A personal reflection on EastEnders’ first gay wedding.
‘Whatever my head is telling me, to always follow my heart.’ and Ben and Callum finally did just that. There was no shortage of drama before the couple finally said ‘I do’ but that’s expected in Walford, right? And the audience let out a collective ‘aawwwww’ as they declared their love for each other and were pronounced Husband and Husband.
There has been an out-pouring of love and appreciation for the couple, the actors, the writer and EastEnders as a whole, following the wedding episodes, with GIFs and memes by the bucket load! But in amongst all of these, are the voices of the LGBTQ+ community reaching out to say thank you for mirroring their lives and usualising their families for the nation (and the world, thanks to international fans) to see.
And I’m one of them.
Being born in ’85, growing up in a small town, and knowing I was gay, the idea of ever getting married was up there with pigs flying or living on Mars. Section 28 meant that being LGBT wasn’t talked about in education, you could count the number of queer TV characters on one hand and civil partnerships were light-years away.
But we have come so far in the last 30 years. It’s been a hard road, and those of my generation and older will carry the personal memories of homophobic attacks, so-called ‘quiet homophobia’ of being asked to ‘keep it to yourself’, of rallies and marches for equality, and carry them forever. But the colours fade, the edges soften, and new memories are made as the world evolves. And TV plays a huge role in driving that evolution forward and making minorities mainstream.
EastEnders airing a gay wedding storyline, especially with a legacy character as high profile as Ben Mitchell, is so important. Even more importantly, is the fact that their daughter is front and centre of wedding organisation and the wedding day (literally, as she’s right on the front row!). Seeing same-sex couples on screen is becoming routine, but seeing queer people with families is still rare. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to have our family lives seen on prime-time TV.
Additionally, having the incredible writing talents of Pete Lawson have a hand in EastEnders’ first civil partnership, first pride and first gay wedding has ensured that all three have been treated with the same care, consideration and respect for the community, as well as obviously bringing us all to tears! (No? Just me? Alright then.)
It’s not the first gay wedding on TV and (thankfully) it won’t be the last, but every single moment of LGBTQ+ love on screen normalises and usualises our lives until, hopefully, one day, we won’t call them gay weddings – they’ll just be weddings.
Thank you Pete Lawson, Max Bowden, Tony Clay and the whole EastEnders team for bringing a little rainbow to all our lives.