After all, they saw me tell my co-star Binky Felstead that I was bisexual in the first ever televised coming out, 10 years ago.
But it’s not really as straightforward as that.
I had told producers I wanted to come out when we first started filming the series and they were incredibly supportive and on board. They brought in lawyers, psychologists and other producers all to make sure I was ready for it.
They also asked me who I wanted to tell and I said it had to be my mum, obviously.
From there, I talked about filming a scene with her and watched Mum sign her release forms, not knowing what we would be discussing.
I remember the morning of it really clearly. We were going to film in Kensington Palace Gardens in front of the Peter Pan statue and I had spent time making sure I looked perfect in preparation.
I was on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane, getting ready to cross the road, and I felt confident. That was until a white van man turned around the corner and squirted an entire bottle of water in my face.
I don’t know what kind of attack it was – it might have just been people being silly – but I was so gutted that something like that happened at that moment, on such a big day.
It was one of those times where I had to say, ‘OK, I just have to pick myself back up again’.
So I pressed on. We set up next to the statue as organised and I told my mum I was bisexual. It felt like a big moment.
Mum was immediately accepting. There’s a wonderful metaphor I have used before about coming out and The Wizard of Oz. It starts with life being all in black in white, but when you go over the rainbow, it takes on colour. It’s how I felt.
However, in the weeks leading up to it airing, Mum was so filled with worry she lost a stone in weight. My grandmother, who was still alive at this point, had lost her son to AIDs in the 80s and Mum didn’t want to do anything that could possibly upset her.
Channel 4 were good enough to pull the scene and said we could re-shoot it with someone else, to avoid my grandmother hearing about it through family.
So a week later, I sat down with Binky and they asked if I wanted to tell her then. I remember thinking, ‘Christ, OK. All right.’
Binky had guessed – she told me afterwards that she did – but I’d never said it openly, out loud to her before.
However, it wasn’t as simple as once and done. I knew after I told my mum that I was going to have to tell everyone dear to me – around 20 people – before they found out from tuning in.
So that night I went to Chiswick to see my sister Amelia and her husband. I then asked her to tell our dad.
One of the most moving reactions I got actually came the night the episode aired. I was standing outside on the King’s Road and I read one tweet that said, ‘You’ve just saved my little brother’s life’.
When Gareth and I married and our wedding was aired in 2020, I got another message. This time it read: ‘You’ve just saved my life by being you’.
It made it any pain, any worry and any distress worth every second.
Of course, that was just the start of it. Coming out as bisexual was one thing but coming out as gay was another entirely.
In all honesty, telling people I was bisexual was difficult as it was fairly unknown back then. In the aftermath, I remember encountering a bit of stick from the community and hearing phrases like ‘bi now, gay later’.
People didn’t really understand it, they wanted to me just to be gay. But it wasn’t as easy as saying I was.
I had been dating women – I had had a three-and-a-half-year relationship with a woman and knew so many fabulous ones. Still, I knew there were feelings for guys there, unsure what that meant.
In time, I realised that I wanted men more than women and ultimately yearned to settle down with a man. That was when I had to come out again.
Once more, Binky played a pivotal role.
Both of our mothers had come out to the South of France with us when we were filming. We sat around the table, dodging the subject as I couldn’t quite muster the words.
That’s when Binky came out for me and said, ‘For f**k’s sake, he’s gay!’
Everyone said, ‘Oh my God’, and then Mum went to the fridge and opened a bottle of champagne. It was quite sweet and everything I ever wanted.
The response from fans was equally as heartwarming. I’ve spent my life protecting my girls against anyone that’s going to hurt them and I have shown that I will stand up and fight for Toff, and for Binky.
Because of that, I’ve managed to get myself an incredibly loyal female fan base as a sort of gay best friend of Britain, which I really enjoy.
In return, they defend me against anyone who says anything hurtful. Every now and then I get the odd tweet – I must be very, very, very lucky because I don’t get very much hate at all – but each time, my gang of girls comes out in support of me and showers me in love. It’s so special.
To anyone thinking about coming out, I would say: make sure you have your support network around you first.
I think everyone believes that when you come out, there’s going to be a parade. The thing is, there’s not – you have to wait for June for that parade (well, September in the case of this year).
The people you tell won’t bang drums, but they will give you a huge amount of love – if you have that network there.
An Uber driver came out to me recently as I was that support for him. He told me he couldn’t tell his family because he’s Muslim, but because he had seen the show he knew that he could be open with me. I was the first person he’d ever confided in.
It was a huge privilege to hear. Every time someone shares their truth with me, I feel honoured; I sit and talk to them because I know that I may be the only person they can speak to about this.
While we’re incredibly lucky to live in Britain at this time in history, it’s not easy for everyone to be who they are.
But there are support networks out there. I’m working with Naked Smoothies on their Be a Rainbow Machine campaign. It’s to celebrate Pride and the launch of their new Naked Rainbow Machine smoothie, with 10p from each bottle across June and July being donated to Stonewall, which is what I think companies should be doing to tangibly support the LGBTQ+ community.
When you have brands shouting about inclusion from the rooftops and selling their products on shelves displaying their ally credentials, it’s a form of representation. Consumers then go on to see LGBTQ+ as a mainstream thing.
It’s something Gareth and I were aiming for by airing our wedding.
When we decided to get married on Chelsea, it clearly had an impact. It had 3.5milllion people watching – more than double the previously highest viewed episode.
The day itself was beautiful but hectic. We essentially had 48 hours to plan a wedding and we were all rushed off our feet – I didn’t even have time to wash my hair! I wasn’t allowed to drink a glass of wine and ended up in bed alone with a peppermint tea on my wedding night.
But I’m never a wallflower. I knew that if I was going to have a wedding, it needed to be watched by all those people.
Now our family is expanding, with Gareth and I embarking on our parenting journey through surrogacy, I can’t help but reflect on the first time I came out to my mum.
It really was the pivotal moment in my life.
I went on to propose to Gareth in front of that same Peter Pan statue and the audience that watched me come out then got to see me get my happy ending.
It’s been absolute heaven.
Naked Smoothies ‘Be A Rainbow Machine’ campaign encourages people to celebrate inclusion in all areas of their life. For more information on the campaign, visit www.instagram.com/nakedjuiceuk.
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