“It’s a way of breaking down barriers” - support for Norman Lamb on gay characters on children’s TV

A scene from Peppa Pig

A scene from Peppa Pig - Credit: Archant

When North Norfolk MP and Liberal Democrat leadership contender Norman Lamb spoke to gay news organisation Pink News, he reeled off a list of milestones for gay equality that had been achieved since he was elected to Parliament in 2001.

Michael Gambon as Professor Dumbledore

Michael Gambon as Professor Dumbledore

They included same-sex adoption, formal legal recognition of gay relationships, and the abolition of Section 28, which banned the 'teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship'.

But he raised one particular area which he felt had not kept pace: the representation of gay people on children's television.

Writing in Pink News, Mr Lamb said: 'It is deemed inappropriate to show same-sex couples on children's television – in a manner not dissimilar from the treatment of mixed-race couples a generation ago.

'Our broadcasters must realise that sexuality is not, fundamentally, about who you want to have sex with – but who you are, and who you love.

Norman Lamb at The Forum in Norwich to launch his Lib Dem leadership bid. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norman Lamb at The Forum in Norwich to launch his Lib Dem leadership bid. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

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'Why would a young person, perhaps questioning their sexuality, know that there was nothing wrong or strange about being gay if everything they had ever seen told them otherwise? I have written to the heads of the main TV channels demanding action.'

Asked in an interview with Pink News whether there should be gay characters in Peppa Pig, he said: 'If you impose arbitrary limits, you're saying that actually at heart, it's not equitable. It should absolutely not be out of bounds, which it appears to be at the moment.'

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It was a response which has prompted much media coverage.

Laura Easter, of the Proud Parents and Guardians Norwich group, which meets informally once a month, welcomed his stance.

She said: 'I think it's important for children to see that families come in all shapes and sizes, and it does not make people strange. It's just different, and everyone has the same arguments in their families, and problems and rewards.

'Children are influenced by TV, so hopefully it should be thought that it's OK, especially in rural areas or places where people do not come in contact with many gay people.

'It's a way of breaking down barriers.'

Some people who responded to Mr Lamb's comments raised concerns about children loosing their innocence, but Ms Easter said that having more gay characters and same-sex couples would simply be about showing how there are different types of families, rather than exploring issues such as sexual relationships.

She added: 'It's just 'this person has two mummies or two daddies'.'

EDP readers expressed a variety of views online.

Stevie1977 said: 'Just let children be children. There are far more important issues to be concerning ourselves with than what Mr Lamb is trying to force feed us.'

Arfur said: 'I think Mr Lamb is correct on this one. TV has such an influence on so many people these days. It makes sense that what it portrays is seen as the norm - and any consensual relationships should be accepted as the norm nowadays. Any absence takes away their legitimacy.'

Canaryken said: 'For goodness sake, let children enjoy their childhood, and indeed their innocence of such things. let them enjoy children TV as we did. Norman, so pleased your lot lost so many seats if this is yours and their attitude towards children. Words fail me!!!'

What do you think? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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