Yesterday saw yet another call for the BBC to take action against someone for anti-LGBT+ comments, and once again, the organisation has refused to act.
The comments came in from Barry Humphries, the performer behind the drag personality Dame Edna, who claimed that transgender women are ‘self mutilating men’. The transgender actress Rebecca Root called on the BBC to either ask Humphries to apologise for his comments or fire him from his Radio 2 show.
The organisation issued this response to that request; ‘Barry Humphries is a freelance presenter for BBC Radio 2 and these are his personal views, which are not reflected in his radio programme.’
Whilst this may seem like a reasonable response to some, a quick search on the Internet will start to reveal a very worrying picture, where the BBC seems to take no action whatsoever against any presenters or guests who express homophobic and transphobic views, but take action against people who try to speak out against anti-LGBT+ sentiment.
Just weeks ago, on a Radio 4 broadcast of their ‘Sunday’ programme the BBC allowed Dr Chris Sugden, of the evangelical lobbying group Anglican Mainstream, to state that their is a link between homosexuality and child grooming.
Dr Sugden said during the show, ‘There are a lot of myths and misunderstanding about this. I have done significant research on this in Africa, and talked to African Christian leaders and legal experts. The situation is this – what we are concerned about is the protection of children from the grooming. It’s not homosexuality, it homosexual behaviour…they need to protect children from grooming. In India only last week, there was a bill to decriminalise gay sex brought before Parliament which failed to get through – because they wanted to protect children.’
The bill he was referring to did not in any way actually make reference to child abuse, he simply lied to help make his own point. He also, more than once, referred to homosexuality as a ‘lifestyle choice’ without once being challenged.
The comments made during the show, and the lack of any challenge to blatant lies and homophobic rhetoric resulted in the BBC receiving complaints and requests to take action. The BBC once again refused to issue any kind of action, instead releasing the following statement.
‘Sunday is a live programme and, regrettably, this discussion ran out of time before it was possible to clarify some of the views expressed. As a result, some listeners may have gained the impression that Canon Dr Chris Sugden equates homosexual behaviour with child grooming. We have spoken to Dr Sugden subsequently, and he has assured us that this is not the case and that he was actually conveying what he believes is one African perspective on the churches’ and states’ attitudes to homosexual behaviour, based on his conversations with senior religious leaders from different African countries.’
The statement left many people with a sour taste in their mouth, as the comments Sugden made were very clear in what he was trying to convey, that homosexuality promotes child sexual abuse. The statement also failed to identify why the presenters were waiting until they ran out of time to challenge his use of the term ‘lifestyle choice’, rather than challenging it as soon as he said it.
Just a few weeks before that, the BBC nominated known homophobic boxer Tyson Fury as part of their Sports Personality Of The Year awards. Whilst nominating a known homophobe as a role model for young people is questionable at best, despite whatever sporting achievement they may have made, it was their suspension of a staff member for speaking out about it that sent a stronger message.
Andy West, a reporter for BBC Northern Ireland was suspended following a statement he made on his social media regarding the nomination of Fury. West, who is openly gay himself, wrote the following; ‘My employer is hurting me and other gay people by celebrating someone who considers me no better than a paedophile and who believes homosexual people are helping to bring about the end of the world.
‘It’s tempting to see him for the laughable idiot he is but sadly there are many other idiots who will be inspired and encouraged by his naive, juvenile bigotry. I am ashamed to work for the BBC when it lacks the bravery to admit it is making a mistake.’
West was immediately suspended by the BBC for highlighting their mistake in promoting a man with such extreme homophobic views and refused to comment on the subject to the press.
Around the same time BBC News Night invited known transphobe Germaine Greer onto the show, where they asked her questions about Caitlyn Jenner, a move that they must have known would have resulted in Greers usual hate. She didn’t disappoint, and her comments quickly resulted in a media storm.
How did the BBC chose to respond to this? They invited her back onto News Night at the end of the year and once again asked her what she thought about transgender issues. Rather than addressing the outpouring of complaints and calls to ban Greer from the BBC the organisation instead chose to have her back a month later and prompt her to make even more transphobic comments.
The month before that, in November, the organisation issued an apology to a member of Christian Concern, a religious group that has expressed extremely homophobic views in the past, including attending a gay cure conference, when they were labelled bigots by a presenter.
During an interview on BBC Three Counties Radio presenter Iain Lane labelled one of their campaigners, Libby Powell, a bigot for her views on homosexuality. In this incident the BBC were very quick to issue a statement of apology to Powell and Christian Concern, apologising for ‘any offence caused’.
Just as a little context it is worth noting that the group the BBC apologised to have in the past campaigned to place gay cure ads on London buses, attended gay cure therapy conferences, criticised a hospital chaplain for marrying his male partner, opposed moves to prevent homophobic bullying in schools and even compared same-sex marriage to the Tunisia massacre.
The month before that, September, the BBC were facing claims that it had dropped a contestant from the popular dance show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ because the guest requested to have a dance partner the same sex as them.
CJ de Mooi claims that he was approached by the BBC to appear on the show, but when his agent asked them if he could have a male partner he was ‘snubbed’ and the BBC refused to have him appear. The BBC refuted this claim, stating that he was never a serious consideration to appear on the show, and that it had nothing to do with his request for a same sex partner.
These a just a few examples from the last few months that are easy to find on Google. It shows that the BBC have allowed a man who expressed transphobic views to keep his show with no repercussions at all, allowed a homophobic priest to equate homosexuality with paedophilia, featured a known transphobe on a prominent news show to express those views and invited her back the next month, nominated a known homophobe as Sports Personality Of The Year, issued an apology to an anti-LGBT+ hate group, suspended an employee for highlighting their promotion of homophobic views and they have refused to feature same sex partners on a popular entertainment show.
When all laid out next to each other I can’t help but start to question where the BBC’s morals and ethics lay. They apologise and defend people who vehemently hate the LGBT+ community, and subsequently shun and punish members of that very community.
When you throw in the BBC’s repeated fascination with transgender people’s genitals, something that comes up in almost every discussion they have, such as the Tara Hudson debate on BBC Radio 2, or when they have any trans or non-binary interviewees, like just last night on News Night when presenter Emily Maitlis tried to identify CN Lester’s possible genitals, it makes things even worse.
The BBC has done some good things over the years for the LGBT+ community, and even gained a lot of positive praise in 2015 for it’s portrayal of trans people for their television show ‘Boy Meets Girl’, but that good should not be used to hide the questionable choices they have made.
Amidst the good they are seen to be doing is a whole host of questionable choices where the organisation appears to support anti-LGBT+ views. The BBC appear to be trying to make progressive steps on LGBT+ representation, but are too stuck into their old ways of thinking. They will accept LGBT+ people, but only to a point. If it comes down to it they seem to be very quick to turn on the community, to apologise to our haters and give them a voice, to allow us to be demonised or reduced to what’s between our legs.
The BBC need to seriously look at some of the actions it’s been taking lately and ask itself just what kind of organisation it wants to be.