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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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Eating Disorders in the LGBT Community

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October is LGBT History Month, and the first week of October is known as Mental Illness Awareness Week, which makes October the best month for sharing stories of struggles and successes as well as learning about issues that might not be so well known or understood in the community. Like eating disorders.

We all know the stereotype of the “typical” eating disorder patient: the white and wealthy woman who is young and vain; the mean girl, the cheerleader, the girl who’s “going through a phase.”

That’s all bullshit.

The truth? Eating disorders affect any gender, race, body type and sexuality. Eating disorders are not caused by one thing but by many complex issues stemming from behavioral, biological, psychological, interpersonal, and social factors. It’s not a phase and it’s not something you can grow out of it. It’s a lifelong battle, as common as autism but with less funding for research and treatment. And because of the stereotypes, because of the dismissal of this mental illness that has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, it’s deeply affecting the LGBTQ community that is almost defenseless against it.

I would know. I am a bisexual woman and I have battled with bulimia and anorexia for most of my life and continue to struggle with them today.

Now when we talk issues in the LGBT community, eating disorders aren’t always the first ones to pop up, if they ever do. However, LGBT-identifying people are more likely to develop an eating disorder than someone who is straight. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), some of the potential factors that could lead to eating disorders are the fear and anxiety of coming out and possible rejection, harassment, bullying and discrimination because of their sexuality, discordance between one’s sex and gender identity, homelessness or an unsafe home life, body image stereotypes in LGBT communities, and the lack of family/friend support and lack of treatment and education in the LGBT community. All of these factors can lead to depression, anxiety, and the need for a coping mechanism, all of which are factors that can lead to an eating disorder.

Under all the weight loss and the dieting, eating disorders are all about control; control of one’s body and to an extent, control over your outward identity. I developed my eating disorder at a point in my life when I was in the thick of my depression when I felt the most out of control of my life. I felt that I had at least some control over my weight, and it kept me grounded and stable, that I had some control over something, and I clung to it. When you feel like you’re drowning, an eating disorder can seem like a life vest.

Instead, it’s an anchor.

It’s easy to imagine and understand why someone who feels like an outcast because of their sexuality and gender identity might fall into an eating disorder. When people feel like their life is sinking because of something they can’t control, an eating disorder can feel like the only thing they have some control of in their lives.

However, eating disorders are an addiction. You become completely obsessed with losing weight, with purging, or counting calories. It completely takes over your life and makes your main focus in life continuing your eating disorder until it eventually takes your life. You can’t quit anorexia or bulimia at the drop of a hat; it’s a life-long struggle to recovery, made even more difficult in a world where most people don’t understand and discriminate against, people with an eating disorder. It’s even worse when you’re discriminated against because of your sexuality.

Some statistics, given by the NEDA:

  • As early as 12 years old, gay, lesbian and bisexual teens may be at higher risk of binge-eating and purging than their heterosexual peers.
  • One study shows that gay and bisexual boys reported being significantly more likely to have fasted, vomited or taken laxatives or diet pills to control their weight.
  • Elevated rates of binge-eating and purging by vomiting or laxative abuse was found for both males and females who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or “mostly heterosexual” in comparison to their heterosexual peers.
  • Compared to other populations, gay men are disproportionately found to have body image disturbances and eating disorder behavior (STATS). Gay men are thought to only represent 5% of the total male population but among men who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay.
  • Compared with heterosexual men, gay and bisexual men had a significantly higher prevalence of lifetime full syndrome bulimia, subclinical bulimia, and any subclinical eating disorder.
  • Black and Latino LGBT have at least as high a prevalence of eating disorders as white LGBTs

As you can see, eating disorders affect everyone in the community. However, research on LGBT populations and eating disorders is limited, mainly because there’s still lots of research that still needs to be done in order to better understand eating disorders. Also, many LGBT members are still “in the closet” when it comes to their mental illness. Eating disorders are all about secrets, and anyone who’s LGBT knows how to keep a secret. When already trying to gain acceptance for one part of your identity, trying to gain acceptance for two can feel completely impossible. Constantly worried about rejections from loved ones, and the constant state of admissions seems unbearable. It’s why I stayed silent about my illness and identity for so many years, out of fear and self-preservation.

But people die from eating disorders every year because they stay silent. Because they are afraid.

I refuse to become another one of those statistics.

There is a silver lining to all of this. According to studies, a sense of connectedness to the gay community was related to fewer current eating disorders, which means that feeling connected to your community may help the fight against eating disorders.

 

So for this Mental Health Week and this LGBT History Week, do your part. If you are affected by an eating disorder, speak your truth and find ways to seek help. If someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, be an ally to them. To quote the great Troy Bolton, “We’re all in this together.”

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, please seek more information at nationaleatingdisorder.org, or by calling their Helpline at (800) 931-2237 or text “NEDA” 741741.

Originally posted 2017-10-10 18:08:41.

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The Coward: A Look into Homophobia in Queer Spaces

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Theatre has always been a safe space for the LGBT+ community. It has given people of any sexuality and gender identity a platform to explore themselves and their relationships, as well as their fears and trauma, and share those experiences with everyone. LGBT+ theatre shows the truth, but sometimes it’s a hard truth, meant to make audiences uncomfortable but aware of the hardships that the queer community faces.

In her play The Coward, playwright Kati Schwartz explores the effects of homophobia in the queer community. The show focuses on a young actress named Jill, who spends the summer at an isolated summer stock theater company with a small group of actors. This group includes a man named Christopher, who claims to be straight despite his obvious attraction to a male castmate. His homophobia, fueled by his strong religious beliefs, clashes constantly against Jill’s questioning of her own sexuality, leading to a tension-filled show.

