Gay rugby players of the King's Cross Steelers strip off to talk body image

Meet the boys of King's Cross Steelers RFC in our new July issue.


London’s Kings Cross Steelers became the world’s first gay rugby union team when it was founded in 1995.

There are now more than 250 members and the 1st XV went through last season unbeaten.

In our new July issue - available to download and in shops now - we meet five players to understand the impact the sport has had on their bodies as well as their body image.

Here's a taster in the form of Jono (flanker) and Andrew (prop/centre)...

Jono Elvin 

6ft, 100kg (220lbs), flanker/No.8

Photography: Victor Hensel-Coe

"I’ve played rugby since I was four and had an interest in pretty much all sports throughout my childhood. I joined the Steelers in April 2012, in the run up to the Bingham Cup in Manchester.

"I was recruited by a lad in G-A-Y on the promise that I could have the pick of the twinks! At the time, I didn’t even know what the word “twink” meant, but I went with it.

"I felt that the club could serve a real purpose in breaking down barriers that many gay men feel when it comes to getting involved in sport, and I saw it as an opportunity to show that a team of predominantly gay men could compete against the 'straight' teams.

"I was chubby as a kid and took some stick for it at school. Then, one summer, I got food poisoning and lost close to two stone (12.7kg), and the weight stayed off.

"In my mid-to-late teens, I was critical of myself if I ate anything “unhealthy.” I’d feel guilty and would spend the next day trying to compensate by eating very little.

"I wouldn’t say being part of the Steelers has made me feel better about my body but the club is such an accepting place that I don’t feel judged for being myself.

"Everyone has their body hang-ups; I’m not a fan of my shoulders because they keep on needing surgery, and I feel my ribs stick out a bit.

"My body image has a direct impact on my mood, and that means that I try to look after it, although I’m definitely more relaxed now than I was five or 10 years ago. I try to get to the gym five or six times a week, and run a couple of times.

"During the season, we train twice a week and play most Saturdays, and it takes a day or two to recover from the tougher games."

Andrew McDowell

5ft 7", 11kg (260lb), prop/centre

Photography: Victor Hensel-Coe

"I don’t feel great about my body at the minute. I gained a lot of weight after I had surgery on my hip, and, because of that and other personal issues, I just haven’t got back to a routine to help me return to my normal weight.

"I’ve been an athlete for as long as I could walk and run. My main sport growing up was football, because my mum’s family is Colombian.

"But I also took part in athletics and played basketball, volleyball and American football. Then I fell in love with rugby and have been playing for the past 17 years — with the Steelers for about 10.

"I remembered that London had an inclusive rugby team from playing in the Bingham Cup in New York in 2006, so when I moved here and didn’t know anyone, I thought I’d join and kill two birds with one stone.

"I’ve played various positions throughout the years, from the “skinny-boy” positions such as inside and outside centre, to the “big-boy” position of prop. In rugby, you realise that your size plays an important part in your position [on the team], and that helps with having a more positive body image.

"My legs are like tree trunks but I love them, and they’re the first things anyone notices, especially when I’m in rugby shorts. They also do some incredible damage to the opposition on the pitch.

"I’m least happy with my mid-section; I’ve never had a six-pack and never will, and sometimes you feel you need that to get noticed in the gay community.

"These days, I try to focus more on being physically fit than having bulging muscles or a magazine-cover body."

See more from the King's Cross Steelers in Attitude's July issue. Buy now and take advantage of our best-ever subscription offers: 3 issues for £3 in print, 13 issues for £19.99 to download to any device.