CHRISTANIA: Hi everyone, I’m Christania, amateur chef by day and professional Netflix viewer by night.
ALEXIS: And hello from me, camp enough for your mum to like but butch enough for your dad to not get uncomfortable, but just call me Alexis for short
CHRISTANIA: Welcome back to another episode of Qmmunity!
ALEXIS: On this episode, we’ll be discussing the future of the LGBTQ community with audio from the last of our live panel discussions.
CHRISTANIA: In the last couple of years it seems that LGBTQ rights have been on the rise and we are becoming more integrated into mainstream society. Well for those of us that live in the Western world. But with the rise of the far-right and Brexit, things don’t seem to be as certain as they once were.
ALEXIS: We don’t have a crystal ball - and so to ask what’s in our future, we asked the panel! We were joined on the panel by Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids, a specialist charity that advocates for and helps look out for young trans* people, Lee Fontaine they are responsible for leading frontline delivery and co-ordinating south east based service contracts for LGBTQ+ young people at the Albert Kennedy Trust. The AKT works with 16-25 year olds who are homeless, faced with homelessness or living in a hostile environment. Just a quick side note - Mermaids, and the AKT, are the two charities that we at Qmmunity pledge to support and platform boost, we aren’t do so yet and this is a boot-string self-funded boot-string production, but if we’re ever fortunate enough to get any money in, profits will go to help these two charities...our way of giving back.
CHRISTANIA: The final two panellists are Tanya Compas, who is an award winning youth worker, writer, speaker and mentor along with working at youth engagement at UK Black Pride. Charlie Condou - actor, patron and ambassador for numerous LGBTQ charities, gay dad of two. Also, if you’re a Coronation Street fan, you might recognise his voice. As we’re 51 years on from the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, we asked the panel what we want LGBTQ people to achieve in the next 51 years. Susie kicked off the conversation
SUSIE: I would like mermaids not to have to be here at all. I would like transgender children and young people to not be considered other and I would like to see a world where everybody is kind to one another and that doesn't need to be a help line or an email service or any kinds of support around it because it's just part of being human. That's what I would like to see.
ALEXIS: This is Lee
LEE: I’m going to second what Susie said, we say at AKT that we're working to make ourselves obsolete. So in 51 years I'd like to see a world where LGBTQ youth homelessness isn't overrepresented in youth homelessness sector.
ALEXIS: When Leigh talks about over-representation in youth homelessness, it’s a real challenge. Best guesses, are that we LGBTQ folk make up 1 in 10 of the general population...and yet nearly 1 in 4 homeless people under the age of 25 identify as LGBTQ. In adult men, the leading cause of homelessness is mental health issues, for adult women it’s leaving an abusive partner, and for young people...it’s being LGBTQ.
CHRISTANIA: Next we’re going to hear from Charlie.
CHARLIE: Without getting too political about it. It was the partial decriminalisation and yes it was fantastic. But actually we had a very long way to go up until very recently, I think it was around 2006 with the age of consent was equalised. And in fact, there were a lot of things that happened soon after the partial decriminalisation, which is if you were found having sex that wasn't in your own home with the curtains drawn and nobody else in the house you could go to prison and the sentences for that were in fact made longer after 1967. So in fact there were a lot of things that got worse quite quickly after that.
Having said that, we've come a long way obviously, and I think I sort of agree with everyone. We want it to get to a point that we think it's quite clear that we're not at where we have full equality, which we simply don't have at the moment. And it's lovely that we have equal marriage and like normal people and we can have kids like normal people and all of that kind of stuff. But I think we've still got a long way to go really.
ALEXIS: And lastly, Tanya gives her perspective
TANYA: I'd like that to be that LGBTQ plus community isn’t just a tick box. I feel like so many times like you only see representation because they have to tick a box, I think it should be a natural thing. I think the lack of representation, especially for the black and POC community within the LGBTQ plus community is so small and it's so lacking like they tick one box because they might have like one gay white man that and they say, oh, everyone suddenly now sees himself, but it's not true. We don't. So I think that to have that natural thing as you quite rightly said, where everyone...we just exist as ourselves. Whether that's queer, whether you're straight, whether you're black or brown or blue, wherever you may be like it don’t matter but you can be yourself. Young people can see themselves in us and not have to search for it because it's just there.
CHRISTANIA: I feel like the panel started off really strong. Lee and Susie were absolutely right. Hopefully in 51 years we won’t need Mermaids because trans children and young people will get the support they need and be treated just like cis children. Homeless LGBTQ youth have been over-represented in homelessness for a long time and it would be great if we could put an end to that. Personally, I think that in the next 50 years I would want trans people to have the rights that they deserve especially because we owe so much to them in the fight for LGBTQ rights.
ALEXIS: We then asked the panel if there will always be space for LGBTQ culture.
CHARLIE: It feels to me like we're hopefully moving away from all of that stuff and we're looking at and certainly some of the work that Mermaids are doing and looking at gender as a whole and people more and more seeing that they fit somewhere on a scale and being non-binary and it feels in a lot of ways that we're moving away from ticking those boxes are in fact being in those boxes I would hope. And so I, I wonder if that's where we should be aiming so that we eventually get seen as people and not other as, as we have been for such a long time. Um, so that would be my hope really.
