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‘Flipcharts and Phillip Schofield’

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Originally written for The Other Room ‘SEEN’on March 1st 2020.  

I was writing the start of this when Phillip Schofield came out and it turned into something more…I never wrote about Schofield at the time so it feels like this is my verison of that blog/article.

 

(Also I’m looking to develop this piece, should any directors/performers want to slide into my DMS)

Jen enters carrying an array of charts. She delivers this as a lecture/TEDTalk style monologue.

 

Jen: I feel like there’s aspects of my species that need explaining. I sometimes wonder if I’m a totally alien species even in the places and spaces I’m supposed to feel at home in. Like I walk into a Lesbian Women’s comedy night and I feel like a 150-year-old relic who should be wearing a 1950s dress.

 

Ok, I’m often wearing a 1950s dress, but it’s like the 25-year-old uber-cool lesbians can smell my 35-year-old bisexual self coming, and I suddenly feel like an uptight ultra heterosexual by comparison. Meanwhile in my oh-so-straight office where the only gays they know are ‘that Graham Norton fella’ and they hadn’t even heard of Queer eye the first time around…well, I look and feel like lesbian 101. I’m still old there. Because over 30 and unmarried is very much ‘Lesbian or Bridget Jones’ territory.

 

Which leads me on neatly to lesson number 1:

 

Bisexual women are attracted to ALL women and 5 very specific men.

 

Who has seen that tweet and felt ‘seen’ as the kids say? Raise your hands?

 

I didn’t think it was true. I set out to disprove it. No, I’m a TRUE bisexual, I would say, I am attracted to a WIDE variety of humans. And some scumbags who challenge the definition of humanity.

 

But no turns out its 100% true.

 

For the record here are the 5 male humans I am attracted to. And I can guarantee almost all 30-something-ish bisexuals from my demographic are also or some variation thereof. Yes, I said thereof. This is science.

 

I brought charts. Because in trying to work out my sexual and gender identity in 2020 I feel like I need charts. To go with all my labels.

 

She reveals charts

 

Maybe it’s because I’m old? I’m in my 30s, which in Queer years is practically dead right? But I look around at the community I’m in. Allegedly in. And I think…I can’t find my place. Is there a map? Did I miss a seminar and so lose all the information that was on the final exam?

 

Of course, I’m old as balls so it’s been a very long time since I sat an exam. Maybe they’ve changed the criteria. We have changed the criteria since I was in school. That’s when I first said the words ‘I’m bisexual’ things have changed labels have changed and multiplied, our numbers have grown…maybe we do need a geography lesson or a maths lesson to work out exactly where in this jigsaw of Queerness we fit in. This is handy because I brought charts!

 

I love a spreadsheet. Practically get off on one. But you know what a spreadsheet doesn’t give you…context. Is this starting to sound like your GCSE lessons? Good. Are they even still called GCSE’s? I’m old and the Tories have been in power a long time, they could be called ‘You’re not at Eton so it doesn’t matter’ levels now.

 

Anyway. Long long ago some very clever Queers developed an equation- that’s what we did before algorithms and Buzzfeed polls, that dictated the five men you were allowed to fancy as a bisexual woman. I will warn you there are some historic references to the 1990s coming up. References will be provided later.

 

So. Here goes.

 

  1. Colin Firth she reveals a picture of Colin Firth

It is a truth universally acknowledged that anyone who was a child during the BBC Pride and Prejudice era, and then was of University age during the Bridget Jones era is fundamentally in love with Colin Firth. Yes, we know he’s a bit of a posh twat, but we’ve all got a bit of a thing for a posh twat now and then. Again, I call that the University years. Mr Darcy. Posh. Aloof. Unattainable. With in real-life rock-solid marriage that made him seem like that perfect older man in your life….

 

Until they divorced last year. I’m not saying I want them to divorce but I AM saying that if he needs a Mrs Firth again, I’m available.

 

But man number 1. Aloof in fiction. Unavailable in real life. A safe choice.

 

  1. David Tennant. She reveals a picture of David Tennant Very specifically David Tennant as the 10th Not just because he’s played a whole lot of murderers since (spoilers)

 

Now I’m not saying there’s a connection between bisexuality and a skinny slightly camp sexless alien in a pinstripe suit and converse with floppy hair but….it’s a mood.

