Gay King Richard

He won Survivor. He won fans, detractors—and $1 million. Now Richard Hatch speaks to the gay press for the first time about the secrets of his past and how being gay prepared him for his island challenge.

BY Gregg Kilday

September 25 2000 11:00 PM ET

As you sized up your team, did you think anyone there would have a problem with your being gay? Certainly, I assumed Rudy might. But again I’d go back to “Who cares?” I think one of my strengths is that if somebody has an issue with me, I love to hear why and talk about why I disagree if I do. To some people, that comes across as arrogance. Some people think I’m a smart-ass because I have really, really strong opinions. But I like to hear their thoughts as well. It’s not that I’m unwilling to listen to a different view; it’s just that I’m very willing to express my own.

But there are certainly gay people who, facing a similar situation where they have to interact with a bunch of strangers, might decide to stay quiet about themselves rather than risk alienating whoever they’re about to deal with. No offense, but I think that’s asinine. I’ve never done that. Who gives a shit? That’s their problem. I don’t give a crap. My sexuality just isn’t an issue, and if it is, I just make more of an issue about it.

I wish more people approached it the way you do. I do as well. If it all makes me a role model or hero, that’s great. But it’s just who I am. If people can’t respect the way I choose to live, who cares what they think?

Of course, in this game, people could vote you off the island without ever telling you why they were doing it. Sure, but that made no difference to me either because I knew damn well I’d be able to control who was going and when, and I was from day one. It was a mental effort from the first day, and I continued that through to the end. I wasn’t there to make friends with anyone. Who cared about developing some personal friendships and relationships? And they all knew it. It wasn’t as if I hid it. I actually talked about being there for one reason. I think I was ethical, I think I was good at not being nasty. And I think the others would say the same things. I think the show was edited in a way to allow viewers to perceive me in a more negative light, but that’s okay. I think it was great TV. I really liked it.

How about going naked? I understand you're comfortable with it, but within the context of the game why risk exposing yourself to someone who might be annoyed and could vote you off? In the arena where we were playing the game, I had made a decision to be myself. If someone couldn’t deal with it, however these people responded, it was who I was. So who cares?

So did you go over there figuring you’d have to create an alliance? Your goal in going to the island: You have 16 people; 15 have to go before you do. You can’t approach that haphazardly. If you can very quickly identify four or five—and I identified five early who might be willing to stick together until the end—you had a [better] chance. So I knew before I even went that I was going to do that.

Sean refused to join the alliance, so poor, dear, naive, wonderful, good-hearted Sean, it was bye-bye. That was kind of what I was thinking.

Rudy was voting with the alliance from the beginning—he just didn’t know it. I identified him immediately, saw he was loyal, an amazing man whom I could trust, and I knew I needed that. I didn’t even tell him at first, because I knew he would come to trust me. He recognized that I was bright and strong and knew what I was doing. The fact that he recognized that made me respect him. I saw that even with all that other gay-baiting behavior.

Why do you think some of the other people on the island—and a lot of the commentary that has surrounded the show—has found the whole notion of an alliance so abhorrent? Wow, you’re asking the wrong guy. It makes no sense to me. Here’s a theory if you like. If you watch football—and I don’t watch football—you find people rooting for the underdog. But here was this guy who seemed to be doing what he needed to do, he looked so far ahead of everyone else, and he was doing it at everybody’s expense. Well, that was part of the game. I was just doing my thing, knocking them off one by one by one.

Let me ask you about some of your victims. You knew right away you wanted Stacey off the island. I knew on the boat we took to the island, never having even spoken to her, that I wanted her off. I think she believes I felt threatened by her. But I was very uncomfortable with the way she interacted with people. My perspective is, or at least was, is that she’s very unaware of the way she impacts people, and she made things uncomfortable for most of the people on my team. I lobbied, without having even solidified the alliance, to have her go.

How about Dirk, the vocal Christian contestant? I assume he wasn’t keen on your being gay. He didn’t want to deal with it. He was so young and so strident in his beliefs, I don’t think he was open-minded enough to explore that reality. We had discussions where he expressed his belief that homosexuality was inappropriate, immoral—I’m not sure of the exact words he used. But who cares?

The show suggested that blond Ivy Leaguer Greg set out to flirt with you in order to gain some advantage. Greg is a very, very bright, compassionate man with strong opinions and clear perspectives. I did not get to know him well, and he’s certainly a very guarded person. I think it would take a long time to get to know who Greg really is. So when we did combine teams and we were interacting for a brief period of time, we did get to take a walk together to try to get to know each other. We talked. He never approached me directly to ask about an alliance. I knew that he was a loose cannon, and so he had to go, bye- bye. But he absolutely never hit on me. He never flirted with me in any way that suggested he was interested. We did discuss his comfort with homosexuality. He certainly wasn’t bigoted.

We’ve been talking about sexual orientation. But that penultimate challenge where you were asked to remember details about the other contests seemed as much about gender as anything else. As a guy, you must have felt at a disadvantage when you saw all the details Kelly remembered from her discussions with the other women. I didn’t know whose kids they were talking about, never mind their names. I knew I was going to lose that thing, but it didn’t matter because I knew who was going to be voted off. I was in control of it. Who cared if one of the other contestants had kids? All I cared about was who was impacting me, how they were impacting other people, who’s ready to vote who off right now, are there enough people to get this one off or that one. I couldn’t have cared less what kind of person they were [in real life]. It was so stressful to just deal with the information I had to deal with. The extra stuff was for later. Now, having shared this experience with these people, some relationships may develop. Those kinds of things are things I’d be interested in knowing in a way. But now I’m not trying to figure out how to get them out of my life.

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