British television presenter Clare Balding has called for more openly gay women on television.
Balding, who became a national treasure after presenting sports coverage of the Olympics and Paralympics at London 2012, has said the media needs to show more women of diversity.
In an interview with The Times, she said: ‘There’s a lack of visibility. I remember an article that said, ‘Lesbians are like baby pigeons: you never see them,’ and then naming a couple – me and Sue Perkins.
‘Television, newspapers need more visible women, full stop. That’s why the Olympics have been so great, because you realize that women come in all shapes and sizes, short and tall, old and young. And yes, some of them are lesbians.’
‘I get really upset if being gay – and the fear around it – stops people being who they could be.’
Outed as a lesbian by the Mail on Sunday in 2003, the 41-year-old revealed she was terrified of coming out to her parents.
With her maternal grandfather able to trace his family back to King Henry V, Balding said she only talked about work to her parents because she didn’t want them to know about her private life.
She remembered showing an article to them about American openly lesbian TV show host Ellen DeGeneres to her parents, calling her ‘amazing’, but not being truthful about why she admired her so much.
But Balding believes being open about her sexuality has made her more relaxed, saying: ‘You don’t feel that people are judging you. You’re not scared. You haven’t got this massive secret on your shoulders.’
Balding began her relationship with Radio 4 newsreader Alice Arnold in 2001, and the women celebrated becoming civil partners in 2006.
‘She has made me a much better person,’ she said. ‘More politically aware, bolder, in terms of what I say, or just being more comfortable with who I am.’
When asked if being gay had affected her career, Balding said: ‘I don’t know. That’s the difficult thing. Who knows? I certainly don’t think it does now.’
Clare Balding’s autobiography My Animals and Other Family is available now.