Gareth Thomas on breaking down stereotypes

Gareth Thomas is on the cover of the December issue of Men’s Health UK talking about living with HIV, breaking down stereotypes, and why he leapt at the chance to appear on the cover of Men’s Health because, as he says in his own words: “I wanted to do this because who’d have thought, 20 or 30 years ago, that a man living with HIV could be in a magazine like Men’s Health?”.

“I felt I needed to show another side of me, as far as fitness goes. So, I took that fitness to another level, because my mental images of people living with HIV were always frail, always weak. I wanted to display the total opposite of that.”

Former Wales rugby captain and sporting hero, Gareth Thomas talks to Men’s Health (http://menshealth.com/uk) about living with HIV and using his voice to raise awareness about the disease and the battle with his own mental health.

On his public coming out in 2009:

“I had to justify why I was lying to everyone. My justification was that no one would accept me. But when they do accept you, you look back and think, “My God, all those moments, those near-death experiences, all for this very normal moment.”

On how his training regime has changed since being diagnosed as HIV positive:

“I felt I needed to show another side of me, as far as fitness goes. So, I took that fitness to another level, because my mental images of people living with HIV were always frail, always weak. I wanted to display the total opposite of that.”

On how he sees his mental health today:

“There are times when I get really insecure, because even though people have been amazingly supportive of me, what people know about me now actually makes me feel a little exposed. I walk down the street, and there’s that realisation that people who I don’t even know are aware of my medical history, my sexuality. That can be quite invasive. But the reality is I’m in a better place now than I ever was when people didn’t know my sexuality, so I’d rather it be this way than how it was before.”

On being assaulted on the streets of Cardiff after he challenged a group of teenagers who were mocking him and his husband, in November 2018:

“If I hadn’t challenged them, I would not have represented who I am or what I expect people to do. But then when they came and started attacking me, I realised I couldn’t fight back, because if I did, I’d be behind bars now. So, I had to just sit there and take a beating from a gang of lads, which was kind of frustrating. But it was a realisation that this is what I have to do to be able to get my point across.”

On the fact there are so few openly gay sportsmen and the need to create an open environment in the industry:

“Sport is based on results. It’s based on winning or losing. It’s not based on the environment that’s created within it. It’s not based on sexuality, or how many people are from a diverse, inclusive background. It’s just based on talent. Ironically, that means there’s so much talent that is not able to progress, precisely because it is neither diverse not inclusive. It’s such a waste.”

‘The December issue of Men’s Health, featuring Gareth Thomas, is on sale today. Pictures as courtesy of Men’s Health UK / Chris Floyd

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