Thursday, October 05, 2006

Is there enough coverage of gay issues in the UK's mainstream media?

As a result of my recent plug for the London finalist of My Gay UK 2006, I got into an e-mail discussion with a reader about whether there's enough coverage of gay issues in the UK's mainstream media. The discussion went something like this.
qxmagazineReader: I guess we'll see the publicity [relating to Mr Gay UK 2006] in the next edition of QX or something. Not that anyone who doesn't live on the scene ever sees that. The gay ghetto turns in on itself again... it kind of upsets me that it does that so much. Even London Pride, or should that be Pride London rather than the beer, doesn't do enough to raise awareness of its key issues in the mainstream press. I was barely aware that it was happening this year! Does it bug you too?

GB: I do like London Pride, but haven't been to Pride London in years LOL! I guess I don't live my life on the scene at all these days (unless you count the online scene).

Actually it doesn't bug me that there's not much awareness of key gay Issues these days in the mainstream, because in some ways that's a sign that the campaigns of the past have been successful. Even when I came out in the 1980's being gay was a bit controversial. There was a lot of mainstream awareness on key issues in the 1990's (e.g. age of consent), and then Civil Partnership recently, but now the major battles have been won I think it's kinda nice that we don't have to be campaigning all the time.

Reader: I know what you mean about gay issues moving on. In many ways I feel the same. However, at the same time I do wonder whether in fact the ease of our lives as gay men isn't something fairly limited to a) high-earners in liberal work environments and b) fairly cosmopolitan areas.

At home, for example, it would be fairly awkward for my parents if the neighbourhood were to be broadly aware. It's not a lynching matter any more, but personally I would expect abuse from some quarters. Doesn't that suggest that there's still work to be done? I'm not saying there aren't greater injustices in the world, and I do actually adopt your view. But when I cast my mind out from the cosmopolitan bubble it does make me pause for thought - is being content with our lot pulling up the ladder behind us as far as the rest are concerned?

GB: Regarding gay issues, for centuries it's been the cosmopolitan cities which ultimately drive public opinion. It takes decades to filter out, but eventually it does happen. So I don't think we're pulling the ladder up behind us, it's important that we carry on showing gay pride!

Reader: I disagree with you when you suggest that cosmopolitan cities inspire cultural change everywhere else. Whilst they almost certainly will do so in other aspirant urban towns and conurbations, hicksville doesn't really pay much heed to what the cities are doing. So I think there is work to be done, other than living well ourselves as an example.

Precisely what that work is, I'm not wholly sure. In some communities (eg amish, evangelical christian) I don't think we can do more than strictly enforce non-discriminatory laws as a direct attack on their creed is doomed to fail. In less dogmatic climes (eg suburban Durham) I think that building an awareness of the social harm homophobic behaviour causes at the same time as desensitising the people to "gay" persons by general exposure through the media etc would have a long-term positive impact. I am inclined to believe that pro-active, planned activity would probably accelerate this process of broadening acceptance.

In summary - I'm not saying we should get all angst-ridden about this, we need to live well. But I think that the trickle-effect you talked about doesn't reach everywhere. Moreover, in those areas it doesn't reach much, there is work that could be done to change public perceptions. And finally, in the areas where there is the "trickle" effect, greater acceptance could be accelerated if it were augmented by planned activity.
Persuasive stuff. Anyway, I thought such well argued e-mails deserved a wider audience, so with his consent the conversation so far is posted above. Does anyone have any thoughts on this matter?

1 comment:

Will said...

Here in the U.S. we haven't reached the level of enlightenment that applies in the U.K. Gay bashings continue even in the "cosmopolitan urban areas" and many of our public institutions remain clueless to the fact that gay men and lesbians are actually United States citizens with rights under the Constitution.

We will not even discuss the policies of the vile Bush administration.

We need gay issues in the mainstream, but it's always a fingers-crossed situation that they'll be reported fairly so as to possibly help rather than hurt. But any exposure at least reinforces our presence throughout society.