Keeping It Positive – The Silence Of Mainstream News On LGBT

Robin Wells

I’ll be blunt – The mainstream news and media outlets in Britain are rather crap at reporting on positive gay news. Sure, you’ll get coverage of the resignation of, for example, the married CEO of a prominent bank, due to the papers finding out he had an affair with a “gay lover”, and you’ll get reports on the highly-publicised spate of LGBTQ teen suicides in recent years, and even a piece on how Peter Tatchell was assaulted in Russia in 2007, but rarely will you find a positive story about, for example, a man who came to the rescue of a person being assaulted due to their sexuality, or how such-and-such an activist was recognised with an award for their services towards helping LGBTQ youth.

In fact, before the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill started making its way through Parliament, the last time I clearly remember seeing anything LGBTQ reported on the TV news was when Elton John and David Furnish had their civil partnership ceremony in 2005.

Sure, you see some articles in the mainstream print media, but it’s often given negative connotations. A little part of me dies inside when I go into my local kebab shop, see a certain tabloid newspaper on the counter, pick it up and see on the front page in big, bold letters headlines like: “PRIEST IN GAY PAEDO SCANDAL”, or “MARRIED FOOTBALLER IN GAY ROMP WITH SINGER”. At first, I couldn’t put my finger on why I felt so disgusted – initially I thought it was due to the whopping great kebab I’d just eaten – but then I realised that despite the advances we’ve made in recent years, there is still this inherent attitude of the word “gay” being used as if homosexuality were some kind of cult. Take any sensationalist tabloid headline with the word “gay” in it and replace it with other phrases like “lesbian”, “tr*nny”, “paedo”, “voodoo” and “S&M”, and see if it sounds any LESS like a tabloid headline.

But I was beginning to regain some of my faith in the media when they started reporting more on the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. I loved that it made the headlines, and I was looking forward to the time when the news outlets would explode with the news that the bill enabling same-sex couples to get married (I refuse to use the term “allowing”) had been passed through Parliament and become law.

So when it went through the 3rd reading at the Lords, and the BBC app on my phone beeped with a notification telling me that, I assumed the same would happen with the Royal Assent.

Instead, what I got from the news outlets and the papers was silence. No headlines on the TV, barely any articles in the papers – so little coverage, in fact, that I was actually wondering whether anything had actually happened at all! It was only when I went on Twitter that I was greeted with the news that it had indeed been signed into law, and even then I was hard-pushed to find further details on when and how the introduction of same-sex marriages would be introduced.

The reasoning for this underwhelming reaction by the media might possibly be a willingness to avoid any appearance of showing bias – if it weren’t for the fact that coverage of the passing of the Act would involve nothing more than reporting the facts – something which, the last time I checked, was supposedly fundamental to any good journalistic endeavour. It would also not explain how reporting on the passing of the Act suddenly shows bias, whilst reporting on it while it was still going through the Houses didn’t.

This all sends out such a bad message to young LGBT people, at a time where we should be sending the most positive of messages! For goodness sake, we can get married now, a possibility which didn’t even enter into my head when I was a teenager struggling with my own sexuality!

But by chiefly reporting on negative LGBT events, it tells people that it is a bad thing to be LGBT – and reinforces the need for dedicated LGBT outlets like Vada.

So please celebrate, ladies and gentlemen, and make some noise about this. Tweet about LGBT outlets like Vada, share articles and discussions on Facebook, reblog posts on Tumblr – and add your own voice to the discussion.

Cause goodness knows, the fight ain’t over yet!

About Robin Wells

Robin is an actor and a languages enthusiast, freshly-graduated from the University of London. He spends a fair amount of time in the YouTube community, and recently made the documentary 'Coming Out, Going On' for National Coming Out Day 2012.