A Note on the List of Media

If you have looked over the ‘list of media‘ you may have noticed that not everything listed on that page is explicitly about LGBTQ people, or families. So why is it included on a list of media that was important to LGBTQ parents?

When I interviewed participants I only asked them to tell me about media they liked, enjoyed, felt included positive representations, or had been important in their lives as individuals, parents or families.  This means that people talked to me about media which didn’t necessarily have representations of LGBTQ people in it, but all the media we spoke about did contribute something useful to their lives.

In summary, the media listed was liked because it:

  • Could be ‘read’ or interpreted as celebrating alternative family arrangements or LGBTQ identities generally – i.e. this media did not insist that characters were heterosexual or used metaphor to represent characters as non-heterosexual (The Clangers, Saga, The Wizard of Oz)  Sometimes this was media which parents enjoyed as it offered them representations of parents or people like them, sometimes this was media which parents used to help their children imagine or describe different ways of being families and celebrating different identities.
  • Provided positive representations of non-traditional gender roles (Katie Morag, Pippi Longstocking, and Brave were all popular for their representation of adventurous girls) Many parents were keen to help their children imagine many different options for who they could be as adults, and what options were available to them as boys and girls.  This meant there was a lot of criticism for children’s media which represented very strongly divided gender roles (such as Peppa Pig) and a lot of enthusiasm for media which offered representations of strong, adventurous and independent girls.
  • Providing stories which represented single parents and could also be interpreted as being about non-heterosexual parents because it did not explicitly indicate the sexuality of the parent (E.g. The Gruffalo’s Child, Curious George, Lilo and Stich).  For many parents watching or reading media with their children meant offering alternative ‘readings’ of the story by, for example, pointing out to their children the potential for a character to be non-heterosexual; “it doesn’t say, but this character might be bisexual, or trans”.
  • Helped supporting the ‘nuts and bolts’ of parenting by providing resources to support teenagers (Keep Your Cool) to explain human reproduction (What Makes a Baby) and advice on making parenting choices (Teacher Tom, the Food of Love, Getting Pregnant Our Own Way) Importantly, all these resources were also praised for not being overwhelmingly heterosexual in how they presented advice or information which was something many people criticised about traditional resources for this type of information such as best selling pregnancy and parenting guides and NCT classes.
  • Celebrated and ‘normalised’ LGBTQ lives; this type of media was usually listed because it had been important to participants as individuals because of their LGBTQ identities (Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Orange is the New Black, Paxton Court, The L Word, Queer as Folk). These media examples were often also listed as representations which parents hoped to share with their children as they grew up as a way to educate them about LGBTQ culture and as a way to teach children a little more about their parents’ lives and experiences.

Telling Stories

Today at the International Journalism Festival 2013 in Italy, there was a panel entitled ‘Media treatment of the LGBT Community’. Whilst I was sadly unable to attend and, as yet, no audio is available of the full panel discussion, I followed the debate on Twitter.  A selection of the tweets are collected here on Storify.

I was interested to learn that Pink News was founded in response to the perceived failings of existing media outlets in covering LGBT stories; in particular, Benjamin Cohen is reported as describing representations of LGBT people in the news as ‘highly sexualised’.

I’ve been reading through mainstream UK news sites in the past few weeks as I begin to review the representations of queer families that are available in this media but I haven’t noticed a large number of highly sexualised representations.  I have, however, noticed a great deal of debate on the well-being of children who are either raised by, or in contact with, LGBTQ identified adults.

This is, seemingly, an international concern.  Just this week, The Boy Scouts of America ended their ban on gay-identified boys joining the organisation but retained the ban on gay-identified adults participating, whilst the French marriage equality (and associated adoption rights) campaign was passionately argued on both sides, but most often concerned ‘who will be parents?‘  It’s not all unfounded prejudice though, in 2012 children’s charity Bernado’s Chief Executive argued that the only thing children needed was a loving home; she firmly stated that LGBTQ identification has no bearing on that most fundamental parenting qualification.

Along with Pink News (and the Huffington Post, source of the above statement from Bernados and a feature celebrating ‘alternative’ families called ‘Family Fridays‘) there’s a new flush of media emerging online; bloggers.  Whilst they may not have the mainstream reach of the news sources Pink News sought (and continues) to challenge, there are bloggers across the world committed to showing that not only is an LGBTQ identification not all about sex; it’s also an identification that works just fine with being a parent.  From breastfeeding Dads, to the fertility journeys of lesbian couples, LGBTQ people are representing themselves, and they are telling a fairly unequivocal story about their ‘suitability’ to be parents.