ALEXIS: What I think Charlie is saying is that he hopes that all of us in the LGBTQ spectrum can stop being seen as other, that heterosexuality and cis-gender are immediately assumed. It’s a nice sentiment, but given that mathematically we are in the minority I think it would take a long time and relies on the wider world being less binary about gender and sexuality and seeing them both as spectrums - however, attitudinal surveys hint at this hopeful future. Research by Ipsos Mori found that only two thirds, 66 per cent, of young people, aged between 16 and 22, identify as "exclusively heterosexual" - the lowest figure of any generation. For context, millennials are 71% exclusively heterosexual, which is a big drop from the 85% of Gen X, and 88% of baby boomers.
But as we’ve yet to see what impact this has long term on LGBTQ only spaces - we’ll return to that conversation as Susie goes on to speak about the fellowship young people and parents experience at Mermaids.
SUSIE: I think one of the major things that comes from parents and young people coming to Mermaids is that sense of community because being trans is very much as you know within all of the intersectionalities, um, is, is massively isolating and being on your own against a tide of people telling you that either you all wrong or if you are a parent supporting a Trans Child, that you're doing something wrong by supporting them, we present and give people that sense of community. And right now that sense of community's really massively important because otherwise people are alone. And when you are alone that's why our stats in terms of our young people are so poor in terms of self harm and suicide and we need to address that. And that needs to be done by extending that community to include everybody. And I do think that as time goes on, then we will include everybody. But we ran a trans prom at the end of June in this year. And we had 50 young people who many couldn't attend their own discos or proms because they felt to other or they'd been. And they'd been ridiculed. And bullied or they just couldn't go because they were too anxious to attend and to be made to feel so different and at the end of that, a couple of the young trans guys came up to me and they said they got hot and at the end of the night they took their shirts off and danced in their binders because they could because that was a safe space for them to do so. So until society as a whole doesn't bat an eyelid at young people presenting themselves and letting go and being able to be themselves. Yeah, we need safe spaces.
LEE: In a utopia, I would hope that we wouldn't have to tick boxes. But I think that like if we look back and we all sit in this room and we say that we've come a long way in 51 years, but we haven't actually come a long way and I don't think that the needs of the LGBTQ community and their experiences are directly correlated when we gained civil riots because what we're thinking is it, yeah, rights for gay white men has catapulted forward, but we leave our trans brothers and sisters and those that don’t want to identify within the binary and those that identify from black and ethnic minorities behind. And so when I think about like what's the future going to be one day, you have to think like what are my rights going to be as a person that identifies as queer. And then I have to think, what are my rights going to be as a person of color and safe spaces or identifying areas where I can go when I can be around other people of color or I can go and experience other people that identify as Lgbtq plus is important for me. And the real importance is because of the escape from microaggressions, because we can label that, you know, that we can get married and uh, that we can have children and all of these things that come along with civil rights, but civil rights and the perceptions of society, they're always like two completely different levels. And what that means is those that are in the minority, uh, margins are usually the ones that have to deal with not always overt racism though, like we are dealing with overt racism today. We're still dealing with like overt homophobia, transphobia, Biphobia. But it's like those tiny little micro aggressions that you have to deal with on a, on a day to day basis as a minority. And I haven't seen these dissipate much over the last 32 years of my, of my young existence. And I’m hopeful that they will, but I, I'm not, I don't see it happening anytime soon.
TANYA: They'll always forever have to exist but just need more funding and need more support. Black Pride. I would hope that there’s never become a day where black pride is not going to be a thing. I guess hope that black practically at bigger and better because you see what happened at pride this year when you've got like transphobes that are leading a march in the pride in London are not doing anything to stop that, whereas...so I didn't go to it like black pride for me is my only pride. The only pride that I recognise and I'm not just saying that because I work there, it genuinely is because that's the only time that place I actually see myself seen and represented in the most natural and authentic manner and I think that we need to, do need to give more of a platform and people in the community to recognise the privilege and be like, okay, cool. Sometimes like spaces are not for you and that's okay. So if you are going to like a black queer space and you're going by yourself as a white gay man without any black queer friends inviting you, stay at home .
We're never gonna get to a space where it doesn't matter, but I think they should always mattered. Like our intersection of our identity shouldn't be something that we should like ignore it should be something that’s celebrated. Our differences are something to be celebrated and just because we’re different doesn't mean you can't like, obviously sit on a panel and [inaudible], but just accept it. Accept the different except your privilege and from that point, allow these people to have these spaces and allow and support them. Whether it's through putting money into it, whether it is through supporting it. Through spreading every word of mouth. So maybe if you work with a queer black, young person, or if you work with somebody from a certain community, they can also see it. Put your money where your mouth is, put your time where your mouth is.
CHARLIE: We would love to live in a world where safe spaces weren't necessary, but we don't live in that world and I don't think we will for a very long time and up until that time I think that's absolutely it. We need to accept our privileges and understand that there are other people that don't have that and that need those spaces actually need them.
ALEXIS: Personally, amongst all the discussion about the safety of queer spaces...for me, now that I feel safe and secure in my identity - I still want these places. I’m always going to want gay and queer spaces to go to...because safety and pulling aside...geezus straight clubs are boring.
