CBBC vet Dr James Greenwood talks coming out, depression and getting hitched to this boyfriend! Yes! BOYFRIEND!

What could possibly be more adorable than copping an eyeful of a handsome fella snuggling up to his prized pooch, especially when that doggy-woggy has only one-eye? Meet vet Dr James Greenwood and his supercute labrador Oliver. To those not in the know (ie, you’re under 12), James is one of the stars of CBBC show The Pets Factor, in which he tends to poorly pussies, pesky pooches and in some cases poo-popping pythons. If you’re over 12, then you might actually recognise the swarthy fella from pounding his clay in the first series of the BBC2 challenge show The Great Pottery Throwdown. And it you don’t know him at all, never you mind, and let this fascinating and insightful interview be your welcome introduction to a man we reckon you will be hearing a lot more about over the next few months.

In this intimate and emotional chat, the gorgeous telly vet opens up about his difficult coming out process, his concern for the mental well being of those who work in the veterinary industry and happily relives the moment he popped the question to his lucky fiance Mark!

So take us back to when you realised you were gay? 

I don’t think there was a conscious moment, no lightbulb realisation. I suppose high school was where I became more aware of an attraction towards guys, although I never acted on it until much later.

Was it something you found hard to deal with?

I did struggle, immensely, but I am now in a fantastic relationship that has brought me out of some darker times. I was painfully shy through a lot of my early teen years and would far rather avoid conflict – so I bottled it all up and kept it quiet. As I grew into my late teens, early twenties – I learnt to adapt, swerve questions, deflect attention in any which way I could to hide my true identity.

How was your coming out experience? 

I was 23, maybe 24 and I think it is fair to say it was a mixed experience! I had to come out twice in order for it to properly sink in! I suppose the most awkward thing for me was the fact that no matter how you try to disguise it,  you are basically forced into discussing your sex life with people you don’t want to. At the time it felt like I had just voluntarily hit a self destruct button. However, to this day, that was the biggest turning point in my life and through that process I have grown so much closer to everyone around me.

Did you feel a sudden burst of confidence or were you still cautious about being out and open? 

Even after coming out I struggled to even say the word ‘gay’. I had hidden it for so long, then suddenly it felt like everyone was talking and I’d lost control of it. For a while I actually resented myself for coming out – but that was just my own fear taking hold again.  That time of my life was the most self-reflective and life-affirming process I have ever been through. I learnt so much about who I was and how to have pure unapologetic respect and love for my own self. ‘Coming out is the best gift you can give to yourself’ said Ellen de G and she’s totally right.

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Father-son bonding … 👍🏻❤️

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Was school a tough time for you?

Not really – I don’t think I had properly realised who I was at that point. I heard the usual homophobic crap in the corridors and playground, but never really associated that with who I was as a person so managed to compartmentalise it all quite beautifully in my my own way. My art teacher was gay, he was the only openly gay person I knew growing up. The art department felt like a sanctuary and perhaps that is why I still go back to crafting or ceramics as my ‘safe space’ when I’m stressed at work or have a lot on my mind. It’s my own home grown version of meditation!

Were the boys at school supportive?

One of my straight best mates from school has always been hugely supportive. When I told him, he really couldn’t give a shit and just made some lame joke about how girls always fancied him more than me anyway so no one would care! We’re still really good friends now and it has never been an issue.

Did you have any body insecurities as you growing up?  

Acne – all down my back and chest so I never ever used to take my top off in public, lasted well into my twenties. I’m so grateful I didn’t grow up in todays Instagram world. I do love Instagram and owe a lot to it – but I can appreciate what a negative influence it would have been on my teenage self esteem as a sixteen year old.

Looking back at your time at school what do you think teachers should do now to help LGBT kids through that time?

I’m a strong believer in role models – LGBT teachers, visiting speakers, open discussion groups. Show those kids that they are a completely normal, natural and valuable part of human society. You never know what prejudice those kids might suffer/be suffering at home and those early years at school are so pivotal in developing their future. I also actually think there should be more same sex education throughout our schools though.

What made you became a vet and how did you get into telly?

