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I'm old enough to remember when Harvey Milk became mayor of San Francisco. Yes, it was news even here in the UK; surprising, shocking even. At the time over here we had Tom Robinson (gay icon and all-round good guy) making waves with his song Glad to be Gay, so such issues were the background of rock music discourse.

The British Police are the best in the world
I don't believe one of these stories I've heard
'Bout them raiding our pubs for no reason at all
Lining the customers up by the wall
Picking out people and knocking them down
Resisting arrest as they're kicked on the ground
Searching their houses and calling them queer
I don't believe that sort of thing happens here

Sing if you're glad to be gay
Sing if you're happy that way
(cont..)

And I remembered feeling sad when I heard Milk had been shot. It's hard to remember how bad those days were, this was 77/78. Even to be gay had only been legal for 10 years and the general sentiment wasn't so much hostile as murderous. Things were so bad that five years later Boy George had to pretend he was straight (!!) for most of his career with Culture Club because otherwise his songs would not have been broadcast and kids would not have bought them. George Michael had to pretend, Freddie Mercury had to pretend.

In the mid-80s, in response to liberal attempts to dampen the hostility, the Tories decided to bring in Clause 28 which, in terms of chilling effect, legitimised hatred and homophobia in the UK until it was finally repealed a decade ago.

And it is so much better now. Unless you were there you cannot know what it was like, and I was straight at the time. It must have been ten times worse to experience.

Don't try to kid us that if you're discreet
You're perfectly safe as you walk down the street
You don't have to mince or make bitchy remarks
To get beaten unconscious and left in the dark
I had a friend who was gentle and short
Got lonely one evening and went for a walk
Queerbashers caught him and kicked in his teeth
He was only hospitalised for a week

And remember, things were worse even before I noticed. Stonewall did not come out of nothing, it was a riot when the persecution became too much. Sir John Gielgud was arrested int the 50s (a scandal which ultimately led to legalisation). Alan Turing, the hero of the enigma decryptions, was forced to commit suicide. The "Naked Civil servant", the rough biography of Quentin Crisp, demonstrated just how awful things had been.

Short of some catastrophic change in public sentiment, we aren't going back to those places. LGBT history month should remind us of that truth, I'm not sure that it should be involved in scaremongering about the prospects of a change of govt. No, the tories have no interests in helping, but I don't htink they are opposed to lgbt people in the way that previous incarnations were.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Mar 1st, 2009 at 06:31:10 AM EST

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