 

  1. Brad Pitt. The Jennifer Aniston years. Reveals a picture. Specifically, possibly the episode of Friends with Brad in. That was peak 90s. We were allowed to say Jennifer Aniston was ‘like so pretty’ too and pretend that we didn’t fancy her a little bit. (For the record, Lisa Kudrow was always the hottest). But Brad has always been a little bit girly. Metrosexual before it was a thing. Girly…again not saying there’s a connection here but…

 

  1. Idris Elba reveals a picture of Idris. Look I don’t make the rules, the man is hot, I’d have to be dead not to see it.

 

 

  1. Phillip Schofield.

I thought I was being so clever with this one. Not just the one everyone fancies. Not the pretty boy or sexless alien. A real honest to goodness attractive heterosexual male.

 

Oh. Wait.

 

I had whole theories Phillip. I had theories about ‘yes I like non-threatening sexless men, and unattainable pretty boys’ But then there’s you. Constant from the Broom Cupboard in the 90s. Ahem we’ll come back to that. To the This Morning Sofa. Constant of University life and sick days. My silver fox and his Technicolor Dreamcoat. The reason I sneak a look at Dancing on Ice but pretend I don’t. The reason I can feel TRULY bisexual watching This Morning is I can imagine a perfect heterosexual life with Phillip while ogling Holly’s chest. It’s the dream Phillip. And now what?

 

Well to be honest I’m still going to be looking at Holly’s chest I’m only human. But what about you? Should I be joining the legions on twitter lamenting my childhood crush?

 

No. I’m getting the glitter and banners out and saying WELCOME TO THE CLUB.

 

But on a personal level my heart is breaking. My heart is breaking for you and for me. Saying why couldn’t we have done this 20 years ago.

 

I understand that there are some strange humans out there who feel betrayed by Phillip. The fact that he like Gordon the Gopher has leapt out of the closet (come on tell me Gordon isn’t gay). Wait for those who don’t know what a Gordon is here she reveals a picture of Gordon. Gopher. Gordon. Back in the 90s we had men with their hands up puppet’s arses for entertainment and we were all the better for it.

 

Anyway Phillip. Welcome. He’s not gay, Trevor from finance, because he’s spent too long with ‘that Barrowman fella and the figure skaters’ he’s just…gay.

 

And I’m happy. I really am.

 

But it got me thinking. How different would my life have been if I’d had Phillip, the real Phillip in the 90s. Bursting out with his Technicolor Dreamcoat. Out and proud and as gay as the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical he was part of. What if we were all allowed to be as out and proud? What if we’d had those 20 years together Phillip?

 

Not together, together. That would be weird. And you had Gordon. Then Holly.

 

 

 

 

You see there’s two lost generations, that older one, in their 50s and 60s now. And the ones underneath, the ones who should have been looking up to them. Who should have had them to ask directions from? And we all ended up hidden. And a bit lost.

 

You lot, all you lot asking why we care about some older white dude who may or may not be mates with the Tories, and don’t want him in the club. You grew up different. You found each other on the internet, came out on Instagram.

 

 

 

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to work out where the 30-something bisexual female fits in. I even made a chart. She reveals a chart and draws as she speaks.

 

You see up here we have a BIG OLD BUBBLE OF MEN. Because that’s the way of the world right? So, the cis gender gay male. Usually white, but we make the odd exception. They take up ALL THIS SPACE. The straight world notices that one. They’re older, more assured. Louder. More male. You get ahead. I get that. I’m a woman. I’ve lived in this world.

 

Over here are the lesbians. You know the ‘proper’ lesbians. We’re talking Doc Martin wearing, mechanics or whatever lesbians are supposed to do. I don’t know what we? They? Are supposed to do…I tried wearing Doc Martins. I look ridiculous. Nobody told me there was a dress code for this shit. Also this lot, they’ve proudly never touched a penis. They don’t even like to SAY penis. If you whisper it too loud they revoke your membership.

 

Look ladies there’s lots of penis I wish I hadn’t touched.  She draws one. Believe me. Lots of hours wasted when I could have got there a lot quicker without if you see what I mean. A penis is not the be all and end all. With sincere apologies to the gay men in the room. You do you. But I happen to have, very unfortunately fallen in love or sometimes lust with the owner of one. Again, the gay guys know what I mean. We got this right? Right. But that means I will never have access to this exclusive ladies’ club over here.

 

And I’m mad jealous. I love women. Like I LOVE women. She draws a heart. But the ladies who love ladies…they don’t always love me. I’m not one of them. I don’t dress like them they say. I don’t act like them. I touched a penis 10 years ago and apparently that bars me for life.

