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RTÉ: Growing Up Gay unsuitable for teens

Last week the first part of the gay youth documentary, Growing Up Gay, aired on RTÉ. The second half aired last night.

It featured the stories of a handful of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and their parents and explored how they have coped in school and in family life while they were coming out. All were very brave to speak publicly as they did. The documentary was compassionate and real and should be a huge help to those in similar situations.

However, while those who missed the first half have been anxiously awaiting its availability on RTÉ player, when it became available to view yesterday afternoon, it came with a warning that it should only be viewed by those 18 or older.

Are you 18?

And while, obviously, any teen could happily press “Yes” as quickly as she would tell her mother her room was indeed tidied, I became curious as to why they’d tag this particular feature as for mature audiences. Surely a documentary featuring the lives of teenagers would be suitable viewing for teenagers?

Clicking on the “MA” symbol takes you through to their description of each rating.

Now I’ve seen both halves of the documentary and while I’m sure there was some colourful language somewhere, there was nothing you wouldn’t hear on Dublin Bus. There was certainly no explicit sexual or violent content.

The only thing that gave me pause was the discussion of suicide but — personally — I would think that it would belong under “parental supervision” and not “mature audiences”. While I hate to be or sound paranoid, gay content has often been tagged as “offensive” where the same production without the gay content would often have a far more accessible rating. Because we gay people are all about sex, you see.

I have contacted RTÉ but have yet to have a response. I will update this as soon as I hear from them.

Update: (29/04/2010)

Today I received a reply from the team responsible for RTÉ Player. I quote here with their permission:

The RTÉ player mirrors the on-air classification which is overseen by the RTÉ Programme Acceptance department.Growing Up Gay, Part 1, transmitted on Monday 19th April, contained an ‘MA’ (Mature Audience). It was given this classification due one aspect of the programme – the presence of coarse language.

Growing Up Gay, Part 2, transmitted on Monday 26th April, contained a ‘PS’ (Parental Supervision) classification because of a lesser degree of coarse language. Programme 2 is currently not available on the RTE Player due to technical problems but we are hoping to make available shortly.

I’m not convinced. Do I have time to watch it all again to make my case? No. Anyone up for it?

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  • I’m really surpriced by the classification… I watched both parts with my 16 year old and we both agreed it should be compulsory viewing in schools! Not only is it SUITABLE, but it is informative, balanced, thought-provoking piece of television for ALL teens,  especially younger teens.  I thought it was excellently made, and that the young people (and their parents !) were wonderfully articulate and honest… Hats off to BeLonGTO who were very involved thoughout…. what a fantastic and VITAL organisation they have become to support the young LGBT community…

    Optical Mouse said:
  • I was pretty shocked. It’s a brilliant documentary — so well done. And the kids were so brave to participate in it.
    I’m pretty annoyed it’s taken over a day to hear anything from RTE about it.

    CanuckJacq (author) said:
  • I don’t think last night’s programme is on player yet, maybe I’m wrong.

    Sinéad said:
  • I was looking through the tweets about the show (those marked ‘#GUG’) where someone commented about how that the show was actually one big step back because it still portrayed LGBT teens as ‘victims’. I agree with this in parts – they [the producers] did seem to go out of their way to find stereotypical LGBTs – there wasn’t anyone on the show I felt I could relate too.
    That said, it’s programmes like this that are really needed.

    A student said:
  • The show was really well done and it does mark a leap forward but none of those repesented lived in a rural area. Maybe I’m just cynical with age (all 27 years) and I would love to think this programme is a true repensentation of life for young gay people but I’m not so sure.  If I was a young gay person now I still don’t know if I lived in the backhills of nowhere if I could so calmly walk in to school, or my parents and go ‘oh by the way I’m decorationg my room with pictures of naked girls and I’m going to a gay prom’ Even if I could get there!  Great program yes. True repensentation? Umm. 

    mel said:
  • The F word is used but I think to cert it as for adults is a bit over the top to say the very least.  I totally agree with Optical Mouse, it was brilliant and kids are the very ones who should see it

    Gooner said:
  • When I saw the programmes, I thought RTE was acting like a proper national broadcaster  – providing content of real social value. Here we had gay Irish teenagers talking openly and honestly about their experiences. I thought about closeted gay teens across the country tuning in and feeling less isolated. It made me feel good about paying my TV licence!
    So this 18 rating is a complete slap in the chops! Who was the programme aimed at, if not gay teenagers of school-going age?  The long hand of Ballymagash still has its grip on RTE.
    Today I caught part of an interview on the Pat Kenny show with the governor of Mountjoy Women’s prison. Both the governor and Kenny listed “lesbianism” among the detrimental affects of prison overcrowding. Not sexual assault, mind you, “lesbianism”! I despair!!!

    Nelly said:
  • Great programme and totally agreed that an over 18s classification isn’t helpful.

    I don’t think they went looking for stereotypes, I think it is often the case that they might “stand out” more.

    As for the victim thing, I think the problem there was that there was nobody in the programme with a full time job and only 1 of the 8 was at college.  Its rather hard to get young people in these areas involved with a programme like this because they are often either way too busy studying or working, or just are finding their feet and worried about how it will impact them at college or in their careers.

    Nice programme, pity RTE had to blow it all by then including “Core Issues” speakers on Today with Pat Kenny to blow it all (this is the ex-gay group that is trying to break into Ireland via Northern Ireland).

    Laura said:
  • Now I watched both episodes and did try to keep an open mind ……. however, I wonder if I was a teenager watching this at home in ballygobackwards with my parents would I have  been cringing as a 15 or 16 year old …. not sure it gave a true representation of young gay people in Ireland today.

    There are so many young people in Ireland for whom being gay isnt really a big deal. Many have really positive things to say….. why ? Because of the work of all of the older gay people living in this country who fought tooth and nail for our rights …

    Im gay – so what … that should be all our attitudes … its a small part of who I am …. I dont feel the need to declare it at every opportunity….

    Something else is needed if peoples attitudes are to be changed … that interview with the Gov of the Womens prison is a case in point…. a joke…. makes me feel ashamed to work in the public service… I see it everyday. But this younger generation are not going to take any crap from anyone anymore and should be appaluded for that  

    Bridie said:
  • In case anyone is interested, the post has been updated with RTE’s reply to my query.

    CanuckJacq (author) said:
  • Am I the only one that embraces our big gay stereotypes? I love them. Our community is renowned for its difference – we have drag queens, tomboys, dykes and bois, femmes, androdykes, twinks and bears. Why on earth are so many in our community so wracked with insecurity not to love what makes us unique? No, the producers did not specifically set out to find participants to match gay stereotypes. Believe it or not, these people actually exist in our community and that’s fine. It’s not easy to be a big butch dyke in a world that only seems to celebrate a very specific and narrow conception of womanhood. C’mon girls, let’s, y’know, do something about this before we expunge difference from our community altogether.

    Molly said:
  • Foregoing rant slightly off topic.
    Apologies :)

    Molly said:
  • I totally love your rant. And I agree. :)

    CanuckJacq (author) said:
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