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Strictly’s John Whaite recalls being outed to his mother by a teacher

John Whaite reflects on his coming out as “a horrific cliff edge to be standing on, because once said, there’s no taking it back: no re-entry to the closet.”

Words: Emily Maskell; Photography: Dean Ryan McDaid

Strictly Come Dancing star John Whaite revealed it was a trusted school teacher who outed him to his mother at a young age.

In a candid op-ed for Metro (10 June), the 33-year-old TV personality wrote that he felt “ashamed” and “cried [himself] to sleep” after the chance to tell his mother that he’s ​​gay was taken from him.

“In year 9, I opened up to my head of year that I was gay. It took me an hour sat in a classroom in the English block, to say the words. In fact, I didn’t say the words at all,” he wrote in the lengthy essay.

“I fearfully fumbled with the phrase “I’m gay” for those 60 minutes, but every time I wanted to blurt it out my own tongue asphyxiated me, rendering me speechless.”

“It was, and for many still is, a horrific cliff edge to be standing on, because once said, there’s no taking it back: no re-entry to the closet.”

Upon returning home from school, Whaite remembers his mum telling him that the head of year had phoned her to say that he has come out as gay.

“I could feel the ground beneath me dissolve as my stomach rose to my throat and shame washed over me,” Whaite reminisces on his reaction to being outed.

“I didn’t know how to respond, what to say. Do I deny it? I thought. I remember her saying we should keep it to ourselves for now.”

Whaite admits his mother’s hesitation was down to worries of how to tell his stepfather, caveating that “20 years ago straight men were different than they seem to be today.”

He concludes the article with the sentiment that although it’s emotional to recount his past and that it took him “years to deal with this baggage,” he is “proud to be, amongst other things, a gay man.”

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Whaite is proof that these negative past experiences do not define a person; he went on to make history as one half of Strictly’s first same-sex male partnership.

On the cover of Attitude in November 2021 with dance partner Johannes Radebe, Whaite shared his excitement to be a part of this historic TV milestone.

Whaite told us: “I knew that it was an important thing to do, that it was hopefully going to change the way TV is, change the way that children feel when they watch TV – it’s massive.”