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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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The Life and Legacy of Edith Windsor

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As many of you may know, Edith Windsor, the pioneer for marriage equality in the United States tragically passed away on Tuesday, September 12th. Because many are upset about her passing (I know I am), it is important to look back and remember all that she had accomplished in her 88 years of life.

Edith Windsor, born Edith Schlain on June 20th, 1929 in Philadelphia to James and Celia Schlain, was a Russian Jewish immigrant and, because of the time in which she was born, her family suffered from the Great Depression. However, Windsor persevered and earned a master’s in mathematics from NYU and eventually joined IBM, where she worked for sixteen years. While in college, Edith met Saul Windsor. Their relationship ended once when Saul discovered that Edith had fallen in love with a female classmate. Edith, however, said that she did not wish to be a lesbian and proceeded to marry Saul. This marriage did not last very long as after a year of her tying the knot, Edith told him that she longed to be with women and they divorced. She then moved from Philadelphia to New York City.  

While in New York, Edith met Thea Spyer. Both in relationships of their own, they had to keep their relationship a secret. While Windsor was working for IBM, she received multiple phone calls from Thea Spyer. In order to conceal her sexual orientation, she told her colleagues that she was speaking to Thea’s brother, a fictitious person named Willy who, comically, was the name of Windsor’s childhood doll.  

“Like countless other same-sex couples, we engaged in a constant struggle to balance our love for one another and our desire to live openly and with dignity, on the one hand, with our fear of disapproval and discrimination from others on the other.”

In 1967, Spyer asked Windsor to marry her. Windsor was again afraid that her sexuality would be discovered, so Spyer proposed to her with a diamond brooch. Unfortunately, Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977. Fearing that she would not be alive to see same-sex marriage legalized, they got legally married in Canada in 2007.

Tragically, Thea Spyer passed away in 2009, which left Edith with a large tax bill that heterosexual couples would not have after the death of a spouse because the legal definition of marriage in the US did not include same-sex couples. Sensing the inequality, Edith decided to sue the federal government. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to the same benefits as heterosexual couples. This milestone of equality was one of the catalysts that led to the Obergefell vs. Hodges case in 2015 that deemed the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

In addition to her pivotal role in achieving marriage equality, Windsor also volunteered with the Gay and Lesbian and Defenders (GLAD), the East End Gay Organization, the LGBT Community Center, and more. Edith Windsor is considered a pioneer for marriage equality and she certainly deserves the title. Thanks to Windsor, same-sex couples across the US can now marry the person they love with the full benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy today. It is my hope that Windsor can inspire others to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community and help fight bigotry around the world. Edith Windsor is unfortunately gone but she will never be forgotten. She will continue to inspire the LGBTQ community to be proud and to fight for the rights they justly deserve.

Originally posted 2017-09-18 18:03:58.


Also published on Medium.

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LGBTQ Fashion Revolutionaries: Steal Their Looks, Steal Their IDGAF Attitudes

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Hearing that a member of the fashion world is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community comes as no surprise – after all, the point of fashion is to bend the rules, be anything but normal, and to accept the extraordinary. It is fashion’s job to shake things up, so it’s no wonder that queer people are the movers and shakers at the helm of this industry.

We’re showcasing the best of the best in queer fashion – those who have broken the mold, stepped outside their comfort zones, and dominated the mainstream.

Alexander McQueen

Known as the “beloved bad boy of fashion,” Alexander McQueen was openly gay, extremely extra, and didn’t care to follow the rules – in fact, one might say he lived to break them. Coming from London ’s East End Givenchy house and moving on to his own label, McQueen was essentially the Mick Jagger of fashion. Known for shaking up the conservative label, McQueen sparked outrage when he moved to the French couture house, following John Galliano as Chief Designer. Once he had his own label, McQueen continued to push boundaries – even liberal ones. His shows were often controversial, and he was famous for creating “bumster” trousers, which essentially displayed a model’s butt cleavage, for lack of a better term. The bumsters were supposed to be a parody of construction workers, an interesting attitude toward class structure. McQueen often drew inspiration from tragedies, obscene events, and people who you would not see at any of his fashion shows.

One of the most memorable traits of McQueen was his I-don’t-give-a-f*ck attitude. Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel said of the late McQueen, “he was always interesting, never banal” – high compliments from another gay fashion rebel whose cat has its own Wikipedia page.

Andrej Pejić

An Australian trans model who has referred to herself as “living between genders,” Andreja Pejić is known as the “first completely androgynous trans model.” Starting her career as a male model photographed for Paris Vogue in womenswear, an idea brought forth by yet another fashion phenom, Carine Roitfeld, Pejić is not only taking the modeling world by storm, she’s also venturing into film and walking in the Prabal Gurung show at New York Fashion Week this year.

Pejić has noted that gender dysphoria is not easy to live with, and is an outspoken role model for trans youth around the world.

Tim Gunn

Honestly, do we even need to elaborate on Tim Gunn? Okay, we will, because he’s worth it – the Project Runway mentor is really everyone’s mentor, isn’t he? He’s like the impeccably dressed, kind-hearted, gay dad you never had but always knew you wanted.