CHRISTANIA: As nobody quite had an answer about the future of queer spaces, Alexis interviewed Jonny Woo, drag queen and owner of The Glory pub in East London. He shared his opinion with us regarding LGBTQ plus spaces - he starts off by talking about his observations of East London, a queer creative part of the city.
JONNY: When I moved in in 95, there were tons of gay venues around here. There were loads of at least 10 and they all closed in quick succession over the next couple of years. So this conversation about losing LGBT spaces isn't a new story it’s old, you know, it happens and I don't know I think particularly with queer spaces, I think they. I don't know why they kind of. Maybe it's caused a immediately impact on our community. If you look around at pubs and bars close all the time, they're always closing. There's loads of bars and pubs have opened. You know, they've open they close, they fail because they were gay spaces. Queer spaces. We'd be, oh no, we've lost another LGBT venue. I think this conversation about losing space and the reason why we're losing spaces is has got a little bit lost. I think the reasons why the spaces close varies, it's not the same story with every single space and if you actually knew that information as to why these places were opening and closing, I think the conversation would be different . And gentrification and anything is the reason why there were gay places around here anyway, they were kind of a whole load of black venues in this area. They closed down, there's a different community which suffered as a result of a more kind of white economic community moving in. It's a little bit part of city life. It's up to people to kind of open, you know, open places, you know, businesses aren't charities and actually the reality is we don't need so many specifically queer spaces now, we don't, we don't need so many because you can just go to the pub and you know you're not going to get beaten up, you know you're going to get fucked over. Most of my stuff wasn't done in gay bars. Like this is the, this is the gayest I’ve been having The Glory. Before that Bistro tech. Soho theatre does tons of queer stuff I’ve done stuff with the ICA. I think maybe I was just one of those people and there's a lot of these people like me about who will hunt out spaces to kind of do stuff.
ALEXIS: it’s good context to think about - how many of us actually go and support gay owned businesses and spaces? We moan when they close, but are we doing our own part to help keep them open? This aside - he makes a very good and valid point that closures and changes of location and space has been a constant in the story of LGBTQ spaces.
CHRISTANIA: Let’s switch back, the panelists touched on the need for safe spaces...
CHARLIE: I think there are places like the AKT provide the houses that AKT provided and living with mentors and whatever where they actually have to go there because they are being beaten or worse I mean some of I've spoken to a lot of the young people at AKT and some of those stories are unbelievable. And the other is, is what you were talking about before Tanya about being able to go somewhere where you can simply just exist as yourself and not have to think about what anybody else is thinking about, you, not worry about perceptions. Just just know that you are with people that are like you. You can see yourself represented and that is enough just because so many times as minority groups. I'm sure all of us in this room have felt that at some point that we don't quite fit in in certain situations and that can be exhausting.
TANYA: Like black pride. Whilst it is for everybody, it's also not everybody...not everyone can actually physically access that space. Whether it is because they’ve got social anxiety whether... there's a myriad of reasons why maybe black pride, they don't feel they can access that space and that's why you've got things that AZ Mag who creates like a platform where people could access it no matter if you're at home. No matter if you’re in another country, but you can see yourself represented as a black queer person, or POC person from the LGBTQ plus community. I think that every space that's created, whether it's physical, whether it's online, as long as you can see yourself it’s a celebration, I don't think we should like kind of stick it solely to like you have to be in that physical space because I think that also can lead to that feeling of isolation because you feel like of because I’m not actually there am really part of this community.
That's why I think that I'm always pushing for more people to create and start events, start organisation, start spaces because some people may like to go...like I love to rave. Like I'll go raving, I love that, but some people might like to sit down and do life drawing and I'll do both, but like. But it's important to have so many spaces. I don't think we should ever. They'll never be a space where we're going to be one specific thing, but just celebrate the fact that yo, the more, the better.
SUSIE: I think I say as well, young people sometimes who come to us who were too anxious to access spaces, so too anxious to come to residential weekends. Too anxious to come along to prides too anxious. Maybe just sort of take part in stuff because they feel to other and then it's about giving them the confidence that they're not alone. That there are lots of other people who feel the same way, that they're part of the community and then then they can celebrate. They then can come along to the events such as pride and and turn up there and be strong and stand there and be proud of themselves and who they are and what they've achieved, but sometimes that's a long road for especially if somebody has been subjected to a household where they're not allowed to be themselves and that applies to the whole of the LGBTQ community. So it's sometimes it's around helping somebody to reach that point where they can celebrate.
CHRISTANIA: I think that there are never not going to be enough venues for LGBTQ people, whether that’s online or in real life. There is something out there for everyone and as time goes on spaces will evolve and grow into whatever is needed to better serve the community especially young people. Tanya gives her perspective on what she hopes for the future of the young people she works with.
