Nowt so…

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Queer as Folk‘s premiere on Channel 4.

If you’re looking for some inspiring tale about how the show helped me to come out, you’ll be disappointed. In 1999 my family only had one TV and it would have been safely tuned to ITV, so I never saw any of Queer as Folk at the time.

I was certainly aware of the controversy, with the usual suspects in the Daily Mail and Express clutching their pearls over the series. I do remember a fellow passenger on my school bus making his displeasure clear at the giant billboard advertising the series every time we drove past it.

The BBC has a nice article about the anniversary, making the point that it was the first time gay mens’ lives had been depicted so frankly on screen. This was two years after Ellen announced she was gay to an entire airport, and EastEnders and Brookside had featured lesbian and gay characters too, but you rarely saw them indulge in anything more erotic than peck on the cheek. Queer as Folk broke many taboos, and for curious straight viewers who tuned in, it was probably their first exposure to things gay men enjoy, like Doctor Who and rimming.

A few years later BBC Choice (remember them?) showed the US version, so this was the one I saw first. By this time I did have a TV in my room, but I was still deeply closeted, so it was with the sound turned way down and with one hand on the remote at all times, in case mum or dad entered without knocking with a cup of tea. And it was only in 2009, when E4 repeated the series for the 10th anniversary, that I actually saw the original UK version in full.

Things have moved on in the last two decades. We have LGBT politicians and LGBT sports stars, and taboos around the subject are disappearing – when Tom Daley came out in 2013, it was freely discussed on Children’s BBC. But it still feels unusual and daring to have LGBT characters front and centre on a TV show, rather than in a supporting role. And while you will find lots of shows willing to drop in the odd sly reference to Grindr, depictions of gay sex on screen are still very rare, at least in mainstream film and TV.

QaF remains a seminal series, well worth watching if you’ve never seen it. I can even forgive it for introducing the world to Antony Cotton.

If you’re in the UK, every episode of Queer as Folk is available on All4.

Berlin: The Long-Awaited Third Part

Yes, I know, it’s been a long time coming. Apologies for the delay. Also, despite this walking tour lasting almost four hours, I took precisely two photos, both of which are included here.

FRIDAY

Logo of Original Berlin Walks

I’m terrible at planning my holidays (and writing about them, it seems), and the trip to Berlin was no exception. One thing I did manage to organise, however, was booking myself onto a walking tour of Berlin. I never used to be a fan of these types of tours but on recent jaunts abroad I’ve found them to be an excellent way of seeing a lot of city in a short time. I found the BerlinWalks Queer Berlin tour, which promised a whistle-stop tour of the city’s LGBT history.

I turned up at the meeting point outside Hackescher Markt station in a slightly discombobulated state. I had walked from my hotel to the U-Bahn station before realising that I had forgotten to put on any sun cream, so I had to dash back to slap some on. I didn’t regret this decision – Berlin was in the grip of a heatwave, and even by 10.30am the sun was very hot. However it did mean I arrived only just in time, and in a sweaty, flustered state.

There were several tours setting off at the same time, and while most people were here for the generic city tour or a cheerful trip out to Sachsenhausen, I was the only person here for the queer tour. My guide was a cheerful American (whose name, unfortunately, I have forgotten). He said that if I needed the toilet, I could use the facilities in an adjacent restaurant. Unfortunately his directions were not too clear, so I wandered into the kitchen by mistake and got chased out by an angry chef.

When I returned to the meeting point, two other people had turned up to join our tour. I’m not actually sure which is worse – a tiny tour group, or just one person. If it were just me and the tour guide, it might have been a bit easier. But a small group requires smalltalk. The other two were a couple, and I felt a little bit like I was interrupting a date. I felt a bit awkward, but I did my best and didn’t embarrass myself too much.

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Simon Says

I’ve been mocked in the past, because of my penchant for LGBT cinema. Pretty much every film I’ve gone out to watch in the past year or so has been gay-themed in some way, to the point where I’m starting to think I should watch a Fast and Furious film just to even things up a bit.

It helps that over the last couple of years we have been truly spoiled by a run of excellent gay films – including Holding the Man, Beach Rats, God’s Own Country, Tom of Finland, Handsome Devil, Moonlight, The Pass and Call Me By Your Name. We’re also lucky to have, in Liverpool, the FACT Picturehouse, which regularly screens these films in partnership with Liverpool Pride, offering the opportunity to watch on the big screen, rather than waiting for the films to come out on DVD or streaming services.

DVD cover of "Another Gay Movie" showing main cast

This “gay first policy” extends to my DVD collection too. If there are shirtless guys kissing, or an artfully filmed gay sex scene (one which is essential to the plot, of course), it’s sure to make it onto my shelf, regardless of quality – alongside Beautiful Thing and Christopher and his Kind, I also have dubious quality productions like Another Gay Movie. I’m decluttering at the moment, and I’d get rid of the latter film if I could, but the church bring and buy sale didn’t want it for some reason.

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A tale of one city

I spent a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon in the Museum of Liverpool. It’s a wonderful place to visit, with galleries telling the story of Liverpool as a great world port, a centre of industry and commerce, and as the inspiration for art and culture the world over.

My specific reason for visiting was the new Tales from the City exhibition which opened last week. Celebrating 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales, the exhibition pulls together a variety of objects from the collections of National Museums Liverpool, to depict life in the city’s LGBT community over the past half-century or so.

Tales from the City exhibit at the Museum of Liverpool

Despite being a part of said community, my knowledge of the city’s LGBT history is superficial to say the least. This exhibition has come at the perfect time for me, because I know I am a Bad Gay and need to do better.

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