Gareth Thomas - in the house!

Publish Date: 18/01/2012

He’s this year’s main draw in Celebrity Big Brother and according to press reports, about to have a Hollywood movie made this year about his extraordinary life, so we thought it only fitting to pay our respects to everyone’s favourite bit of Welsh rugby rarebit.

The now retired professional rugby player has been in great demand, and has spoken honestly and with integrity about his decision to come out just over two years ago. Since then he has stated  how he would like to become a role model for anyone who is struggling with their sexuality.

Gareth was voted top of the Pink List 2010 highlighting the 101 most influential LGBT people in the UK, and he received Stonewall’s Hero of the Year award in October 2010.

We caught up with Gareth a while ago and asked how he had been coping with all this attention...

Did you expect the huge level of interest you’ve received since coming out?

I didn’t, but I’m glad there is still an interest in the story. My coming out was a small part of the story. It was bigger than me. This sort of story is something that affects everyday lives. The more people that come out, the more of a subject it becomes - and the more of a forum it becomes, and then more people will hopefully start to understand it in the wider community. So I’m glad about it all really - it’s something that if it’s a major talking point then hopefully it can help people.

Has it been challenging dealing with all the media attention around your sexuality?

In a way, yes. I wanted to be known as a rugby player first and foremost, rather than a gay rugby player. But I understand that when someone breaks the stereotype then that’s the way it’s going to be. To be honest, I am used to dealing with the press, so I know what to expect. Yes, I know a lot of the media will use the story to sell papers, but I’m using it too, to get across a message.

What’s been the biggest surprise?

The acceptance of it (coming out). Some people who I thought wouldn’t have accepted it have. You hear there will be negative comments when people come out, but to be honest I haven’t heard or experienced it. It’s been nothing but words of support and hand shakes to say congratulations from all of them. As far as I am concerned, the world is a different place than I thought it was.

Because of the ‘matter of fact’ way you have dealt with your sexuality, you’re seen as very much a hero to lots of gay men. Is this something that sits easily with you?

You know something, yeah. Rugby for years has given me a platform, and now that I have come out, I want to become a role model. I want to help people to deal with something that I struggled to deal with for so long. I feel having come out now, it’s up to me to be a positive role model for kids and adults who may be in the same situation as I was. I will certainly do my damndest to do that and help people who are struggling out there to deal with their sexuality

What would your advice be to an LGB person who wants to come out, but is perhaps too scared to?

The big thing with this is that it’s pointless coming out unless you are going to be happy. If you are happy hiding your sexuality and happy living within the boundaries then that’s for you to decide.

The life and freedom it’s given me is something I have only ever dreamed of. Since I have come out, it’s made me such a better and happier person - that’s because I have had people around me like my family and friends. I understand though, that everybody’s circumstances are different. The reality is it’s not the same for everyone - we don’t live in a dream world, we live in reality.

All I can hope is my experiences of coming out will give a positive message - that if Gareth can come out, then maybe I can do it too.

Many people say it’s much harder to talk about gay issues in football rather than rugby. Is this a fair opinion?

Until a footballer actually does come out we can’t say it’s a good thing or a bad thing. No one has come out since Justin Fashanu. Once again though, it’s about someone being happy if they decided to come out.

If a footballer did decide to come out and was unhappy, what sort of message would that send out to people? And if another Justin Fashanu incident happened, what sort of message would that send across the globe?

Everyone is saying, “someone has to come out, someone has to come out”, but it has to be right. If it takes two, five, or ten years for someone in football to come out and it’s accepted in that person’s environment, across the terraces and everywhere else then great.

What would you say to anyone in the gay community who wants to get involved in sport but maybe has confidence issues?

Sport does a great deal for your life, it gives you great values and ethics, and is a great way to meet new friends. Now that’s what life for me is all about - get out there and do it, just try it - yes, sport might not be for everyone, but I would rather someone try it who is gay - and say “yes, I’ll give it a try”, and then if they don’t like it fine - at least you tried it.

Gareth, also wrote the foreword for The LGF's health and wellbeing guide - Get In! Check it out here, http://bit.ly/wzwYi1

For support around coming out visit http://bit.ly/qOEsUy

Visit Gareth’s official website: http://officialgareththomas.com/