A ray of sunshine stood out in a considerably bleak and stormy news cycle last week, as Phillip Schofield announced that he is gay. Following his emotional social media post, the support for the This Morning host has been overwhelming.
Only a few decades ago, an announcement of this sort could have been deemed a threat to Schofield’s career, but with celebrities and members of the public praising his strength, and that of his loving family, it is clear that incredible steps towards acceptance of diversity have been taken.
In his statement, he explained that “every day on This Morning, I sit in awe of those we meet who have been brave and open in confronting their truth – so now it’s my turn to share mine. I was getting to the point where I didn’t like myself very much because I wasn’t being honest with myself.”
His statement prompted an outpouring of messages from colleagues and friends, including Dermot O’Leary, David Walliams and James Corden. Dancing on Ice star Ian “H” Watkins, who recently made history by dancing with his same-sex partner on the show, welcomed Schofield to “our beautiful rainbow family!”
It is evident that same sex relationships are being accepted and championed in ways that could not have been imagined previously. Entertainment reporter Caroline Frost told BBC Radio 5 Live that stars from the previous generation were likely to have been told that coming out as gay could damage their careers. Whereas now “You see all these young stars coming through and they don’t have to think about it,” she said, “They’re fluid. They just define their own terms.”
Attitudes to LGBT people have undergone massive changes since the 1980s, when Schofield made his TV debut. It should be celebrated that two million This Morning viewers barely blinked at Schofield coming out on air. Just as millions accept the sexuality of Sir Ian McKellen, Clare Balding and Miriam Margolyes, among others.
LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell agrees that attitudes have shifted. However, he makes the point that most openly gay people are white and male, suggesting that“We need more women and people from the African, Muslim and wider Asian communities, where young LGBTs often have a tougher time coming to terms with their sexuality and finding acceptance.”
Although the battle for equal rights and representation is not over, a lot of progress has been made. Many people seem much more liberated to be themsevles. The television presenter’s announcement is highly significant, says Jeff Ingold, Stonewall’s head of media. “For LGBT people, any time someone comes out it’s such an affirming moment just to see yourself reflected back at you. To have a national treasure like Phillip come out really opens people’s eyes to what it means to be LGBT.”
The courage shown by Phillip Schofield may be the catalyst that encourages others come out themselves. Although issues of inequality are far from resolved, in a world of Brexit, Coronavirus and Trump, it is essential that moments of acceptance and equality like these are given centre stage, to show us all there is always hope.
Ailsa is a third year English literature student from St. Andrews. She wanted to get involved with The Student because she was eager to write something other than coursework!
Image: @scofe via Instagram