It is easy to forget the rate at which social attitudes have changed.
Gay marriage was only introduced in 2014, the Section 28 ban on teaching “the acceptability of homosexuality” was repealed less than 20 years ago and, for a large proportion of the population, homosexuality was a criminal act during their lifetime.
There is still much to do to break down barriers faced by the LGBT+ [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and related groups] community in this country, but we must remember how quickly progress has been made.
It is this backdrop we must recall when we hear of a person such as Phillip Schofield sharing his sexuality in public after many years of presenting as heterosexual.
Revealing a person’s sexuality is a deeply intimate choice – one that can feel a major step in a world in which people are still presumed to be heterosexual.
I have closely known many people who have been in similar situations and it is a hard journey to go on to be willing to reveal your true self – to the world around you, but also to accept it for yourself.
What comes before anything else is for us all to show love and understanding. We must all remember that every person is created b’tzelem Elokim – in the image of God.
In our Torah, Abraham is told to go for himself, lech l’cha, to find his path in life.
This has been the mission each of us has taken up ever since.
We often speak of wanting to make change, to engage in tikkun olam and repair the world around us.
Before we can do anything so big, we must look closer to home. Tikkun olam is built on a foundation of tikkun atzmi, the building of one’s own true identity.
When each of us is able to build our true sense of self, supported by our communities and our families, we take one step towards building a better world for everyone.
With the support of a loving family, Phillip Schofield has the strength to show his true self to the world.
The only correct Jewish response to him and all of those in our communities who find themselves in a similar position is to say kol hakavod – all strength to them as they continue to find their true path in this world.
- Laura Janner-Klausner is Senior Rabbi for the Movement for Reform Judaism