“Let’s be careful what we wish for and try to spend less time knocking our own”
BY LINDA RILEY
When Joe Lycett announced that he was pulling out of this week’s British LGBT Awards because the event was in part supported by BP and Shell, it was with dispiriting predictability that other less celebrated individuals made the “stunning and brave” decision to jump on the bandwagon and either withdraw their nominations or decide not to attend the event. And, of course, nobody made their decision quietly, trumpeting their views on social media. Moreover, perhaps they did not notice the sponsor details that adorn the awards website’s home page until Mr Lycett decided he needed some publicity.
While I ponder how the aircraft which were used to transport Mr Lycett on his globetrotting – and presumably very well paid – Channel 4 travel show were powered (I am guessing his new-found eco-credentials are not quite persuasive enough for him to return his fee), everyone is of course entitled to their opinion, even if that opinion is accompanied by social-media virtue-signalling on a scale so epic it would make Donald Trump blush.
Let us gloss over, for a moment, that the extent of Shell’s involvement, rather than sponsoring the event, reaches only as far as buying a table and an accompanying programme advertisement for their LGBTQIA staff network, and look at the credentials of Sarah Garrett MBE, who runs the event, alongside several other initiatives for ethnic and diversity communities, including people of colour. Sarah is a woman of colour who comes from a working-class background and, who as a child, accompanied her mother on cleaning jobs as the family could not afford childcare. She is an LGBTQIA success story and deserves to be lauded for her achievements and for her tireless work for our community, not berated for creating an event which shines an overwhelmingly positive light on our achievements.
Only last year, Tim Spoor, CEO of the charity akt, tweeted that Sarah was “one of the most creative, inspirational and generous people I know”. I know for a fact that Tim is not the only leading light in our community who has been touched by Sarah’s kindness and commitment.
Sadly, this latest example of cancel culture within the LGBTQIA community has the whiff of misogyny about it. Matthew Todd, the former editor of Attitude, has, of course, had his say. Last year’s Attitude awards were headline-sponsored by Virgin Atlantic. What does Mr Todd think that Virgin put in their planes to make them fly? Rainbow flags and unicorns? Nobody has criticised Attitude. Is it because it is run by men? Similarly, I recall no criticism for the male-run Pink News Awards. Again, does their sponsor United Airlines power their planes on love? And while some of the Twitter bandwagon-jumpers have criticised the British LGBT Awards for including HSBC in their sponsor line-up, nobody has said anything about Pink News’ sponsor, Lloyds Banking Group.
Joe Galliano, who runs the LGBTQIA museum Queer Britain, has also decided not to support the event. Mr Galliano should look a little closer to home. One of Queer Britain’s sponsors is Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. Meta is currently facing a slew of class actions in the US after a whistleblower revealed that their addictive algorithms (and this is according to an internal Meta report) are responsible for catastrophic social harms, including causing eating disorders, body-image issues and even suicide among teenage girls. There is no suggestion that Mr Galliano is a hypocrite, so I am assuming he will be returning Meta’s cash without delay.
Now, it’s time for full disclosure. Although I seldom speak to Sarah Garrett these days, we were once married and share two children. This is how I know how hard she works and how dedicated she is to fighting bigotry and prejudice wherever she finds it. She and I have had our issues – that’s why we’re divorced – but to ruin someone’s livelihood because you disagree with something they are doing – something perfectly legal which actually celebrates our community – is feeble and childish. I would not be surprised if, now, those who espouse the appalling cancel culture that is plaguing our community start on me next. But frankly, as someone who has spent years fending off attacks, most recently from the trans-exclusive lesbian feminists, I am quite used to it and can handle myself perfectly well.
Finally, and speaking as the founder of Lesbian Visibility Week, I would not have been able to run that event without corporate sponsorship and support; in fact, so many LGBTQIA charities are supported by corporates, so let’s be careful what we wish for and try to spend less time knocking our own, and maybe devote a little more time to challenging the atrocities of the far right who are actively campaigning to destroy the LGBTQIA community and rescind our rights.
Click here to read the statement posted on the British LGBT Awards’ website earlier today.
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