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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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48 Hours In...

48 Hours in Bangkok

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Why Go?

Bangkok is one of the most dynamic cities in the world and offers a wealth of culture, fantastic shopping opportunities, exciting nightlife and some of the best cuisine on the planet. The Thai baht goes a long way, making the city excellent value for western tourists. For LGBTQ visitors, Thailand is the most tolerant country In South-East Asia. The Thai Tourist Board are promoting Thailand as a destination for LGBTQ travelers with their ‘Go Thai. Be Free’ campaign.

Getting There

Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang international airports both serve Bangkok. Suvarnabhumi is sixteen miles from the city, while Don Mueang fifteen miles away.

From Suvarnabhumi, there are lots of transport options into Bangkok including an excellent airport rail link, taxi, airport limo, express airport buses and public buses. From Don Mueang, you can take a taxi or a cheap, but slow train to Hua Lamphong Station.

Checking In

Bangkok is a sprawling metropolis and choosing where to stay can be overwhelming. Accommodation options range from hostels and cheap hotels at only a few dollars a night to glitzy five-star hotels. Here are a few of the areas which are popular to stay in:

Khao San Road – The backpacker’s Mecca, packed with budget accommodation, bars and restaurants.

Sukhumvit – A modern area of the city in central Bangkok with lots of good neighbourhood shopping and restaurants. The transport links are good.

Silom – Close to Lumpini Park and Patpong, the red light district.

Chinatown – Hualamphong Railway Station is nearby, which can be handy and Chinatown itself is a vibrant and fascinating area.

Day One

If you happen to be visiting at the weekend, don’t miss Chatuchak market which comprises of thirty-five acres of around fifteen thousand stalls http://www.chatuchakmarket.org. It’s an opportunity to try some delicious street food (check out the mango sticky rice or Thai grilled chicken) and there are bargains galore to be had. It would be easy to spend a day at the market, but with only two days in town, time is of the essence.

Chatuchak Market – an ideal place to try some tasty street food

Jim Thompson’s House http://www.jimthompsonhouse.com/visitor/index.asp is constructed in traditional Thai style and is also a museum and art gallery. Set in a beautiful tropical garden, it was the home of silk merchant Jim Thompson and is now a popular tourist attraction. It’s a peaceful oasis in the center of the city and also has a lovely café looking out over the garden.

Flag down a tuk-tuk and head to the Chao Phraya River, where you can take a boat across the water to Wat Arun. Otherwise known as the Temple of Dawn, it’s an ornate Khmer-style structure. Climb the steep steps for panoramic views across the city.

Wat Arun – one of the many temples to explore in Bangkok

To round off your first day in Bangkok, head to Silom Soi 4 in the Sukhumvit area of the city. Here you will discover an abundance of LGBTQ friendly pubs, bars, and restaurants to choose from. For those who want to dance into the early hours, mosey along to nearby Silom Soi 2, where there are some excellent clubs including D.J. Station, Freeman, and Expresso.                                                

Day Two

After breakfast, arrive at the Grand Palace early to beat the crowds (or at least some of them). This complex of extraordinary Thai-style temples and palaces was built in 1782. Gold painted buildings and intricate mirror and glass mosaics dazzle under the sun. The star of the show is the stunning Wat Phra Kaew, otherwise known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most revered temple.

The Grand Palace – a spectacular riot of gold and mosaics

Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat along the river – it’s cheap and a great way to see the old city. The boat stops off at various locations and it’s possible to hop on and off wherever you want to. Check out Khao San Road, the backpackers’ mecca and a lively area at any time of the day and night. Guest houses, restaurants, bars, market stalls, tattoo parlours and travel agents all vie for trade and it’s an absorbing road to wander along.

After re-boarding the boat, carry on down the river and alight at Ratchawong Pier, the stop for bustling Chinatown. Explore the labyrinth of streets lined with shops selling everything from durian fruit to nodding lucky cats. The sights and smells of Chinatown are an assault on the senses. Dip into temples to light some incense and check out the Thieves market.

