The Stonewall Awards 2012

Gok Wan Gok Wan
Posted: Thu Oct 25 2012

Stonewall's Ben Summerskill tells why the Awards are still necessary

The seventh annual Stonewall Awards will take place this Thursday at the V&A. Categories include Politician of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, Hero of the Year and Bigot of the Year. Winners will be decided by a panel of judges and the awards presented by Gok Wan.

According to Stonewall, the aim of the awards is to 'celebrate the huge range of positive contributions made by individuals and organisations to the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Britain.' The lobbying group also states that 'a positive representation of gay people in the media' remains 'one of our key priorities.'

But surely, some will argue, gay people already enjoy a pretty positive representation in the media? Not necessarily, says Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill. 'When Stonewall first said in 2006 that gay people should appear ordinarily in quiz and competition shows, it wasn't taken seriously. Thankfully there are a range of programmes now, from “Casualty” to “Britain's Got Talent”, that normalise gay people by including them. But work does still need to be done, particularly in some of the print media.'

Past recipients of Bigot of the Year have included the Daily Mail's Melanie Phillips. 'We never deride people as bigots just because they disagree with us,' stresses Summerskill. 'There are people who, even in 2012, are still comparing gay people to bestialists, polygamists and paedophiles. It's not unkind to remind them of that and the harm it does to the self-esteem of young gay people.'
The awards are also a reminder that homophobia hasn't gone away. As Summerskill says, 'We really hope that one day awards like these will no longer be necessary. But while half of gay secondary school pupils are still being bullied because of the way they were born, celebrating people's achievements and publicising good role models is hugely important.'

The Stonewall Awards are at V&A on Thu Nov 1