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A Brit Queer: The BBC’s Gay Britannia Season Will Give you All the Feels

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Hello and welcome to the latest A Brit Queer column, where I will be reviewing the BBC’s Gay Britannia season.

Much like the 50 Shades of Gay Season from Channel 4 earlier this year, this scheduled programming celebrates the 50 year anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK but whereas C4 focused solely on documentary programming, the BBC introduced some new scripted dramas.

Prejudice and Pride: The People’s History of LGBTQ Britain

Stephen and Susan tell you to unfurl your pride banner and wedge open that closet door. Screenshot from BBC iPlayer.

This two-part documentary presented by Stephen K Amos and Susan Calman explores how the world has changed for LGBTQ+ Britons in the past 50 years

The pair interviewed activists, asked for their stories, and looked at mementos of queer history; from the largest collection of the first openly gay magazine in the UK to banned books with LGBTQ+ characters.

Although the tone is overwhelmingly positive, the documentary doesn’t shy away from the fact that life wasn’t all rainbows after the 1967 act was passed. Indeed, arrests for public indecency actually rose in the late sixties and early seventies. It covers conversion therapy, the risk of losing your children after coming out and the AIDS crisis.

One of my favourite parts of the documentary was the section on the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), where they explained that all oppression is interconnected and why we should fight for everyone’s human rights.

Queers

Russell Tovey as actor Phil, talking about the loss of his partner. Screenshot from BBC iPlayer.

This series of monologues tells the stories of eight LGBTQ+ people in one gay pub over the course of 100 years, from the First World War right up to present day. It expertly weaves queer history, like the arrest of Oscar Wilde, into modern day dramatic readings.

My favourite episode was either “A Grand Day Out”, about a teenager (Fionn Whitehead, Dunkirk) on the day that the age of consent is slightly lowered from 21 to 18, or “More Angry”, about an actor (Russell Tovey, Quantico) who is mostly relegated to playing the part of dying gay man in plays and TV shows in the height of the AIDS crisis.

My only gripe with the series is that it focused on the experiences of men; there are only two episodes where an actress delivers the monologue, but one of those women is playing a trans-man (although props for including a trans story) and the other is talking about her relationship with her gay husband.

Where are the women who love women?

Growing Up Gay

Olly Alexander meeting bullied gay teen Connor. Screenshot from BBC iPlayer.

Olly Alexander, the openly gay front man of British band Years and Years, explore how mental health problems affect young LGBTQ+ people in Britain.

In the documentary, Olly talks to young people whose experiences match his own, from homophobic bullying to self-harm to eating disorders and assesses that the reason mental health issues are so prevalent among young queer people is a problem with self-worth.

When you grow up as an LGBTQ+ person in a straight world, you are othered. This feeling of otherness creates low self-worth and can cause a young person to turn to self-harm or drugs as a coping mechanism.

Overall, the message that Olly wanted to share with LGBTQ+ youth- and indeed, the LGBTQ+ community as a whole- is one of togetherness and of hope.

He said: “It’s so awful to think that these young people can’t imagine their bright futures…You deserve a happy life. Young LGBT people are the strongest, bravest, most inspiring people that I know.”

Is It safe to be gay in the UK?

Alex and Becky at home with son Josh after the attack. Screenshot from BBC iPlayer

This documentary explores homophobic and transphobic hate crime in Britain and the effects it has on the queer community in Britain.

 

While the show features interviews from LGBTQ+ people all over the UK, it features on four main stories:

 

  •         Alex and Becky, a lesbian couple, who were enjoying a night out with friends when a man assaulted them; at the start of the documentary, they are awaiting his trial.
  •         Dain and James, a gay couple, were attacked by a group of men in Brighton and left with multiple injuries; the attack puts intense pressure on their relationship.
  •         Connor, a gay teenager, who was attacked by his flatmate with a hammer to the skull and suffers ongoing health problems.
  •         Ian, an older gay man, who was attacked and killed by a group of ex-public school children; his story was told by his sister Jenny.

When I watched this documentary, I was in the same room as my parents who were planning to read the paper and play Candy Crush while I commandeered the DVR but neither of them were able to do their own activities.

Instead, they were pulled into the documentary; shocked by the violence and hatred that was shown towards queer people in Britain in the 21st Century, possibly, because I don’t often talk to them about feeling unsafe as a queer person.

I feel like it’s an appropriate time to quote my dad, who said that he couldn’t even comprehend the mentality of someone who would attack people for their sexuality, gender identity, or anything else.

“What is wrong with people?” he asked, to which I had no answer.

Other shows in the Gay Britannia series that I particularly recommend:

Against the Law: A factual drama about life for gay men in the years leading up to the 1967 act, encompassing the Montagu Trial and the Wolfenden report.

