Nigel Owens is a cut above the rest when it comes to rugby union referees, but before coming out as gay he contemplated chemical castration.
That’s why he was handed the whistle for the recent World Rugby Cup final at Twickenham in which the New Zealand All Blacks downed the Australian Wallabies to win their third title.
But it all could have been so very different for Owens, who came out publicly in 2007.
He battled for years with his own identity, culminating in a suicide attempt.
“I didn’t want to be gay,” Owens told CNN. “I actually went to the doctor at one stage to see if I could be chemically castrated in any way, if it would get rid of me being gay.
“Looking back at that it was a horrific thing that one would have to do but that’s what I was going through at the time.”
Owens said he believed one of the reasons not many people in sport revealed their sexuality was because they were “struggling with who they are”.
“They can’t tell other people they’re gay because they’re fighting it themselves,” he said.
Owens still faces ignorance and prejudice from a vocal minority and earlier this year he spoke about how he had been the target of internet trolls.
But he believes the muscular world of rugby union is way ahead of other global sports when it comes to accepting gay stars.
“Times have changed a lot from that dark night when I was worrying about if I could carry on with my refereeing or being myself,” Owens said.
“Everybody knows who I am as far as my sexuality is concerned and when everybody at the World Rugby Awards stands up and applauds me that says a lot.
“Rugby has led the way here and shown to people you can be who you are. I’ve proved that.”
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