Photographed by Thomas Giddings
Styling by Andrew Davis
When Nick Youngquest stripped down for the Naked Rugby League calendar in 2006, the Australian player planned to show off his muscles, charming smile, and blue eyes. But the picture published revealed much more. It captured Youngquest's strategically placed hand slipping away.
It was the shot seen 'round the world -- and a controversial boon for the National Breast Cancer Foundation of Australia, the charity that benefited from its popularity. The Australian National Rugby League criticized Younquest for having gone "too far."
Naturally, gay men disagreed. So did Youngquest, whose confidence is impenetrable. In 2008, Australia's prominent gay magazine DNA called, and Youngquest stripped down again. This time he safely sported the smallest of swimsuits. In the years since, he's made a habit of bearing skin in gay magazines around the world.
While taking off his clothes, Youngquest has taken on the cause of gay rights.
"The more exposure I've gotten, the more I've learned about the rights issues and the disrespect gay people face," he says. "It didn't have much impact on me before, so I didn't know much about it. As times have gone on, the more I've learned, the more I'd like to help in any way."
Youngquest received more exposure in 2010 when out rugby player Gareth Thomas joined him in the Wales-based Crusaders Rugby League club. The two posed shirtless in the locker room, arms around each other's shoulders, tattoos (and pecs, and abs) revealed. The photo spread virally across the Internet, and at one point in 2010, it seemed that they were in the midst of a playful Twitter bromance.
Against all homophobic expectations, the Crusaders embraced Thomas. "A lot of the players were really intrigued," Youngquest says. He remembers long bus rides dominated by guys asking Thomas questions about being gay and how he picks up guys. Youngquest also remembers learning he wasn't Thomas's type. "I was a little disappointed," he admits.
From breast cancer awareness to supporting gay marriage in five years? Stranger things have happened. But Youngquest doesn't see his actions as anything special: "I don't see any reason why gay people shouldn't be able to marry. I think it should be a union of two people in love. Why not?"
To see our full sports ally slide show, click here.