BBC Studies Depictions of Homosexuality on TV

BBC commissioned a report to study how people feel about depictions of LGB people on TV and the radio. It turns out, 18 percent of respondents feel “uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” with LGB people being depicted on TV and the radio, even on shows airing after 9pm.

Additionally, around one fifth of straight people said that there is too much content relating to LGB people on TV (they’re probably the same people as the 18 percent who are uncomfortable seeing any LGB people on TV). In general, the people who were uncomfortable seeing LGB people on TV were most uncomfortable with portrayals of LGB intimacy.

But, for the good news — 50 percent of the respondents were “comfortable” or “very comfortable” seeing LGB people on TV, and 32 percent were ambivalent. And while over 40 percent of heterosexual respondents thought there is about the right amount of LGB characters on TV, over 10 percent of them thought there were too few portrayals of LGB people.

Lesbian and gay respondents were critical of current representations of lesbians and gay men on TV. Many lesbians didn’t feel there were enough gay women on TV and were uncomfortable with the portrayal of lesbians only as “butch” or “lipstick lesbians.” Many gay men were unhappy with the portrayal of gay men only as feminine men.

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LGBT Prisoner Safety Act Squashed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

In California, Equality California sponsored seven bills that would improve LGBT equality. On Friday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed one of these important bills, the LGBT Prisoner Safety Act.

The bill was introduced by Tom Ammiano, a member of the Assembly from San Francisco. The bill would have protected LGBT people in the state prison system from violence. And considering that a UC Irvine study revealed that 69 percent of transgender inmates report sexual victimization in jail, the bill was extremely important.

According to Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors, “The legislation would have been an important tool in preventing violence against LGBT prisoners and ensuring that they have access to the same safeguards under the law as other inmates.”

Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center, said: “By vetoing AB 633, Governor Schwarzenegger has yet again neglected to help alleviate violence in California prisons. Transgender people are thirteen times more likely to be sexually assaulted in prison than non-transgender inmates.”

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Transgender Student Denied Homecoming King Title

Each year, high schools across the country pick a homecoming king and homecoming queen based on popular vote. At Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Michigan, one candidate who had received an overwhelming number of votes for homecoming king was a senior named Oakleigh Reed.

But, unfortunately for Oakleigh Reed, known as Oak, all the votes he received for homecoming king were invalidated because he’s enrolled at Mona Shores as a female. Reed is a transgender boy — he’s gone through years of counseling and he plans on getting a sex change operation when he turns 18.

Apparently, that’s not good enough for Mona Shores High School administrators. According to the Assistant Superintendent Todd Geerlings, the ballot gave two choices — students were supposed to vote for a boy for homecoming king and a girl for homecoming queen. And, in the eyes of Reed’s high school, he’s a girl.

Please urge Mona Shores to apologize for their discriminatory actions against Reed and change their policies for transgender homecoming and prom king and queen candidates.

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Can Gender-Neutral Bathrooms Hurt Transgender People?

Many LGBT activists are big advocates for gender-neutral bathrooms. They typically help make transgender and gender-nonconforming people more comfortable using the bathroom, and eliminate potentially awkward situations. But sometimes, can gender-neutral bathrooms actually hurt transgender people instead of helping them?

According to one middle school student, the answer is yes. A sixth grade male-to-female transgender student at Orono Middle School in Maine was forced to use a gender-neutral bathroom instead of the girls’ bathroom at school. According to the school, the district “trained the staff, educated students, gave the transgender student her own bathroom and locker, and met with her parents.” It sounds like the school did a lot to try to make the transgender student happy.

So what went wrong? The student, forced by school administrators to use her own separate bathroom, was picked on by her peers. According to the Maine Human Rights Commission, these actions led to the student’s anxiety and depression.

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Bollywood Actor Disowned For Playing Gay

Many LGBT people are disowned from their families when they come out of the closet. But for most people, this homophobia hits when we come out of the closet, not merely because we were found associating with LGBT people.

Earlier this year, actor Yuvraaj Parasher starred in a film known as India’s Brokeback Mountain. In the film, he kissed another man in the first serious same-sex kiss in Bollywood.

Now, Parasher is facing the consequences. He’s been disowned by his family and thrown out of his home for playing a homosexual on screen. Parasher’s father plans on going to court to officially cut off all ties with his son.

According to Parasher’s father, “I feel what he has done is against the culture and tradition of our country and it challenges the purity of the relationship between a man and a woman… We’re finished. All the dreams and hopes we had built around him are over. For just a film role, he has lost out on his blood ties. We don’t want to see his face ever.”

Parasher’s devastating loss highlights how much a family can be torn apart by homophobia. It’s shocking that his family is publicly disowning him for simply playing a role in a movie. How would they react if their son came out as gay? It certainly couldn’t be much worse.

