OPINION: Why is a same-sex kiss on TV still causing an uproar?

PUBLISHED: 07:32 10 August 2020 | UPDATED: 08:30 10 August 2020

Photo of the 'famous' Brookside lesbian kiss between Beth Jordache and Margaret Clemence. Photo: PA/The Mersey Television Company Limited

Photo of the 'famous' Brookside lesbian kiss between Beth Jordache and Margaret Clemence. Photo: PA/The Mersey Television Company Limited

The year was 1994 and I wasn’t even 10 years of age when I witnessed my first lesbian kiss during an episode of long-running soap opera, Brookside.

It wasn’t the first to be broadcast on British television – that accolade belongs to the 1974 show Girl – but it was the first to be shown before the watershed at 9pm.

Even as young as I was, I remember seeing the hype over this moment plastered across various what’s on magazines of the era. When it finally aired, I sat with my parents and older sister together in our living room and we watched Beth Jordache (played by actress Anna Friel) and Margaret Clemence (Nicola Stephenson) share a kiss during the final seconds of that particular episode.

The first thought that popped into my head was: “Is that it?”

If truth be told, I was far more shocked in 1993 when (spoiler alert) Miss Jordache’s mother, Mandy, murdered her husband Trevor and buried him six feet under their patio – a moment I watched only because I snuck out of bed and secretly poked my head round the living room door.

At the time, that kiss was controversial, innovative, and important. Even today, Friel describes feeling “proud” to be part of that movement. But now, more than 25 years on, it seems a same-sex kiss can still cause an uproar.

Last month, CBBC, a children’s channel for older kids, aired a same-sex kiss in its show The Next Step. Rightly so it received praise from many of its viewers for representing LGBTQ+ youth and normalising gay relationships. And while I agree Brookside may not have been a children’s programme, I’d like to think we’ve come a long since 1994.

In fact, that very same year, CBBC also aired its first same-sex kiss. It happened during Byker Grove at approximately 5pm when Noddy (Brett Adams) romantically kissed his male friend’s cheek. That moment went down in history as one of the first times coming out as gay was explored in a storyline on television.

So, after all this time, are people really still able to get hot under the collar because a girl called Jude (Molly Sanders) and another girl called Cleo (Dani Verago) enjoyed a kiss as two consenting individuals? With the BBC confirming it received 100-plus complaints, it would appear so.

At least there is a wonderful silver lining to this out-dated cloud, and that is the Beeb’s response which unashamedly dismisses the haters. A statement read: “This [storyline] is an important part of our mission to make sure that every child feels like they belong, that they are safe, and that they can be who they want to be.”

It went on to say that it was absolutely necessary to air the kiss and that it was important.

(And to think that there are some people who still question why events such as Pride continue to be held every year.)

Isn’t it about time we moved on from worrying about who is kissing who, but rather focus on consent and safety? When are we going to start teaching our young people what a healthy relationship looks like, rather than ones which conform to out-dated beliefs?

My children have seen same-sex couples kissing in the street, they’ve watched a TV programme with me where a man sewed a dress for his boyfriend, and I’ve read them books – yes, children’s books – where same-sex relationships are the norm. And do you know what? They did not bat an eye. Why should they? It is a good thing that CBBC is not exclusive in regularly portraying heterosexual young people dating, kissing, and even falling in love, so why should the portrayal of a same-sex relationships be any different? The minds behind The Next Step episode deserve all the praise in the world for handling it with sensitivity and without sensationalism.

We started this ball rolling more than 25 years ago, surely now’s the time we all finally caught up with it.

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