news

Gareth Thomas: When I came out, I wanted it to be a sign of strength

The rugby star was forced to come out as HIV positive earlier this year

2019-10-30

Words: Steve Brown

Gareth Thomas says when he came out as gay, he wanted it to be a ‘sign of strength’.

The former Welsh rugby star was once Wales’s most-capped rugby union player and is still the most prominent sportsman in the UK to have come out publicly while still playing.

Although publicly coming out back in 2009, the rugby star was recently forced to reveal his HIV status after a tabloid journalist threatened to out him.

Since revealing he is living with HIV, the HIV charity The Terrence Higgins Trust said that they had seen a spike in engagement online and said the former rugby player is already helping to end stigma around the virus.

And now, while speaking to Mens Health, the Attitude Game Changer Award winner said coming out wanted to be a ‘sign of strength’.

He said: “When I came out as gay, I always wanted to show a sign of strength.

“My mental images of people living with HIV were always frail, always weak. I wanted to display the total opposite of that.”

After coming out to his former-wife, the rugby star was on the verge of suicide and confided with his Australian friend Scott Johnson – the interim head coach of the Wales team – who briefed two of the senior players.

Thomas continued:“That was a secret I had protected with my life. It was my life. At the time, I was emotionally drained and tired of living. I was tired of simply waking up every day.

“To give that secret, that responsibility, to somebody else was a huge deal. It’s not a weight off your shoulders – it actually adds to the weight, because all of a sudden you have no control of your story. You have no control of where it goes.

“For me, that was a huge moment of trust, but only because I felt that I had no other option. If I’d had others, I’d have taken them.

“But I had nothing left, no strength left at all. I’d been running and running and running, and I just couldn’t run anymore.”

Read the full version of this interview in the December issue of ‘Men’s Health’ magazine, on sale Thursday 31 October.