Former Blue Peter presenter Stuart Miles has revealed he regrets not being open about his sexuality publicly during his time on the show.
The TV and radio host, 49, appeared on the iconic children's series from 1994-1999 alongside the likes of Konnie Huq, Katy Hill and Richard Bacon, but says that the psychological scars of being bullied over his sexuality as a child left him unable to embrace being gay in public when he got his big break aged 25.
Miles, who has fronted radio shows for Gaydio and Heart and founded men's anti-ageing advice site MilesYounger.com since leaving Blue Peter, revealed he now regrets not providing gay youngsters with a role model as he delivered a speech to a group of young students on behalf of LGBT schools charity Diversity Role Models on Thursday afternoon (February 22).
Diversity Role Models is a non-profit organisation which offers workshops which educate schoolchildren about LGBT issues in an attempt to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying.
Miles tells Attitude of his decision to work with the charity: "When I first discovered the work that Diversity Role Models did seeking to prevent homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in UK schools, I wished they’d been around when I was at school.
"The statistics in regard to LGBT youth and suicide are startling and anything that can help young people realise that bullying in schools has consequences on people’s lives that can last well beyond childhood, is hugely important."
The 49-year-old continues: "I felt that by sharing my own story that if I could help just one less child suffering the kind of bullying I faced it would be a good thing.
"Despite the fact I had a job that some young people may envy and the fame to go with it, I wasn’t immune to it affecting how I dealt with my own sexuality at the time, even in adulthood!
"By sharing my experiences with young people I hope it might help someone."
Read the speech that Stuart Miles's delivered to a group of school-age kids at a school partaking in the Diversity Role Models programme below:
"When I was at school I realised there was something different... I enjoyed playing with girls more than boys but everyone called me names. Poof. Gay. This upset me. I thought they sounded like horrible words that made all the other children not like me.
"It made me very sad but also made me think if I want to be popular I mustn't be like those words, even though I had no idea what they actually meant.
"I soon realised I was different because I liked boys and not girls but it remained my secret. I knew now what those words meant, the ones I had been called in the playground and I didn't want to feel that awful again... Why would you? I thought life is easier if you keep quiet, so I did!
"Many years later I landed my dream job as a presenter of the famous children's TV show Blue Peter in the 1990s. It made me very famous. I was scared all over again and thought what happens if I tell the truth? Will I be criticised and seen as less of a role model by people.
"I could've been a role model to all those gay youngsters but instead I was too scared and hid it and now really regret it. The years of bullying at school had meant I had become introvert instead of having the confidence to be myself.
"Looking back it seems like absolute madness that I didn’t feel I could be fully myself, and this was from the impact of school bullies. I have no doubt the BBC would have been fantastic and Blue Peter is a job I look back on with such fond memories.
"Even my best friend I didn't tell, until she said to me one day 'it's ok I already know' . I cried, it was such a relief. Someone who wasn't going to judge or be horrible but just said I understand and it's ok.
"Then a few weeks ago I heard a friend of mine’s son refer to his mate as 'a bit gay'. Here's my message: It might seem ok to you to call someone names like gay but [to] that friend of yours, that word partly defines who they are.
"In the future you could make them feel ashamed and scared to tell anyone and they will have to lie and hide things from you or their own friends and family.
"Everyone has secrets and needs to trust someone, so why don't you become that person they trust and be able to say” I like you as a friend because of all our differences.
"I wasn't a role model to gay youngsters while I was on Blue Peter because those people at school who bullied me made me scared. But today, right here, I am happy to have friends who love me for who I am.
"Since I had the confidence to fully be myself I have found that the media I work with have been hugely supportive and it isn’t an issue. I wish I had the confidence and life experience [I have] now back then, but I hope by sharing my story I may be able to inspire you so you don’t have to feel like I did at school."