A few years ago, the Daily Mail called me the Filth Peddler of Channel Four. So, what filth was it that I was peddling? It was a series called Dyke TV, which despite having a title that clearly offended Middle England, was a programming zone that helped fulfill Channel Four's public service remit to represent alternative lifestyles.
Since this, I've continued to peddle filth, more on Channel Four (Coming Out Night, Queer Street); on Sky One (Lesbians Behaving Badly) and Channel 5 (Lesbians Go Mad on Lesbos) but more recently with my new self-penned web drama, Different for Girls, which follows the lives of LGBT characters in suburban West London.
So why still peddle programmes that, specifically, recognize different life styles? After all, are we not assimilated into mainstream programming, with LGBT characters in soaps, drama series and reality TV anyway?
Not really, because when LGBT characters and storylines are assimilated, they are diluted and morphed into something very different. We see LGBT characters living in a 'straight' world, where we adapt to belong as the norm. Very rarely do we see non-LGBT characters adapting to our lifestyles. Unless it is a LGBT specific show, we are erased even though we may be visible, though more as visible cyphers for heterosexual storylines.
Then once these storylines are integrated, they kill us. Especially us lesbians. The Glaad 'Where we are Now 2016-2017" report states that, in the USA, recurring LGBT on scripted programmes had decreased since 2015. So, they were visible - for a while - but then erased. The same report states that lesbian representation dropped dramatically on both broadcast television and on cable, from the previous year.
UK programming is not privy to such a rigorous report but, I can't remember there being a UK-specific lesbian drama series since Lip Service in 2011. Whilst lesbians do exist in soaps and the odd drama, they have similarly been prone to what I call 'lesbian road kill' where an alarming number of them are involved in traffic accidents, or killed off.
Which is why, when I wrote Different for Girls, I looked to the web for distribution because that's where LGBT drama is thriving with mass audiences. Whether it be on free to air YouTube channels like Lesbian Box Office, on which Different for Girls will be broadcast or the behemoths Netflix and Amazon with their track record of commissioning shows that reflect different lifestyles through an unfiltered lens, like the seminal Orange is the New Black and the ground-breaking Transparent.
In today's political climate we need, more than ever, to get our stories out there. We need a forum where we can normalize our lifestyle without fear of erasure or dilution, because if we don't exist on in visual media then how can we promote, propel and prioritise our very existence in real life?
Public broadcasters, like Channel Four, still have that public service remit to fulfill. Like all the major broadcasters they are committed to diversity and to represent the underrepresented. I am hopeful that they will highlight LGBT representation as robustly as they have disability. I hope that they will go back to their filth peddling days.
But for now, the web is the place where we get the chance to thrive and to educate and influence others about our different lifestyles because on the web, we are not bound by boring stereotypes, boxed or judged and we are liberated from the usual coming out narratives.
In Different for Girls, the main characters are in their late thirties, not the LGBT 'twenty somethings' usually featured on broadcast television. Although a couple of characters are still living it large and snorting their way around the lesbian club scene, the majority are engaged, married and bringing up kids. In Different for Girls, you are more likely to meet your girlfriend at the school gates than at the Candy Bar. Yes, they've assimilated into straight suburbia but their narratives are informed by their lesbian backstories and relationships.
They are the Real Lesbian Housewives of West London. They are not morphed nor modeled and thus far, I've not had to kill any of them.
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