It was the TV interview that left viewers stunned, and has kickstarted a major conversation about sexuality and coming out in its wake.
When This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield sat facing his long-time colleague and best friend Holly Willoughby on the popular ITV show last Friday morning, no one expected that for once, it was Schofield’s turn to reveal his own deeply personal story.
Despite being married for 27 years, he had now come to terms with the fact that he was gay, he told viewers. He heaped praise on his wife Steph for her support and said he had sought help and counselling after struggling with his feelings for a long time.
Schofield is frequently pictured with Steph and their two grown-up daughters Molly and Ruby. But beyond the apparently perfect facade of the happy family, all was not as it seemed, and the star said he owed it to himself and to his family to finally tell the truth in public. In an interview with a Sunday newspaper at the weekend, the 57-year-old added that he suspected he was gay even when he got married in 1993, but was so happy with Steph that he pushed those thoughts to one side.
Irish fashion blogger Mike McCarthy, of Funky Fashion Frolics, understands all too well the pain and confusion that comes with struggling with your sexuality.
The 42-year-old, who grew up in rural Tipperary and now lives in Wicklow, had a long and painful journey of self-discovery before finally realising he was gay and feeling confident enough to come out.
Recalling the difficult moment he told his own ex-girlfriend and baby boy the truth, Mike says he can perfectly understand the ‘internal battle’ Schofield went through,
Mike suppressed who he was for years, even praying to God to stop his thoughts of other men.
“Back 30 years, I grew up in a small village in Tipperary and was quite religious in my own way. I was called a lot of homophobic slurs at school. I was spat at and hit on the back of the head by a group who used to wait for me off the school bus.”
After those difficult teenage years, he moved to the UK to try and find his feet. But the question of his sexuality remained unresolved.
“When I was 18, I went to live in London for three years and I never went to any gay bars or clubs. I didn’t even know where they were.” Even so, the fact that he was attracted to men was becoming more and more obvious.
“I’d be flicking through a magazine and see a good-looking man and I used to pray to God to make my thoughts go away.
“I knew I was different but I couldn’t come to terms with it. I used to watch my mannerisms — how I sat, how I spoke.
“I thought it was wrong to be myself, that my friends and family would fall out with me.
“I didn’t want to be gay, I didn’t know any gay people, I wanted to be like everyone else.”
He never intended to mislead anyone. “I met my son’s mother and had a genuine relationship. Everything felt right. We got on very well. I’d never been with a man so I had nothing to compare it with. I’d suppressed who I was for so long.”
Mike’s girlfriend got pregnant and they split up before his son was born but they co-parented and remained very close friends.
While life moved on, Mike knew deep down that something was missing. And he knew he was going to have to confront the issue of his sexuality before he got any older.
“When my son was two, I was feeling very down and depressed. It was so difficult to know you’re gay deep down, but you’re so worried about how society would treat you.
“I finally admitted to myself that I was gay but that I had a child and how was I going to tell his mother.
“She said she kind of had an idea that I was gay but the most important thing was to put our son first. I felt immense relief that night. It was a big weight lifted off me. My son is 18 now and we have the best relationship and I’m now with my partner Paul six years and have never been happier.
“It was a shock for many people when Phillip came out but it should not be an issue that should be such a surprise in today’s society.
“He may have suppressed who he was to fit in with his career, because even 20 years ago the world was a different place.
“I battled internally for six years but he has been battling decades so it must have been incredibly difficult for him to come out and what a brave thing to do.”