In 1994, Anna Friel made history as Beth Jordache in Brookside, portraying the first lesbian kiss in a British soap, and the first lesbian kiss televised pre-watershed. This year, Friel returns to our screens in ITV mini-series Butterfly, which tells the story of 11-year-old Max, who chooses to live as a girl. Friel said: “I find it fascinating that my 11-year-old daughter’s generation will never even think there’s an issue with being gay, straight, bisexual, whatever, but my own generation still sees a stigma in being a lesbian.”
Annie Lennox once said that the word ‘gay’ is irrelevant, because it should be ‘nobody’s effing business’. What the Oscar-winning musician has made her business, however, is giving to charity. Over her long career, Annie has raised awareness of the plight of those suffering HIV/AIDS, including those living in areas where access to medicine is very difficult. The ‘Sweet Dreams’ singer wants to see AIDS ended within her lifetime.
An astute, intelligent and passionate supporter of LGBT rights, Ariana Grande had a year that was both tragic and revelatory. On 22 May 2017, thousands of fans – including many of her loyal gay Arianators – packed the Manchester Arena. As the concert ended, a terrorist attack killed 23 people and injured more than 500. Among those killed was Martyn Hett, a 29-year-old Corrie superfan. Ariana hosted a benefit concert in Manchester the following month that raised £10m for the victims of the disaster.
Faced with tribal football fans, a vicious sports press and a baying bevy of showbiz journalists, David Beckham has never shied away from his status as a gay icon. He clearly lets his children express themselves (Brooklyn has been spotted in a Pride top) and is generally just a top sporting gent.
A long-time supporter of the LGBT community, Dawn has always used her media interviews to educate and inspire with modern, forward-thinking views on LGBT issues. Last year marked her 60th birthday, when her husband Mark Bignell knew exactly what to get his LGBT-loving wife. A flagpole for the garden, atop which sailed the rainbow flag. As one Twitter user quipped: “I suppose that makes you a flag hag now.”
When Donald Trump banned transgender people serving in the military, chat show host James Corden wasn’t having any of it. In a clever parody of Nat King Cole’s L-O-V-E (retitled LGBT), he sang:
“L: he doesn’t care for lesbians.
“G: he thinks two men should just be friends.
“B – to his dumb knowledge – is just a phase in college.
“T, he finds confusing,
“So the army’s now refusing
“Trans women who only want to serve,
“Trans men who want rights we all deserve.”
Despite a massive mainstream and social media audience, John hasn’t been intimidated into backing down on his support for gay rights. He lent his support to the Come Out 2 Play initiative, saying he’d support any gay football players who come out of the closet. He also took part in a Twitter ‘Thunderclap’ designed to eliminate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia from the internet.
As a Jonas brother, Jonas was constantly the subject of gay rumours, but it’s never made him defensive or closed-minded. He cancelled a concert in North Carolina when the state banned trans people using gender appropriate bathrooms, and he’s used his position as a straight ally to speak out for the LGBT community. He recently played a gay MMA fighter in Kingdom, saying: “There’s a responsibility as someone representing the LGBT community to do what I can to show support.”
In a daytime television landscape that often ridicules LGBT voices or uses them as some sort of comedy sideshow (hello Good Morning Britain!), Victoria Derbyshire provides enlightened discussions and commentary that seeks to educate the viewer in the positive contribution that LGBT individuals make to society. This year Victoria’s show featured an appearance by campaigner Munroe Bergdorf, while other editions have focused – without the usual prejudice – on transgender children and alternative families.
Although his sexuality remains undefined, Harry Styles was one of our most-nominated Celebrity Straight Allies. Never one to tolerate bigotry, Styles has delighted his fans by paying tribute to the LGBT movement on his first solo tour and has said that his partner being a female is “not that important”. In San Francisco, he retrieved a rainbow flag and flew it on his microphone stand. In Stockholm, he addressed the crowd, saying: “If you are black, if you are white, if you are gay, if you are straight, if you are transgender – whoever you are, whoever you want to be, I support you. I love every single one of you.”