John Whaite has said he hopes having same-sex role models on Strictly Come Dancing will give children watching the show “a little bit of hope for the future”.
The former Great British Bake Off winner follows in the footsteps of boxer Nicola Adams, who last year danced in the first same-sex partnership with professional Katya Jones.
The 32-year-old said the reaction to him being in the first all-male partnership on the dancing competition has been “so positive” and hopes it will “break down that notion of toxic masculinity”.
He said: “The reaction has been so positive.
“Because I’m doing the first all-male partnership, I genuinely did think that I was going to receive a fair bit of hate because you do as a gay man, you get a lot of hate.
“You grow up and learn to deal with it, you shouldn’t have to, but we do.
“But I can honestly say I haven’t had a single message of negativity.
“When I was talking to Matt Lucas on the Radio 2 Breakfast show, I realised how important a step forward this is.
“Little kids who watch the show, to have same-sex role models will give them a little bit of hope for the future and it won’t make them grow up with the same shame that I grew up with and Matt Lucas grew up with.
“But also it’s not just about queer people, it’s about everyone, straight or gay.
“I hope that this is going to break down that notion of toxic masculinity, especially in Britain.
“If you look at Europe, people are much more intimate with each other.”
The TV baker said he did initially worry about the added pressure of the role but he now thinks “it’s only about the dancing”.
He added: “The message that I’m conveying to queer people around the world is my message, but I convey that if I do an Instagram post, if I get up and make the bed, I do that as a proud gay person.
“But for me, the show is only about the dancing and I want people to vote for me if they think I’m good, not because I’m in a male-male relationship.”
Whaite speculated that he believes his partner might be Johannes Radebe, Graziano Di Prima, Aljaz Skorjanec or Kai Widdrington.
However, he admitted he hoped it was Radebe as he is also an openly gay man and thinks it would be a “very powerful message for him” too, but said he would be happy to dance with anyone.
When asked his thoughts on facing another panel of judges, he added: “I’ll be fine with the criticism because I see it as learning.
“I’ve never seen the judges being particularly personal or unfair and if I can survive Paul Hollywood, I can survive Craig Revel Horwood!”
– Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One on September 18.