Emmerdale star Michelle Hardwick has said she is too scared to hold her fiancée’s hand in public for fear of a homophobic attack.
Hardwick, who plays vet Vanessa Woodfield, is in a same-sex relationship with show producer Kate Brooks.
Despite the couple being happy and in love, they are still reluctant to display their affection publicly. Hardwick, 43, calls recent reports of homophobic attacks “absolutely vile”.
Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, Hardwick said: “I feel like we’re going backwards in society with our attitudes.
“Sometimes if Kate and I see a group of young lads we instinctively let go of each other’s hands because we’re scared they’ll turn on us. We live with that fear every day.
“So people who say, ‘Gay Pride? Why isn’t there a Straight Pride?’ I’ll tell you why, because you don’t need it.
“Because luckily for you, you’re able to be affectionate with your partner in public and you won’t be abused for it. It’s absolutely vile what goes on.”
Despite being disappointed with the attitudes of a minority of people, Hardwick has said she has received plenty of support for her portrayal of the same-sex relationship with on-screen wife Charity Dingle, who is played by Emma Atkins.
She says she has been contacted by fans from the LGBT community and straight soap fans, congratulating and thanking her for the work she is doing in normalising same-sex relationships. “It never stops and I always try and reply to everyone,” she explains.
“And I get a lot of messages from viewers who aren’t gay saying, ‘What you’re showing is normal and it’s great it isn’t hidden away’.
“It isn’t like Charity and Vanessa are rammed down people’s throats all the time, but it’s lovely the characters are still together.
“And Emma and I get on so well.”
Hardwick has been a part of the Emmerdale cast for seven years, and previously worked in ITV shows such as The Royal, and Heartbeat.