Newsbeat

Celebrity Big Brother: How Courtney Act is opening the conversation about gender

Courtney Act Image copyright CBB/ Channel 5

Drag queen Courtney Act first made headlines when her skirt fell off on live TV as she entered the Celebrity Big Brother house.

But as the reality series has progressed, she has been celebrated for discussions on gender and sexuality.

The RuPaul's Drag Race star, also known as Shane Gilberto Jenek, has been praised by trans people and drag acts for opening the public conversation on gender.

And the Australian is now the bookies' favourite to win.

Image copyright CBB/ Channel 5
Image caption Courtney is also known as Shane Jenek

Courtney has particularly been celebrated for her approach to fellow contestant India Willoughby, who is transgender, and has admitted having a "phobia about drag queens".

Speaking to fellow housemates, Courtney acknowledged why India might feel that way.

"I think the thing she struggled with is that people might see me and see her and think that we are the same thing.

"She'd never identified as a drag queen. Drag is more performance-based, hers is about gender identity. She was never a man but she had a male body."

Newsbeat has been speaking to trans people and drag acts about how she is bringing the topic of gender identity into the mainstream.

Alfie Ordinary, 27, drag performer

Image copyright Eddie Adams

"There is so much more weight behind having a conversation," says Alfie, from Brighton.

"There is a culture at the moment where people will say 'this person is cancelled' because of what they say or think.

"But actually, you're never going to get anywhere if you shut someone down because they've got a different opinion to you, then how can you expect opinions to change?"

Image copyright CBB/ Channel 5
Image caption Courtney hugs fellow contestant India Willoughby

Alfie thinks Courtney could help people think about the different views around gender identity.

"The conversations are great for the wider general public that would never see those.

"She's very balanced, level headed and calm about all these situations which are otherwise quite sensitive and difficult to talk about sometimes."

Charlize 'Charly' Golightly, 25, transgender woman

Image copyright FatCap Photography

"These conversations need to be had, not just in the LGBT community," says Charly, adding that she is disappointed by India Willoughby's comments.

"I just wish the clarity wasn't coming from a drag queen, [it would be] better coming from a trans woman.

"We still have a lot of transphobia within the LGBT community," says the make-up artist.

"It's refreshing to see that Courtney, who herself is non-binary, is able to explain that to a more heterosexual group of housemates."

Luke Anderson, 36, transgender man

Image copyright Luke Anderson

Luke understands the pressure of being in the Big Brother house better than most - he won the series in 2012.

He wasn't sure about Courtney at first because, he says, she seemed to be playing up a lightweight comedy persona.

But he's been impressed as the series has gone on.

"Hearing her speak and being so articulate with it, it shocked me and she's one of my favourites now."

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