Westlife star Mark Feehily has said that undergoing therapy made him realise he was homophobic before he courageously came out in 2005.
Feehily, 41, publicly revealed he was gay during an interview with British tabloid The Sun when he was 25.
Realising he was gay as a teenager, Feehily told Vinny Hurrell on the When I Was 25 podcast that he grappled with “guilt” while in the closet that eventually festered into “internalised homophobia”.
Through therapy, he embarked on a deeply personal journal that helped him free himself of the shame that held him back from coming out.
Mark Feehily’s therapist told him he had ‘internalised homophobia’
“I had this guilt,” he said. “I’m not the type of person to live a lie, yet somehow I found myself in that position.
“I suppose, in the end, the only person that was stopping myself from getting out of this situation was me, but I didn’t know how to do that.”
The singer added: “I did some therapy sessions with an older lady, she was like my granny’s age group.
“There was a eureka moment where she [the therapist] told me: ‘Do you realise that you’re actually homophobic?'”
“I was like: ‘What? How dare you. I’m homophobic? I’m gay, how can I be homophobic?
“‘This is a joke. I can’t be homophobic. I’m always afraid of all these other people that are homophobic, now I’m homophobic?’
“That was a big turning point in my head. I was shocked about my own, what they call, internal homophobia.”
“Actually, probably the majority of young gay lads’ biggest enemy is their own opinion of themselves.
“It’s not other people’s opinion, it’s what they think of themselves.
“I thought: ‘That’s the last straw. I’m not homophobic’. If I really wanted to change that, I needed to come out.”
Mark Feehily said that he never dated men during the height of his fame in Westlife, paranoid that he would be outed by the press.
“Being gay doesn’t define you but it’s also a huge part of who you are so I had that switched off or muted,” he said.
“It was locked away, I was living half a life. It was made less enjoyable because on the other side you have this success, screaming fans and huge record sales.”
He added: “I came out to my family and friends around 2003 and then the lads in early 2004.
“I know there are gay pop stars out there who might be straight to the public or might sneak out to the gay clubs, I couldn’t I was so scared.”