Contributing Author: Guillotina Munter
2014 is one of the biggest and most significant years for Scotland in recent memory. Not only are we on a worldwide stage with the upcoming Commonwealth Games here in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, in a weeks time, but in September we will be voting on whether or not to remain part of the UK or go independent.
Whilst this all sounds very progressive, Scotland as a country still suffers from a major case of small town mentality, and this was put right in the spotlight this Thursday 17th July, when local TV channel STV Glasgow, a regional offshoot of STV designed to showcase and celebrate the best that the West of Scotland has to offer, inadvertently made a significant PR blunder by rescinding it’s invitation to the compère of this weekend’s Pride Glasgow event to participate in it’s Riverside Show—an early evening chat show—on account of her being a drag queen. Their reasoning? That it wouldn’t be ‘appropriate’ for a drag queen to be on TV at that time of night when families may be watching, for fear that if a child saw her on the broadcast that they would then proceed to ask their parent potentially awkward questions around what a drag queen is, etc.
The whole point of STV Glasgow inviting Bee Fiarse Beaujambles along to their studio was to discuss the upcoming LGBT pride celebrations in the city centre. However, it seems that they wanted to cover the topic of gay pride without actually mentioning anything queer. This comes across as an extremely reductive, transphobic action, especially considering the likes of Lily Savage, Dame Edna Everage, Little Britain, Kenny Everett, The Krankies (where a 67-year old woman plays a schoolboy), and many others having been mainstays of British family entertainment. Hell, a drag queen won Eurovision this year!
BBC One’s The One Show certainly didn’t have a problem in interviewing Conchita Wurst at 7pm, nor did the BBC have a problem in airing a programme celebrating Glasgow in which Bee herself was a part, interviewed by Scottish comedy favourite Karen Dunbar.
Personally, I think STV Glasgow may have actually had one producer in this instance calling the shots and acting unilaterally, but they’ve done so at the worst possible time, potentially creating for themselves a PR clusterfuck. It’s not gone without scrutiny from the world press that 44 of the Commonwealth countries punish homosexuality in law. To act in this way really speaks volumes about the parochial, provincial attitude that permeates Scottish culture even in it’s largest, most diverse city.
This year’s Pride Glasgow celebrations have been very carefully put out of sight, out of mind by the City Council. Previously it has been held in our main square, George Square—which is currently sitting empty except for a huge tent selling Commonwealth Games branded tat, positioned just outside major transport hub Queen St station, presumably to snare tourists—or Glasgow Green.
This year? It’s in a car park. At the back of a shopping mall. Where no tourists may accidentally stumble upon it. Now, to myself and many others, it definitely smacks of an embarrassment about homosexuality. A celebration would be taking up a major area in the heart of the city. This isn’t a celebration; it’s a token gesture. With several homophobic incidents of late, and on the rise, it’s hard to not feel merely tolerated as opposed to accepted and embraced with open arms by the City Council.
It also doesn’t help their reputation one bit that David Farrell (ex Clyde1 DJ “Romeo”)—one of the main presenters on STV Glasgow’s Riverside Show—has in the past been thrown out of a gay club for transphobic abuse to an individual. He may be gay himself, but this is exactly what I mean about the small town mentality. These self-loathing queens are so obsessed with being outwardly ‘normal’ that they’re willing to try to limit the light of others’ to appease their internal shitshow of emotions.
Even if children were to ask their parents potentially awkward questions about drag, surely that’s a good thing? Is a major part of dealing with homophobia not education? And in fact, every parent that I’ve spoken to about it (yes, primarily heterosexual too, not one of these craaaaaazy modern families) would not have any problem with their kids being ‘exposed’ to a drag queen. After all, we’re essentially just clowns anyway, and very much a part of mainstream British TV entertainment.
The Herald newspaper has already ran with the story, and I’ve confirmed with Bee herself that interviews with national and international gay press will be taking place shortly. Part of the problem is that STV Glasgow really hasn’t even acknowledged or understood their terrible timing. If the TV station of the Commonwealth host city isn’t prepared to acknowledge and respect a segment of their own citizens for a completely unfounded fear of upsetting some imaginary viewers (not that there would have been many, given how popular it’s been proving generally), it is in a sense complicit to the homophobia of the 44 Commonwealth countries that will be participating in the Games next week.
I for one refuse to stand for mere token tolerance. Equality demands that the full spectrum of people be represented, and if some people do see us centre-stage and get offended, then good. We’re here, we’re queer and we’re going fucking nowhere. This is reality and your eyes should be wide open to our part in it, no matter what you think about us.
If anything, this whole mess further proves why we need gay pride as an concept (like or loathe the execution).