A really awesome and inspiring video is up on Youtube from an eighteen year-old Welsh rugby player called Thomas Boswell, or "Bozzy." Tom is starting university in September, but he recently came out to his friends, team-mates and family members. He'd already come out, privately, to his mum, but it was a set of rumours started while he was on holiday that forced him to come out earlier than planned to everybody else.
Tom speaks so clearly and honestly in this video and it's really refreshing to see someone trying to inspire other people who are active in sports to come out and to be honest about their sexuality. (Perhaps one of my favourite bits of the whole video is the bit where, in the midst of his gut-wrenching coming-out-story, Tom still manages to point out that his rugby team were robbed of victory on the day he came out to his mum. Now, that is a true rugby lad's priorities. I salute you, sir.)
Part of Tom's story did really remind me of Blake's in Popular, which was probably one of the storylines I cared most about when I was writing the book. I was very, very surprised by how negatively some people reacted to Blake in the novel, compared to how positively they reacted to Cameron. Yes, okay, Cameron, like Tom, is certainly much braver than Blake in the end, but Tom's video highlights how difficult the situation can be for people in Blake's position. Like Tom, Blake doesn't have any mannerisms which conform to the gay stereotype and like Tom, who lives in the Welsh valleys "where everybody knows everybody else," Blake originally lived in the small but beautiful town of New Canaan in Connecticut and then in Northern Ireland. Where, I can assure you, everybody knows (or likes to know) everybody else's business. Like Blake, Tom's coming out was ultimately forced by circumstances beyond his control (in both cases, through rumours); but unlike Blake, Tom had the tenacity and the bravery to follow it through. And also unlike Blake, he had friends and family who had his back. Not to give too much away either, but Tom's friend Luke sounds a bit like how Peter reacts in Popular's sequel. (Which I promise I will try to give you a release date for soon - thanks so much for all your wonderful comments and e-mails asking about it!)
Anyway, I love this video. Tom's done it in the way that felt most natural for him. Maybe that's one of the things I like most about it, actually. It's really about doing things on your own terms, rather than the way everyone expects you to. Tom's personality hasn't changed because he's come out; he's just been able to remove a huge weight from himself. Being gay shouldn't be somebody's personality, but being honest about yourself should be. Removing the burden of having to lie about yourself and having the guts to do what Tom's done gives you the ability to live your life properly, to be honest to friends and family and to fall in love like the rest of the world. And Tom's teammates sound like a fantastic group of lads.
Tom is going to be interviewed on Scott De Buitléir's radio show Cosmo for RTÉ Plus this Wednesday evening. Tune in!
A short story on the blog from Blake's point of view is here. Check it out.