Queer Britain: A six-part documentary series hosted by Youtuber Riyadh Khalaf which explores religion, homelessness, body image, pornography, sexual preferences in the LGBTQ+ community.

Man in an Orange Shirt: This two-part drama tells the story of two gay men from the same family embarking on a relationship with a man, sixty years apart, and unearthing a long buried secret.

Overall, I preferred the Gay Britannia series to C4 because of the original scripted content that was created especially for it. Granted C4 did re-release some old favourites (Queer as Folk, Bananas, etc) and it could be argued that they didn’t wait for a special occasion to create epic queer content but I’m a sucker for new dramas.

As with my last review of LGBTQ+ programming, I’ve linked to all the of the content in the programme’s title but if you live outside the UK you may have to resort to other means to actually view the shows (I won’t tell, promise).

Have you seen the Gay Britannia series? What did you think about it? How did you think it compared to C4’s 50 Shades of Gay? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2017-08-18 15:43:53.

Emma is a queer British freelance writer specializing in politics, travel, and entertainment. Barack Obama (yes, that one) follows her on Twitter and she’s never been sure why. She takes her coffee seriously and wears odd socks because life’s too short.

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I Know Where I’ve Been: All Over The Place, As It Seems

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Travelogues are nothing new in the realm of literature. Ever since the dawn of the written word, there have been innumerable people who want to tell the stories of faraway places they may or may not have visited. Marco Polo was just only the most visible one; there was many who came before him, and many who sought to imitate him afterwards. In fact, one of the first modern satires, Gulliver’s Travels, was written under the thin veneer of being a parody of “traveller’s tales”. So in the age of social media, the concept of the travelogue might seem as dated as the rotary phone.

Which leads to Robert Coles’ I Know Where I’ve Been: A Year-Long Journey of Self-Discovery, a new type of spectrum-friendly travelogue. Though he notes of occasional trips to Mexico and Colombia, most of the travels documents are in the United States and Canada. More specifically, it detailed his travels throughout 2015 and the connections that he had made in the process of reaching his goal of visiting 30 cities by the end of the year. In between the stories about random adventures and quirky friends/lovers are a series of sober reflections on not only his life but also the lives of those around him.

It is in these reflections that one can find the emotional core of I Know Where I’ve Been, and certainly makes it stand out from the standard travelogue. These include stories of his family (specifically of his dad, who died of a heart attack at 53) as well as past lovers (such as “Josh”, with whom he had a fun but ill-fated relationship). It also informs the reader of Coles’ mentality about travel, as his family was not able to travel very much, save for the occasional trip to Disney World or a place like Yellowstone. In a household like that with a person like Coles turned out to be, it is no wonder that he turned out to be such a major traveler. And of course, his sexuality does play an important role at certain moments, including an experience with those with a homophobic bent. Specifically, it first comes to a head when a seemingly nice Christian family turns on him with a vengeance when one of its members catches him looking up certain explicit files downloaded from Limewire.  

Of course, the travel stories in I Know Where I’ve Been themselves do stand out in their own right, which is an important part of a work in this genre. And unlike many popular travelogues, there is a tinge of emotional honesty to most of them, which makes it akin to a mix of An Idiot Abroad and Michael Palin’s Around The World In 80 Days in literary form. Coles does not shy away from the horror stories, such as the Airbnb fiasco in Chicago or a miserable night on the bad side of Detroit. Nor does he leave out some of the stranger things, such as the night in Detroit being followed by a slightly unnerving passport check at the Canadian border. Nor does he gloss over several of the tales of him and his company going on full-blown benders, with the results akin to a remake of The Hangover on a college film fest budget.

However, the experiences throughout his 2015 in I Know Where I’ve Been come out as a net positive, especially with all of the people he met. Standouts include the “Denver Death Tour”, the visits to the Second City improv venue, and visiting Toronto ’s famous CN Tower. Perhaps the most accurate statement by Coles is the following: “While I certainly regret some of the behaviors and wish I could erase some of the memories, I wouldn’t change who I am today because of them.” It is likely the reader will share the same sentiment by the end.

Originally posted 2017-07-30 10:04:24.

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Relationships and Monogamy: Does Sexuality Play a Role in Monogamous Practices?

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Whatever your sexual orientation or gender may be, there’s one thing we can all collectively agree on: Monogamy seems a difficult practice for many people.

That is not to say there are not monogamous partners out there. There are, in fact, plenty of happily practicing monogamous partners who are satisfied with their current relationship situation.

According to the Journal of Sexuality and Social Psychology, men, considered the “fast sex,” tend to “maximize their mating opportunities” by increasing the number of sexual partners in their life. For women, a large number of partners holds no physiological benefits, and “would risk producing offspring of low quality if mated indiscriminately,” making it much more likely for men to cheat than women.

