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CBB21 Celebrity Big Brother January 2018 [CBB 21] (dubbed Year of the Women). Discuss the housemates and series - which was won by Courtney Act - here.


 
 
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Old 02-02-2018, 04:41 PM #1
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Jack_ Jack_ is offline
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Default 'The Big Brother house – an unlikely source for an LGBT history lesson'

I know this thread will inevitably descend into the tired 'IT'S NOT A SOAPBOX FOR THE GAYS' and 'BB IS A REALITY SHOW NOT LGBT QUESTION TIME' but I found this column an enjoyable read so I thought I'd share for those interested in some intellectual social commentary rather than more futile Ann/Shane arguments. It's not often Celebrity Big Brother makes it to the likes of The Guardian, after all. To give them their credit (not often I get to do that!), C5 stuck to their word and provided a thought-provoking series

Quote:
The Big Brother house – an unlikely source for an LGBT history lesson

Divisions among trans people, gay men and lesbians have been exposed by the celebrity TV show. But ultimately far more unites us than sets us apart

Who could have predicted that in 2018 it would be Celebrity Big Brother that opened up the national conversation on gender and sexual politics? Transsexual? Transgender? Drag queen? Queer? Gay? Gender-fluid? Shane from Boyzone looked utterly baffled. The show took the uneasy divisions and distinctions of the LGBT community and revealed them to straight people. You know – the ones who think we’re basically all the same oddballs anyway.

First there was the trans newsreader, India Willoughby, and her discomfort with the Britney Spears-esque drag queen Courtney Act, an alumnus of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Willoughby felt people would think she and Courtney were the same thing, and confuse trans identity with a more frivolous aspect of gay culture. Later, Act’s daytime alter ego, Shane Jenek, clashed with actor Amanda Barrie (who is in a civil partnership with a woman) over Barrie’s breezy and uncritical friendship with Ann Widdecombe. As a parliamentarian, Widdecombe supported section 28, which banned positive depictions of homosexuality in schools. The very rights Barrie now benefits from were time and again opposed by the likes of Widdecombe.

For the most part, I welcome all of this representation – it was clumsy and confusing and required constant explanation to family members who were unaware of these complexities. I too was unaware of them, when I was growing up as a queer kid in the early 00s. Section 28 was passed shortly after my birth and remained in force for the bulk of my education. I knew nothing of the long and great history of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, and their emergence from the shadows.

Today marks the beginning of LGBT history month, and here’s why it’s important: keeping people unaware of their own history is a key tool of oppression. In my own life, lack of awareness produced a confusion about my own place – I came out as gay in my teens,before ultimately accepting that I needed to transition for life to be worth living in my 20s. My friendships with my gay, bi and lesbian friends only grew stronger in my transition as they supported me in the new challenges I faced.

This is why I am a strong believer in the LGBT collective. In recent weeks and months, commentary from the rightwing press has tried to foment tension between the rights of trans people and those of lesbians and gay men (bisexual people are still too rarely mentioned). But the truth is, our history is their history, and vice versa. The gay rights movement took hold at the Stonewall Inn in New York, with street queens such as Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera standing alongside a butch lesbian, Stormé Delarverie.

Willoughby feared people would mistake her for a drag queen. Perhaps she has cause to do so, as Johnson and Rivera’s gender identities predated modern niceties, and it is now broadly accepted they were both transgender and drag queens. Miss Major, another Stonewall veteran and friend of Rivera, is still alive today and identifies as a trans woman, campaigning for the rights of trans people of colour in the US.

It has always struck me as ironic that trans women and lesbians of colour lead the landmark moment in gay history, given that now, whenever LGBT history is discussed it tends to focus on histories of white gay men. Lesbians have reason to be aggrieved at the erasure of their history. Last year, in media coverage of the 50th anniversary of partial decriminalisation, we heard that “lesbians were never criminalised”, with no discussion of the tortures gay women were forced to endure in psychiatric institutions, inescapable marriages (including “corrective” rape) and at the hands the state – which would use removal of their children to punish them. In a patriarchal society, where women’s bodies are already subject to men, there’s no need for a statute. It was lesbians, too, who cared for gay men and trans women through the worst of the Aids crisis.

So it is vital that we better respect the history of queer women. After all, some of the most vital LGBT activism in Britain today is being carried out by lesbians – such as Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, who co-founded UK Black Pride, and Chardine Taylor-Stone, an award-winning campaigner on issues such as racism, classism and misogyny in the LGBT community. Ruth Hunt has been at the head of LGBT charity Stonewall (named after the riots), in the period it began to campaign on trans rights.

Trans people have sometimes been cast by our enemies as somehow a modern addendum, antithetical to the politics of the LGB collective – different, antagonistic, maybe even a threat. This is ahistorical nonsense. In Britain, transsexual men and women were part of the Gay Liberation Front from the early 70s. As the LGBT writer Lisa Power captures in her history, No Bath but Plenty of Bubbles, there were transsexuals who attended the GLF women’s groups that gestated the women’s movement itself. In January 1972, the transsexual and transvestite group of the GLF called for the acceptance and liberation of trans women in the specifically lesbian newsletter, Lesbians Come Together. Just as Willoughby struggled with her historical ties to gay men, trans women and lesbians too have an entwined history. And some people are, of course, both. Trans is distinct but not utterly separate, and never was.

If you’re even more confused now than before, perhaps you’ll be inspired to learn more this LGBT history month. Big Brother, we know, is the home of manufactured conflict, and though its exposition of the issues has been useful, the rest of us should not take the show’s argumentative lead. Lesbian, gay, bi and trans people together have long resisted the bullying and discrimination that has shaped too many of our lives. We have shared space and power. In order to march on in solidarity we must win our proud history back.
The Guardian
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