TANYA: I used to work for charity, a sports for development charity. Not just working with LGBTQ plus young people like all young people in general but it was really interested in that. I'm a black queer woman. I go enter a space that I'm always going to be a black women. Therefore when I recruit young people for a program, I'm not there saying like, Hey, come and join me I'm gay, but it's more so like, come like come and join. It's actually surprising how many young people join the program that may not have realised they were queer beforehand, but then realised maybe halfway through it. Like I made a point of making sure that whoever I brought in to run workshops where people like BBZ were um, people from the LGBTQ plus community, because now I already came out with us. I'm 26 now. I came out in 24 and it wasn't even, I didn't even say coming out, it's more so I came to understand my sexuality at 24 because prior to that point I'd never known that the black LGBTQ plus community existed, so it's like my thing is like, Yo, if I can create that representation for them, naturally, I'm not forcing it down their throats. They just happen...these are the people that...they’re not leading the workshop always around gender or sexuality or identity. They may just put becoming that to teach a dance class. They may just be coming out to teach creative writing or whatever may be, but they just so happen to be queer and allows the young people straight queer whatever and however they identify to know equally to those that may be queer, to know my identity is ok but equally those who are not to know how to be allies and I think that's also really, really important space. I think that the services are failing young people completely. It's really shocking to hear some of the stories I hear about young people in care. I work with one goal from my previous job, I see her every week still on some of the shit he's had to go through as a young person in care that he's been put houses of homophobic parents, getting beaten and shit and like that is a reality. You go into schools and teachers, I purposely miss-gendering students because they don't agree with it and these are things that you see every single day and nobody pulls them up on it. There’s teachers hearing homophobic and transphobic language in the classroom and just like let it happen. Like it happens all the time and it. It's really interesting because as young people, unfortunately, transphobic and homophobic language is intrinsically part of slang. I grew up using that same language and I had to unlearn it, but the thing is that you have to want to unlearn it and you have to want to show those like not in a way like, oh, you're wrong. You're a bad person for saying that, because some of them genuinely don't know that what they say is wrong. Like the word gay used to be somebody if someone was annoying or that's so gay, I remember when I got called out for it at 21 I was like, I'm not being homophobic. It's just what I say and then I had to accept that in myself and like rah that's the language that I have to unlearn and teachers don't want to unlearn it, the services don't want to unlearn it and they don't know how to support trans young people that they don't understand how to support non binary people and I think that are more layers there are to your identity, the harder it is to seek and access to help that you need and that's why you have like these places like mermaid, AKT, Project indigo. There's so many organisations that do specifically work with young people from these minority groups. However, not all of them knowing that they exist because teachers don't want to tell them they access. The services don't even don't want to tell them they exist because they don't want to have the uncomfortable conversation like the amount of homophobic youth workers that are out there is actually ridiculous. There’s so much that needs to be done and that's why I think that so much more emphasis on social media and the media so young people can realise that access this information. If they’re not hearing it from their teachers, they can go online and see that those people, whether it's Youtubers... everyone talks shit about Youtubers, but young people really see themselves in it. They really find the community on social media. People they may never meet face to face. Making sure you work with like prominent influences, however you call it so these young people can access and find out, okay cool. I can actually go to Mermaids because I feel like that's where I can see myself represented. I can send my parents there because they don't understand my identity and I think that...I found out about my mermaids last, like when I first started working with black pride and since then I’ve actually passed it onto...passed the services onto teachers because I'm like Yo you’re using wrong language like I think you should read this and it's about knowing once you know it. You pass on that knowledge.
SUSIE: I would like to see this in education from primary school upwards. I would like to say a broad diversity across the materials that are being used. I think that it's very masculine in terms of you look at a load of bookshelves and like 90 percent of the books are about male role models and I think that we need to be taught from a very young age that actually difference is okay and that everybody is different and to learn to be kind towards one another and accept people for who they are. One of the things that we see constantly because we've got department of Education money and we deliver training into schools around homophobia, bi-phobia and Transphobia, is that teachers feel really ill equipped to deal with this. They may have the will but they don't have the knowledge and that's because actually our services in terms of government lead services are so poor and there is nothing out there to tell teachers how to deal appropriately with LGBTQ young people and therefore they're floundering.
ALEXIS: Education - is key. The majority of us, we grew up in a time when LGBTQ identities weren’t discussed in schools, or at least - certainly not in positive ways. While religious education classes in schools are designed to promote understanding and tolerance of different faiths, we’re rarely afforded similar treatment. If we leave aside the validation and visibility that education and representation of queer history and positive role models in schools would provide, and just focus on the mechanics of same-sex attraction and the trans experience...proper education on gender, relationships, emotions and the practicalities of sex could do so much to lift shame, stigma and the sense of confusion that many young LGBTQ people feel - not only this, but it would educate and enlighten cisgendered and heterosexual young people too, helping to make the queer experience less other, creating a more accepting and aware generation.
CHRISTANIA: While the national curriculum in schools hasn’t caught up...media portrayal is starting to do this work, lead with Youtubers, internet personalities, young queer and trans actors and writers coming out, and even the traditional are starting to give young people education and visibility we’ve never before had. Susie picks up on this.
SUSIE: So then they rely on their own senses of what is right and wrong and unfortunately what you see in the media is often a parody of what people are actually like. One of the things that is coming out is an ITV drama called Butterfly. So it's three parts. It's Anna Friel who plays the mum Emet Scanlan, plays the dad and this is a drama so it doesn't actually mean putting real people up there and exposing them. But it's a drama about a trans girl and the family division around that and it takes sort of over say three weeks and that's the first bit of drama that's dealt with this in a responsible manner. And I can't bloody wait.
