Last month, trans comedian Jordan Gray performed a nude musical number on Channel 4’s Friday Night Live. Although the performance was well-received by the crowd, transphobes promptly and predictably went on an online rampage. Now, the network’s chief executive has joined the government’s media regulator in squashing these attacks.
— Channel 4 (@Channel4) October 21, 2022
In the days following the late-night broadcast, the Office of Communications (Ofcom) received over 1,600 complaints which it summarily dismissed. “In our view, audiences would be likely to have expected controversial humor from this one-off special reviving an established alternative comedy series,” Ofcom said in a statement.
“We also took into account the time of the broadcast, which came more than an hour after the watershed, and the advance on-air warnings about very strong language and adult humor.” “Watershed” refers to the time when mature content is permitted on air.
During the network’s Inclusion Festival on November 30, Channel 4’s chief executive Alex Mahon added her support—not just for Jordan Gray but for the importance of showing diverse bodies.
“We brought back Friday Night Live, live with Ben Elton, for our 40th birthday, and we had a performer in, a comedian called Jordan Gray,” Mahon said. “She’s trans and she stripped naked at the end of the performance and that was the first time, I think, really on mainstream television you see a trans body and what that looks like. That’s really important.
“It was a beautiful moment of trans expression. It was lovely.”
Mahon continued, “What’s great is a couple of thousand people complained to Ofcom, and Ofcom backed us and said it’s perfectly, perfectly appropriate to put that on television.
“What’s even more powerful is young people writing to Jordan and talking about how that made them feel better about themselves, and better about what they are going through. This is a really difficult time for young people, and that kind of thing, the normalizing of different body types is really, really important.”
Mahon is the network’s first female CEO, taking over in 2017. “There is nowhere in the world like Channel 4 and, in these changing times, its mission is more important than ever,” Mahon said following her confirmation.
As a publicly owned network, Channel 4 has been a bastion for LGBTQ+ content, such as the acclaimed It’s A Sin. But the UK government plans to privatize the network, putting queer content at risk. Until that happens, it’s good to know that there are people at the top committed to trans representation in the face of TERF bullying.
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