Learning Points: Phillip Schofield’s sexuality is none of our business

Learning Points: Phillip Schofield’s sexuality is none of our business

William Shakespeare is considered the greatest writer to have ever lived. Yet, we know very little about him.

He married Anne Hathaway and had three children. He had shares in the old Globe theatre and wrote sonnets and plays. And more than that, we really don’t know. Oh, yes, he was bisexual, too. Well, that’s what they say, anyway.

Alexander The Great conquered the known world at the age of 30 and created an empire that stretched from Greece to North-Western India. Oh, and he was bisexual, too, or at least it is reported that he was romantically involved with Hephaestion.

But Alexander didn’t have to come out as gay, because those constructs didn’t exist at the time he was out manoeuvring Darius and the Persian army.

I know I might sound a little glib, but why is it we know about a particular person’s sexuality?

Why is there such interest? Television presenter Phillip Schofield’s revelation that he is gay proves just how far we have yet to come in terms of sexuality and the media. Why did Mr Schofield tell the world about his sexuality? And why is the world so obsessed with it?

Mr Schofield will say that it had been troubling him for many years and that coming out has helped with his sense of self and created congruence between who he is and who he says he is.

But in a liberal society, in one that is truly sophisticated and tolerant, such a need would not exist, because our interest in sexuality would not be paramount and he wouldn’t have to hide in the first place.

Surely, I have no business knowing anything about his sexual preference or his thoughts about them. The fact that he felt he had to hide all these years speaks to the society we live in.

For too long, people have been ashamed of their sexual identity, because our pathological interest in it created a dystopian world where minority groups felt they had to hide.

It is about time we left that anachronistic interest where it belongs: in the dark ages.

Teenagers are under incredible scrutiny about their preciousness and lack or resilience. But they impress me because they care so little about sexuality. It isn’t on their radar as something that is important.

I grew up in the Ireland of the 1980s and 1990s. No-one in my class admitted to being gay.

They were there, but they didn’t feel comfortable or safe to express themselves. That has dramatically changed now.

Ten years ago, the majority of teenagers who came to me with mental health issues would have been struggling with sexual identity. But over the last number of years, the majority of teenagers seeking therapy are not doing so because of identity or sexual preferences, but because of other issues.

At the start of sessions, I have stopped asking teenagers if identity or sexuality are issues. Because they aren’t issues for them anymore, I have learned.

I had felt so proud of our teenagers and of society. We had moved past the restrictive construct of sexuality to allow our teenagers to just be themselves, to concentrate on more important things, like who they want to be in the world.

However, Mr Schofield’s public declaration of his sexuality signalled that we haven’t come as far as we would like to think. Why do we care so much about someone’s sexuality?

Surely, we should judge someone on the quality of their character and what they do, not whom they date. Sexuality and gender are only constructs that we created to make the world easier to understand.

The fact that Mr Schofield’s story was mentioned on The Late Late Show last Friday illuminates the media’s interest in it.

The question we must ask is: why are we interested in sexuality? And what message does that give to our children, as they are moving through the complex matrix of personality development.

I thought we had moved beyond all of that. But on a day when Antarctica reached its highest temperature, the most important news was a daytime TV presenter’s sexual proclivity.

It is about time that someone’s sexuality no longer interest us and that we are given the freedom to be ourselves. We should be better role models for our children and lead by example. Comedian David Walliams summed it up:

“Let’s hope we are moving towards a world where no-one has to come out any more; they can just be who they are and celebrate that,” he said.

Surely, this should not be the stuff of dreams.

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