You are not logged in. Signup to contribute or login! Not recieved your activation email? Click here to send it again.

Gudrun Limbrick column


Published in Midland Zone May 2001

Sometimes homophobia comes in the most bizarre forms - not least was the decision of top pop programme Top Of The Pops to censor a t-shirt.

Personally, I have never been that fond of t-shirts with writing on - that whole 'Relax', and 'Frankie says', was overkill in the 80s as far as I was concerned. Some of them are quite funny the first time around but so few of us get to be the first. If you've got anything to say, say it yourself, don't let t-shirt designers put words on your chest.

But The Pops, decision wasn't based on any kind of call for fashion common-sense but on awareness that the programme goes out at 'family time'. And what were the heinous words pop-loving families were being protected from? 'I am a lesbian'. That's all. And the declaration was being made by a bloke (the singer of Crazytown) so there's a fair to middling, chance it wasn't even true. The BBC, not wishing to take any chance of any awkward conversations around the TVs of middle England ("Daddy, aren't lesbians ladies?"), followed the offending fashion statement around the screen with the word 'censored'. Haven't they got anything better to do? Changing their locks so that Steve McFadden can no longer get into any TV studios, for example. Or how about giving Ian Beale acting lessons?

What really got my goat was that, the following week, Robbie Williams was on TOTP strutting his highly-paid stuff with two women behind him wearing stilettos and lacy underwear performing an unmistakable display of sapphic pseudo sex. That, The Pops decreed, was okay for families. At risk of being controversial, is that not just a touch hypocritical? Is lesbianism really so awful that we dare not speak its name, even for the sake of a really naff t-shirt joke?

But it gets you thinking, with institutions as influential as the BBC still making bizarre censorship decisions, shouldn't we all be a bit more political? Gay rights used to be the phrase that would get everyone fashioning forthright banners out of their old duvet cover and some tent poles and marching up and down some unsuspecting main street. Now it seems we are all happy to leave it to Angela Mason to wine and dine politicians and pay for a few adverts in the Pink Paper. Gay strength used to signify uur determination to get equality. Now it is more likely to mean we've been working out down the gym.

The main thrust of London Pride, when it first began, was a political one - the march was the essential in-your-face, big noise and big attitude stomp around visible streets of London. Over the years, partying has taken centre stage in London and is really the essential element of our own Birmingham Pride. The two 'external' bits - the Saturday afternoon central Birmingham launch and the Sunday morning march - are relatively low key in comparison with the wholesale Hurst Street take-over on the Sunday and Monday. Few people from outside the gay community itself are privy to any sort of purposeful demonstration of gay strength in terms of numbers or attitude.

But do we really need Pride to be overtly, and traditionally, political? The kind of partying en masse that Pride prompts is as much a political statement as banner-waving and whistle-blowing would be down New Street on a busy Saturday morning (and we've got less chance of everyone getting distracted by the new lines in Habitat or Muji). The whole political scene has changed (stamped on by Thatcher, bored into submission by Major and completely baffled by Blair) and the public have generally lost sympathy with mass angry demonstrations. No longer are we willing to be inconvenienced by political campaigns - a good TV programme and a chat with someone we meet at work is generally how political points are made.

While some people have cynically argued that Birmingham Pride cannot possibly be 'making a world of difference' to anything other than the livers of some its more enthusiastic party-goers, it seems too churlish to even be debating it. The very act of participating in Pride is a statement to the rest of the world and having fun in the face of homophobia is just about as strong a poke in the eye for the bigots as you can manage without actually having to stick your finger into their socket and listen for the squelch.
When you are gay and proud if it, every act is political -especially partying. Have a good one.

Contributed by: Midland Zone, 10

Click here to read the full interview with this contributor