Chinatown

If you haven’t satisfied your appetite with all the wonderful street food that Bangkok has to offer, make a beeline for Tealicious Bangkok (492 Trok To, Soi Charoen Krung 49, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500). It’s a lovely little restaurant serving up delicious authentic Thai food using fresh ingredients. Tom, the friendly owner is usually on hand to answer any questions relating to the cuisine. The menu is extensive and there are plenty of veggie options.

To finish off your Bangkok sojourn in style, there’s no better venue than Sirocco Sky Bar. The elegant 63rd floor bar sits on a  precipice over the city, 820 feet in air. It’s one of the highest rooftop bars in world. (The Dome at Lebua, 1055 Silom Road, Bangkok 10500). Cocktails are creatively concocted and expensive, but who cares – it’s your last night in Bangkok and the view of the city is phenomenal.

 

Originally posted 2017-09-11 09:30:55.

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How Casual is Casual Diversity

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Diversity, in numerous ways, is becoming more and more commonplace. People who used to search for themselves in the media they consume are now the ones creating that media, and as such it is more commonplace to find representative characters. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community especially are inserting themselves into the media they create. From books to movies and TV shows to comics, more and more queer characters are popping up. As a result, the addition of these characters is becoming the norm, contributing to a sense of “casual diversity” in media. But just how casual is this casual diversity? 

For many members of the LGBTQIA+ community, they want characters that reflect their gender identity or sexuality to simply exist in the media they consume. We feel like we’ve moved away from a time that requires queer people to explicitly come out, both in real life and in books. We don’t owe a “coming out moment” to anyone, but creators are still trying to find a way to toe the line between making diverse characters and letting them simply exist and proclaiming their existence to readers.   

I recently read two young adult novels that had LGBTQIA+ characters, and they were introduced in several different ways. Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger is a fantasy novel set in Chicago, centered on a young girl working as a bartender who discovers that perfectly mixed cocktails can give you superpowers. She works at a gay bar owned by a blind gay man and works with a very tall punk rock Canadian named Bucket, who is a trans man. Readers are introduced to the bar’s owner before the main character begins working at his bar, and find out he is gay only when he casually mentions his boyfriend. Bucket, on the other hand, has a coming out moment when the protagonist asks him why he works at a gay bar when he is very clearly not gay. He is almost obligated to come out to her in order to explain himself and his job. Likewise, in Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate, there is a pansexual character named Lucas who has a coming out moment with the reader. Not only does he have to explain pansexuality, but he also discusses how he cannot come out to his friends because of his status as the men’s swim team captain and the stigma surrounding that.

Though I’m sure these two authors had good intentions with their inclusion of these characters, they, unfortunately, send an underlying but powerful message to LGBTQIA+ and straight readers alike in regards to the necessity and potential danger of coming out. The way Krueger and Redgate set up Bucket and Lucas required them to come out in order to make the diversity visible, but this was not necessary. Krueger could have mirrored his simple mention of the bar owner’s boyfriend and describe Bucket wearing a binder, and Redgate could have mentioned Lucas’ previous crushes to people regardless of gender. Instead, they felt that they had to make their characters’ identities as obvious as possible, which only encourages the idea that LGBTQIA+ people need to come out in order to be acknowledged members of queer or straight communities. Lucas’ story especially highlights the general ignorance about pansexuality as well as the rampant homophobia present in men’s sports teams especially. This sends a strong warning to queer readers about the dangers of coming out and the potential harmful backlash for male athletes in particular.

It is important for characters like Bucket and Lucas to exist and be known and seen in books and other media, but creators are still finding an easy way to simply let these characters exist while also bringing them to the attention of readers and normalizing their existence. It’s a delicate balance between inclusion for the sake of inclusion and bringing too much attention to something that needs attention. It’s been a long journey already, but creators still have a ways to go to figure out just how “casual” casual diversity really is.

