British comedian, broadcaster, and activist Sandi Toksvig has opened up about how “ongoing” death threats have impacted her and her family over the years.
The QI presenter, who was recently invited to return to Cambridge University for a new fellowship, sat down with students to discuss her lifelong fight for gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights and revealed that her life has been threatened on numerous occasions because of her sexual orientation.
Toksvig told the Cambridge Union that there have been “ongoing” death threats made against her, forcing her to take extra precautions like going into hiding and having close protection police at her wedding.
Sandi Toksvig spoke about having police beside her at her wedding due to “ongoing” death threats. (Nordin Catic/Getty Images For The Cambridge Union)
She told the crowd that she first started getting death threats back in 1994 when she “did a completely unheard of thing” and told the press that she was in a relationship with a woman.
She and her partner at the time had decided to go public with their relationship because they had already welcomed three children together, Jesse, Megan, and Theo, and they “did not want [their] children growing up in the shadows of a secret.”
Toksvig recalled that there had been a front-page headline in the Daily Mail “the very next day”, that said: “If God had meant lesbians to have children, he would have made it possible”
The radio and TV star got a laugh from the audience when she pointed out that the headline made little sense since she and her partner already had three children so “clearly it was possible.” But, despite the failure in logic, Toksvig says the headline was enough to spark a pile-on of hate.
“The death threats started coming and the entire family had to go into hiding,” she said gravely.
Sandi Toksvig also discussed having to put her family in hiding after she first revealed she was dating a woman. (Future Publishing via Getty/ Wiktor Szymanowicz)
Although the former Great British Bake Off presenter noted that “things have moved on” since then, Toksvig later told a student during a Q&A session that she still gets death threats.
“It’s not always easy. I don’t want to be too serious but I’ve had a lot of death threats,” she shared.
“My wife and I, when we got married, I had to have a close protection police officer beside me.
“It is still ongoing, but you can’t let that rule your life. This is who I am. I am not going to live in the shadows of anything.
Sandi Toksvig joined a civil partnership with psychotherapist Debbie Toksvig back in 2007, and the couple renewed their vows to each other in 2014 when same-sex marriage was legalised in England and Wales.
In the past, Toksvig has spoken about how she was told she would “never work again” when she first came out as a lesbian.
But, despite what homophobes told her, she has had a wildly successful career, and is best known today as the first female presenter of a British mainstream TV comedy panel show after taking over from Steven Fry on QI, and for her stint on The Great British Bake-Off alongside Noel Fielding.
On the side, she has embarked on world tours with her comedy shows, written plays that have played at national theatres, and dozens of fiction and non-fiction books.
Over the years Toksvig has used her notoriety and influence to speak out in support of LGBTQ+ and women’s rights.