Can we have an opinion on Phillip Schofield coming out?

News Editor Em Richardson discusses how to handle Phillip Schofield's recent announcement

Em Richardson
26th February 2020
Image: Wikipedia
TV presenter Philip Schofield recently announced he is gay, despite being married to a woman for 27 years. Naturally, this has led to a lot of speculation… about whether he knew he was gay when he married a woman, about why he didn’t ‘come out’ sooner, and about how his family might be feeling at this time.

As far as I’m concerned, there is a single answer to all of these questions: none of our business. We can speculate, of course.  Maybe he genuinely believed he could suppress his feelings for men at the time of his marriage. Maybe he didn’t feel comfortable coming out earlier in his career because LGBTQ+ people were less accepted back then, and he worried about how the public might react. Maybe his family can happily accept that he is still the same person he was before he came out. Ultimately, however, Schofield has every right to keep the answers to these questions between himself, his wife, and his daughters.

With regards to his wife, she is the only person who really knows how she is feeling. She might be devastated, and she might feel deceived, as online commentators keep claiming. Yet, she could just as easily feel happy that he is finally able to be true to himself. After all, this is someone with whom she has a long, shared history.  Regardless of her feelings towards her husband in this moment, at some point, she loved him. Only she knows the extent to which this is still true. Rather than people speculating about her feelings online, she needs time, and privacy, to allow her to process the massive changes her life is currently undergoing. Let’s stop telling her how she ought to feel.

As for Schofield himself, the majority of reactions to his news have been positive - as they should be, in this day and age. The majority of negativity comes from the belief that he has misled his wife and daughters which, whilst unpleasant and hurtful, at least doesn’t mock him simply for the fact he is gay. His personal appeal has not been diminished by the news about his sexuality, for the majority of people.

That being said, the darkest depths of Twitter have still seen fit to make some rather unpleasant allegations. Several conspiracy theories have emerged, claiming Schofield has ‘pursued’ younger men, despite very little evidence. I firmly believe such allegations are rooted in homophobia.

A certain breed of person doesn’t seem to want to believe that Schofield kept his sexuality private simply because he wasn’t ready to speak his truth. They are convinced there must be a darker, more unpleasant reason for his silence. Such theories stem from the appalling belief that being gay is a ‘dirty secret’, and the evil stereotype that gay men have a tendency to ‘pray’ on younger men. In the wake of Caroline Flack’s suicide, I think we need to remember that the consequences of constant, cruel speculation about one’s private life can be devasting, and call out such behaviour.

Personally, I think we should just be glad that Schofield finally felt comfortable enough to come out whilst in the public eye, regardless of how long it has taken him to reach this point.

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