The National:

THE advice that news staff at the BBC should not “get involved in matters which could be deemed political or controversial” sounds all well and good. In normal times and contexts, this might seem like nothing to worry about.

The question is, who gets to decide what is and isn’t controversial? Who draws the line that determines what’s political and what’s just basic human decency? This is always going to be a matter of perspective. Only now, it appears the goalposts are changing, the lines more sharply drawn, and the implications are disturbing.

Last night the news broke that BBC news and current affairs staff had been told that new impartiality rules meant they couldn’t attend LGBT Pride events, even in a personal capacity. The BBC clarified to iNews the same night that there would be no problem with attending Pride as a “celebration”, but that if the “trans issue” was involved it would be seen as a protest and therefore off-limits.

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In somewhat more opaque terminology, new BBC director-general Tim Davies confirmed as much in a letter published today. He said there was no ban on journalists attending “Pride parades” or “community events that are clearly celebratory or commemorative”, but stressed that in doing so, they “need to ensure they are not seen to be taking a stand on politicised or contested issues”.

In short: you can drink that cup of tea, as long as it doesn’t touch your mouth. This advice shows an embarrassing ignorance of what Pride is about. Pride is and always has been both a celebration and a protest.

One cannot be separated from the other: by celebrating themselves and their community unashamedly, LGBT people refuse to be silenced or pushed underground in a world which has persistently told them that they shouldn’t exist. Yes, this is political, but no, it shouldn’t be controversial.

Thankfully, we are in a place and time where many of the rights that participants of Prides past were agitating for have been won— but certainly not all of them, and there is much more to equality than the law.

There is no more obvious example of the work still to do than the recent surge in hostility towards our trans siblings; you know, the T in LGBT. The idea that it’s okay to attend Pride, but only if it doesn’t mention anything anyone disagrees with is very blatantly intended as code for “trans rights” and would immediately exclude the vast majority of Pride events.

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There is no objective reason why attending an event that explicitly supports trans rights should be deemed more controversial than attending Pride just a few years back when the focus was marriage equality. That was also a “contested issue”. The only difference is that the backlash in this instance is more virulent.

The lesson in this for those who want to roll back equality and human rights is: push back hard enough, shout loud enough, and your public service broadcaster will take orders from you on what qualifies as controversial.

Equalities movements are always contested – if they weren’t, there would be no need for a movement. However, in the UK it has become largely accepted that supporting equality for minority groups, or for women, is such a widely held and morally justified belief that doing so need not be considered as undue bias. There are some issues where “neutrality” is anything but.

On many fronts, it feels like this progress is under attack. But based on the reaction so far, LGBT people and their allies are not going to let it happen without a fight.