However, as we watch the world progress, we observe a greater tolerance of gender and sexual fluidity. With simplicity comes complexity, and, to state the very obvious: Relationships can be rather messy.

It’s been proven that men show, “a greater interest in uncommitted sex.” It’s also been proven that out of all couples, gay men are by far the least committed to staying faithful in a long term relationship (numbers change based on national averages.)

And while lesbian affairs are the least likely of all, let’s not forget emotional cheating, and how damaging the effects can be on a relationship. More importantly, over the past couple of decades, the percentage of women who have admitted to cheating has risen 40%, while the percentage of men has stayed the same.

We know these numbers also depend on different factors, such as socioeconomic conditions, lack of self-satisfaction, and poor emotional validation,   

Gender norms may have you believe that men are more likely to cheat, but in a 2016 study, statics show that while 57% of men are likely to cheat, this is just a small incline from the 54% of women who have admitted to some type of affair.

In a Psychology Today study, Dr. Elizabeth Sheff finds a common theme among cheating in monogamous relationships over two-decade study, “Some people become polyamorous, starting swinging, or attempt other forms of CNM after they have tried – sometimes for many years – to maintain monogamous relationships and found themselves cheating repeatedly.”

Thus, a question remains: Does your gender and sexual orientation play any type of role in your participation of monogamous relationships?

In short: The answer is no.

Your sexuality does not play a role in whether or not you are more inclined to monogamous practices, but a New York Times article explains that the answers may be found in your genes.

The culprit seems to be “vasopressin,” a “hormone that has powerful effects on social behaviors like trust, empathy and sexual bonding in humans and other animals,” which strongly affects your inclination to cheat.

In a study using prairie and montane voles, sexually monogamous and sexually promiscuous creatures, Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, noticed a change in the animal’s behavior when vasopressin receptors were induced and when they were blocked.

When blocked, the animals were disposed to monogamous sexual behaviors. When injected, “pair bonding,” the scientific term for infidelity, was promoted.

It seems vasopressin is the key to “social bonding” between animals and can be speculated that this is the reason such a large number of people are naturally against monogamy.

Although this research is not 100% proven and is still debatable, it seems that human’s polygamous nature comes naturally from within.

Of course, we are not set to one standard or one type of relationship with our partner(s). Relationships, much like sexuality, comes in all different shapes and sizes. Everyone should have the freedom to explore whatever they should so choose, but bear in mind that respect, honesty and mutual happiness are the most important factors of any relationship between partners.

Originally posted 2017-07-29 15:01:00.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Trump’s Trans Military Ban

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The LGBTQ community has made significant progress in terms of equality. A person was not allowed to be openly gay in the US military until former president Obama repealed the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in September of 2011. Gay men and women are now allowed to be out, proud, and active members of the military. Unfortunately, this is not the case for transgender individuals. On Wednesday, July 26, 2017, president Donald Trump tweeted that transgender people are not allowed to serve in the armed forces “in any capacity.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/mSw8hr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How alarming! This is a clear violation of human rights and extremely detrimental to the fight for equality for the LGBTQ community. (We also have to appreciate the irony of the tweets considering that on July 26, 1948, former president Truman desegregated the military).

What Trump is basically saying is that allowing transgender people in the military would be a financial detriment. I’m assuming that he is referring to the cost of hormones for transgender people. What he doesn’t realize that the cost of hormones is significantly less than what the military is paying for medications such as Viagra. According to the United Press International, the US military spends ten times more on erectile dysfunction medication than transgender care. 

So, what does this mean? Well, it may mean any number of things:

  1. Trump has no idea what he’s talking about
  2. He’s pandering to the conservative right
  3. He’s transphobic

Who really knows? Whatever the reason, it is definitely a step back for equality. However, hope is not lost as many people are taking a stand against Trump’s ban. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga had some things to say about this ban.

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/JmdNo2

 

Lady Gaga is not the only person fighting against Trump’s un-American ban. The Human Rights Campaign, or HRC, is fighting for the rights of transgender people, saying that the ban is an “all-out assault on service members” and that the ban would affect approximately 15,000 currently serving troops. This will clearly have a negative impact on the US military as it consists of millions of brave men and women who fight for the freedom of the American citizens and losing even one soldier due to bigotry can cause the military to weaken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The American Civil Liberties Union, or UCLA, is also fighting against Trump’s ban.

Image via goo.gl/RxN1n9

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t give up hope! This ban is definitely a step in the wrong direction and it hopefully won’t spiral into something even more horrible which is why it is very important that we speak out against this hateful action. Voice your outrage anywhere where your voice can be heard and stand with the transgender community during this trying time, use the hashtag #protecttranstroops on Twitter, repeat the maxim “trans people are not a burden,” and fight for what is right. It may not be easy but as long as we fight, the rights of transgender individuals can and will be protected.

 

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2017-07-28 21:19:21.


Also published on Medium.

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