Queer Bake Off duo on show’s LGBTQ+ ‘turning point’ and how show could be ‘doing more’
Bake Off favourites Michael Chakraverty and David Atherton talk their new podcast, celebrating queerness and why it’s time for the tent to welcome its first trans baker.
Michael Chakraverty and David Atherton are arguably some of the Great British Bake Off’s (GBBO) most iconic contestants – both competed on the 2019 season, which David won, while Michael placed sixth.
David feels like that year was a “turning point” for LGBTQ+ contestants, with the show moving from quiet inclusivity to full-throated celebration.
He says he’s spoken to past contestants who feel like producers “definitely dialled down” LGBTQ+ themes in earlier seasons.
“Whereas ours, they let us wear t-shirts that were pro-LGBTQI+ and right at the end of the whole series is me and Nik [his fiance] kissing,” he tells PinkNews.
“Lots of people saw that as a turning point for Bake Off, and since then, it definitely celebrated queer people.”
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Bake Off has always been lauded for its inclusivity – it’s had openly queer hosts since day one, with Sue Perkins passing the baton to Sandi Toksvig and then Matt Lucas, and the first-ever winner was a gay man, Edd Kimber.
There have been queer women – including fan favourites Ruby Tandoh and Yan Tsou – but David thinks men have been favoured.
He says Bake Off has “embraced gay men very comfortably and highlighted them a lot”, but he believes the “rest of the queer community has been slightly sidelined.”
“I remember speaking to the casting people, and they said out of the 20,000 people that apply – 5,000 will be gay, white men; 8,000 will be middle class women. It obviously is dependent on who applies, but they could do more,” he says.
“We look at Nadiya [Hussain], and the fact it was the first time someone who is in a hijab was prominently celebrated on a TV show, and it did amazing things for her community. So let’s hope for next season.”
Michael agrees, and is looking forward to the show casting its first out trans contestant.
“If you think about the proportion of people in this country who identify as trans, and then the proportion of them who like Bake Off, and then the proportion of those who are good enough to go on Bake Off – the proportion of those who will fit with the casting dynamic – it depends on the application and on demographics, but more can be done.”
They add that it can be done in a way that doesn’t feel “tokenistic”, saying: “The fact that David and I were queer on our year wasn’t really referenced. We were just allowed to exist, and if it came up, we talked about it.”
Since leaving the tent, David has gone on to write several cookbooks, while Michael has also found success as a writer.
Now, they’ve teamed up for a new podcast, Sticky Bun Boys, an “unofficial official companion” to the new season of Bake Off.
As well as discussing the new batch of bakers each week, they’ll be spilling the tea and offering advice on everything from baking disasters to dating.
“We thought it’d be more fun, rather than just doing a review podcast, to create a bit of community around it,” Michael says.
“So we’ve got a baking and dating disaster section called the ‘Soggy Bottom Club’ where we thought it’d be fun to just hear people’s disasters and give our advice.”
Michael says the podcast is a “bit of a laugh” and brings levity on subjects that can sometimes feel very serious to the queer community.
“There is this feeling with queer people where, when you find your community, part of the best thing is that you can be open about all aspects of your life,” they say.
“That’s what we’re trying to do here. We can talk about sex: sex is funny, topping is funny, bottoming is funny, everything is funny.”
Sticky Bun Boys is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more.
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