LEE: I guess services like AKT exist because generic services are failing our community. We were set up 30 years ago, well 30 years next year, because the care system in Manchester, were letting in young LGBTQ, young people down and unfortunately 29 years later I'm still seeing social services and the care system let LGBTQ, young people, let us down. AKT has something called supported lodgings, which is basically where we train volunteers in the community that own their own home, who have a spare room to be able to take in a young person and some of that is then spot commissioned to local authorities, so when someone is looked after the child under section 20, they're able to come to us and ask if they can pay to put a young person in our care. Currently we're the only LGBTQ specific service that offers LGBTQ plus hosts in that kind of environment and social services still don't get that sometimes young LGBTQ plus people want to be around older LGBTQ people that they see themselves reflected in and constantly, obviously I run London service, but I also do a lot of the casework as well and I'm...what I still see a lot the time is the. Yeah, the wrong language is used, but also because there is a. We have a Tory government, so there is a lack of funding for statutory services on each year. I've been working in this sector now for seven years and each year I see services closed down. I see, um, local authorities receive less funding. I see where pots of money were going to charities disappear and it's really, really dire. So I understand that statutory services are literally like bursting at the seams and that they're under a lot of pressure. But, um, we had a young person that approached social services a couple of months ago and the young person was in a hostile environment that was psychological and emotional abuse and that got to themselves to the point that they could approach social services. They're the people that you're supposed to approach when you're in that situation and the response of the social worker was to go back in the closet until you're 18. I'm just going to let you let that sink in.
I wish that was an isolated experience, but it's not an isolated experience. And actually when, when we do our impact reports each year, the number...so last year was 77 percent. This year, 78 percent of our young people cite that familial rejection or abuse in the home is the main reason that they've sought help from AKT. Each year we're serving more and more young people and that's because the generic services that are there to serve all young people are particularly failing LGBTQ. And you know, the young people that suffer most are young trans clients and a lot of the time our young trans clients can't access generic services. We, again, we had another young person that was asked and questions where they were in their transition medically before they would allow them to access a, a female hostile and sometimes even then when they are accessing hostels, they're asked to stay in the wrong in the wrong bed or that they're asked to inhabit, you know, mixed spaces that they don't feel comfortable. So yeah, it's really important that for the moment that services like Mermaids and AKT exist.
SUSIE: I'd say that we don't actually see very many young people who are intersectional and I think that's because they actually have a much harder time accessing services. I don't think it's because they're not there I think is a because they can't find it or access it or they're in such a poor environment that to do so would actually put them at risk. About 25 to 30 percent of our young people that are on our youth group, which is just under 500 young people are in an environment where they're not allowed to be themselves and they're not allowed to talk openly about being trans or they're not allowed to express themselves as who they are and those are the young people that we have to keep an eye on in terms of suicidality, in terms of self harm and unfortunately a couple of weeks ago, one of our members, their boyfriend who is trans and not supportive, killed himself. This shouldn't be happening now. This should not be happening now and we just want to try it and work towards making a society where parents who don't accept their children are the ones that are actually vilified, not the children themselves.
LEE: I mean similarly a yeah we see a really low percentage of our young trans people coming through the door that are POC, but we see like 59, 60 percent of our young people overall in services that access AKT identify from black and ethnic minority backgrounds and I think it is not because they're harder to reach, but for some reason were harder to access. You hear lots of times services will say, oh, this is a hard to reach demographic. There's nothing hard to reach about them. You have to look inward and think what are we doing as services that are making us difficult for them to reach out to us and it's, it's an ongoing conversation that we openly have AKT about why are more of our young trans people from black and ethnic minorities not accessing our services because they don't not exist. They're out there. They're just not accessing our services to the same extent that the white counterparts are. We have a lot of conversations about like how and you know, it is about being visible in the community and a big part of what we've been doing at AKT over the last couple of months is literally, you know, we, we had a presence at Black Pride. It's going out to the nightclubs. It's going out to, you know, alcohol free space. It's going to where our young people are and shouting and talking and interacting with people and talking about, you know, what we do so that we hope that the young people that want to access their services, uh, are gonna be going to be out there. Yeah.
ALEXIS: We asked Charlie about his experience of being a gay parent.
CHARLIE Listen, it's very difficult for me to say because I, I live in north London, central north London. My kids are at a local state school in Kentish town where it's so unbelievably hip and liberal. I mean there is literally, there are single parents every kind of fucking rainbow family you can imagine in my daughter's class, so they're really not unique in any way, shape or form, but I'm well aware that it's not like that, you know, we live in a bubble and that's great and I'm very thankful for it because my kids haven't experienced any kind of bullying or even any questioning really. You know, we're all quite involved with the school so the kids have all grown up seeing us so my kids don't have any of that stuff, but it does come down to education. As I say. It's not like this in other parts of the country or indeed the world, but I think children are born or people are born naturally accepting, you know, prejudice is learned behaviour. And that's why primary education is so important. It's so important to when I say get to these kids young because I don't want it. It's the same. You don't want to tell anybody what to think, but you want to educate them. And I've been into some of the schools with the AKT and also with diversity role models who deal with anti homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools. And I've spoken to a lot of young kids and said to a bunch of 10, 11 year old boys, what would you do if one of your male friends said that they were attracted to you? And these boys will kind of go on, kick his fucking head in, or you know, whatever it is, and you kind of go, okay, well that's, that is absolutely one way that you could deal with that situation. Or You could say, wow, I'm really flattered, thank you, but I'm not gay. And you see these kids kind of understand really quickly that that is just a really simple way of dealing with the situation. So, oh well I'm glad that you find me attractive. I'm not gay. And they get it very quickly. And I think just little things like that are really important to just change the dialogue, really changed the conversation because using the term gay as I was brought up in that way as well and it's so damaging and you don't even realise it when you're a kid because you just say it. It's just a word, the that's so gay. You have to unlearn this behaviour as you were saying. There's so much like that.
