More than just lip service?

Role models for the LGBT community positively abound right now. Our cup, it seems, runneth over.
During my angst-ridden (ha! I was the least tortured teen ever) teenage years, the only gays in the figurative village were screaming queens like Are You Being Served?’s Mr Humphries and Larry Grayson with his tales of “Slack Alice” et al.

Lesbians were even less visible, being confined to fictional characters in Gothic horrors such as The Killing of Sister George or butch extras in Within These Walls.

This was what once passed for lesbian chic ...

Now you can’t move for terrific examples of fine human beings in the public eye who just happen to be gay or lesbian.

Or even bisexual – Jessie J, we’re looking at you (even tho we know you’re really a big ole dyke).

Being pleased to discover that someone famous is one of them gays can be hard to explain to those who are not … er … gay and I’m sure I won’t express this properly but here goes.

When you know you’re part of a minority – and a minority that for the most part is invisible – it can be incredibly uplifting and heartening to see someone you believe is like you achieving success. Despite negativity and ingrained (and often unacknowledged) homophobia, they have made it and if they have, so can you.

Even better is when their sexuality is recognised as being incidental or irrelevant to their success or achievements.

I know I’ll live long enough to see the day when the media no longer feels it has to label LGBT people in a way it would never occur to them to do with heterosexuals.

Anyway this is a long-winded way of getting round to my main point – the return of the BBC3 drama Lip Service.
Auntie describes it as a “provocative drama” about the lives of a group of lesbians in Glasgow.

Frankie and Cat break off from back alley shagging - it's just like real life

I prefer to call it L Word Lite. The L Word was the ludicrously glossy and impossibly glamorous US TV series about a group of lesbians in LA. It started off as great fun but quickly became bogged down in clichés and impossible scenarios and bonkers plots.

Lip Service series one pretty much followed that template with only one big plus for me – Glasgow looked fantastic in it!

Last night series two kicked off and yet again I thought it was pants with a capital P.

Dire dialogue, cardboard cutout characters and some “comedy” scenes that had me squirming in embarrassment.

But here’s a thing. Does it actually matter if a cynical auld moo like me thinks Lip Service is rubbish and that if the gay scene was populated by the likes of its gorgeous cast, more cynical auld moos like me would be happy to spend time on it?

Imagine you’re 18 and gay. In fact, imagine you’re 25, 35, 55 or whatever age. There, on primetime telly (even if it is on a digital channel) is a whole hour of role models. Not always positive, that’s true, but still, lots of lesbians doing ordinary and occasionally extraordinary things.

There’s been very little angst, no one crying into their beer that they can’t handle their sexuality.

And, almost unheard of for television lesbians, no one is yet a murderer, stalker or bunny boiler. For that alone, Lip Service probably deserves an award.

Last night I imagined my 17-year-old self, holed up in my bedroom in a bungalow in Ardrossan, having a programme like that to watch and pondered on what it might have meant to my self-esteem and my ability to deal with my burgeoning sexuality. My teen self would probably still be doing mental cartwheels.

If we’re sick of tokenism in terms of representation on the box – and I’m looking at the soaps in particular here – then we should applaud shows that unashamedly place LGBT characters centre stage (I’d wish for originality and quality, too).

So I’m going to shelve my cynicism and negativity for the next few weeks and hope that Lip Service does more than simply pay lip service to a community crying out for positive representation on the box.

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