Here's my post, and I've copied the text below for those who subscribe to my blog:
'Just as male heterosexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls, so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically coloured cocktails and talking about boys.’ Lord Rodger 2010.
That’s not to say if you’re a gay man and you do like drinking beer and playing rugby – and still talking about boys – there’s anything wrong with that. Gareth Thomas, the gay rugby player said he didn’t feel like he could come out as gay as he didn’t fit the stereotype of gay men. Calling all gays – be gay however you want to, I’m not going to tell you that. Be a motorbike riding, hairy bear of a gay. Be a hairdresser who loves Maria Carey. Be a librarian who loves cats and vampire fiction. Be whoever you are with as much pride and with no apology, just as straight people shouldn’t apologise for being straight in their ways.
When I was a teenager, growing up in a small village in the New Forest, being straight was all around me. This didn’t really fit with me, even then, I knew I was probably a friend of Dorothy.
Until I discovered, quite by accident, eighties electro pop. Up until then, I’d basically only listened to Abba, and the odd bit of Top Of The Pops for mainstream pop music.
Until, I bought a compilation called Electric Dreams in 1995, and I loved it. From there I discovered Erasure, Soft Cell, Yazoo, Spandau Ballet, Blancmange. The whole ethos of this new sort of music felt like it fitted with me. When I should have been listening to Oasis and Blur, I was dancing about in my bedroom to Visage, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark or Tubeway Army, wishing I had a frilly shirt and could get away with a bit of makeup. I had neither, obvs.
I used to visit the second hand record shop in Southampton and ask the staff what they’d recommend if I liked one of the newly discovered groups. The staff would happily explain to me how the groups linked to each other: Vince Clarke from Erasure was also in Yazoo (with Alison Moyet) and Depeche Mode (when they did their best album in my view). Who can resist a song with the lyrics ‘let our bodies be twisted but never our minds’ ? I certainly couldn’t, so Alison Moyet went onto my music to buy list too – Is This Love in case you’re wondering.
Each week I’d return home, and play my new records in my bedroom, and I started to notice that some of the men singing were singing about being in love with other men. And some of the songs were pretty gay really.
When I first heard Andy Bell singing in Am I Right ‘To resolve your love/ for this man in his twenties’ I had to replay it to check I’d heard it right.
And then I listened to Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat (I’d arrived there via The Communards and Don’t Leave Me This Way – a soaring camp belter of a song) and I knew it was about my life. And then I heard Jimmy Sommerville singing Why ‘contempt in your eyes as I turn to kiss his lips’ and I thought I was going to explode. I had questions that needed answering…
Why was the album called The Age of Consent?
What did the pink triangle mean on the front of the album?
Through a combination of asking the staff at *my* record shop (now sadly closed and replaced with a Chinese food supermarket) or research in Salisbury library, I found answers to these questions. This is way before the internet; this was proper *research* I really had to put my back into it.
To find a part of popular culture that reflected me – in the widest sense of me (being gay, the camp, the theatricality) was like coming home, it showed me I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t wrong. And that’s why queer romance, in books, films, music, TV is important. For all the gay boys in their bedrooms in their suburban homes worrying they’re the only person like that, worrying their feelings aren’t normal, queer romance shows them love is love.
Having queer popular culture is just as important in terms of visibility as gay people choosing to be out, and not be ashamed of how they are gay (be it with Kylie and glitter or with a beard and motorcycle). So that’s why I’m writing queer romance and living as an out gay man, even if I sometimes get questioned and shouted at (for both.)
‘I am what I am / and what I am needs no excuses.’
Liam Livings xx