Dancing on Ice’s Colin Grafton ‘proud’ to be a gay figure skater: ‘It’s been a long journey’

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 12: Colin Grafton attends the YRDS Creative Talent Marketing Agency VIP Launch Event at Louie on July 12, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images for YRDS Agency)

After two years performing on Dancing on Ice, former junior Team USA star Colin Grafton tells PinkNews why he’s finally ready to discuss his sexuality publicly and embrace his status as an out and proud gay figure skater.

Colin Grafton, 32, is originally from Boston, Massachusetts and has been skating since he was seven years old. It was watching Tara Lipinski taking home the gold for the US at the 1998 Olympics that first led him to his lifelong passion and career. But growing up in nineties and noughties America, being a male figure skater was “really tough”, he tells PinkNews.

“I remember feeling so nervous at various points in my childhood. You know, I’d be skating and the hockey players would come and bang on the side of the rink and shout words. That was something all male skaters had to deal with back then. It wasn’t easy but all of it made me stronger because I took it and focused everything on my sport,” reflects Grafton.

“When somebody tells you you can’t do something or somebody makes fun of you, just prove them wrong.”

Grafton competed for Team USA for about five years, winning bronze at the Junior US championships in 2012 along with his former partner Kylie Duarte. He brought his competitive career to an end in 2013 before moving into professional performance, serving as lead skater on several European tours before moving into coaching when the pandemic hit.

Colin Grafton Dancing on Ice
Grafton said being on Dancing on Ice is a dream come true. (Getty)

“I feel very fortunate about the fact that I’ve been able to kind of dabble in so many different areas in the professional world, but tour life is quite hard, all the travel and being away for so long – so when Dancing on Ice came up, I jumped on it,” he states.

You may like to watch

“I wanted to do Dancing on Ice for as long as I can remember. It’s such an incredible show because you get to mix your background of skating and performing but then you get to teach someone how to skate as well and perform for Torville and Dean. There’s nothing really like it. It’s quite unique.”

But what is it like performing in front of Olympic legends? Grafton says it’s definitely “nerve-wracking every time you skate in front of Torville and Dean”.

“You just really want to do them proud. They’re such legends and icons in the sport that I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be part of something they are a part of”, he adds.

‘I am proud of myself and I’m proud of my sexual orientation’

One potential downside of being on such a popular primetime show is that Grafton is a lot more visible than he used to be, and he has therefore been subject to a lot more scrutiny about his personal life.

Grafton says he knows there has been plenty speculation about his relationships and sexuality over the years, but he was always focused on his skating career. Grafton was never hiding the fact he was gay, but he also wasn’t always comfortable opening up about it in the spotlight, either.

“I told my closest friends, I told the people around me and I eventually told my parents. I was maybe 24 when all that happened. I know there’s a lot of curiosity about my sexual orientation and my love life, but I never actually came out to the public”, he shares.

“I guess this is me announcing it to you guys.”

Colin Grafton on Dancing on Ice
Grafton has been part of Dancing on Ice since 2022. (Getty)

Why now? “If I’m honest, I never really felt the need to announce it before but the reason I am saying this now is because I want to show that there is representation in any way I can”, the TV personality explains.

A fear of being stereotyped and being “put into a box” also contributed to Grafton not wanting to discuss his sexuality publicly: “I was really nervous of doing that to myself. It was like, OK, if I come out as gay then people are going to think I’m this or that, when in reality the human sexuality spectrum is so vast and it’s just one small part of the person you are.”

Grafton says his own journey to self-acceptance wasn’t easy or smooth – there were a lot of “small steps and small triumphs” that led to him to this moment, where he finally feels comfortable being himself in the public eye. He attributes that to the people around him, and feels “blessed” to have a really good group of friends that have always been there for him and never rushed him into announcing anything: “It was on my own terms,” he says.

“It’s been a long journey but now I am proud of myself and I’m proud of my sexual orientation and I want to let other people know that they should be proud of every part of themselves too,” he declares.

While exploring his sexuality, Grafton didn’t date much because he “lived and breathed skating” all the time. In fact, his first relationship wasn’t until he was 24, around the same time he decided to come out to friends and family.

That relationship lasted two and half years, but subsequent relationships were hard for Grafton due to his frequent travel and rigorous work scheduled. “I just didn’t really have an opportunity”, he explains. “You might meet someone while you’re on a contract for six months and after that, you’re both off in different directions so I wasn’t really able to hold down a relationship because of that.”

Grafton has now relocated to London permanently, and decided to make the UK his home. He now feels ready to settle down and find someone who is both local to London and understanding of the industry the works in.

“We live really crazy fast-paced lives as skaters. Personally, I want to meet someone who is also fast-paced and able to keep up with that but they don’t have to be a fellow skater. I just want someone who supports me and I can support them too,” he says.

“At the end of the day, we’re all just humans doing our thing on this planet and trying to find love.”

Colin Grafton didn’t realise the ‘impact’ his Dancing on Ice partnership with The Vivienne would have

Grafton made history during his first season of Dancing on Ice last year after partnering with RuPaul Drag Race star The Vivienne, who was the first drag artist to take part in the series. The pair reached the final, finishing third overall.

Describing the same-sex pairing as “such an honour”, Grafton reflects: “Being a part of that representation, being a part of that team, it was just wonderful. The support we got from everyone was just fantastic. If I’m honest, I didn’t really understand the impact that it would make in the end.”

Colin Grafton and The Vivienne on Dancing on Ice
Colin Grafton and Drag Race star The Vivienne finished third on Dancing on Ice last year. (Getty)

It was only after the series came to an end that, Grafton had time to sift through “the messages of encouragement from people and also from people saying how seeing us helped them and gave them the courage to either come out or be themselves”.

“It was truly something.”

The Vivienne and Grafton are still friends to this day and have a “strong bond”, he says – and he felt deeply protective after The Vivienne was assaulted in a McDonalds in Liverpool in June 2023, in an attack which was subsequently ruled to be motivated by homophobia.

“She’s one of my closest friends, so when you hear something like that, your heart breaks”, Grafton says. “But I also go into a ‘partner mode’ where I want to protect and help her because I was her partner on the show.

This season on Dancing on Ice, Grafton was paired with “wonderful” actress Claire Sweeney, and though the pair were voted out of the show in week four, Grafton hopes to be back for future editions of the ITV series.

“I absolutely love Dancing on Ice. Every season that I’m asked to do it, I feel like I’m blessed and I feel very lucky to be able to keep doing the show. I would love to continue doing it while I can or while my body allows me to as well,” he says, adding that he’d also like to try his hand at acting in the future.

“I think that’s what life is all about; learning new things and pushing yourself to do other things.”

As he prepares to embark on a new chapter as a publicly out and proud man, what would Grafton say to his younger self or to other young people unsure of how to come to terms with their sexuality?

“There is no rush and there’s no pressure to come out”, he states. “You have to do it on your own terms and in your own time and find that love for yourselves.

“It’s not an easy thing – it’s a journey and a learning experience.”