Opinion: The internet has no right to criticise Phillip Schofield

When commenting on Phillip Schofield's coming out, bear in mind that there are myriad starting points for queers and that nowhere is perfect.

Phillip Schofield

Last week a TV presenter came out via an Instagram story. He talked about it on his show the next day. Breakfast television. Phillip Schofield is a household name, a housewives’ favourite with a wife and two children. He’s 57.

I know you’re not supposed to read the comments but you do though don’t you?

  • How is this news?
  • Nobody cares.
  • It’s his own business, why do we all have to read about this?
  • This isn’t brave. Would be fine if it was 1988!
  • He’s just revelling in the attention.

I saw one tweet from a man doing the classic zinger that we all love. “I’m coming out as heterosexual!” Nice one Diarmuid. Very original sweetie. Living for you Hun. 
I found myself awash with feelings I had tried to forget. I was wondering, why they were questioning this? What’s there to criticise, and who said you could comment? I was reminded of the words of a national treasure a little closer to home “feck off out of my life!”

I’m a white-cis-gay-man. So as a white cis gay man I try my best to be aware of my privilege. I mean I have to be, a white-cis-gay-man is essentially the white-cis-straight-man of the LGBTQIA+ community. I’m not going to pretend to speak for everyone in our community. It would be reductive to rank who has it the hardest.

Coming out is something that we all have in common but it’s a moment that we create for ourselves by ourselves (albeit with support). A rite of passage that unites us all. It’s important to bear in mind that there are myriad starting points for queers across the world and that nowhere is perfect.

It’s undeniable that a lot has changed here. The Church isn’t in charge. Same-sex couples can get married. We are legally allowed to determine our own gender. Secondary Schools hold Pride weeks. Drag queens are given Honorary Doctorates. The Taoiseach’s boyfriend is absolutely ripped! There has arguably never been a time like it.

Last year Lil Nas X became the biggest star in hip hop. Then he came out. When an interviewer asked him to speak about it, comedian Kevin Hart chimed in “he said he was gay so what!?” He responded before Lil Nas had a chance. He later explained he was attempting to be supportive but either way it was an unsolicited and unnecessary nugget of ignorance. 
I started a stand-up comedy gig recently by saying “I’m gay” and before the words had left my mouth a man in the front shouted “GOOD FOR YOU” in a tone that suggested I should hurry on and do the jokes. I thanked him and moved on but it left me distracted. Did he really think that when a person says “I’m gay” that they are looking for a response? Did he think I was his seeking his acceptance or his approval? I certainly don’t need his permission. I’m glad he was onside but let me have my moment! I’m a gay man on a stage; this is my time.

Yes, there has been no better time to be a queer person. But maybe only if you’re out. I’m thinking of those who still struggle and who haven’t made it all the way yet. Not yet. There are people of all ages and genders across the country who are waiting for the moment when the fear of exposing a secret still outweighs the pain of carrying it.

I think of those who hid in marriages or the convent or the priesthood. The bachelors. The spinsters, those tough old birds.

Feel free to dream of a time when nobody needs to come out. A lovely dream but we’re not there yet. Not even close.

Learning to love yourself comes first. It can be a sometimes sudden shift or maybe more like layers upon layers of ice have slowly melted. A new place. Head, heart and soul in conversation. A dance.

Coming out is STILL courageous. It’s commendable. Coming out is still an act of transgression. It is the movement across an ephemeral border dividing one life into two parts; before and after.

Our community has moved from gathering at secret bars and sharing clandestine kisses through to parades down the main thoroughfares.

Whether it’s marching up the streets or walking down the aisle we remember that we are waiting patiently for those who are still to come. To come out.

We can persevere with “balance” on the radio, with no posters outside our bedroom windows. But don’t come for coming out. Don’t dare take away the sanctity and the joy that we worked so hard to create for ourselves.

It is not an admission. It is not the ending of an old lie. It is not a performed reveal for the benefit of straight people or the cis people. It’s the queerest act in the world.

We are still rebels and renegades and we’re fierce and we’re powerful. We are still survivors.

Congratulations Phillip Schofield. And I salute his loving, generous and supportive wife and daughters. Behind every gay man, there is always incredible women.

As for the rest of you, we’ll wait. We are here. We’re right here. And we know that that you are there. We’ve been there too.

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