Coronation Street’s Antony Cotton has revealed the abuse he receives from gay men for his portrayal of camp character Sean Tully in the soap.

The 39-year-old actor – who has played factory worker and barman Sean in the ITV soap since 2003 – spoke out at a conference at Manchester Pride’s fringe festival and revealed he has faced years of criticism from the gay community for his representation of a gay character on mainstream TV.

According to The Independent, Antony revealed: “I get a lot of stick from people who say, and these are people who are 21 years’ old, ‘You’ve put the gay cause back 21 years’.

“Or they say ‘You’re a disgrace to this village’. You’d be surprised how many kids say that to me.”

But the actor defended his portrayal, saying: “Sean has never had to explain who he was, he never had to come out, he was just accepted into the community of Weatherfield from the start.

“So for every one of those people who say to me that Sean’s a stereotype, and that he doesn’t have a political storyline, actually the fact he’s never had to explain himself makes him the most political gay character in soap.”

Antony was joined for the panel discussion on ‘Coming Out, from Script to Screen’ by Corrie creator Tony Warren, script writers Damon Rochefort, Debbie Oates and Jonathan Harvey, and co-star Brooke Vincent, who plays lesbian character Sophie Webster in the show.

Tony said: “Antony has had a lot of unfair stick in the village, because they’re mistaking the character he plays for Antony.”

But the actor – who played a camp character in Russell T Davies’ hit drama, Queer as Folk, about gay life in Manchester  in 2000 – suggested the antagonism had begun before he was cast in Coronation Street.

He told the discussion: “When it was announced I was going into Corrie an online petition was set up to have me sacked because people said I was going to put the gay cause back 25 years. That was six months before I even appeared on screen!”