Schwartz is incredible at mixing realism and fantasy in her shows, and The Coward is no exception. Jill carries a wand and casts spells throughout the play, though it is unclear whether her castmates can see the spells’ effects or not. However, the plot of the show itself is very much based in reality.

The Coward, as with most of the plays I write, is based off a real life experience,” said Schwartz. “What you see is my interpretation of that experience with some witchcraft and magical realism sprinkled in.” Schwartz is adept at mixing fantasy and reality while still keeping the focus on such a heavy subject matter. She is able to transform her experience with an aggressive person into a story that balances the inherent tension and sadness with the surreal.

Schwartz attempts to figure out Christopher’s homophobia in the face of his own sexuality along with Jill and the audience, and it certainly is not always easy.

“In the first draft, the Christopher character was a female, and the story was much simpler,” said Schwartz. “Once I switched that character to a closeted, self loathing gay man, the themes of the play became a little more challenging for me to explore.” With this switch, Schwartz dove into an exploration of internal homophobia within the LGBTQ+ community and its effects.

“The resulting changes to the script offer more equality between Jill and Christopher, and more opportunity for discussion on who the true coward is,” said Schwartz.   

Though the focus of the show is on issues within the LGBT+ community, Schwartz knows that this show is important for people of any sexuality to see and understand.

“Rifts and prejudice exist within any community,” said Schwartz. “Something I hope that people of any sexual orientation can take away is a keener sense of one’s responsibility to speak up when someone is being mistreated regardless of the immediate social ramifications.”

The Coward is playing at the Duke on 42nd Street on October 9th in New York City, as part of the New York New Works Festival. It is an important piece of theater, that should be seen by many. Share this with the theater lover in your life, and be on the lookout for more from Schwartz soon.

Originally posted 2017-10-10 15:42:41.

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How to Travel to This Gorgeous Liberal European Town With No Roads

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This town is called the land of water, and is also known as the venice of Holland. It is Giethoorn, located in the National Park Weerribben-Wieden in the Netherlands. There are no roads here, and the visitor can view beautiful thatched farms, lakes, reed beds, forests, wooden bridges, and greenery. This town is also gay-friendly, because it is located in the first country to recognize gay marriage in 2001.

Here is a step-by-step guide for travel to Giethoorn, and how to explore its beauty, culture, and community:

Book Your Flight to Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Plan your trip to Amsterdam, because from there, you can travel to Giethoorn.  There are numerous flights that go to Amsterdam, and here are cheap flights that were recently found by travelers. The flight will arrive at Amsterdam Airport Schipol, which has shopping and dining to occupy your time. If you decide you want to stay in Amsterdam for a while before traveling to Giethoorn and have booked a hotel, then the Schipol Hotel Shuffle can take you there.  

Once you are ready to travel, then from Amsterdam Airport Schipol, you can take the bus or boat to travel to Giethoorn.  You can also travel by train, if you wish, and you can use 9292 to plan your trip.  

Plan Your Stay in Giethoorn

Hotel de Pergola. Source: Booking.com

If you plan to stay in Giethoorn for longer than a day, then book your stay in the hotel of your choice. Above is a photo of the Hotel de Pergola, which is situated on the waterfront, but there are also other great options. There are some reasonably priced places to stay, such as the Fletcher Hotel Restaurant de Eese-Giethoorn, which has an outdoor tennis court, a national park, restaurant, and indoor pool. One traveler recommended another place, the Hotel Giethoorn because it was super cozy.  

Day 1: Travel on a Boat in the Town with No Roads

Travelers on boats. Source: A Wanderlust for Life

There are many things you can do on your first day here, and one option is to travel on a boat, because after all, this charming town has no roads, but it does have water. Canoe trails are 90 kilometers long!  In fact, the postman has to travel by punt boat, to deliver mail.  

You can rent kayaks, sailboats, and rowboats. If you want to boat by yourself, consider renting a whisperboat, which are open punter boats equipped with a silent electric motor (why it’s been given the name ‘whisper’). You can book your boat in advance, and you can even book a day tour which includes the whisperboat, coffee, sandwiches, drinks and dinner.  

Day 2: Go Cycling

The Giethoorn Weerribben cycling route. Source: Holland-Cycling.com

Another popular activity here is cycling. The Giethoorn Weeribben cycling route is 46 kilometers long, and there are thatched cottages, narrow bridges and wetlands on the way! You will see these at the farming village of Giethoorn. The route will also take you through the historic town of Blokzijl, the National Park De Wieden, and the villages of Jonen and Dwarsgracht.  

Day 3: Hike and Explore

Giethoorn. Source: Holland.com

If you want to explore Giethoorn more, and are a hiking enthusiast, then consider the 15.3 kilometer walking route, which starts at Eendrachtsplein, and then follows the green route.  There is a walking network which guides you, so follow the colored arrows. Sights to watch out for are canals, thatched farmhouses, and the largest lake of the Kop van Overikssel, the Beulakerwijde.  

Before You Go: What to Bring With You

Sunscreen

As you plan your trip, including flight, accommodation, and activities, consider what to bring with you.  Expect warm weather here, so bring sunscreen, lip balm and a hat.  But it can rain, so be sure to bring a raincoat and umbrella, so that you’re on the safe side.  Other items to include in your backpack are a camera, first aid kit, hiking boots, a torchlight, SD card, and shorts or pants with pockets.   

Where do you plan on vacationing this year?  If this European destination sounds good to you, then consider planning a trip.

 

Originally posted 2017-10-09 17:23:57.

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