I had the pleasure a few months ago of sitting round a large lunch table with Lord Smith at the head. As Chris Smith MP, he was in the limelight for a generation.
Lord Chris Smith (above)
Alongside his political reputation, he happened to be gay. Not quietly. Nor loudly. Just gay.
As lunch ended, I grabbed him on the way out just to say thanks for acting as he did.
For my generation, an ‘out’ MP was an inspiration. It proved that sexuality really did not matter, and the way he conducted himself amounted to a role model for me.
I was really chuffed to have the opportunity to say a tardy thanks all these years on; and even more so when he dropped me a line the following day to thank me for the comments.
The people we see in the public eye do make a difference. Those amplified by media especially so. Whether Michael Cashman on Eastenders in the 80s, or Judy, played by Rebecca Root, in the excellent recent sit-com, Boy Meets Girl.
Michael Cashman, played one of the first gay charaters in a UK soap. (above)
What about the ads, though?
Would it be unfair to suggest that life is depicted as a little less rich? Two plus two families in stuccoed suburban houses smiling over the whitest washing. How many ads can you think of where, for example, a lesbian couple are incidentally included?
This month saw the first anniversary of a group called PrideAM (Pride in Advertising & Marketing, the world’s first LGBT+ group for the sector. The idea of Scott Knox, Managing Director of the Marketing Agencies Association (MAA), the group has over 100 active participants who come together to improve the experience and support of LGBT+ people in the industry – and support better representation and targeting of LGBT+ in brand communications.
I’ve spent more than thirty years in commercially funded media, and this is perhaps the first time I recall a substantive dialogue on the topic.
Thankfully, the insulting or negative stereotypes are now rare and regulated, but this is something more and very welcome.
More info at https://t.co/PyzNLikqrN