Originally posted 2017-09-06 14:20:41.

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Travel On A Budget

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It seems to me like people are taking shorter vacations or opting for trips closer to home, for a variety of reasons. Maybe you work a job that doesn’t pay as well as you’d hope, or maybe you’re a millennial (like me) who’s allegedly spent way too much on avocados and can’t afford a vacation (or a house).

Whatever the reason, this new trend of “I want to travel cheaply so I can buy groceries when I get back” is more popular than ever. But how does one manage this? Vacations seem to be expensive no matter what we do or where we go. And it’s true. Vacations always cost money, but there are ways to drastically reduce your expenses while away.

Off season for the win

Why get sucked into the tourist trap every single year when you can hit up the same spots a week before their tourist season begins? This can be tough depending on the area since some tourist seasons are dependent on weather. But you know what places don’t change much from week to week, whether it’s April or August? You guessed it: the beach. Most vacation spots will have dates for their busy season listed online. Once you have the dates, go a week (or two) early. Prices will be lower and hotels will be less packed.

Hostels and B&B’s

Speaking of hotels, don’t go near them. I’m serious. Go anywhere else. They’re expensive and boring, and bed-n-breakfasts are the hip new thing (unlike someone who still says “hip”). Not only are they cozier, they often have decent prices and are more laid back than hotels.

If you’re in Europe, hostels aren’t what the horror movies make them out to be. They’re actually quite comfortable, right in the middle of the city, and way more affordable than a hotel. If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, youth hostels are an even better choice. They’re more youth-friendly and you’ll be surrounded by people closer to your own age. Make friends while you make great financial choices!

ATM vs. traveler’s check

Traveler’s checks were great when ATMs weren’t a thing, and they can still be useful if there’s no ATM in sight and you happen to know where the closest bank is. But more and more, ATMs are the best option on vacation. You don’t want to carry all of your spending money all at once at the start of the trip, so when you get low on cash, find an ATM. Because there might be fees, take out larger amounts at a time, to limit the number of withdrawals while away. To save money, set yourself a spending/withdrawal limit. It’s tempting to treat yo’self while vacationing, but remember that once you get home, bills and food are still a necessity.

Guidebooks!

You are a strong, independent woman/person/man who don’t need no help. If you’re traveling somewhere unfamiliar, skip the travel agency/service. They’re a rip-off. A good guidebook sells for about $20 and will have all the same information you’d get from a travel agent, without the hassle.

Blend in, eat local

If you ignored my hotel advice, then at least listen to this. If the front desk or concierge recommend a great restaurant right down the street, go anywhere else! Chances are they tell literally every guest to go to that one restaurant, and it will be packed (and not that great). You might end up having to go a little farther from your hotel for a bite, but finding local places are a far more interesting experience than the chain places. And are often cheaper, as they’re not targeting visitors and tourists.

Shop big

A couple of months ago I went to Hawaii with my sister and parents. Before leaving, we’d all promised various friends and family that we would return with souvenirs for everyone. A local in Kailua-Kona was kind enough to warn us away from the touristy “ABC Stores” that seem to be taking over the islands. He said that if we wanted good, cheap souvenirs, we should go to Walmart (I know, I was surprised too).

Local shops are nice, too, of course, and it’s good to support small businesses (and not evil Walmart) but for large quantities of souvenirs, going the cheaper route goes a long way in not breaking the bank.

Free activities will free you

This one is easy. Go to the beach and find free parking. Sit in the sand and catch some sun. Splash in the surf to your heart’s content. Go hiking and find hidden waterfalls and creeks to play in. Anything free is your best bet (and gets you some fresh air).

Vacations mean spending some money, but it doesn’t have to empty your wallet. If you follow these tips and stay aware of what you’re spending, you’ll still have money left over for when you get home (and can buy all the avocados you want, maybe).

Originally posted 2017-09-06 11:10:28.


Also published on Medium.

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