Nigel Owens refreshingly - but unsurprisingly - honest on battle with sexuality 4 years ago

Nigel Owens refreshingly - but unsurprisingly - honest on battle with sexuality

"I went to a very, very dark place."

If you haven't been listening to JOE's Unfiltered with James O'Brien podcast, you've missed out on some great stuff.


From Eric Cantona to Mark Hamill, Russell Brand to Nick Clegg, the host has had fascinating discussions with some of the most recognisable names from the worlds of showbusiness, politics and sport.

This week was no different. The latest guest on the pod was Nigel Owens, the Welsh rugby referee who has established himself as one of the sport's household names because of both the skill with which he officiates big games and his no-nonsense rapport with players.

So he seems like a perfect guest for a podcast named Unfiltered. Owens rarely minces his words. He is as uncompromising and forthright as it gets. No filter, no bullshit.

Unsurprisingly, it made him a compelling interviewee as he spoke to O'Brien about his long, difficult path to accepting his sexuality over the course of their hour-long conversation.


"At 19 years of age, I started getting mental health issues and dealing with someone I didn't want to be," Owens said. "I started then binge-eating, comfort-eating, maybe even going out and drinking a bit too much sometimes to sort of deal with these issues going on in my head, the sense of ashamedness, of dirtiness and that there was something wrong with me.

"I would spend hours in the shower trying to wash it out and you can't do that, but at the time I thought 'I need to wash this away from me.' And then I sort of put a lot of weight on and I became quite obese, so I decided I needed to lose weight because I wasn't happy with my image. 

"Then I became bulimic because I'd put the weight on, making myself sick and this went on for five or six years. I was living a lie, about my sexuality and mental health issues. After losing the weight I decided I wanted to go to the gym and make myself look and feel better and I got hooked on steroids, so by the time I was 25 I was bulimic, hooked on steroids, deeply in depression with my mental health issues, scared that the world would not accept me."

Owens went on to discuss that he had explored the option of chemical castration before being talked out of it by the doctor. He also delves into his career as a high-profile rugby referee and reveals what he feels is the difference between rugby and football.