02 Feb 2024
At United Welsh, we are proud to work with a diverse community of residents and staff. Hate has no home here – everyone should feel able to be their whole selves, and feel they belong in the communities where they live.
LGBT+ people have always been here, contributing to Welsh society and being an inspiration to others.
Here are some Welsh LGBT+ icons who have inspired communities in Wales and beyond:
Jaci Taylor is a former mayor of Aberystwyth who made headlines in 2000 when she announced that her long-term partner of 20 years, Felicity Roberts, would be mayoress, accompanying Taylor on her formal duties.
Taylor was a Plaid Cymru councillor before being elected mayor, and said of the controversy surrounding her relationship with Roberts:
“It does take a lot of guts to make a decision like this, but everyone has a place in society, and everyone is equal whether it is in terms of sexuality, race or culture.”
Born in Mynyddcerrig, Carmarthenshire, Nigel Owens is a former international rugby union referee, and is often considered one of the greatest rugby referees of all time. Owens refereed for 17 years before retiring in December 2020.
Owens publicly came out as gay in a Wales on Sunday interview in 2007. The response from the public was mostly positive. In the interview, Owens shared that coming out was a difficult decision, saying:
“It’s such a big taboo to be gay in my line of work, I had to think very hard about it because I didn’t want to jeopardise my career. Coming out was very difficult and I tried to live with who I really was for years. I knew I was ‘different’ from my late teens, but I was just living a lie.”
Following the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Owens was named Stonewall’s ‘Gay Sports Personality of the Year.’ He was a patron of the LGBT Centre of Excellence Wales until its disbandment in 2012 and is now a patron of the Wooden Spoon Society rugby. Owens has also been a patron of the charity ‘Bullies Out’ since 2013.
Born in Somerset to a Welsh father, Jan Morris was a historian, author and travel writer who lived most of her life in the North Wales village of Llanystumdwy with her wife and children.
Morris is mostly known for her Pax Britannica trilogy, a series on the history of the British Empire. She is also noted for her travel writing on Hong Kong, New York City, Oxford, Trieste, and Venice.
Morris published under the name James Morris until 1972, when she had gender affirming surgery and transitioned from male to female.
Morris was also the only journalist to be a member of the 1953 British Mount Everest expedition. She climbed with the team to a camp at 22,000 feet and used a prearranged code to send news of the successful ascent, which was first published in The Times.
Born in Sarn, Bridgend, Gareth “Alfie” Thomas is a former professional rugby player who represented Wales in both rugby union and rugby league. He was the first Wales rugby union player to play in 100 test matches, and he has also won four rugby league caps for Wales, scoring three tries.
Thomas publicly came out in 2009, telling the Daily Mail:
“I don’t want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player, first and foremost. I am a man.”
In 2019, Thomas announced that he is HIV positive with undetectable status, meaning that he cannot transmit the disease to others. The day after his announcement he competed in the Ironman Wales event in Tenby, finishing 413th out of 2,039. Thomas stated that one of the biggest reasons he competed in the event was to ‘break the stigma’ around HIV.
Amy Dilwyn was born in Sketty, Swansea in 1845, the daughter of politician and industrialist Lewis Llewelyn Dilwyn.
Dilwyn wrote six novels from the 1870s to the early 1890s, exploring themes of feminism, sexual and gender fluidity, and social reform. She championed feminism in her daily life too, joining the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and campaigning for women’s right to vote.
She inherited her father’s spelter works in Llansamlet in 1892, taking on an active role in running the business. By 1899 she had fully repaid her father’s debts and turned the business into a registered company in 1902.
Amy considered herself married to her long-term partner Olive Talbot, who she referred to as ‘her wife.’
Born in Swansea in 1963, Russell T. Davies is one of the most famous television writers in the UK, best-known for his revival of Doctor Who in 2005. He specialises in emotional dramas that focus on sexuality, the LGBTQIA community, and politics.
Davies was in a long-term relationship with Andrew Smith from 1999 to Smith’s death in 2018. Smith was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2012, and the pair entered into a civil partnership soon after.
Gwen John was a bisexual Welsh painter, born in Haverfordwest in 1876. She spent most of her life in France, and became known for her portraits of women and quiet, domestic scenes. She was also known for her self-portraits.
While John is thought to have been a reclusive figure, she did form strong emotional connections to men and women. Her most prominent relationship was with the famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin, and art critics consider her work A Lady Reading to be a self-portrait of John waiting for Rodin to arrive at her apartment.
Nicknamed the ‘Queen of Bohemia’, Nina Hamnett was a bisexual artist and writer who was born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire on Valentine’s Day in 1890.
Hamnett was flamboyant, outspoken, and open about her sexuality. One famous story about Nina tells how she once danced nude on a café table in Montparnasse just for the ‘hell of it.’ Her vivacious personality made her very well-known in Paris, and she modelled for many artists.
Hamnett also spent some time in London, where she worked at Omega Workshops making and decorating clothes, fabrics, furniture, murals, and rugs.
Find out more about LGBT+ History Month here.