One of the biggest stories this week was the news that Phillip Schofield had come out as gay. Everybodyyyyy was talking about this, from my lecturers, to my class mates, to the Amazon delivery driver while I signed for my package!
First announced on social media and followed quickly by a discussion on Phillip’s day time show This Morning, the news came with mixed responses.
Many people were happy and encouraged him to speak out about his sexuality. However, there is always a debate rumbling in the media and Twittersphere (controversy on Twitter? Shock horror, I know). Many people were quick to criticise Philip and draw attention to how this impacted his children and wife of 27 years.
Many of these criticisms were presented with harsh language branding Philip as a ‘liar’ and a ‘cheat’ for marrying his wife while knowing he was gay.
Clearly there were a lot of homophobic elements to this abuse, hiding behind the defence of Schofield’s wife and kids. However, I think a lot of this also came from millennials (like me) who truly can’t remember a time when being gay was seen as something so terrible that it had to be hidden away at all costs. Therefore, a lot of people couldn’t wrap their heads around why Philip had chosen to ‘lie’ for so long.
I admit, I was quite naive to how the media and others treated LGBT people in the not so distant past. Scrolling through my twitter feed on the day that the news was announced I saw a headline from the Daily Mail that I could not believe was allowed to be published.
I looked at the date of this article thinking I would see something along the lines of the 50s, maybe 60s at a push, but no…1993. I was honestly shocked. This kind of thing was happening in the 90s? Three years before I was born? I found it hard to comprehend that this kind of rhetoric was casually published less than 30 years ago in mainstream newspapers. As I researched deeper, I found this headline was not the only one of it’s kind, far from it.
Another event that was taking place in 1993, when this article was published? Philip Schofield married his wife. These are the type of headlines and casual homophobia that Philip was up against at the time of his marriage. It’s not hard to see why he would want to keep his sexuality quiet.
I feel like a lot of people criticising Schofield for ‘lying’ to his wife were either too young to remember when attitudes like these were mainstream or weren’t born at all. Therefore, it’s easy to criticise Schofield’s decision to not be truthful with his wife.
A lot of the millennial generation (including me, if I’m honest) live in an echo chamber. Technology has allowed us to to tailor the information we receive to our own beliefs. Wether we only read the newspapers that support similar values to our own or only follow people on social with similar views, we often forget that there are and were opposing views on things that we see as mainstream.
The only thing that can be taken from such ignorance to the homophobia of the past is that our society is thankfully, rapidly moving on from those views. This was most clearly illustrated in the fact that for every occasional negative comment Philip received there were a sea of well wishers commending him for his bravery.