James Barr is the name of a presenter you have probably seen and heard recently. He presents on Heat Radio and is an anchor for MTV News. This weekend James is hosting the Student Pride Festival in London with the likes of Olly Alexander (Years and Years singer) and reality TV and model Jodie Marsh also attending and speaking at the event.
James is an ambassador of many LGBT charities and is passionate about making sure our generation achieves the equality regardless of sexual orientation, race or religion.
As soon as he had finished his radio show, we spoke to him. James told us about his own journey with acceptance and his wishes for the future.
CM– Hi James. How are you?
JB– I’m great, thank you. Thank you for giving me this platform to help youngsters.
CM- So you work for both Heat and MTV. Have you ever found that your sexuality has been an issue within this sector?
JB- Oh yes definitely. I think a lot of businesses, especially in the commercial sector, are worried about what their presenters do and say if it could affect their listeners or their revenue. There is a lot of scrutiny in commercial radio. I have been told to be ‘less camp or asked can you tone it down’.
CM- You currently work for Heat Radio, how have they been to work with on that front?
JB– Oh they have been fantastic. I explained that I was asked to tone down at previous jobs, and they have just told me to be me. If anything they’d want me to be a bit more camp. It’s brilliant, I get to be just me. They have really made me feel welcome, I can just be myself.
CM– When coming out to your parents, was that an easy ride?
JB– No. It was quite difficult. At first, my mum said her son isn’t her son anymore. She felt that it was her fault. My dad thought this would just be a phase. It’s all turned around, me and my mum could not be any closer now. She supports me with everything. My sister is a Christian. I sent her an email full of bible quotes to come out to her so she could read them in a different way and see this is fine. Weirdly, I had an RE teacher at school who spoke about sexuality in a way that showed from a religious point of view that it is perfectly okay. That was the lesson I sent my sister.
CM– And how did your sister react?
JB–She was incredibly supportive. She’s been nothing but brilliant. My nieces aren’t phased if I have a boyfriend. They have even called my boyfriends uncle. It’s lovely.
CM– You’re hosting the student pride this weekend in London. Tell us a little about that.
JB- It’s a massive event that has gotten bigger every year. Our aim is to help students with something that really matters. I am a patriot of this charity. Last year, we tackled mental health. Will Young was incredible and spoke about addictions, depression etc. This year we are focusing on Sex. I am excited to see what that brings. Sexual education at school is lacking especially towards any non-heterosexual relationships. It’s extremely important. There is still a huge stigma. Olly (Alexander) from Years and Years is on our panel this year. I can’t wait to listen to him and his message.
CM– How did you get to be a patriot for this charity?
JB– After the experience I had where I was told not to be me, I felt that I needed to turn it into a positive. I need to show others that being yourself is fine. I’m out, I’m proud. I am okay being me, it is normal. It should never be being different is wrong. I wanted to get out there and spread this message. This country is becoming so accepting.
CM– What kind of future are you hoping to have for the LGBT community?
JB– Just that this is normal. There are no specific gay magazines, gay bars, gay weddings etc. We’re conditioned through films and things like that from such a young age to think that only heterosexual relationships are normal. We shouldn’t have rules on who to be.
CM– If any of our readers are considering to attend this event, why should they?
JB– It will teach and help you so much to feel that you’re not alone. Getting involved in this charity is one of the best things I have done with my career. I hope this really can help so many. It’s going to be brilliant. And there are some great parties after.
CM– If anyone was to ask you for advice on how to take that step and come out to their friends and family, what advice would you give?
JB– Every single situation is different. First, make sure you’re comfortable within yourself. Take your time to go ‘okay this is me’. Accept yourself before anything. Then tell your closest friends. I did that and it helped so much. Once you have that support, then work at your own speed on telling anyone else. There are some amazing charities like ‘Are you coming out’ that help people. They share celebrities’ experiences etc and it’s really amazing. After you have come out things do get easier. It’s your own normal. Your parents may have mapped your whole life out for you; university marriage kids. And when that all changes it is difficult for them.