Christa Ackroyd column: Why the BBC needs to stop ticking diversity boxes and 'labelling' its staff

Last Sunday I went to a wedding. My immediate instinct was to write that I went to a gay wedding. But I stopped myself. Why the need to clarify? Yes, both participants were men, and stunningly handsome they were too in their immaculate dinner suits. They were also so much in love it brought tears to your eyes. As weddings do.

It was all I expected and hoped it would be ..glamorous, tasteful and beautifully over the top.

It was always going to be so when the dress code for women was gold and glitzy. It was time to think showtime!

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Actually I had intended to wear a fabulous full length gold number I had worn only once to the Yorkshire Choice awards which I host every year.

Christa Ackroyd, former BBC Look North presenter, journalist and broadcaster.Christa Ackroyd, former BBC Look North presenter, journalist and broadcaster.
Christa Ackroyd, former BBC Look North presenter, journalist and broadcaster.

If recycling is good enough for Kate it’s certainly good enough for me and I liked the frock, it sparkled and more importantly it was gold which is probably what caught the attention of the groom-to-be who commented on a photo on social media after the awards .. ‘darling I love it.. something like that for the wedding would be perfect’.

Darn it. It should have known he would spot it. As a lawyer he doesn’t miss a thing. What’s more he wouldn’t forget it.

So what to choose anew for a wedding which would be full of beautiful people wearing beautiful creations? (Gay men can certainly teach heterosexual men a thing or two when it comes to grooming and tailoring.)

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I could tell you I went to some high end designer and picked up a little something but then I am far too Yorkshire for that.

Instead I did as I have done many times over the years from dancing school days to now. When I find myself in need of a little sparkle I make a quick trip to the Aladdin’s cave that is the fabulous asian superstore in Bradford which has had my custom for decades.

There some gold cream and peach brocade cost me the princely sum of £17.

To ensure my outfit was totally over the top the marabou feathers for the sleeves about the same.

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Given to my talented dress maker with an old favourite top to copy and paired with a pair of cream trousers and gold shoes I was ready to ‘look showy with a touch of razzamatazz’ just as the invite instructed.

And boy did we sparkle collectively. The speeches were the wittiest I had heard in a long time. My table was filled with fun and laughter from friends I had known and partied with down the years. The champagne flowed. The flowers were fabulous. The food gastronomic, the entertainment eclectic and the whole evening ended with a crazy fun fair ride and an ice cream van.

It’s a long time since I have been to a do like it.

And so it dawned on me when I sat down to write this week that there was absolutely no need whatsoever to describe it to you as a gay wedding. It was a wedding. A commitment made by two people who love each other. It’s that simple.

We have come a long way since same sex marriages were legalised in this country less that ten years ago. But then marriage as a whole has changed. For a start there are now for the first time more children born outside marriage than within.

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We are more likely to cohabit and not marry at all than ever before. And when and if we do we marry later, in fact much later. The average age is now around 35 whereas in the 70s it was 23.

What I realise is that nothing is the norm now and anything goes. And that is exactly as it should be. Choice is everything. And if I had described to you Saffy and Kacfer’s marriage as a gay wedding I am afraid I would have been guilty of nothing less than unconscious bias on my part.

The sexual orientation of the couple was irrelevant. Just as my gay friends and my straight friends whom I partied hard with last Sunday are neither my gay friend nor my straight friends. They are simply my friends. Christa, slapped wrist I thought, you should know better. But then so should the BBC.

This week the BBC has sent out another of those endless staff surveys the world seems obsessed with these days.

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It was to those doing some job I have never actually heard of… Local Democracy Reporters. Only this time the diversity survey didn’t actually include the choice heterosexual in its little boxes which when I last looked was certainly an orientation. Instead participants were as to chose whether they bi/bisexual, lesbian/gay woman, gay man, other or prefer not to say. What’s more when this was pointed out to them instead of holding their hands up and saying oops mistake, instead of pulling the survey, they compounded the error by asking straight people to tick ‘other’ instead. Which has the exact opposite effect of ensuring a workplace where someone’s sexual preference is of no consequence.

So here is my advice to the BBC; Stop trying so hard to tick boxes and label everyone correctly. Are they good at their jobs? Do do they add value to the work environment? Are they nice people to be around? And if the answer is yes to all three that’s all you need to know. What they do in the bedroom is their business. It has nothing to do with how you run yours.

Of course there is history which needs to be rewritten. I know there will be people reading this who will have been alive when to be gay was a crime. Actually I was. Having lots of gay friends I have also heard some horrific stories of homophobia in the intervening years. And I know how hard the campaign has been was to get some sort of justice for the thousands of sacked even imprisoned ex-service men and women who were forced to live a secret life with a secret lie rather than admit who they were. And that is abhorrent. But I’m sure in this day and age we don’t need to count numbers or tick boxes. We should know whether a workplace is fair and inclusive without a million surveys.

And the very fact one of the choices on the BBC form is ‘prefer not to say’ surely tips us right back to the time when to be different was something to be ashamed of.

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This week I celebrated being different at a wedding where we all treated each other the same, gay or straight, male or female.

There is no difference to the celebrations of Sunday from the celebrations at all the other many weddings I have attended. Except perhaps the dress code. Look showy with a touch of razzmatazz…. that’s a first for sure. But everything else was the same.

Two people who love each other promising to do so for a long long time in front of their friends and family. And what could be more inclusive than that?