Phillip Schofield’s announcement that he is gay has been hailed as a “hugely powerful and courageous move” by the head of media for LGBT equality charity Stonewall.
The TV presenter, 57, posted an emotional message on his Instagram stories on Friday morning in which he said he has “been coming to terms with the fact that I am gay”.
He later appeared on This Morning alongside his co-presenter and friend Holly Willoughby to discuss his decision, telling her: “I’ve had to deal with this in my head for quite some time.”
Speaking to the PA news agency, Stonewall’s Jeff Ingold said: “Having high-profile, visible, out LGBT people can make a massive difference not just to the lives of LGBT people, to be able to watch something and see themselves reflected and someone who they identify with; but also for the general public to see and hear the stories of LGBT people can go a long way in changing the way that people see and think and feel about LGBT people as a community.
“It’s a hugely powerful and courageous move Phillip has made to be open about himself, particularly in the public eye at a time when everyone will have an opinion on social media. It’s a massive moment, I think for him and for society in general.”
He said coming out is something that “unites all LGBT people and there’s no right or wrong way to do it, adding: “Everyone has to do it in the way they feel is right for them.
“It’s always a personal decision and it’s a really powerful moment where an LGBT person gets to declare this is who they are.
“But I think we also sometimes forget that coming out isn’t just a one-time event, it’s something LGBT people have to do many times in their lives and I think the reaction to Phillip shows how important it can be for LGBT people in the public eye to be themselves.
“I think all the positive reaction I’ve seen has shown that we want to create a world where more people feel comfortable being themselves… but for right now it’s such a huge moment and I think it really speaks to the journey he’s been on as well and how authentic he’s been in talking about the difficulties he’s been through, which I think a lot of LGBT people will relate to.”
Ryan Butcher, web editor of LGBT online newspaper PinkNews, said it was “interesting to have had two quite big coming out stories in two days”, with Schofield’s announcement coming just days after Jameela Jamil revealed she is queer.
According to Stonewall, queer is a term “used by those wanting to reject specific labels of romantic orientation, sexual orientation and/or gender identity” and “it can also be a way of rejecting the perceived norms of the LGBT community (racism, sizeism, ableism etc)”.
Mr Butcher said of Schofield: “It shows that you’re never too old or too young, or there’s no kind of rule book for coming out, and everyone does so in their own time.
“You have to wonder about Phillip Schofield, how long must he have been grappling with these issues, for how many years has he been living this life?
“It’s like he said himself, on his show he always encourages people to talk about their feelings, talk about their issues, and it feels somewhat a shame that a man who has promoted that to his audience of millions for so long has felt he couldn’t until now.
“We come across a lot of coming out stories from people who aren’t in the public eye, people just living their everyday lives who come out at late points in their life, and it just shows there is no rule book for it.”
Butcher also said he was “definitely shocked and surprised”, though added: “I guess I’d never really spent time wondering what Phillip Schofield’s sexuality might be.
“He’s been such a mainstay of TV and ingrained in British culture for so long. I remember back in the day with Gordon the Gopher and stuff.
“Phillip has just always been around, regardless of what your opinion is about him or are indifferent about him. You know who Phillip Schofield is, so I think this is the first time in a long time I can remember a coming out announcement being as big as this.
“I was thinking as well that a lot of this has to do with the fact that he’s doing it on his own terms.”