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"We have to protect our trans allies": Comedian Joe Lycett on supporting the LGBTQ people who need it most

"The real focus is on trans rights. And I think there's a lot of work to be done"

"We have to protect our trans allies": Comedian Joe Lycett on supporting the LGBTQ people who need it most
05 July 2018

I came out as gay, then bisexual, and now I identify as pansexual. I felt a lot of the definitions of sexuality were problematic because they always centred on gender, and the reason I’m attracted to someone is not because of their gender. It’s something intangible in the ether somewhere.

There shouldn’t be any pressure for you to be really out. Yes, it’s good to be visible, and I respect and understand that. But your sexuality is your own. It’s up to you to explore that.

There are consequences for people when they come out. A lot of the time, it isn’t well received. There’s a sense that because we have gay marriage now everything is done, but it’s just not the case. If you’re an LGBTQ person growing up in somewhere more rural – even though you have those rights – it’s still common to be victim to a barrage of homophobic abuse, or even just tedious shit.

I am loathe to criticise straight people for being curious, because I think that’s important. We get further along by fielding those questions and helping educate our straight allies. When people ask questions, I don’t think that there’s as much malice in it as we might assume. They’re just genuinely interested.

It’s not wrong to ask questions about my pansexuality and get it wrong. It’s so complicated. A lot of people don’t want to even touch upon it for fear of getting something wrong and being criticised. It can be so damning if you say something out of turn.

We should give people the benefit of the doubt. Gently try to educate – that’s my approach. I think it’s more effective.

As a community, pansexuality feels small-fry compared to larger issues. The real focus is on trans rights. And I think there’s a lot of work to be done.

Celebrity Big Brother this year was a battleground for trans issues. It was really interesting seeing Courtney Act [the drag queen, whose real name is Shane Jenek] engaging with housemates such as Ann Widdecombe. Everything Courtney did, she did with such grace. I found that so inspiring: she was measured and calm, and that must be hard.

Courtney Act is crowned the winner of Celebrity Big Brother 2018 in February

I have been so thrown by the coverage of trans issues in the media. I don’t see how, if you put yourself in the position of a trans person, it could seem like a safe or easy existence. It has been particularly nasty, widely condemning trans people.

I think being LGBTQ is always going to feel overtly political. You can’t be unpolitical in a Trumpian world. We all have to reckon with our own privilege and look at who else needs our support. That’s how we fix things.

My real focus now is on helping our allies in the LGBTQ community. The trans movement is so smart. People such as Paris Lees, Munroe Bergdorf and Shon Faye are educated and eloquent about what it is to be trans. I think that’s so cool.

(Images: Conor Clinch/Getty)