Gunn had his beginnings, as many of us now know, as a high school teacher. He taught a design course at Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. and from there, went on to eventually teaching at Parsons and becoming an associate dean. Even before Gunn became a teacher, he had to overcome a debilitating stutter and admits that there were quite a few points in his life where he didn’t feel like he could “make it work” – but he did regardless. Gunn is a true inspiration.

Cara Delevingne

Cara Delevingne is one of the hottest models – and now-actresses – in Hollywood now. A stint as Enchantress in Suicide Squad and as Margo in Paper Towns has turned her into a bona fide movie star. Her career is on fire, but don’t ask her about her sexuality, unless you want to get a clap back. The blunt star has said, in regards to her bisexuality: “My sexuality is not a phase…I am who I am. I think that being in love with my girlfriend is a big part of why I’m feeling so happy with who I am these days.” We’re happy for her, and can’t wait to see what she does next.

Alexander Wang

Alexander Wang is an openly gay designer with a following- the likes of Rihanna, Chloe Sevigny, Azealia Banks, Gisele Bundchen, Nicki Minaj, and Lady Gaga, to name but a few. While recently making headlines as being oblivious to fans and viewers at his New York Fashion Week 2017 show, Wang is nonetheless an incredible fashion force to be reckoned with. The former Creative Director of Balenciaga, Wang has since gone on to start his own line and collaborate with H&M.

While some of the aforementioned icons are just beginning their careers, some are right in the middle, and some have tragically had their lives cut short, none seem to be without controversy (except for maybe our angel baby Tim Gunn). Whether good or bad, these revolutionaries have changed the fashion industry; time will tell what their ultimate thumbprint on the runway will be.

Originally posted 2017-09-18 16:54:51.

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These Are the Gays of Our Lives: Life Advice from a Big Ol’ Mo: Coming Out, Fitting In, Quote of the Week

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Welcome to ‘These Are the Gays of Our Lives: Life Advice from a Big Ol’ Mo!’ where we’ll talk about life issues, answer some of your questions, and work through some of the challenges facing the gay community. So, feel free to ask anything you’d like using the form below. Let’s jump right in with the first two questions!

Dear Gays of Our Lives,

I’m unhappy. I’m unhappy with my relationship, I’m unhappy with my job, I’m unhappy with my family. I know it all stems from not being comfortable enough with myself and my sexuality to come out of the closet, but there are a lot of issues surrounding me coming out. My family would have problems with it, my colleagues would, and I don’t think I’m really ready to make that kind of leap for my boyfriend. He’s not pressuring me to come out or anything, but it certainly puts a strain on our relationship. What should I do?

Sincerely, 

It’s Dark in this Closet…

My Dear Dark In This Closet,

I understand your pains. I, too, felt that I could not come out to my friends and family. My dad was always so manly, my mom was always worried about what others would think, and I worked in a religious environment. But I found peace with deciding to tell my friends and family, but that’s something that can only be done on your own time. There’s no gay timeline that says you have to come out by a certain age, or for anyone. Coming out is a big decision, and you can’t be forced into it. Take your time. If your boyfriend loves you and isn’t pressuring you, then don’t worry about it. Sure, it’ll make things easier if you come out, but that’s on you to decide when the timing is right. Until then, hug your man extra tight and thank him for not pressuring you and for loving you just the way you are. 

Wishing you the very best, 

The Big Ol’ Mo

Dear Big Ol’ Mo,

I’m having trouble finding a place where I “fit in” and a group of friends with whom I feel comfortable. What should I do?

Best, 

New Here

Dear New Here,

I wish I could tell you that feeling goes away with age, but we all feel a little out of place, or like we don’t fit in from time to time, especially in the gay community. With all the different labels we put on ourselves, like Twink, Otter, Bear, Chaser, Chub, Kink, Boy, Sir, etc it can be difficult to figure out where you belong. My advice, try to find people of like-minded interests. Meetup.com is especially great for this. There are Meet-Ups for every gay sub-culture and every activity under the sun. Twink who likes to play volleyball? There’s one of those. Bear who likes to play video games? Yep. That, too. There’s something for everyone! 

Also, don’t be afraid to get out there and try new bars and clubs. Most of them have different themes and crowds, so experiment a little bit. Try talking to people, making friends, etc. Even if it’s just for the night, it’s better than sitting at home alone! 

I wish you the best of luck at finding your place. You’ve got this!

Sincerely, 

The Big Ol’ Mo

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“I never felt I had anything to hide. I never felt being gay was anything to be ashamed of, so I never felt apologetic. I didn’t have issues with it, didn’t grow up with any religion, so I didn’t have any religious, you know, issues to deal with as far as homosexuality is concerned. So, I accepted it very easily. For me, it wasn’t that big a deal.” -Martina Navratilova

Do you have a question for the Big Ol’ Mo? Fill out the form below!

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Originally posted 2017-09-16 12:21:48.

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