickey Rourke who quickly put into development a movie about Thomas' life story; At the moment, the project is not listed on IMDB.com.

Thomas also hasn't shrunk from his new position as role model. He was one of the first high-profile people to record an It Gets Better video. And he's done countless speaking engagements and media appearances talking about the underbelly of homophobia; For a British athlete to lock up an appearance on Ellen, that's saying something.

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