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The Politics of the “Kiss Cam”

Everywhere we go we see straight people kissing. They kiss in public on the streets, they kiss on prime time TV shows, and they kiss in the movies. It doesn’t matter whether you want to see it or not, there’s no avoiding it. Even for young children, it’s inevitable that they’ll see straight couples kiss.

The same can’t be said for gay couples, who rarely kiss on television or in movies, and often avoid kissing in public for fear of harassment.

This sentiment is mirrored at baseball games. During “Kiss Cam,” a camera pans the crowd and selects a couple, who kiss as a heart frames them. The couples selected are always straight couples, reinforcing the idea that people don’t want to see a gay couple kiss and that straight relationships are more legitimate.

At a recent football game in St. Louis, two guys were the focus of “Kiss Cam.” They reacted as if the idea of kissing was disgusting. The fact that “Kiss Cam” focused on two guys who were not a couple and showed their grossed out reactions to homosexuality — before focusing on an actual gay couple, at that — is just a little insulting.

Both gay couples and straight couples go to baseball games — why should only straight couples be selected?

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Do Afghan Children Prove Gender is Fluid?

People are socialized based on their sex from an early age. Girls are dressed in pink and are given dolls to play with, while boys are dressed in blue and expected to play with trucks. A gender is assigned to us based on our sex. Females are raised as girls and taught to become women, and males are raised as boys and taught to become men.

But this isn’t quite the story in Afghanistan, where the pressure to have male children has led to an intriguing experiment in gender fluidity. When a family has no sons, they sometimes choose to raise female children as boys. These children, called bacha posh, get their hair cut short, dress like boys, and often change their name to a boy’s name.

Having a male child is important in Afghanistan, where women and men are treated very differently. When a family can’t have a male child, friends and acquaintances pity them. Giving the appearance of having a boy benefits families socially. In some poor families, girls dress as boys out of necessity instead of for social reasons. Boys can get work that isn’t available to girls. Thus, Bacha posh are in many ways preferable to typical daughters — they are given many male freedoms and privileges, including education and work opportunities.

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Jewish Prayers Now Include LGBT People

Views on homosexuality vary among the three major branches of Judaism. The Reform Jewish movement has been generally accepting of LGBT people and is socially liberal on a variety of other issues. In contrast, Orthodox Judaism hasn’t been very accepting of LGBT people and is socially conservative. The Conservative movement falls somewhere in the middle, both on gay rights and other social issues.

But this year, Conservative Jews took a step toward acceptance during the High Holy Days services. The prayer book, called a mahzor, for the High Holy Days — which include Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — was changed to be more inclusive of LGBT people.

The committee that worked on modernizing the prayers was headed by Rabbi Edward Feld. The modernization process took twelve years, and was the first update in the Conservative movement’s prayers in almost 40 years. The new prayer book is called Lev Shalem, and while it remains close to traditional Hebrew texts, it adds commentaries and optional readings to help make the prayer book more modern.

The updates include a prayer for a deceased “partner,” an attempt to include gay Jews, and a prayer for “a parent who was hurtful.” While the changes are small, they show improvement and an attempt to be inclusive of LGBT people within the Conservative Jewish movement.

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Is “Opposite Gender Day” Offensive or Helpful?

For many high school students, homecoming week is an opportunity to dress silly and have fun. Aside from the homecoming football game, students participate in themed days of the week, such as twin day or school colors day. Each day of the week, students can show their school spirit by choosing their outfit in line with the day’s theme.

At some schools, one of the days is “Opposite Gender Day,” where students essentially dress as if they were transgender. Jackson High School is one of those schools — but some have raised objections to the event.

Are these “Opposite Gender Days” offensive to transgender students? According to one student at the school and Julie Nemecek, a professor who was fired by Spring Arbor University after announcing her transition plans, the answer is yes. The student is concerned that the day teaches students to mock transgender people.

The student alerted Nemecek of the event and Nemecek contacted school officials to let them know the day was a “very bad idea.” According to Nemecek, “I think it demeans students that may be wrestling with issues of gender identity and puts them at risk.”

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Transgender Australians Allowed To Serve in the Military

In the United States we’re just now struggling to overturn a ban on gay, bisexual and lesbian people serving in the military, but Australians won that battle almost two decades ago.

But the repeal of Australia’s ban only said that service members couldn’t be discharged due to their sexual orientation. Australia’s military still kept a ban on transgender service members.

Recently, an individual servicemember decided to transition genders. An Australian referral service that assists LGBT service members, called DEFGLIS, helped the service member and advocated for reform.

Cue a decision by Angus Houston, Chief of the Defense Force, revoking Australia’s ban on transgender servicemembers on Monday. The Australian Defense Force (ADF) was the last government agency in Australia that was firing employees for being transgender — so now, at least in theory, transgender people in Australia shouldn’t face any employment discrimination from the government.

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