Does the UK really love Nadia from Big Brother?
Introducing Nadia Almada, until this past December was a Portuguese gay man, and thanks to surgery, is now a straight Portuguese woman. Almost 4m people voted her the winner of this year’s Big Brother in the UK, which finished Friday – with 75% of the vote. I actually found myself moved to tears by her wild nervous reaction when she found out she won, because the main reason for her being there was a desire to be accepted as a woman, not from who she used to be.
In my wildest dreams I never thought a transsexual would be accepted by most of the UK public for much of anything. In truth, a lot of the tabloids didn’t know what to do with themselves when covering her popularity in the house – lots of mentioning of the Portu-GEEZER (fnaw, fnaw) in that tiresome play on words the papers provide for what they picture to be their typical readers. Yeah, there may be a transsexual character on one of the most popular soaps here, but she’s played by a woman, so is clearly not a threat to ratings. when the hostess of the show told evicted that she was a man, most of them were startled but were totally accepting, because they knew her as she was, not by what she used to be. But the hostess’ giddy revelation to housemates that Nadia used to be a man was really tacky, and she received loads of complaints about how she depicted her from other members of the public, only changing her tune in the 9th week of the show.
So did Nadia win because the voting public is incredibly tolerant of transsexuals, or is that too simplistic of a view? Here’s what I’ve figured out about British traits since moving here 12 years ago:
– they have been taught that making fun of foreigners is acceptable, because its just a bit of a laugh
– they tend to always support the underdog in any competition
– they tend to have a laissez-faire attitude towards eccentricity
– they are progressive when the law sometimes forces them to be
– young people (20 and under) are incredibly accepting and encouraged by people who are different in some way
So some conflicting views there. I am sure the votes that Nadia got were from loads of different demographics – any gay men and clued-up women I knew voted for Nadia because of her general queer and different identity. Younger people who watched it probably voted for her because she was genuine, and very capable of sticking up for herself in front of some of the nastier characters in the house. She also has no typical British control over her emotions – she can veer from hysterical laughter to hysterical crying in about 5 seconds – and seeing that kind of behaviour is refreshing for a lot of the public who tired of the poseurs and media whores in the house.
But on the other hand, using “fag” and “poof” are still incredibly common among schoolkids as the ultimate insult, gay people are still generally discriminated against outside of just a few major cities – so imagine how transsexuals would be treated, and like gay men depicted on TV 20 years ago, always as suicidal or dying of AIDS or both, there is no noticeable depiction of transsexuals anywhere.
I would like to think that the country has grown up a bit in general. Things have changed so dramatically here – where London used to feel in the dark ages socially (there was a popular theory when I arrived here in 1992 that if you don’t sleep with American gay men, you won’t be at risk of catching HIV) ease of travel and the internet have made a lot of people more aware of what is going on around the world. Younger people typically are far more aware of different types of people than their parents could ever be. So someone like Nadia was voted for despite the fact she is different, maybe this is what made her so appealing in the first place.
I wish her all the best and hope that her dream is fulfilled, that the woman she always wanted to be is the person that is understood and accepted by everyone who meets her.