Every Saturday QueerAF helps you understand the queer headlines and stay on top of the latest LGBTQIA+ content - all while we support queer creatives. It's written by me, Jamie Wareham, and a different queer creative each week.
💬 This week:
- Radio Oscars. 'Nolan Investigates: Stonewall' caused uproar for widely platforming transphobic rhetoric, and it nearly won one of UK radios' most prestigious awards.
- The Man With A Penis On His Arm. A touching documentary about phalloplasty, with intersex and trans representation.
- Marilyn Monroe. One of the most sexualised women in film history might have been one of the highest-profile asexuals of all time. Caroline Elizabeth Cull explores Monroe’s autobiography in this week’s Queer Gaze.
Skip the doom scrolling, and support queer creatives instead. We are QueerAF – and so are you.
What should you expect from a QueerAF newsletter?
- Analysis and explainers of what happened this week.
- This week's top LGBTQIA+ headlines.
- A spotlight on joy, hope and content that counts.
- Must reads you'll want to catch up on.
- A queer gaze on the week from an emerging creative.
- Queer senses: What to watch, listen and play.
📻 Award-winning transphobia? Not quite
The Arias is known as the Radio Oscars. Last year QueerAF's podcast was nominated for the Impact Award. This year, ‘Nolan Investigates: Stonewall’ was too. 166 media professionals wrote a letter in protest, but the nominations were not rescinded.
'Nolan Investigates: Stonewall' caused uproar for widely platforming transphobic rhetoric.
The podcast, made by BBC Ulster, a Northern Ireland station, sought to explore the influence of Stonewall over UK institutions.
It did this while framing transgender people as a divisive community ‘infiltrating’ the media, government, and public institutions. So why did it nearly become award-winning?
'Nolan Investigates: Stonewall' was nominated for The Impact Award
This year, at the radio industry's most prestigious awards - the ARIAS - it received four nominations. One of those was in the category the QueerAF podcast was nominated for last year: the Impact Award.
The award recognises radio and audio programming that’s done something to make a difference to society - as a force for good.
"Winners in this category will embody the idea of radio as a force for good in the world, with output having made a significant impact in the lives of its listeners, and the lives of the community at large."
The BBC Ulster podcast doubled down on transphobic dog whistles, obsessed over genitalia and mocked gender identities. It was largely uncritical in platforming and echoing the calls of a small, but loud minority. It interviewed some of the most infamous anti-LGBTQIA+ voices. In ten hours of broadcasting, only two trans people were interviewed. - QueerAF
That's why 166 media professionals united to say, this is not a podcast that should be celebrated at all, let alone in a category about being “a force for good”.
"Nolan Investigates: Stonewall’ perpetuates a narrative that creating a safe world for trans people is a divisive issue. The series contributes at length to a harmful moral panic surrounding trans people in the UK today"- Open Letter
They delivered this and met with the Radio Academy, who said they were unable to rescind the nominations. Both the academy and the organisers of the letters say they are now continuing to work together.
The fragility of trans lives is hit hard by the media
It's so easy for the media to forget just how much even a single news story can impact the fragility of vulnerable people's lives.
I spoke to a trans representative from the group who organised the letter. It was clear just how harmful this podcast was to their well-being.
"It was extremely upsetting to be at an awards ceremony and sitting in a room with people who produced, made or were celebrating a podcast that was so damaging to me and our community. It doesn't feel good." - Trans media professional who signed open letter
I also entirely understand how within BBC editorial guidelines this show was just about able to get through existing editorial rules. It toes the line just enough not to break them.
But what was so scary for many LGBTQIA+ listeners was how it encouraged many pundits and listeners at home, who don't understand the nuances of our community, to rally behind a growing anti-trans moment. One that's designed to antagonise women's rights and divide the LGBTQIA+ community.
The show did this because it didn't present enough balance. It did little to consider trans people's perspectives or reality. It was also commissioned in an environment, as one BBC staffer described to me, where trans people are seen as 'an active policy debate.'
That bears repeating: a community protected by equality laws that are decades old is deemed 'an active policy debate' by the UK's public broadcaster.
Fortunately, there is one easy way to address the damage in the confidence many queer media professionals now feel in the Radio Academy and the BBC.
There is rarely a silver bullet in any diversity issue. But on this occasion, it's simple: to fairly represent us, hire us. Only then will you truly understand us.
This is our contract with you: we will always do our best to uphold the highest standards, and where we get things wrong, we will make them right.
We're working with IMPRESS. Their standards code prevents the press from discriminating against groups of people. If the Daily Mail was in IMPRESS, they wouldn't be able to publish transphobia.
As we set out to model the change, we believe this standards code will help create a safer environment for LGBTQIA+ stories in the press. We hope to see more publishers follow suit.
