‘Adults just seem to focus on the sexual nature of LGBT and they kind of miss the point,’ British pop star Will Young has strong opinions about the people protesting LGBTI-inclusive lessons in English schools. ‘It’s really sad.’
Well, it is his job to have opinions on LGBTI matters. We started talking about the protests currently hitting headlines in the UK press while discussing his podcast Homo Sapiens. He’s the co-host with his best friend and film director Chris Sweeney.
‘I think it could be the people who are protesting it are protesting LGBT people in particular,’ Young added.
‘The problem is you get adults hoisting their insecurities onto children… But what you’re missing out on is the embracing and understanding and empathizing.
‘If you stop embracing differences in others you stop embracing it in yourself,’ he adds.
Sure there’s fun chats about sex and deep chats about personal experiences, but occasionally the podcast veers into the serious world of politics. While on tour in the UK they encountered teacher Andrew Moffat and his ‘No Outsiders’ school education program.
The program is developed to teach primary school children about the diverse range of people living in Britain, in line with the Equality Act. This includes the existence of LGBTI people.
Unfortunately, this has resulted in protests outside Parkfield school in Birmingham.
The pair interviewed Moffat and got a very different impression of the lessons from the head teacher than the protesters. Young said: ‘My feeling on it, having been there for one day, was that there was a very harmonious atmosphere that was about teaching no one was an outsider.
Putting the homo into Homo Sapiens
What is it really like to exist in the world as an LGBTI person?
This is the question at the center of the Homo Sapiens podcast. One its hosts Will Young and Chris Sweeney hope to answer in all its possible interpretations.
In fact, each episode dives into the political, the personal, the funny, the mean, the heartbreaking and absurd aspects of living an LGBTI life in a largely heterosexual world. And while the hosts claim the show is inspired by Women’s Hour, it has the gentle feel of a deep meaningful 3am conversation at a house party with your new favorite person in the world you literally met that evening.
‘Where else are you having conversations like this? We’re all learning something,’ Sweeney said.
Every episode is an interview with a new guest, starting and finishing in media res. A lot of them are queer celebrities, like superstar Sam Smith, musician John Grant (‘a font of all knowledge and a musical genius’) or the hilarious Margret Cho.
‘I can’t think about a best guest, as we slightly fall in love with them all,’ Young told Gay Star News. ‘It’s a little bit like speed-dating, and after each one I’m like “ahhh I could be your friend”.’
More than just white, middle class and gay
A lot of the time, things focusing on the ‘LGBTI community’ really mean focusing on the ‘white gay community’. But the pair are hyper-aware of their privileged position. They are committed to using it to amplify other voices.
Also, this has the added bonus of making the show that bit more interesting.
So while one episode they’ll be having a chat with left wing political activist Owen Jones about his straight high school crush, the next the duo will be interviewing Lady Phyll, the head of UK Black Pride.
Sweeney says: ‘It allows us to move beyond who we are, because we’re two white middle class gay men and we don’t want to sit in that world.
‘We work really hard to get as diverse guests as possible. We could fill it up with 12 white gay men but we don’t want to do that. We want to tell as diverse stories as possible.’
This quest for diversity saw them leave their North London homes in season 1 for the rest of the UK in season 2. Their goal: to discover the stories of the LGBTI community outside the British capital.
Then for season 3 the pair traveled around the US, trying to discover what life is like for people under Donald Trump. It’s there they met Natalie, an Uber driver from Compton, Los Angeles.
‘I loved Natalie,’ Young said. ‘When we went to America we had these mini mics with us and we interviewed people we thought were interesting. She gave a very different perspective.
‘She was a black lesbian driving a car in Trump’s America.’
Sweeney adds: ‘She told us about how she had to move out of her house when she was 18 because her parents didn’t approve of the fact she was gay. Then she had to go home and nurse her mother to death.
‘Through that she rebuilt her relationship.’
The story is stunning and Natalie tells it with a surprising level of confidence and nonchalance. Natalie tried to attempted suicide at 18. When the hospital discharged her, Natalie found her things on the front porch.
‘It was incredible,’ Will adds.