I have actually NEVER watched Big Brother before and the only reason I tuned in this season is because it started as an all female house, to mark 100 years since women received the right to vote in the UK. I have since then been absolutely glued to the screen as conversation in the house has mainly revolved around 'gender identity', a topic that is considered rather taboo and is now being discussed openly on prime time television! Yay!
Everyone is talking about Courtney Act's (Shane Jenek's drag act name) lesson in gender identity to the other boys (Shane Lynch, Ginuwine and John Barnes) earlier this week. It was a beautiful thing to watch three heterosexual men trying to get their heads around what it means to be transgender as opposed to dressing in drag or gay, and I have no doubt that the questions they were asking were what so many people out there would have loved to ask but no one ever dares to (or has anyone to address them to). In the end Shane L concluded how it was all very "confusing" but at least a conversation was taking place!
One of the main reasons why 'gender' is on everyone's minds is because of housemate India Willoughby, a transgender woman who completed her transition in 2015. There are also actress Amanda Barrie who came out as bisexual (now married to a woman) in her sixties, and dancer Wayne Sleep who came out as gay in his forties.
In short, it is a bunch of people that represent a range of gender identities.
I have spoken about the transgender community in the past, because I feel very strongly that topics that are taboo need to be brought up to the surface so that they are less "scary" for those who do not understand them. Although the transgender community is relatively small, it is estimated that the number of trans people in the UK ranges between 300,000 - 500,000, evidence suggests that trans people experience, and are badly affected by, transphobia, in a wide range of forms. This includes bullying and discriminatory treatment in schools, harassment and physical/sexual assault and rejection from families, work colleagues and friends.
That alone is a good reason to talk about it!
But the highlight for me had to be when reality show star, Andrew Brady who is a heterosexual man, decided to give dressing in drag a go and later said that the reason he wanted to try it was because as a Northern man who goes to the pub after work with the lads, he is expected to be all manly and butch, when actually he is "camp AF" but can't express that side of his personality because of well... society.
I love him so much for admitting that and I wonder how many men out there feel the same way.
You see, for so many men (like for women), the pleasure to act a certain way that is "appropriate" for our gender doesn't actually feel natural, but we do it anyway because no one likes to be different, right? This is why boys are taught at a young age that pink is a girl's color, and girls are given dolls and told to play 'mommies and babies'.
And while there is nothing wrong with girls playing with dolls, or boys wearing blue, I do wonder if we are allowing our kids (and ourselves) the freedom to explore all aspects of our identity by placing boundaries and laying indirect (and direct) messages as to what is considered "correct" for each gender.
I hear a lot of boys' parents say they fear their sons will turn out gay if they allow them to explore 'female orientated' clothes/toys/activities. Now I personally don't think you can "make" anyone gay (nor do I think there is anything wrong with being gay), but for the sake of argument - haven't girls been wearing 'boys clothes' and doing 'men's jobs' for a few decades now, without it turning us all into lesbians?
I guess what I am trying to say is - I really do not think there is anything wrong or weird about a heterosexual man wanting to wear a dress and some glitter on his face and I personally salute Andrew for doing it on TV for everyone to see.
I love how open people on the show are being about their sexuality, their questions and the things they do not understand (like when Shane L told India he wished she was less "defensive" because he really wants to learn and understand more about transgenders), their gender identity and their phobias.
My hope is that this openness and willing to learn will not end when the show does.