This week has been a hugely disappointing one with regards to the BBCs programming of an upcoming queer shorts commission. With seven writers identifying as male and only one that identifies as female, this is a season that does not represent LGBT+, it is, yet again, pushing the voice of the ‘G’.
At The LGBTQ Arts Review it is something we’ve seen happening in theatre since our launch in 2014, and something we are continually trying to address. I know from conversations I’ve with a lot of smaller theatres that they are trying hard to diversify and balance their stages. Nearly all big arts organisations are also aware of this imbalance and trying to address it in one way or another- with all female casts, schemes such as the National Theatre’s 50/50 promise (to have gender equality in it’s organisation by 2021), and Tonic Theatre’s Lucy Kerbel working alongside NPOs to ensure women are getting a look in both on and off stage, change is happening, albeit slowly. I feel hopeful when I see that a consciousness is there and though the shift towards gender equality is irritatingly slow, many are pushing for it. So with all this happening in theatre, it’s frustrating for an organisation as influential as the BBC is taking such huge steps backwards in terms of its programming.
While I appreciate that a big point for celebration (and a lot of arts commissioning this year) is the 50 year anniversary decriminalisation of male homosexuality (and it does seem there is a lot of ‘G’ work being commissioned this year because of this), to me it only highlights the ongoing erasure of queer women – they were previously invisible by law¹ and now continue to be invisible in the BBC’s representation of the queer community.
To me, it quite simply seems to be a huge mistake on their behalf. With a line up as white and male as this they’ve missed a trick in platforming voices from the LGBT community that would likely make for a more interesting season.
I know that these are all astounding writers, I have no issue with their work. The point is, I refuse to believe there aren’t equally talented female identifying writers. We don’t yet live in a meritocracy. There are certain barriers that women face (even more so queer, trans and lesbian women) that men simply do not.² As an intelligent organisation, we should be looking to the BBC to lead by example, by nurturing female talent and offering a greater level of support to female writers in order to include them in their programming.
To me, this scheduling looks not only boring, but lazy. They have clearly not searched beyond the surface to incorporate diversity in this season.
It is my hope they will realise their error and make amends, though I appreciate unlikely. In which case, I hope the writers they have commissioned will take responsibility and use their narratives to elevate the voices that aren’t there – the intersectional, trans, non-binary and female voices. And no, that is no substitute for true LGBT diversity on our screens, but it seems to be the best we have right now.
¹This is not said with the intent to belittle or ignore the terrible fate of many gay men under the law, it was terrible, inexcusable and has had a lasting impact. My point is that queer women have never been seen or heard, and even now in 2017 their voices are still largely missing.
² The Equality Illusion is a brilliant book by Kat Banyard that highlights a lot of these day to day barriers that women face.