• Photo for Real Athlete: Rugger Mark Byrne
    Photo Credit: courtesy of the Gay Games VII

Real Athlete: Rugger Mark Byrne

By Gay Games VII Staff

Real Athlete is an ongoing series of interviews with inspirational, out gay athletes from around the world. Are you a Real Athlete? Take our Real Athlete Survey.

Mark Byrne, 31, sales consultant from Chicago, looks for one thing: the elusive first win for his rugby team, the Chicago Dragons.

Are you on a team? What are your events?
I'm on the Chicago Dragons Rugby Football Club. We are the most diverse men’s rugby team in Chicago. We are proud to be the home team for the Gay Games. We’ve had four seasons of rugby, all loses and one tie. MTV/Logo did a documentary, in which I had a speaking role, about our team’s elusive first win.

What is your goal for Gay Games Chicago 2006?
I’ve only been playing rugby for two years, but look forward to seeing familiar faces from other gay international rugby tournaments I’ve participated in. This is the first Gay Games for my twin brother and me, I also will be morally (cough) supporting him and his softball team.

Do you or your team have any major rivals?
Every team is your rival on the rugby pitch, off field – all friends.

What role has/does sports/cultural performance play in your life? How much time per week?
During the season, we have practice two nights a week plus a game day. On my off nights, I focus on weight training and conditioning, but it’s not all consuming as I manage to squeeze in other stuff.

Has someone served as an inspiration or as a mentor to you? If so, who?
My older brother Michael (not my twin), he’s been playing rugby for over 15 years and encouraged me to start playing. My dad is a huge rugby enthusiast and was present when I made my first try (equivalent to a touchdown). Michael flew to Chicago and played a game with my team, and dad came down to watch. Michael is an intense and awesome player, which reshaped my game.

Have you personally experienced anti-gay bias in your sports/cultural activities?
No, that’s one advantage of being 6'5" and 240 pounds. Although it’s hearsay, it’s safe to assume none of the "straight" rugby teams we play against in our union want to be the first ones to loose to the Dragons.

Will you be coming to Gay Games with a friend, partner, or family member?
David (my twin) and I are thinking about telling our dad about the event and in turn coming out to him.

Interview courtesy of the Gay Games VII organizers. For more information about this year's Gay Games and how you can participate, visit