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ID politics makes the ‘coming out’ of Phillip Schofield as gay become major news story in the Britain of 2020

Neil Clark
Neil Clark

is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66

is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66

ID politics makes the ‘coming out’ of Phillip Schofield as gay become major news story in the Britain of 2020
The announcement by TV presenter Phillip Schofield that he’s gay was a lead news story in the UK over the weekend. Why? Does anyone really care what his sexuality is, in a country where gay people rightfully enjoy full equality?

Unless you’ve been locked in a wardrobe since Friday, you can’t have been in Britain and missed the news that Phillip Schofield, co-host of the ‘This Morning‘ show on ITV, has ‘come out’ as gay.

It’s been on the front pages of newspapers, a major story on the BBC website, and was the main highlighted story on Twitter. It even got more headlines than the spread of Coronavirus.

You could say that the fact that Schofield has been married for 27 years and has two daughters makes it newsworthy. But did it really deserve the level of coverage it received?

Let’s think about this logically. Schofield’s job is to present a daytime TV programme. His sexuality – whether he’s straight, bisexual, homosexual or trans  shouldn’t come into it.

The only issue should be – is he good at his job? 

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One can only speculate as to why he’s ‘come out’ now – on television earlier this week the veteran actress Joan Collins claimed that “a lot of people already knew, I mean we all sort-of knew,” but whatever the reason for Schofield’s announcement, it won’t do his career any harm at all. On the contrary, by refocusing people’s attention on his sexuality,  and not on his work, it may actually afford him a level of protection in the future as anyone criticising him or saying that they weren’t particularly enamoured of him, might fear being criticised themselves by the ultra-woke. 

A number of fellow ‘celebrities’ have praised Schofield for his ‘bravery’, in fact it’s almost become de rigueur for ‘Inside the Tenters’ to do so. 

But is it really ‘brave’ to come out as gay in the Britain of 2020? It would undoubtedly have been brave – extremely brave – to have come out in 1950, a time when homosexual acts were illegal. It would still have been quite courageous to have come out as gay in 1970 – even after homosexuality had been de-criminalised. The same probably applies for 1980 and, perhaps, 1990 too.

But in the last few decades attitudes have changed quite radically. It is absolutely no bar to career advancement in Britain today to be gay and that’s how it should be. Gay people are prominent in politics, business, the arts, the media and entertainment. Same-sex marriages have been lawful since 2014. Britain is one of the leading countries for LGBT+ equality in Europe. 

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Which makes the high-level coverage of Schofield’s announcement all the more bizarre. Paradoxically, the implication behind the reporting of the presenter’s ‘coming out’ was that there was indeed something ‘not normal’ in being gay even though Schofield himself in his statement said that “today, quite rightly, being gay is a reason to celebrate and be proud.”

In a society genuinely free of sexual prejudice, the sexuality of a so-called ‘celebrity’ should actually be a matter of supreme indifference. In the same way a genuinely non-racist society would be colour-blind, a society free of sexual prejudices would be sexual-orientation blind.

This week has shown us that ID politics undermines all of that. Consider this: why should Phillip Schofield say that he was ‘proud’ of himself to publicly announce his sexual-orientation, whatever it was? Isn’t that just a little bit self-regarding? While reticence and self-effacement reigned in the past, ‘celebrities’ making announcements about their sexuality now appears to be the height of fashion.  

Just a day before Schofield ‘came out,’ another presenter, Jameela Jamil, announced that she was ‘queer.’ This came after a ‘backlash’ for her being cast in an LGBT-interest show – which again makes one quite uneasy.

There’s already been quite a debate over whether ‘straight’ actors should be allowed to play gay roles, but surely in drama anyone should be able to play anyone.  Adopting different personas is what acting’s all about. After all, you don’t have to be royalty in real life to play King Lear, or be a vampire to play Dracula.   

You could argue that in regards to people making public statements about their sexuality, there’s a ‘look at me’ narcissistic element at play too.

We are being told things about people that we don’t really need to know and, indeed, are arguably best kept private, as they were in the not-so-distant past.

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Does it matter to you for instance that the Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran is a ‘pansexual’? Ms Moran is a very good constituency MP, and she should be judged on the work she does in her job, not on her sexual orientation. Yet clearly she thinks her sexuality is something we should be interested in.  

The biggest problem with identity politics is that it puts things which highlight our differentness - skin colour, gender, race, sexual orientation - above that which unites us, our common humanity. The true egalitarian doesn’t think someone’s sexual orientation is a thing either to be proud of or ashamed of, or to make a big thing of announcing, they regard it as supremely unimportant, like someone’s skin colour.  And if we are truly enlightened, that’s where we should be as a society.

It’s telling, as Tomasz Pierscionek noted in an excellent RT OpEd,  that “no socialist country, whether in practice or in name only, promoted identity politics.” In words that are particularly pertinent to what’s discussed above, Pierscionek adds: “In the West you are free to choose any gender or sexuality, transition between these on a whim, or perhaps create your own, but you are not allowed to question the foundations of capitalism or liberalism.

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So to stay in line, let‘s keep talking about Phillip Schofield’s ’bravery’ in ‘coming out’ and not the way the £1.73mn-a-year man showed his Establishment-friendly credentials by demanding repeatedly that Jeremy Corbyn “apologise” over alleged Labour anti-Semitism, while later posing for a selfie with Boris Johnson.    

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Schofield knows what the real taboos are in the neoliberal Britain of 2020 and, in an age where elite-encouraged ID-politics dominates at the expense of genuine  solidarity, his very public ‘coming out’ is fully in tune with the spirit of the times.   

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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