 

Now now not ALL lesbians. Some of my best friends are lesbians. Some of the women I’ve loved are lesbians. Some of the women I’ve lost are lesbians.

 

My problem is I’m also old. I’m over that magical age of….25. Where apparently life falls off a cliff and your should be retired never to be heard from again.

 

I’m 35. My 25-year-old little brother (our parents had some issues to work out clearly) is also a raging Queer (at least our parents did something right). And he had to google section 28. He googles it. I lived it. And there’s the difference.

 

I grew up in a time when who I was wasn’t spoken of. I didn’t learn the word bisexual until University. It’s no wonder I’m resistant to labels if it took me 20 years of my life to find out what they were. If it took me 20 years not to hear the word ‘gay’ in hushed tones or hurled insults. I had it better than most. I grew up in a time when my friends weren’t dying. In a time they weren’t being arrested.

 

But I also grew up in a hinterland. Where my history had been taken from me and erased. And before any of you had chance to start writing some new history. I look back further than you do because I’m trying to reclaim what was lost. I tell my little brother weekly to ‘know your history’ because with my generation it was in danger of being lost.

 

We moved away from the love that does not speak its name. To not being spoken about at all. Erased from the curriculum was erased from a generation in a way. And it took growing up for us to reclaim it.

 

Our internet was full of dark corners, discovering things- things we probably shouldn’t. Covert conversations, not unlike the offline conversations of the generations before that. We hid our narratives in plain site- a chaste kiss on a soap that made headline news, that Channel 4 show that saved our lives hidden away and watched in secret on bedroom TVs as teenagers. It was knowing looks not pronouns in twitter bios and emjoi rainbow flags. It was going to Pride ‘for a laugh’ and finding you belonged. Or running away scared.

 

I look at my little brother and I’m proud he’s grown up in a world where he’s not whispered about.

 

It’s far from perfect. We all know. Hate crime. Violence. It’s still a harsh world.

 

And I’m grateful. To my sisters and brothers before me. Who marched for me. Who died for me.

 

But there’s this weird lost generation. The generation who didn’t have anyone to look up to.

 

I’m not woke enough for the club. I’m not young and hip enough. They speak a language I don’t understand. And that’s brilliant, and beautiful and how it should be. Evolution. That used to be a club in Cardiff. For the straights. So we don’t speak of it.

 

Gay-volution. Gay revolution. But sometimes it’s hard to keep up.

 

There are 100 new labels. And even a well-meaning Millennial like me gets it wrong sometimes. And cancel culture and internet trolls. And the way we talk about ourselves is wrong somehow…and we somehow don’t know who we are anymore despite all the labels.

 

And so, I come back to Phillip. I look at him and I look at the younger generation. Who would tell me as a woman I shouldn’t be looking to a cis, white man as my inspiration? And they’re right. I maybe shouldn’t. I shouldn’t HAVE TO. But I look at my diagrams. And I think how I don’t fit into a neat circle. Queerness doesn’t have a gender right? Maybe my role models don’t either.

 

Because who we have, and who we had to look to matters. And maybe I should be wishing on a nice lesbian role model. But actually, I’d settle for anyone in that gap at all.

 

But to them I say, you don’t remember how it was. You don’t have the same need to reclaim your childhood through Queerness. That’s what Phillip represents to me.

 

I didn’t know who Ellen was as a kid, and anyway she’s cancelled anyway now. But what if the nice man on children’s TV had proudly had a boyfriend. What if my Mum could have turned to me and told me ‘that nice man with the Gopher married another nice man’ how different would both our lives have been? Would I need a flipchart to try and work out who I was if the government hadn’t told a generation we couldn’t say the names of what we were in the classroom? If a generation before hadn’t been wiped out by a virus nobody was willing to put on the news? Or killed by the shame and the fear? What if the headlines had been ‘TV presenter has lavish wedding’ not ‘scandalous soap kiss’ or ‘Actor and husband adopt babies’ not ‘Filthy gays spread death’. What if…what if Godon the fucking Gopher had burst out in a feather boa shouting ‘I am what I am’ What a different life Phillips Schofield and I might have led.

 

Don’t take Phillip Schofield away just because he waited this long. Don’t take my identity away just because I needed some charts and 30 something years to figure it out.

 

By Emily Garside

Academic, journalist and playwright. My PhD was on theatrical responses to the AIDS epidemic, and I continue to write on Queer theatrical history. Professional nerd of all things theatre.

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