Identity is personal, and often our act of existing is political. From the way we express ourselves, to our seats at the table, queer bodies often fulfill roles within our institutions that disrupt and challenge outdated and unforgiving norms.
But after news broke last night from the BBC, as they outlined their new impartiality rules, they’ve stated that associating oneself with LGBTQ+ politics, or political marches such as the Black Lives Matter Movement, is seen as breaking their guidelines, it begs the question as to why supporting our identities is seen as such a radical political statement.
David Jordan, Director of Editorial Policy and Standards announced yesterday in an internal meeting to senior staff and current affairs employees – as well as junior staff and journalists in what sources state was two separate meetings – that attending Pride and supporting trans issues supposedly breaks impartiality.
Benjamin Butterworth of the i newspaper revealed in an exclusive story how the BBC were worried about staff and their potential public commentary around ‘the trans issue’, insinuating that showing public support for the trans community would suddenly mean BBC staff were raging comrades of the left. Amidst the confusion of last night’s announcement, many BBC staff have explained their dismay at the comments from the editorial policy team, with some explaining to GAY TIMES that the comments were only made applicable to those whose roles require them to be ‘politically neutral’.
But one source from within the Beeb has explained how the meeting impacted them.
“I always understood that working at the BBC means we all have to park our opinions at the door when we walk into the office,” they said. “I am deeply upset to understand that it now also means I will be unable to march in celebration and solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. Some consider Pride to be a party, others consider it to be a protest and some see it as both and neither, and it doesn’t matter how I view Pride, but I view this decision to be a running jump backwards for inclusivity at the BBC.”
They also explained to us that they had been told to not publicly support LGBTQ+ charities through their social channels even if they’re deemed ‘worthy’, and ensure they follow accounts that don’t promote bias. With 2% of the workforce at the BBC being trans, asking them to follow anti-trans groups in the name of ‘fair journalism’ is just transphobia in sheep’s clothing.
The BBC’s decision here to herald trans issues as a debate to be ‘cautious’ of shows how perilous our existence, and more importantly our allyship, is in this country. There’s a sorry irony in the BBC being wary of public members of staff wading in on the falsehood that is the ‘trans debate’, when it’s often media types such as them that spawn the debate in the first place. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy.
On a wider level, years of debate and a culture war that has exposed politicians and the media as being avid tennis players with trans rights, has meant that decisions such as this by the BBC are somewhat validated. When identities surface as contentious debate, supposedly split into a binary option of what is right and wrong, it leaves marginalised queer folks fair game for manipulation. Support for queer folks, and specifically trans folks is not taking a political stance, it’s taking a stance of human kindness. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to start suddenly rocking up to Jeremy Corbyn’s allotment and digging up his parsnips, it means you care for other people that aren’t yourself. The notion that it promotes a left wing ideology, and for the sake of bias we should also give equal weight to bigotry, shows how fragile LGBTQ+ equality is in this country.
Thursday night’s comments were yet another string to this country’s issue with understanding identity. It goes beyond that of ‘protecting the image of the BBC’ and firmly roots bigotry and transphobic rhetoric within our nation’s supposedly proudest institutions. Clarity is definitely needed on this issue, but on a societal level, this country and its people need to wake up and realise that supporting LGBTQ+ folk is something that is of the utmost urgency.