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Lindy McDowell

Phillip Schofield’s decision to reveal he’s gay has been met with huge support, but why do some still find it so difficult to come out?

Lindy McDowell



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TV presenter Phillip Schofield

TV presenter Phillip Schofield

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TV presenter Phillip Schofield

Well, that was a bolt from the blue, wasn't it? Television presenter Phillip Schofield, who has been taking a lot of flak in the media recently, made headlines on Friday for an entirely different reason. After 27 years of marriage and with two grown-up daughters he's come out as gay.

In a raw and impassioned post on Instagram he talked about the "heartbreaking" conversations he's had with his wife Steph and his daughters Molly (27) and Ruby (24), and his sense of guilt at the hurt he believes he has caused to his family. "My family have held me so close: they have tried to cheer me up, to smother me with kindness and love, despite their own confusion. Yet I still can't sleep and there have been some very dark moments."

On the This Morning sofa his fellow presenters - including Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford, with whom he's had some much-publicised disagreement - embraced him with the same kindness and love shown by his family.

And the public - not just This Morning fans - have rushed online to praise him too.

This is a "coming out" story that ends well. But the saddening thing about it is this, if Phillip Schofield has found it so very difficult to express his true sexuality for all these years, what does that say about how very difficult it still is for others who feel themselves similarly forced to live a lie?

For Phillip Schofield works in an industry, operates in a world, where homosexuality is openly accepted and hardly regarded as shameful, something to be hidden.

Yes, for their career reasons many entertainers, actors and media people down the years have felt it might be better to keep their sexual orientation private from the public.

And yes, it should be recognised that there are plenty of people in the industry too who just want to keep their private life just that. Private, full stop.

That said, generally their colleagues know, their family and their friends.

Phillip Schofield's didn't.

He didn't come out to them. And by the sound of it he even struggled to come out to himself.

That phrase "come out" seems so dated, doesn't it? Why in 2020 should we still be using it? Short answer: in 2020 gay people are still being stigmatised and discriminated against.

For so many young people it is still extremely difficult to tell parents, family and friends that they are gay. And so frightened are some of losing the love and approval of those they love most, they continue to live a lie.

With all the hellish toll on their own happiness and mental health that that entails.

Over the 27 years of his marriage Phillip Schofield kept his own secret. He didn't come out, not because he felt it would hurt him. But because he thought - and still thinks - of the hurt it would cause to those he loves.

Some may criticise him for getting married in the first place and further see this as a betrayal of his wife and daughters.

But it's society's pressure that is to blame for creating heartbreaking situations like this. For forcing men and women to feel they have no option but to conform to somebody else's "norm".

This week Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards spoke about their excitement - and the traditional nerves - as they look forward to their wedding next Tuesday, when they will become the first gay couple to get married in Northern Ireland under same-sex marriage legislation.

A love story there with a happy ending.

In 2020 everybody should be free to be who they are and to love who they want.

But as Phillip Schofield's revelation shows - and the obvious anguish and soul-searching that led to it - it's still not that easy.

People are right when they commend him for speaking so publicly about his private life. And yes, hopefully this will be an encouragement for others to similarly be true to themselves.

But let's not forget all those who still fear they can't.

And let's not forget it's wider society that is still to blame for that.

From sea cruise to cabin fever

As holidays from hell go, the coronavirus cruises in the news this week take some beating. Being stuck on a floating prison with thousands of other shipmates who may or may not carry the virus is bad enough, but to be holed up in a small cabin with food left at your door by masked waiting staff is hardly the luxury trip passengers forked out for. Even the booze is rationed. All at sea - and they can't even sink a few.

Dressing down goes over the top

Tracy Brabin

Dress of the week - the black, off-the-shoulder number worn by MP Tracy Brabin during a Commons debate. She'd just come from a music industry event, so the outfit was inevitably a bit more rock'n'roll than usual Westminster workwear. Inappropriate? Online, she got called everything. She isn't the first politician, however, to have worn a loose one-shouldered garment to a place of government. But nobody ever trolled Julius Caesar about his toga.

Donald comes up trumps yet again

It's been some week for Donald Trump, who has been acquitted of impeachment, delivered his State of the Union address and watched the Democratic Party stumble around having shot itself in all available feet.

First up, the impeachment process itself, which was always going to be a hiding to nothing for the Democrats since the Republican-dominated Senate was always going to find its man not guilty.

Far from winging him, which was presumably the intent, impeachment has merely made the Gloater-in-Chief look even more of a martyr in the eyes of Trumpeteers.

Then there was the caucus chaos in Iowa, which I will not even pretend to understand.

The caucus system is the offside rule of US politics - comprehensible to insiders, mystifying to everybody else.

The result took longer to come through than a Northern Ireland council election.

And when the vote-counting app being used lost count, the party lost the plot. Although not, sadly, the petulance...

At the end of Trump's State of the Union address the normally dignified Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, melodramatically tore up a copy of his speech to symbolise, she insists, how he's torn up the truth.

Good line, Nancy.

But the execution did you no favours.

Ripping up of a few sheets of A4 while he was lapping up the applause just made you look petty and prissy.

To paraphrase Michelle Obama - when he went lower, you went shredder.

Does nobody in the Trump opposition see how this is only playing into his hands?

Boris Johnson's best election agent was arguably Jeremy Corbyn.

The entire Democratic Party currently seems to be doing it for Donald.

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