ALEXIS: Charlie’s experiences of being a gay parent are great, and lovely to hear - but surely it can’t be that easy for everyone? Full disclaimer - we did try to interview an expecting lesbian couple about their journey of same-sex parenting, but their bundle of joy dropped right on the day we were due to record! This is definitely a topic we want to pick back up, and properly explore, in series 2.
CHRISTANIA: Then the panelists spoke about the way trans people are portrayed in the media.
SUSIE: I think the media needs to take some responsibility for what they're doing. I think they need to take some accountability for the hate that they are actually stirring up for the things that they're saying, the headlines, the Anti trans agenda against transgender women and children. Because what we see as an organisation, what we see, we've got our parents groups and we've got our youth groups and what we see is when something particularly nasty comes out that it's then actually borne out in acts of hatred against our young people are against parents who are supporting their children.
TANYA: Yeah, the media needs to fix up the media needs to have more natural representation of our community. All facets of it. Not just the white gay men that they liked to see the ones that accepted. You see programs like modern family. Herald is like being like a massive, like, oh, this is great for the community. They've got like two gay dads but Okay. But also say things that are so many micro-aggressions even in that show itself that they don't call it out. I've never seen a black queer, like black women. I've never seen a black parent, like women who have children in the mainstream media. I've not seen it, you know, I hope now that we're going to start seeing it more, but I have not seen it yet in any mainstream platform. That's a massive issue.
CHRISTANIA: I find that the mainstream media’s portrayal of LGBTQ people makes me feel really uncomfortable. In the past there never seems to be any nuance or actual real research into whatever show they are producing. Of course we want our stories to be shared but there’s no point if they won’t be told in an honest way. Our community’s representation in the media has improved immensely, especially with movies like, Moonlight, Black Mirror’s San Junipero and Orange is the new black. GLAAD’s annual report from 2016 showed that overall, representation of lesbian, gay, transgender or queer characters in Hollywood was slightly higher than in 2015 but a bleak 18.4% of the industry’s top 125 films included an LGBTQ+ character. Gay men still make up the majority of these at 83%. Other LGBTQ+ characters that were offensive, stereotypical or didn’t have a significant role. I think we should tell our own stories, we have the power of the internet and do not need to rely on being backed by massive corporations or production companies.
ALEXIS: There’s also a current debate on whether or not heterosexual or cisgendered actors should play queer and trans roles. I for one, am firmly in the camp that no, they shouldn’t be...for now. I am tired of our LGBTQ identity being used as Oscar bait by straight actors who are congratulated for daring to play gay roles. Yes - it is acting, and in an ideal world, the sexuality of the actor won’t be taken into consideration at casting...but that’s not the reality we live in. There are many talented out actors who have spoken about the detrimental impact to their career that being honest and open about their sexuality has had, and there are many more actors who choose to remain closeted to avoid these issues. So while we don’t yet equal opportunities or representation - I think that LGBTQ actors should have first priority to tell our own stories.
We continued the conversation and asked the panel what can be done to hold the media accountable
LEE: I think as a community we can be better allies for our trans brothers and sisters, that narrative that the media are using at the moment, right. It's they find like the most transphobic, like outspoken person they can and they put them next to a trans person and it's a debate and then what that becomes is a debate about someone's identity and this is what happened to gay men in the 1980s. Sexuality was debated as something that could be discussed and now that's happening to our trans siblings and I think as a community we can be better allies in that. We can call out when that's happening and then when we watch people engage in conversations about these debates on TV, like we can call them out about what kind of like platform that’s given and what that means to debate somebody’s identity like that.
SUSIE: Go after the money, go after the advertiser's point out to them that they're peddling hate that the, you know, their adverts are put next to something that is literally just click bait. That is actually quite astonishingly offensive. So we're working with stop funding hate, and we've, we had them along to a weekend residential and they sat down with families and young people and they put up some of the headlines that have been out there and the advertisers that were right next to those headlines and those really offensive pieces that essentially invalidated their children in validated their existence. And they talked about what that made them fail and they put together a film and we we’re going after the advertisers because if hate doesn't pay then maybe they'll stop doing it.
CHRISTANIA: Stop Funding Hate, what Susie is referencing, is a social media campaign which aims to stop companies from advertising in certain British newspapers that it argues use "fear and division to sell more papers”. Some media outlets post clickbait articles, and everyone gets riled up about how awful it is, and shares it, and talks about it...they’re making money off that. If people stopped sharing these articles and visiting these media outlets and gave our support to Stop Funding Hate instead...we could have power with our wallets.
