Previously, I have written in this blog about the watershed moment, as a teenager, when I first heard Tom Robinson singing “Glad To Be Gay” (http://drewpayne.blogspot.com/2007/08/one-of-those-moments.html).
Last week I was surfing the web, when I stumbled upon a website that had, for download, had almost all the different versions of “Glad To Be Gay” there has been (http://gladtobegay.net/). With a delight I started to listen to them, but I didn’t get far.
The very first version was an upbeat, celebration. Then, Tom Robinson re-wrote it as a protect song. The first version of that was the one I heard him singing on the television. Listening to it again took me right back to the early 1980’s, when I was still terrified of my sexuality. The song took me back to that time, a time when homophobia was almost at plague levels.
The song deals with the police persecution of lesbians and gay men, the rank homophobia and hypocrisy of the British press, queerbashing, and society’s homophobia that generates internal homophobia. The images in it were harsh and angry, yet all too real. Back then, I was terrified of all those, the world seemed a very homophobic and threatening place; listening to it I felt that stab of sadness because I remembered it all.
So much has changed and in such a short space of time, within my living memory, and for that I am very grateful. But listening to “Glad To Be Gay” reminded me of how bad things were, and they have been worse before that. As grateful as I am for all the equality gains we have now I also feel we shouldn’t forget from where we came.