When it comes to TV, Hollywood films, newspapers, magazines... any media really... there tends to be a hierarchy in terms of representation; somewhere near the top you have the straight, white, cisgendered man; somewhere near the bottom, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of colour. This pecking order produces some complex problems, namely: If black and minority ethnic (BAME) LGBT communities aren’t present to have our voices heard, is there an expectation and acceptance that, sometimes, “allies” will have to speak for us?
The past two weeks have been a tumultuous, heartbreaking and incredibly difficult time for the LGBT community, particularly LGBT people of colour. In the early hours of the 12th of June, during Pride Month in the US, a gunman entered a gay club in Orlando, Florida and shot and killed 49 innocent people. The perpetrator, was – according to his father, as reported by NBC News
– spurred on by homophobic feelings, deliberately singling out the Pulse nightclub, which was hosting its weekly Latinx club night.
Just hours after the shooting, white, openly gay journalist, author and political commentator Owen Jones stormed off Sky News
during the channel’s newspaper review segment after host, Mark Longhurst, and fellow panellist, Julia Hartley-Brewer, both also white, attempted to deflect the fact that the shooter had deliberately targeted an LGBT establishment. What both Longhurst and Hartley-Brewer failed to notice was that, by trying to universalise the incident as an attack on, as they said, “the freedom of all
people”, they were attempting to both whitewash and 'straight-splain' Orlando.
Over in the US, meanwhile, a vigil was held at the famous gay pub the Stonewall Inn in New York just days after the attack. Popstar Nick Jonas was invited to give a speech. The decision to include Jonas was a controversial one given his divisive position in the LGBT community. At an event to honour those that had lost their lives, many of whom were people of colour, the validity of having a straight, white, cisgendered male who is often accused of “queer-baiting” – that is, when public figures and the media deliberately trade on homoeroticism to entice the gay community – was questioned.