TANYA: I acknowledge my privilege cisgendered woman, so if somebody asked me because I'm, you know, because I've got connections with x, y, zed, oh we want something to talk about the Trans Experience. I am not trans. Don't ask me. That happens so often, more often than I know and I have to be like, actually you can talk to this person, that person, that person. You're asking the wrong person. Because I think again, the LGBT, like community is all that one person represents us all. Again I’m a black queer woman but it doesn't mean that suddenly I'm the most suppressed because I'm not I can walk around the street and I'm fine. Black Trans Women. No, she can't and I think it's understanding that. I think it's understanding again, your privilege within it and knowing that if somebody reaches out for you to speak in a panel to do this advert, to do x, y, zed, sometimes you have to lose out on your own money. So sometimes I've had to say that opportunity’s not for me, we have to come together and understand that sometimes you do. In order to make a stand, you do have to lose out on your own coin. I'd refused to put my name to things, to brands onto campaigns that completely invalidate the experiences of our trans brothers and sisters and siblings. Like we can't keep doing that because I think people within our community. Do you do it?
CHARLIE: I think complacency is a massive problem actually going back to where we started decriminalisation and yes, the fact is that we do live in a society now where we have equal marriage, walk down the street, holding our partners' hands in a lot of places and and things are generally seen as better, but I grew up in a, in a time when people literally fought for our rights and I see a lot of younger people now kind of going well things are alright, aren't they? Things are fine, you know, we've got a good life. This is nice. We can get married. All these things that lovely and you know, I mean, I know it's not like that in other places in the world, but we're okay here and I think that's part of the problem is when there are so many countries around the world where you can still be put to death or put into prison for simply for who you choose to love or who you sleep with or whatever, who you're attracted to. But the fact is I think it's the duty of the strong to protect the weak and we are strong in this country actually. We have a lot of rights that aren't afforded to people in other countries and so it's our job to speak for those countries that can't speak and those people that can't speak and yes, if they want to. If we want to celebrate our LGBTQ plus people with an award ceremony of we want to have yet another fucking pride, then we should do it because there are people around the world that can't do that stuff. And so when people say to me, do we have too many of these things? I said, no, we don't have enough of these things actually because until we have equality around the world, until everyone around the world can say, yes, I'm a proud queer person and I'm able to live my life in that way, then I think it's our duty to do it, and so I think a lot of the problem is younger people today don't fight and and just remember, look at what is happening in America at the moment with women's rights. Our rights can be taken away so easily, just as easily as as we've won them and people forget that. People forget that those changes can happen so, so easily. It's terrifying. And I think that's our biggest enemy here is people sitting back and going, well, thank God for Peter Tatchell and people like him because we've got where we are, but actually we're all right. We don't need to worry about that stuff so much. So I would say to anybody else thinking, what can I do? It's the small things. Go Out, go and speak to mermaids or AKT or stone wall or Terrence Higgins Trust any of those charities. What can I do, do something, anything but do something. Mentoring a young person, whatever it is. That's, that's I think where the growth is.
ALEXIS: This is such a difficult one. 100% we need to use our protections, rights and strength to try and support the global LGBTQ movement, as we have progressed our rights in the west...there has been a counter movement elsewhere in the globe. However...what a lot of people can forget, is that when we patronise, and speak down to countries, and take an attitude of “oh...they’re not as evolved or as civilised as us in the west” we only make the situation worse for our brethren in those places. It allows things like homosexuality to be characterised as a western import...when the truth of the matter..is that it was actually us in the west who exported homophobia with the spread of empire and christianity. It’s a fine line to walk, we have to do something...and that should start with looking to LGBTQ groups on the ground, in those places, and hearing how they want our support.
CHRISTANIA: To close the panel we asked the panel about tangible ways we can make the future of the LGBTQ community better
SUSIE: Call out that casual, those micro-aggressions, those bits and pieces that that you hear that maybe you just go and then just walk away from called them out. Don't let them go on her. Don't let them go unchallenged. The guy who said to me when my son who is 21 now was going around Thailand and he said to me, Oh, you want to make sure he doesn't come back as a lady boy and I went, by the way, my 24 year old daughter was assigned male at birth. Would you like to continue on that tack and his face was an absolute picture. I wanted to take a picture of it, but still, but it's around. It's calling that out.
TANYA: Definitely call people out. Cool people are in your immediate circles, in your family's like conversations that are always meant to be comfortable. I feel like the most growth happens when you do have these uncomfortable conversations with people that don't just call out racism because there’s a black person in the room. Call it out when you're full of black people that are like yourself as well. You shouldn't wait. Like if I'm around on my cis gendered friends and somebody says something transphobic, I will call it out. If they feel sad. Sorry. That's your own personal business. It's not mine. You should feel bad because you're using this language like unlearn it. I think we're in an age now where I've got to a point where you can't really kind of forgive some of the language that is used by people with. There's the whole old, but the older generation all but they young, old but are. No, there's literally Google.