➡️ Find out more
🐤 Why did it trend?
Skip the doomscrolling. We tell you what happened in as few words as possible so you're in the know - without giving hate more clicks.
- Unusual to bring some joy in this section, but we had to share this clip of Olivia Coleman getting so wrapped up in that moment in Heartstopper that she forgot her lines. You can see why it trended from just two screenshots:
Quick news for queers
👎 Roe vs Wade
Opponents to safe abortion are, more often than not, opponents to LGBTQIA+ rights
A leaked draft supreme court ruling will overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 case which guaranteed the right to abortion. - Politco
Ever since Donald Trump appointed Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the US Supreme Court, this judgement was expected - though many hoped it would never come. - The Guardian
Conservative judges now hold a six-to-three majority on the Supreme Court. Mix this with the rollback of progressive rights, including LGBTQIA+ ones, across the nation - and it's a troubling picture.
Leading pundits and legal experts agree that same-sex marriage is one of the many targets which could suffer next. - Vox
🇬🇷 Zak Kostopoulos
The fight for justice for the beaten Greek activist continues, despite a guilty verdict
Two men have been convicted of killing the Greek LGBTQIA+ activist Zacharias Kostopoulos in Athens in 2018. The suspects claimed the activist tried to rob a jewellery shop that one of them owned after they had locked him in it - we’ll never know for sure why. They’ve got a ten-year sentence. - Euro News
But this is far from justice for Zackie Oh, known for his performances and outspoken words on living with HIV. Four police officers who had been charged with fatal bodily harm were acquitted on all charges. - Neos Kosmos
Viral videos showed Kostopoulos handcuffed, after being arrested, as he bled to death. Amnesty International has long said there is a culture of abuse and impunity within the Greek police. - Aljazeera
“[This decision] leaves the police unpunished, this is a problem because it gives full power to the police to treat any citizen in any way they want”
- Anny Paparousou, lawyer for Zak’s family
👩⚕️ Local elections
A sign of more to come? When the PM is in trouble he doubles down on what he sees as so-called 'wedge issues' - like transgender people.
Boris Johnson didn't have a great night on Thursday, as results came in from UK local elections. There has been a swing towards the Lib Dems and Greens, with Labour making some gains, including in some important London councils. The rumour mill is now swirling around a potential no-confidence vote in the PM or a snap election announced by him. - The Guardian
But a recent shift upping transphobic rhetoric could become even more ramped up in an attempt to distract from all of this. Fortunately, popular opinion supports trans folk. - QueerAF
And there is great hope to be found in these elections, no matter how bleak the broader picture can seem. Look at Dylan Compton, the first trans councillor to be elected in Plymouth. This young queer voice has seen all that's going on and still showed up. That's QueerAF.
📰 In brief
- Stonewall: LGB Alliance co-founder Allison Bailey’s employment tribunal is ongoing. The barrister lost her job at Garden Court Chambers after sharing transphobia on social media. This week she was accused of “washing transphobic laundry in public” by a colleague - PinkNews
- Bell vs Tavistock: Has reached the end of its journey. The case was brought by Quincy Bell who de-transitioned, and a court ruling last year initially halted access to puberty blockers for trans kids. But this decision was overturned, and the case will now not go to the Supreme Court after Bell was refused permission to appeal - Trans Legal Project
- Press secretary: President Biden has named his new press secretary: Karine Jean-Pierre, who will become the first black woman and the first openly LGBTQIA+ person to serve in the role - The Hill
- Suicide: 1 in 5 trans young people attempted suicide last year, while nearly half of all LGBTQ youth and 53% of transgender and non-binary youth seriously contemplated it - Trevor Project
- Chris Bryant: In the wake of Neil Parish's 'porn in the House of Commons' scandal, the Labour MP has been talking about being “regularly touched up” by older colleagues in parliament, and how he recognised the culture at Westminster was an issue for both women and men - LBC
- Telefriending: A Telefriending service is expanding into Yorkshire to support LGBTQIA+ people over 50. Lonely queer folk will start getting phone calls every week - Opening Doors
Spotlight: 🇺🇦 Ukraine
Canadian playwright Andrew Kushnir has raised over $50,000 for Ukrainian LGBTQIA+ non-governmental organisations - Global News Canada
The funds are going to six organisations that directly support queer folk in the besieged country, including Kyiv Pride and Gender Zed.
Kushnir set up the fund to reduce barriers to giving after people shared their confusion about donating to Ukrainian organisations through complex banking systems.
"I wanted to make it easier for Canadians to support these organizations doing critical work in Ukraine and to bring us together in this fight. Humanitarian aid is not one size fits all, so what these NGOs are doing is very specialised support for those on the margins of society." - Andrew Kushnir
Lesbian Visibility isn't over
Off the back of Lesbian Visibility Week, Guardian journalist Lucy Knight writes about a recent attack. For us, it's a perfect reminder of why this conversation needs to happen all year round - The Guardian
"There’s a level of hostility to be expected if you’re an openly-gay Muslim at an event like Iftar, you feel ostracised - there’s no special space for us to observe Ramadan."
