The Media Award 2016: Owen Jones
Introducing Owen Jones, journalist, political commentator and recipient of the 2016 Winq Media Award, presented by Britain’s first out Muslim drag queen, Asifa Lahore, at our 2016 awards luncheon, supported by United Airlines.
Journalist Owen Jones bites. He’s animated and sparky, especially when speaking for everyman – the politics he champions seek to eradicate oppression, prejudice and exploitation. He’s out and proud, but as likely to be vocal about Islamophobia or transphobia. The defining moment of his year, however, was a very public Sky News exit after presenter Mark Longhurst suggested the Orlando massacre was an attack on “all people having fun”, rather than a homophobic act. “It was,” Jones says, “about remembering LGBT people died in an LGBT club. At a time like that, you have a responsibility to say so.” We salute him.
Owen on that Sky News interview:
“The whole point was to remember the people who’d died,” he says, “who were LGBT people killed in an LGBT club.” He adds that if he were Jewish and 49 Jewish people had just been killed in a synagogue, but he was told this was an attack on all people and he didn’t have ownership of the incident just because he was Jewish, it would have been roundly condemned as outrageous. “I mean, [what I did] was impulsive, I’m not going to pretend otherwise; it was the most impulsive thing I’ve ever done in my life, it wasn’t a strategic thing. But, when I sat there, I just heard this voice saying, ‘You know you can’t stay here, don’t you?’”
Owen on the catalyst for writing about issues surrounding sexuality:
In 2014, he saw Alan Carr dressed up as a fairy in an advert for animal charity PETA and was intrigued by his own response to the image. “A load of gay men responded online by saying that was just causing us embarrassment,” he explains. “And my first reaction was to think they had a point. Then I thought, ‘Actually, no, fuck off!’ I read Alan Carr’s response and he talked about internalised homophobia and he said the most homophobic people he’d ever met were other gay men. And I felt embarrassed and ashamed to have responded like that.”
Owen on hoping it was just a phase:
“I desperately didn’t want to be gay. For many years. I remember reading these books for helping people grow up and there was this one passage that was almost etched on my brain that said it was very common to have same-sex attractions as a teenager, but that normally goes for most people. And I just remember telling myself that it would go eventually. And then I was convinced I was bisexual. At university I went out with a girl for over a year, for example. But I just desperately, desperately did not want to be gay, there’s no point pretending.”
Congratulations to Owen Jones, the winner of the 2016 Winq Media Award! Pick up your copy of Winq Winter 2016, out now, to read the full five-page feature, along with all the other interviews with our Men of the Year.