I have been reluctant to watch ‘It’s a Sin’, the new series by Russell T. Davies, who brought us the brilliant ‘Queer as Folk’.
Well, because it deals with the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. And I knew it would have a profound effect on me and drag up my feelings from that decade.
I grew up during that time and slowly coming to terms with my homosexuality, and AIDS had a massive effect on me. It all came flooding back as I watched. The blame, the disgust, the abuse that was directed at the gay male community was destructive and further vilified gay men. Worse still, it gave people an excuse to discriminate and be abusive. I have to say that at my young age, it scared the shit out of me. Although I was still at school and not sexually active, it made me scared of gay sex and of being gay. It made me feel that if I had sex, I could die.
I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when Colin died. His character was the one that I identified with, shy, awkward and Welsh. Here was a man that wasn’t sexually promiscuous, but it still caught up with him. All it took was sex with one effected partner, and you were passed a death sentence.
The last episode had the same effect on me; my eyes were stinging by the end. The last speech by Jill really hit home and took me back to the time when I felt guilty and ashamed at being gay. Thankfully I have moved on; I’m happy being my version of gay. But it makes me so upset and angry that I had to experience those times and being made to feel that way.
Where I grew up, being gay meant catching AIDS, which meant dying. This message was sent out through the media and government messages. It made me scared of my sexuality and caused me to stay in the closet longer than I should have. I grew up in a very homophobic environment, not at home, though; there, I just experienced the casual ‘homophobia’ that was acceptable at the time, calling people pufters and such. But school and the greater society was different. No one dared come out at school. No one wanted to be thought of as gay.
What really surprised me about the series was the battle that Russell T. Davies had in getting it made. He has a successful track record with television series, Queer as Folk, Year and Years, and not to mention the enormous debt of gratitude I have to him for making the return of Doctor Who the massive success it deserved to be.
So with a great writer behind the project, why the reluctance? And why did he have to fight for that fifth episode when Channel Four only wanted four episodes.
It could only be the subject matter.
That saddens me and makes me realise that we still have so far to go. AIDS is no longer the death sentence it used to be, but this programme shows how deep-rooted homophobia was in society, all society. To use a contemporary phrase, there was ‘institutionalised homophobia’. And I think some in the medical profession have a lot to be ashamed of in the way they approached the AIDS pandemic. Politicians also need to question their actions as there decisions filtered down society to make being gay and AIDS effectively interchangeable.
Watching this series, I wonder if we have learnt anything. Sections of our society are still being persecuted for being different. Gay may now be accepted (?), but there is so many other sexualities, so many other genders.
This is a very emotional post for me but something I wanted to say. When something affects you as deeply as this series, I just needed to express my thoughts and let you know my experience of living through that hell of a decade, not just AIDS-wise, but in so many other ways.
On the positive side, 80s music is fucking awesome. I’ve done nothing but listen to it while working from home in lockdown.