I have always loved animals – I adore dogs. We have a one eyed Labrador called Oliver who is quite literally treated like our child. I also have an affinity with horses and farming – my Grandparents familial line were all farmers up in Yorkshire so you could argue it’s ‘in my blood’. So it has always been more of a calling than a career choice. But – I also have an artistic side. I am an avid ceramicist (I use ‘ceramicist’ as it sounds a little more Patrick Swayze than saying ‘potter’) and love to create both wheel thrown ware and sculpture. It was this love of clay that got me into telly – as a contestant on the first series of The Great Pottery Throwdown on BBC Two. That led onto further opportunities and everything has grown from there.

You work on CBBC – once upon a time a presenter for kids ere forced to keep quiet. But now we have you and Ranj. Did anyone ever advise you to stay quiet about being gay?

Absolutely not.

Did achieving success take a while?

Things do take time – television can be a very slow game, especially for new shows reaching our screens, but then other times something crops up and they need you there tomorrow! That’s the nature of the beast and so I have purposefully let things grow quite organically rather than desperately trying to force it. I feel lucky that I have the benefit of still being able to work as a vet and have an agent who I totally rely on, just knowing someone is there on your side is hugely beneficial and I don’t think I could have done it alone!

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(Thank you @offdutydoctor …. Here is my very grumpy morning self! 😂) . Every morning there is an increasing number of people waking up homeless on our streets ….. the number of people sleeping rough has increased a shocking 169% since 2010 in England alone. . Not a figure to be proud of. . That’s why, with winter around the corner, I’m supporting @stmungos and their continued efforts to provide shelter and care for over 2,700 each year. . They are asking us to: 1. TAKE A MORNING SELFIE WAKING UP 2. DONATE £5 BY TEXTING WUTH18 £5 TO 70070 3. CHALLENGE 3 friends to DO THE SAME! . SO: how’s about it @bentheoandrews @rorythevet @agayadventure …. . #WakeUpToHomelessness #EndHomelessness

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Is a vet’s life an easy one?

I love being a vet, I totally adore animals and I love the team I work with. However it can be really stressful – we have to deal with really emotional topics, we are delivering both good and bad news on a daily basis and it takes a lot of practice to be able to separate work and home life.

Yes, we can imagine how hard it must be to lose pets and break the news to their owners.

For some vets, the pressure of the job reaches a point where the balance tips and it is no longer the job for them. Unfortunately though, for some it goes one step further and for a long time vets have suffered a higher than average statistical rate of depression and suicide. However with an increased awareness of mental health issues in society generally – our veterinary governing bodies are now starting to face these issues head on, taking proactive steps to understand the background causes and the profession is making real progress in how to better support ourselves and each other. Being a vet is not quite the parade of fluffy animals it might seem.

Have you been through a period like this yourself?  Mental health is a much more open subject – have you helped people through the tough times?

Truthfully, I don’t know! I’d like to think I have been a strong support for many people, in the way other people have been to me. I have my own issues, as we all do. I can often relate to stuff that people choose to open up to me about – but whether I can quantifiably say I have helped someone through a tough time isn’t for me to say. I would hope so. And if I have – I’d only see it as a way of paying it forward.

You’re getting hitched to your boyfriend Mark soon, how did you meet and tell us about the proposal?

We are!! And I’m so excited! We have just booked the venue, which incidentally is gay owned, for June this year up in Yorkshire (back to the motherland!).The proposal happened 2 years ago in Australia, on a boat in the Whitsundays (grab your sick bags for the next bit!!).   We were lying out up on the deck, under the stars and I popped the question. At which point Mark pulled a bottle of champagne from the cabin – as he had planned to surprise me with the same question the following night.

Awww… sweet!

So unbeknown to us, we were pretty much in sync with the whole marriage thing…even though it only took us ten years to get there!!

Thing seem to be going well for you now, what’s the dream career wise?

To continue working as a vet but hopefully do more TV work and branch out into other projects to keep life varied. There is some really exciting stuff planned for 2019 and I have a good feeling this is going to be a fun year!

Your mates Ranj and Stacey Dooley recently appeared in Strictly? Would you be up for doing something reality? 

I have LOVED Strictly this year – Ranj was incredible but when Stacey won – Oh my days – we were screaming around the living room! I’d definitely say yes to a show like Strictly – what an amazing opportunity to learn a new skill.

And what about I’m A Celeb. As an animal lover, would you be able to happily gobble kangaroo peen?

Eating penis in the jungle? I reckon I’d have a pretty good knack for that too…

What would you tell your 16 year old self?

Eat less crisps. Exercise more. Keep the opinions of others in perspective – be less chameleon. Learn to have love for yourself and never be without a dog.