I write as a straight man, even though someone once found my website using the phrase ‘is john ager gay’, but also as someone who seeks to empathise and understand those who struggle with their sexuality and societal attitudes.
It came as a complete surprise when I heard this morning that Phillip Schofield had come out as gay, even if there were those who said they always knew.
Much has already been spoken and written about this, and I can’t possibly (nor do I intend to) cover all the issues raised by this announcement. However, I would like to raise questions of why it’s so difficult for people to come out, and why can’t people be allowed to be who they are in the first place?
I found a number of well-articulated comments on Twitter helpful in this important discussion and I leave them with you:
Owen Jones: It’s up to all LGBTQ people how or when or whether they come out. But when someone with a public platform comes out, it helps people who are struggling with their sexuality. Love and support to [Phillip Scofield]
Patrick Strudwick: Next year will be 30 yrs since I came out. (14, at my comprehensive school, it stopped me killing myself). To STILL see people trapped in the closet for decades before having desperate, highly-charged comings out reveals how little things have changed. We have so much more to do.
Sam Wise: [Phillip Schofield] grew up in a time when gay people didn’t have any rights and nobody can blame him for feeling he could not come out. Still today homophobia is alive in our society and people in the public eye feel they can’t be who they are…the fact that [he] has only felt able [to] come out now says more about our society than it does him. He’s made a courageous step today and the fact his wife and kids are right behind him with love and support is excellent.
Coming to terms with and being your authentic self is never easy, especially in the public eye. Phillip and his family deserve our love and support.
We live in an uncertain world, with many pressures in our day to day lives. The reality is that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year, so there has never been a better time to open up about the mental health challenges we face. The more conversations we have about mental health, the more myths we can bust and barriers we can break down, helping to end the isolation, shame and worthlessness that too many of us feel when experiencing a mental health problem.
Having had my own mental health issues in the past (although anxiety, stress and depression can still affect me) this is my heartfelt plea for everyone to open up and talk at more than just a superficial level.
The annual Time to Talk Day provides an opportunity for everyone to add to the wider conversation on social media, television and elsewhere. Here is an opportunity to reach out to others in meaningful ways and help address mental health stigma in society.
I guess we all have an understanding of racism, namely the belief that one’s own race is superior to others. A document (recently published by The Salvation Army) says: Racism can be subtle and embedded, even though people avoid using direct racist terminology. Racism can also be overt, systematic and cruel, as epitomised by the slave trade, the Holocaust, apartheid, the caste system and the treatment of indigenous people. It also puts us all on our guard by saying: Racial prejudice is present in us all to some degree and must be rigorously countered.
Occasionally, you hear white people say they haven’t experienced racism, but that’s a little like saying hunger doesn’t exist because you had a large breakfast this morning.
This brings us neatly to the concept of white privilege, something that’s less well understood. It’s been defined as follows: White privilege (or white skin privilege) is the societal privilege that benefits people whom society identifies as white in some countries, beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.
White privilege does NOT mean you’re racist.
White privilege does NOT mean your life has been easy.
White privilege does NOT mean you don’t face struggles too.
White privilege simply means your life isn’t made harder by your skin colour.
It’s as simple as that. Every one of us has a responsibility to empathise with everyone we come into contact, and with different groups within society, to learn to live in other people’s shoes on the journey of life.
Note: As a white person, who obviously hasn’t experienced this type of discrimination, I hope my thoughts are helpful. I offer them in humility, and with a willingness to learn.