LEE: Listen to the message the charities are out there peddling like, you know, we get bombarded by just giving pages and petitions and invites to protests on our timelines across social media all the time, but actually stop, click read and actually pay attention because the reason that people are going out and protesting and asking for your money and making a noise is because there is some kind of equality that they want to try and fix, you know, or to start working towards bridging a gap. So that simple little thing you can do is to stop and to listen to the noise that people around you are making and if you are able then go out there and add your voice to that noise. Like we all think that like, Oh, if I stay at home because it's raining for this protest, what's one person, but actually it's multiple one people turning up and screaming and shouting that causes, your voice to be heard like that needs to be done more and then I guess like things helping charities. Look how you can volunteer. Lots of charities don't ask for a lot. A lot of your time, like an AKT. You can donate as little as two hours of your time a month to use your experience, your lived experience, your professional experiences, your personal experiences to our mentor, Mentor, a young person from our community. That's all we ask is two hours a month. So there were like little things.
CHRISTANIA: Now time for audience questions
Audience 1: I'm Andrew. I have a question about the line between exploitation and representation in entertainment. Someone is doing a new show, a dating show for bi people and I know that by people are traditionally underrepresented, but it does sound like it's going to be something that is an excuse for good tv. As we discussed earlier. What do you guys think about that?
TANYA: I think it comes down to who's who is directing it, like look at the team, if the team is full of straight people than evidently it's exploitation, but if the team is full of bi people, it's the shows created by somebody from the community itself. Great stuff. Evidently wanted to create it for themselves, but if it's a team full of straight people that have no idea or have never worked with the community than your likelihood is you are being exploited, but at the same time in saying that the show's still going to be out there so there may be a bi person that sees it and be like, oh my God, that's many more of us and not may validate their experience, but it does depend on what lense it's being used and what their agenda is.
CHARLIE: Speaking as somebody that played a bisexual character on coronation street for five years. I find it really interesting that way that there's still so much bi phobia actually out there and when they first floated the idea of my character who was a gay man falling in love with a woman, you would not believe the amount of shit that I got on social media and in the press in general about how disgusting this was. That this incredibly together out comfortable gay men had suddenly fallen in love with a woman and what kind of a message that was giving and how we’d, you know, gone back 30 years and all the rest of it and nobody would actually address the fact that this man was bisexual. He was. He was a man that was attracted to both men and women. It's very difficult and I think that coronation street actually dealt with it quite well, but perhaps not as well as they could have done. They could have come out and explained it a bit better rather than just going down there. Well, he's a gay man, but he happens to be in love with a woman. They could have explored it a bit better, but I think there's still a huge amount of work to be done with the bi community and certainly in terms of representation.
ALEXIS: And that concludes the live show - It was a difficult panel really - nobody really knew what was likely in store for us in the future! I’m relieved that I’m not alone in knowing that. The common theme, was that while everyone is hopeful...also very aware that due to changing political and economic times...we could very soon have another fight for our rights on our hands.
CHRISTANIA: As always I thought that the panel was quite interesting, I’m glad we were able to get the perspectives of charities because, I for one could be donating my time to help others. What do you think is ahead, And what do you want for us?
ALEXIS: I’m probably going to get the hell read out of me for this - but I think that to get to the future we all want, where we do have genuine equality...i think we’re all going to have to become a lot more comfortable with shades of grey, and imperfect improvement. I think if we expect everything to be 100% perfect first time, and expect everyone to know the answers already and either reach for pitch forks or stop engaging when someone makes a mistake then we’re only going to experience really really slow progress, perhaps worse, no progress. The society that we live in, isn’t designed for full equality, someone always has to be put down so that the 0.1% can be on top. And so if those of us who aren’t on top, fall for divide & conquer tactics..we lose. So! What I want for our future...gay clubs and bars, not out of necessity but out of want...straight allies who will respect the rules and behaviours of those places...same goes for places like UK Black Pride and Trans Pride...them all to be places of celebration & joy...rather than necessity and survival. I would love more people to understand the concept of sexuality and gender as a spectrum, and not see it as so binary as cis/trans, gay/straight. Oh...and while i’m on dream shopping list, let’s throw in an end to slut shaming, sexual racism and femme phobia too.
CHRISTANIA: I don’t know what the future for LGBTQ people looks like. I’m not even sure the planet will still be around, global warming is very real. I think that as society as it is currently works on a system where some people are simply on top and others are on the bottom. Ideally our community will be more united in the future and we’ll all be on a more equal footing. I also I hope that in the future people do not assume the sexuality of a child. We’re having meaningful conversations about the ever evolving idea of sexuality and gender and I hope those conversations continue to move forward and not backwards. Maybe in order to secure our future we need to join other movements and fight for equal rights for all. Let’s not forget how new all of this is, our rights can be taken away at any point. In the words of Audre Lorde - “There is no thing such as a single issue struggle because, we do not live single issue lives.”
ALEXIS: At time of recording, Trump has just announced plans to attempt to narrowly define gender as a biological, immutable state determined only by genitalia at birth - a drastic step to roll back recognition and protections for trans people. Brazil has just elected a far right president who is on record as saying that he would rather his child died than came out as gay and in Tanzania, a government official has urged citizens to report homosexuals to the police. In the UK, two Conservative MPs, both with a history of homophobia lurk in the wings to potentially be future Prime Ministers. While I believe that we do have a better future ahead of us...I don’t think that the bogie men who would do us harm have quite given up yet. We need to be vigilant, supportive, and engaged with our community to look after one another.
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