‘Brave used to mean going to war. Or risking life and limb for your political beliefs. Or smuggling contraband literature into tyrannical countries. Or going to the Moon. Now it means being a millionaire who uses his comfy position as the King of Daytime TV to tell everyone he’s gay. Brave, courageous, amazing, wonderful, powerful – these are some of the histrionic words that have been used to describe Phillip Schofield’s outing of himself on the This Morningcouch. What has everyone been smoking?
The response to Schofield’s revelation has been mad. And telling. Overnight he has become a secular saint. St Phillip, patron saint of the stunning and the brave, godhead of gays, a messianic cultural figure whose coming out is ‘a day to celebrate’, according to pop singer Will Young. Maybe it should be a national holiday. Phillip Schofield Day, when the This Morning theme tune is pumped into all public spaces and we all solemnly remember the great sacrifice Phil made in his confessional chat with Holly Willoughby. After all, as Stonewall says, this is a ‘massive moment’ for ‘society in general’, so the least society can do is mark this historic, epoch-quaking occasion.
What rot. This isn’t about Schofield himself. If he’s happier now, that’s nice. Good luck to him. No, the weird thing here is the sacralisation of Schofield, and of the gay identity more broadly. The Cult of St Phillip confirms that in the aristocracy of identity, homosexuality is very close to the top. It’s one of the most ‘authentic’ identities, apparently. One worthy of worship. One which confers upon the individual all sorts of special powers and skills. Sensitivity, authenticity, bravery, good fashion sense, and a sacred place in popular culture, where every gay character is an unusually wise possessor of the secrets to life and happiness – this is the story of gayness now. The secular beatification of Schofield confirms the sanctity of homosexuality in our post-traditional, commitment-sceptic, identitarian era.’