An interview with Khakan Qureshi, founder of Birmingham South Asians LGBT, on how tough the religious holiday can be for queer folk - Birmingham Live
Nothing screams ‘exciting’ like attending an event with location coordinates that just say “secret inner west location”. Sydney just held a Queer Medieval Faire in a warehouse. Why, you ask? Why not. - Vice
Queer Gaze: Was Marilyn Monroe asexual? Her autobiography is revealing
Our landmark scheme for underrepresented or emerging creatives to share their gaze and get a writing skills session. This week, it's Caroline Elizabeth Cull.
We can’t give Monroe a posthumous label, but my personal experience overlaps with hers and it’s overwhelming.
It’s safe to say that Marilyn Monroe is the most sexualised woman in film history. But was she also one of the most prominent asexuals of our time?
The possibility of her leaning on the asexual spectrum still has researchers and activists talking.
Asexuality feels like a rather new term, but it can be traced back to the 1890s. It began gaining prominence after the 1940 Kinsey Scale included a ‘no sexual attraction’ category.
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This is partly why recently resurfaced excerpts from Marilyn Monroe’s unfinished autobiography, written around the same time, are so curious.
“My story” is an unfinished autobiography penned by the starlet herself. She describes her early adolescence, her rise to stardom and her marriage.
Tucked into the crevices of that story is an inherent disinterest in sex.
Monroe explains that she didn’t quite understand her sex appeal, nor did she think about sex or have the urge to be seduced.
The world’s most sexualised starlet didn’t understand her own appeal - it says a lot.
Monroe seemed perplexed as to why everyone was so fascinated with sex. She even thought it was a benefit that her marriage was long-distance.
This drew me into finding out more. It’s how I felt for so long. Reading it was overwhelming, my personal experience overlapping with Monroe’s.
However, we should be careful not to ignore that Monroe was vocal about having sex and enjoying it. But she also experienced the same disinterest in it as I do.
Many people make the assumption that asexuality equals abstinence. But it’s not that simple - it’s about the level of sexual attraction you experience.
Still, what we are left with is a mystery. We will never know how Monroe really experienced her sexuality, nor should we give her - or anyone - a concrete label posthumously. But it’s definitely interesting to observe.
It’s a real shame that so many people throughout history missed out on the chance to fully understand themselves.
It took me about 25 years to figure out that I was asexual. If I had heard about a well-known actress who was asexual – whether it was Monroe or not – growing up would have been much easier.
It’s exactly why I’m dedicating my career to getting better asexual representation in films.
I hope that I’ll play my part in an evolving education around sexuality on screen, so no one feels as alone as I did.
This is an edition of the Queer Gaze, part of our weekly newsletter that understands and explains the queer news of the week. Support underrepresented queer creatives by signing up and sharing this piece.
The Queer Gaze is our landmark scheme supporting writers to build their craft, portfolio and careers. It's funded directly by members like Jon Holmes who told us to commission stories from history, that couldn't be told at the time. Join our movement, tell us what to create next, and support queer creatives.
Tickle Your Queer Senses
‘The Man With A Penis On His Arm’ is a very Channel 4 documentary. It leans a little into the crudeness you'd expect from that title.
But despite that, it tells two crucial queer stories of phalloplasty. QueerAF writer Anick's intersex experience, led by his great framing, is wonderful to witness, especially alongside the story of a trans man who is introduced solely as a man in a refreshing treatment of a crucial story. - All 4
Elsewhere, lesbian comedian Suzi Ruffell's Amazon Prime special from the Soho Theatre has dropped, and it's defo gonna be on our TV screens this weekend - Amazon Prime
Not over Hearstopper? We’re with you. Take it with you with the official soundtrack mix - Spotify
Magic the Gathering‘s upcoming Pride Across the Multiverse expansion has got a lot of headlines this week - it’s donating 50% of its profits to the Trevor Project - Stevior
But to the disappointment of many fans, it’s not being released in countries where being queer is against the law, and even some that don’t have these laws - The Gamer
Here and Queer is a book about living your best queer life, written for girls. This vibrant, inclusive guide, designed for all kinds of girls, is designed to help you be the strongest, proudest, happiest version of yourself! - Rowan Ellis
📆 What’s on?
LGBT+ anti-abuse charity Galop is currently offering online workshop sessions to students. They're all about empowering you with practical knowledge. With sessions on consent hate crime and conversion therapy, if you're on campus, you should take a look - Galop and Student Space
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Jamie Wareham - QueerAF Founder