Former rugby player Gareth Thomas said that, by taking part in Channel 4’s reality programme Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, he wants to defy harmful stereotypes about the LGBTQ+ community and combat stigma.
The Welsh rugby star, who has been a very vocal HIV activist since 2019, is taking part in the show alongside 15 other celebrities. In the new series, the contestants will be put through tough physical and mental challenges which replicate the Special Forces selection process.
The first episode of the series aired on Tuesday, September 26, when the stars took on the first brutal rounds of military-style challenges. Gareth Thomas braved the tasks facing opponents such as UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Pop Idol finalist Gareth Gates, comedian Zoe Lyons, Olympic athlete Perri Shakes-Drayton and Liberty X star Michelle Heaton.
As reported by Pink News, Gareth Thomas spoke to Channel 4 ahead of his debut on Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, saying that he didn’t feel he had anything to prove by going on the show. However, he said that he wanted to use this platform as an opportunity to show that LGBTQ+ people are “capable of attempting” anything.
“I feel I had something to represent, because I think people have personal reasons to do it,” he shared. “I represent the community of people, whether it’d be with my HIV status, or whether it would be with my sexuality, that have maybe stereotypically assumed not to go down this kind of pathway.”
Thomas spoke of how the Special Forces are “deemed to be very much a more alpha, macho environment” but said that, contrary to stereotypes, he believes that gay men are more than capable of living up to the challenge.
“The pressure came from me to want to show that whatever characteristic you are, you are capable of attempting, you are capable of achieving something that maybe society deems is not within the realms of achievement for you,” the former rugby player added.
— Gareth Thomas (@gareththomas14) September 16, 2023
Gareth Thomas came out as gay in 2009, becoming the first out professional rugby union player. Ten years later, in 2019, he was forced to come out as HIV Positive after a tabloid press agency threatened to publish an exposé on him. Since then, the sportsman has used his platform to advocate against HIV stigma and to promote campaigns for PrEP and U=U.
Thomas has frequently spoken about how stereotypes and misinformation around HIV can be harmful, sharing his own experience. During a 2019 event organised on World’s AIDS Day by HIV Ireland and GCN, he shared how the lack of information about the virus had led him to believe that his diagnosis represented a death sentence.
“I didn’t believe in what undetectable meant because I felt I was educated because I’d learned what I had as a kid,” he said. “And nobody really told me any different. I thought, ‘why would you put an ad without to say HIV and AIDS is a killer yet not put an advert out to say HIV and AIDS is not a killer anymore?’.”
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