Great British Bake Off winner David Atherton on why fighting for trans rights is his duty as a gay man

Great British Bake Off winner David Atherton

Baker and health advisor David Atherton, who was crowned the winner of the Great British Bake Off 2019, has explained why, as a gay man, he feels it is his “duty” to stand up for trans folk.

David Atherton, a self-described “underdog”, managed to out-bake Alice Fevronia and Steph Blackwell in the competition’s final in October, 2019.

Although Atherton has been out for years, being an LGBT+ person in the public eye has brought its own set of challenges.

But the baker told PinkNews that the queer community usually has each other’s backs, and no amount of criticism will stop him standing up for equality.

I’m not going to sit back. If I believe something, I will stand up for people.

He said: “I do [experience negativity], I think with social media everyone has trolls.

“I think the the great thing is that there’s so many queer people on social media who are there to fight for you.

“I would be more comfortable to stick up up for someone else who was getting abuse, than trying to fight the fight against people who are going for me.

“So I try to do that personally, if I see that someone’s being targeted, I will stand up for them. So many people have stood up for me if someone has said something.”

Atherton said that while others in the public eye might be “very worried about being cancelled and unfollowed”, he is not afraid to speak his mind.

“I know that certainly when I first talked about politics,” he said, “a lot of people sent me comments, saying, ‘I used to like you, and now I don’t.’ I was just like, ‘Well, goodbye.’

“It’s the same for me with queer issues, I’m not going to sit back. If I believe something, I will stand up for people.”

We have a very easy ride at the moment compared to trans people or intersex people, and so we have a duty to stand up.

Atherton is a steadfast trans ally, and he said: “For trans people, it’s such difficult a life to lead [right now], and to add on top of that abuse, like daily abuse, and all of this kind of negativity, even sometimes the more subtle negativity.

“People think social media is just comments, it’s not, it can run so deep.

“So I’m very much ready to stand up and fight for trans people. People pick different things to go after, and there was a time where gay men would have been targeted more.

“But I feel that we have a very easy ride at the moment compared to trans people or intersex people, and so we have a duty to stand up.”

David Atherton is set to release a cook book for children, representing kids with rainbow families.

As well as baking, David Atheron previously travelled to Malawi for two years with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) as part of his work as a health advisor training nurses there, and worked on a project bringing expectant mothers to health facilities so that they could give birth safely.

He said his work in health has given him an interest in nutrition, and added: “I just think that eating is such an important part of health, and you learn so much of that from being a child.”

Wanting to bring more children the “great experience” he had cooking with his mum as a child, Atherton teamed up with illustrator and close friend Rachel Stubbs to create My First Cook Book: Bake, Make and Learn, which will be published on 20 August. 

He said: “I lived in rural Malawi, and then when I came to London I lodged with her and her husband, two of my really good friends, for two years. While I was living there, she did her master’s in children’s book illustration.

“When I was on Bake Off, we were talking and I was saying how I just find it so frustrating that how you look at a recipe and you see this picture, this beautiful photo done by a food stylist, absolutely immaculate.

“No one can ever attain those photos, not even always professional bakers, and that’s particularly frustrating for kids or parents who are trying to do the recipe. I thought illustration was good, because whatever the kid bakes is the real one.”

David Atherton and Rachel Stubbs teamed up to create My First Cook Book. (Walker Books)

But more than making cooking and baking more accessible to kids, Atherton also wanted to give his readers the representation he never had when he was young.

He said: “We wanted to have a lot of the illustrations in the book be about people who are in the kitchen together… you always see the same mum and dad.

“We wanted to kind of have a lot of representation in the book, for example there are there are two dads that I like to think are based on me and my partner.

“Then there’s also the kids themselves. We didn’t want them to be obviously male and female, we didn’t want to gender them necessarily. It’s meant to be quite open. Rachel’s got a very beautiful form of illustration anyway, that fits with that kind of thing.

“Also, one of the families in the book is meant to be a childminder, it’s not just about mummies and daddies.”

The 2019 Great British Bake Off winner comes from a religious, anti-LGBT+ family.

David Atherton grew up in a strictly religious family, and said that although he loved his own first cook book, if he had “seen pictures of two daddies or two mummies, that would have really helped”.

He said: “My family was a very religious family, and it was that kind of religiosity and rules that meant that it wasn’t okay to be queer.

“So I came from a very loving family in one sense, but then I struggled because I had to hide who I truly was, or I felt I did.

“I came out to other people, but I didn’t come out to my parents until I was around 29 or 30.”

I think that with my family, so much of the negativity towards LGBT+ people, comes from ignorance.

By the time he appear on the Great British Bake Off, Atherton said he had realised that coming out “was about saying I’m not going to be in the closet for anybody, I’m willing to be out to anybody”.

He continued: “Going on national TV, on such a big show like Bake Off,  I was very clear with the producers, I want to wear tops that say equality and have rainbows on them, and I want my partner to be featured very prominently in my backstory.

“That was very deliberate for me, I think I was definitely ready.

“Just because I think that with my family… so much of the negativity towards LGBT+ people, comes from ignorance.

“And so the more we can normalise, the more we can get out there and it not just be about tropes and stereotypes, I think it’s really, really important.”