Cat's Corner: Phillip vs Jameela
Posted on 27 Feb 2020

Two telly stars came out recently but received very different reactions from the public...

That man is never off the telly! And then he took over the news too! He has long been the Lord of Lightweight Entertainment, the Mayor of Morning Gossip, the Champion of Desperate Dancing, but I always thought it was the other one who was the more talented. It’s desperately unjust that Phillip has all the fame and fortune while poor old Gordon the Gopher wallows in obscurity…

Two stars of daytime TV came out at about the same time recently - Jameela Jamil and Phillip - but seemed to get very different reactions. Jameela said she was queer on Twitter, while Phillip came out as gay on Instagram. The two coming-outs had some similarities - both Jameela and Phillip are ostensibly in straight relationships, both had kept their sexuality secret for some time, and both were initially watched on TV by hungover people -  Phillip on Going Live and Jameela on T4. And both, weirdly, have a strong connection to dancing. Both seem to be very nice, liked and popular people too - saccharine-sweet, some might say. Despite both being well-known faces, they rarely court controversy or salacious gossip. Until now.

Both chose to make written statements on social media, proudly and confidently announcing that they had been guarding a secret about their sexuality but now wanted to be open about who they were and always had been, while not making immediate changes in relation to their straight partners.

But there the barrel of similarities runs completely dry. Jameela got something of a negative backlash, to the extent that she’s described her self-outing as a perfect clusterfuck. She has been described as doing it only for her career - even a calculated move to save her new job in ballroom. 

By contrast, Phillip appears to have received very little other than praise in response to his revelations. His bravery has been heralded. Social media is full of people (everyone from celebrities to us nonentities) commending him for honesty. Love and support has flooded in from all directions. Even Piers Morgan was nice about him; very nice, in fact.

So what’s caused the difference in reaction? Is Philip so universally popular that he can even reveal that his entire 27-year marriage has been a lie and we all still love him? Is Jameela so unpopular that simply saying she’s not quite sure she’s totally straight is completely unforgivable? I’m not sure that either is true.
I also find it hard to accept that the different ways we’ve dealt with coming out is related to the gender of the coming-outer. For decades we’ve said that, for the public, gayness in men is harder to swallow (sorry…) than in women. I don’t see that that has suddenly reversed, no matter how mad it is.

No, I think it’s all down to labels. While both Jameela and Phillip were in similar situations relationship-wise, they used different words. Phillip said ‘gay’, Jameela said ‘queer’. Both are, of course, legitimate terms and can be confidently used within LGBTQ communities, but they’re perhaps being perceived differently by those less used to them. Do we, as the general public, feel more at ease with ‘gay’ than ‘queer’?

Shakespeare had a lot to say about roses. He was quite sure that it didn’t matter what you called a rose, it would always smell just as sweet. I’m not so sure that we’re quite there yet with gayness. A lot of the language we use is still very new, and perhaps that language is just taking a bit of getting used to before it starts smelling sweet.

Good luck to the pair of them in their newfound openness.


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