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Mommy I Know I’m Just A Little Bump That Is Yet To Grow And Grow Shirt
Like most LGBTQI people, I’ve been called names all my life. I’ve been advised by people in my industry to “play down” my sexuality – and I have done. People I meet are often shocked to hear what my job involves – they don’t think I’m “masculine” enough to hack through a jungle with a machete or sleep in a hammock for three months.
Once, I was in a meeting at a production company in London to pitch ideas for a new programme. I guess I was getting excited about an idea and talking about it in an excitable way… I found out afterwards that one of the leaders of the meeting said: “He’s gayer than we expected.” I never got a call from them again.
Such comments might seem harmless on the surface, but it’s hard, because you spend so much of your life learning to love yourself and become OK with who you are. So when things like that happen, it’s a huge blow. You’re pushed back into thinking, “Maybe I do need to hide that side of me”.
It all comes back to our societal view of what it means to be a “real man”. Today’s big adventure TV presenters are brilliant at what they do, and there’s clearly an audience for that. But the stereotypical macho persona they emulate perpetuates a toxic idea of what a man “should” be: aggressive, strong and dominating the space as their own – a perception that has barely changed in centuries.
But there are some exciting, positive changes taking place: broadcasters are making a conscious effort to diversify and that’s something I’m noticing more in the teams of people working behind the scenes on big projects.
The BBC, for example, has allocated £100m of its existing commissioning budget towards championing diversity, and for marginalised and underrepresented groups there is a feeling of hope and excitement which 50 years ago was not even a pipe dream.
In order to champion diversity – and encourage compassion in the way we view the planet – we need to see more marginalised groups in front of the camera, too. I can only imagine how transformative it would have been for me at the age of 14 to have someone to see myself in, doing the things I dreamed of doing, so publicly and respectfully represented.