The whole world looks different now. We go about our daily lives taking for granted everything familiar; anchors along the way; constants. Remove any one of them, however, and one’s equilibrium is shaken. So it was that, on Friday, Phillip Schofield’s revelation stopped me in my tracks. Of course, it has no profound impact on my life but one could not fail to be moved by the delivery which was both courageous and heartfelt. Tears streaming down my cheeks, it was as though I was watching an old friend, finally off-loading the burden of deceit which had tormented him for years. Tremendous strength deserving of enormous respect but what of the guilt? What of his wife of 27 years and his two grown-up daughters? How does one cope with the realisation that it was all a lie? Thing is, it was anything but. What made it so moving was the obvious love and respect he has for his partner and best friend of almost 30 years; the mother of his children. Together, with their two girls, they were ‘us four’; infallible. What happens now? What happens when, in the words of David Sneddon, you ‘Stop Living the Lie’?
We had friends who, ten years ago, lived through the same. After more than twenty years together and three children, they appeared to the world as the quintessential happy family until, seemingly out of the blue, he revealed he was in a relationship with another man and came out as gay. Ten years ago, that was massive – and, clearly, still is – but, as friends, our reaction was very much one of sympathy for his devastated wife and family and anger at the hurt he had caused. That’s the thing, the focus is on Phillip and the inner torment he has, so clearly, been going through and he has, deservedly, been lauded for his courage in facing the world and his demons but … There is a big ‘but’! Consider the back story.
Apparently, there have been rumours abound for years in showbiz circles and, following Friday’s confession, he has, reportedly, admitted that he knew he was gay when he got married in 1993 but fought to bury his feelings as he was happy. Reverting, as ever, to my John Donne mantra, ‘No man is an island’, had he no thought for the potential repercussions? What of his unsuspecting wife who believed in the ever after but was, effectively, blindfolded? There is no question that he looked out for number one and to hell with the consequences. Love, of the platonic kind, was always going to be a fragile mask – a temporary one – as he forged his television career, very much rooted in his ‘Mr Nice Guy’/happy family man image. Did ambition play a part or was he really just too scared to be true to himself? Like millions of others, I never doubted the public persona. I grew up alongside Phillip Schofield in the Broom Cupboard he shared with The Gopher – well, not in the Broom Cupboard – and then followed him to Going Live with Sarah Greene. Happy, fun days when it all seemed so simple … but, sadly, life is never simple and each of us is guilty of wearing a mask. Friday’s news has only served as a reminder that all that glitters is not gold.
Once more, nobody could fail to be moved by his obvious torment and courage but I still feel bound to question his selfishness. His wife, Steph, invested in a marriage for life and a happy, secure family for her children. He knew he was living a lie. She didn’t. A bitter pill to swallow almost thirty years on and, regardless of her love for him – in fact, because of – she must be devastated and, surely, angry at the loss of the life she thought was hers? In denying himself, she was, unwittingly, his mask and, ironically, the one who has given him the strength and confidence to admit to the world that he is gay. She, meanwhile, is left questioning it all. No wonder his over-riding feeling, now, is one of guilt.
I used to think that a cheating husband was worse than one who, years down the line, comes out as gay. However, both are rooted in deceit; both, undeniably, selfish and, both, smack of cowardice. Why, then, is there more sympathy for the latter? I think one attributes a certain helplessness to the one struggling with his sexuality; there was nothing he could do to change the outcome. Granted but he chose to live a lie with the potential to wound and its credence was, wholly, dependent on the love of an unsuspecting wife.
There has been an outpouring of support for the loved TV presenter but one thing I have noticed is his immediate claiming by the gay community. There have been repeated welcomes to the LGBTQ+ family (try saying that after a few glasses of chardonnay!) who have promised to embrace him as though he were an innocent abroad. Well, figuratively speaking but … It’s this insistence on them and us which I don’t like. Yes, he is gay but that’s it! He is still the same person. No need for a label. Actually, that’s our problem today: labelling. Whether it be black, white, privileged or poor, gay or heterosexual, not one is indicative of the person. How many times? It’s what’s on the inside that counts! Stop generalising. I have been prone to that myself – and proved wrong. We are each of us unique – just some more susceptible to ‘cloning’ than others!
Finally, I am convinced Phillip Schofield is one of the good guys. We met him, many years ago, with the children when he was touring in Dr Doolittle. Disturbing his meal in a restaurant, he couldn’t have been nicer. So it was that his announcement on Friday was made all the more moving by the obvious love and support of his friend, Holly, and that, too, of Eamonn and Ruth with whom he is supposedly at loggerheads. He couldn’t have done it without them – nor without the love of his family. A timely reminder of that which is truly important.
Remember no man is a failure who has friends.
Thanks for the wings!
It’s a Wonderful Life.
This is Trish, signing off.