BBC effort to combat 'heteronormative' culture 'baffles' social media

BBC effort to combat 'heteronormative' culture 'baffles' social media
The BBC will introduce more LGBT characters in its programming and encourage staff to use “non-binary” pronouns, in an effort to combat “heteronormative” culture which has “baffled” many (gay and straight) on social media.

It’s all part of a new set of “diversity” reforms at the public broadcaster. The new portrayals of LGBT characters will be “incidental” — which means that their sexuality will not be the focus of the storyline or news item.

But it’s not just an on-screen effort. Off-air, LGBT staff will be encouraged to “bring their whole self to work” and be open about their sexuality with their co-workers — something which sounded a bit “creepy” and weird to some who reacted to the news on Twitter. Others found it contradictory that sexuality would be “incidental” on-air, but something to be discussed at work off-air.

It has also been recommended that staff should get used to using “non-binary” pronouns where appropriate so as not to offend gender-fluid or transgender employees by mistake. This involves using the terms “them” and “they” instead of “he” and “she”.

Non-LGBT staff will even be asked to wear badges labelling themselves as “straight allies” or to use special email signatures declaring their status.

One LGBT Twitter user said the prospect of a co-worker approaching him wearing a “straight ally” badge sounded “absurdly patronising” and not very helpful.

The recommendations have been made after a survey of LGBT staff attitudes, which found that some perceived the broadcaster to have too much of a “heteronormative” culture. LGBT staff, however, account for only 11 percent of the total workforce at the BBC and 12 percent of staff in senior positions.

James Purnell, BBC’s director of radio and education said that it’s part of an effort to be “open” and “inclusive” and attract younger audiences. Purnell cited a YouGov survey which found that 51 percent of 18-24 year-olds identify as totally heterosexual. "An organisation that appears to have a heteronormative culture is not one that is going to cut ice with them either as a consumer or an employee,” he said.

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But much of the reaction to the new effort on social media, even from LGBT people themselves, was bafflement — particularly as the BBC already appears to have a reputation for being very gay-friendly.

Another issue cropping up in the survey was that gay men are seen as the most visible members of the LGBT community at the BBC and that there needs to be more recognition of “intersectionality” within the organization.

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