The “Gay Oscars” and Straight Allies – Vote Now!

Roy Ward

Vote now for your nominees of choice:


The Out In The City Magazine Awards, dubbed Britain’s ‘Gay Oscars,’ will take place at London’s Landmark Hotel on 25 April later this year, and many famous LGBT entertainers and celebrities are up for prizes at the ceremony which will be hosted by Stephen Fry, Coronation Street actor Charlie Condou, and actress Sophie Ward.

Graham Norton, Alan Carr, Nick Grimshaw and Paul O’ Grady will all be battling it out to win the prestigious ‘Broadcaster of the Year’ title, whilst everyone’s favourite tiny-trunks-toting twink, Tom Daley, is up for ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ against fellow gay Olympian Nicola Adams. Meanwhile, Sir Elton John, Sir Ian McKellen, Great British Bake Off presenter Sue Perkins and Clare Balding have all been short-listed for ‘Celebrity of the Year’.

However, the award which really caught my eye was “Straight Ally of the Year”, which Lorraine Kelly, Jennifer Saunders and Ben Cohen are all competing for. According to Out in the City, “Kelly is popular with gay viewers and has championed gay equality issues on her ITV show, Lorraine, while Saunders’ Absolutely Fabulous character Edina Monsoon has a big gay following.” By contrast, Ben Cohen has “become a gay icon after campaigning to eradicate homophobia in sport”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Lorraine Kelly is lovely. This video of her playing Innuendo Bingo on BBC Radio One is one of the most wonderful videos I’ve ever seen in which a young man and a middle-aged woman spit water all over each other. I also adore Ab Fab, and will gladly admit to a deep distrust of anyone who doesn’t. That said, I’m not sure any of their achievements would necessarily qualify them to win a Straight Ally award.

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Then there’s Ben Cohen. Lovely, lovely Ben Cohen with his lovely, lovely face (and other body parts). His charity, The StandUp Foundation, is committed to tackling bullying in all of its forms. Homophobic bullying is a big part of that, and for several years now he’s been a visible advocate for changing attitudes towards LGBTQ people in sports and in wider society. He certainly seems to fit the bill a little more than the other nominees. And yet, perhaps it’s not as simple as that.

Last year, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Same Love” was a ubiquitous presence across the Internet, with many lauding the fact that Macklemore, a straight cis man, was proudly and openly supporting marriage equality. Those people had a point – yes it was really nice to see someone with no vested interest lending their support to the LGBTQ community. He was championed for his pro-gay stance, and heralded as an important voice (in some cases seemingly the ONLY important voice) in the fight for LGBTQ rights. However, not everyone agrees. Many people were suspicious of the seemingly disproportionate attention the media wanted to pay to a white, straight, cisgendered man, who was saying the same things that LGBTQ people had been saying for years but which apparently fell on deaf ears.

I’m also immediately worried any time an ally stands up for an oppressed group that they’re going to drown out the voices of the people the oppression actually affects. Yes, “Same Love” might feature openly gay vocalist Mary Lambert, but practically every time the song has won an award, she’s been suspiciously absent from the artists’ acceptance speeches. “Same Love”‘s message is one I can totally get behind, but in Macklemore’s case his “Straight Ally” tag is potentially doing more harm than good when it comes to allowing marginalised groups to have a voice in gaining their own equal rights. My friend Lucy, an infallible voice of reason on almost everything apart from her view that Benedict Cumberbatch looks “smug and bastardy” (WRONG), had the following answer to the question of what makes a good ally; “Not calling yourself an ally and just getting the fuck on with being a decent human.”

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In other words, being an ally isn’t simply a title, whether you’re given it at an awards ceremony or give it to yourself, it’s something that you live and do. Whoever gets the award at the Gay Oscars in April (and Vada will be there to find out), I hope they know that there’s a lot more to being a good ally than just being called one. 

About Roy Ward

When Roy was 7 a girl tied him to a tree and tried to set him on fire. He now lives in Leeds with his boyfriend. These facts may be connected. Vada's Deputy Editor, he loves pop culture in all its forms, plus feminism; drag queens and Nigella Lawson. Find him on Twitter @badlydrawnroy.