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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

BBC's Clare Balding: I'm a much better broadcaster for not hiding my sexuality

Balding hid her true sexuality for years 'because I was scared'
Clare Balding says that coming out as a lesbian made her a better broadcaster and more popular with female viewers because they don't fear she will steal their husbands.

The face of the BBC's racing coverage 'married' her partner, newsreader Alice Arnold, in a civil partnership ceremony in 2006 and the couple share a home in west London. Balding said her career had blossomed.
"In a way it makes me much less of a threat - and women are funny the way they watch telly, because they don't like women who they think might nick their husband," Balding said.
"Seriously. They watch someone in a little tight leopardskin dress and they think, 'Oh, I don't like her'. And the husband is going, 'She's fantastic!' But then I come on and they're all right with that. And that could be hugely to my advantage. I hope so. I certainly don't think it's a disadvantage."
Balding, 40, hid the truth about her sexuality for years. She said: "It is a difficult one for me because obviously there are certain people who don't approve of my lifestyle choices. But, actually, I think for the most part people are accepting.
"Personally, I'm a much better broadcaster for not hiding who I am. Not necessarily trumpeting it, but not hiding it. I'm not lying any more - and I did lie, for about six or seven years. Because I was scared. That's why everybody lies."
She sees herself as a role model for young women because "it's hugely important for them to see someone who is confident about their sexuality and comfortable being out. They can just say, 'Oh, that's right, well she doesn't have a problem with it'."
Last year, Balding made a formal complaint to the press watchdog after the newspaper columnist AA Gill reviewed a programme in which she cycled around Britain and referred to her as "a dyke on a bike". The complaint was upheld.
"I can take most things but I don't think anybody should be judged on their sexuality. Their ability to do their job is separate from who they fall in love with," Balding told the Radio Times.
She described homophobia in sporting terms, explaining: "We're very tribal in our instincts. We love to feel part of a team - of supporters and players - and people can feel very threatened when there's another team they don't understand."
Balding, the daughter of racing trainer Ian Balding, was a flat jockey before becoming one of the BBC's main sports presenters. This Saturday she will be at Aintree for the Grand National.
The race was the scene of her greatest controversy in 2009, when she joked on camera that winning jockey Liam Treadwell needed to get his teeth fixed. She apologised and says now: "I was trying to be too much one of the lads."
That same year, Balding was diagnosed with thyroid cancer which was successfully treated. She returned to work shortly afterwards and her ambition for 2012 is to host the BBC's Olympics coverage.
"I went through a stage of wanting to be the face of the Olympic Games. I did. But then I realised it was quite unlikely. Because there will be people ahead of me," she said. Gary Lineker, Sue Barker and Gabby Logan are expected to lead the presenting line-up.


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