Out and on screen
For many years, the only visible gay men on television were overtly camp stereotypes such as Mr Humphries, Larry Grayson and various Dick Emery incarnations.
However, these were dismissed as mere characters and there was never any actual suggestion, or at least meaningful discussion, about the preferences of the men in real life.
The years and attitudes have progressed but how much further have we really come? The UK is an amazingly tolerant place when it comes to encompassing race, religion, sexuality and disability. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be reflected on the small screen.
Fictional programmes that accurately reflect those from ethnic minorities are few and far between (might I refer you to Citizen Khan?) and when was the last time you saw gay or disabled characters presented as normal people and not merely devices to introduce specific story lines or jokes?
The presenter Kristian Digby used to bemoan the lack of men on prime time television who were there to do their job and the fact that they were openly gay (a phrase I’m really uncomfortable with) was irrelevant. Why should we have to pretend to have some camp affectation?
Do broadcasters truly believe the British public are so sensitive that any hint of homosexuality has to be packaged in a non threatening, head tilted to the side, smiling ‘oh, isn’t he sweet?’ pink bow? There’s no chance whatsoever he might just be a normal bloke who happens to like blokes?
As much as I admire the professionalism of such people as Alan Carr, Gok Wan and Graham Norton, I ‘m not them nor would I want to be. Automatically equating camp with gay is derogatory and outdated. This isn’t an connection the public will automatically make but some broadcasters appear unable to accept this, despite the fact that behind the scenes, most television companies are gayer than Brighton Pride. Please, treat your audience with some respect and credit their intelligence! Any men watching won’t immediately baulk at the sight of a masculine man who is comfortable but not overt with his sexuality. A veneer of camp may have been mandatory in the past to make it clear this was almost a third sex and therefore not a threat to the testosterone fuelled heterosexuality of the populace at large but not in 2013! Apparently though, every straight man must think every gay man wants to bed him.
For myself, I occupy an interesting position. With Eggheads having run for 10 years and the imminent advent of Revenge of the Egghead, I’m going to be under some intense scrutiny. I bet you though, that none of that concentrates on me being gay, but why?
No newspaper, especially no tabloid, would dare run anything outside a major news story, for fear of appearing overly homophobic. Television companies are still reluctant to mention it and so it’s kept quiet.
This may appear to be a positive development as it’s not important.
The latter part of that sentence is correct but the first isn’t. Celebrity stories of relationships, break ups and families are plastered across the media all the time… when was the last time you saw a same sex one though? Gay people are no different from anyone else except for what they like to do in bed. Why the hell then can’t it be discussed in public in a rational, relaxed and intelligent way?
My television persona aside, I’m viewed as a man (who happens to be gay) who is intelligent and knowledgeable. As an actor, I’m regarded as talented and determined. Surely this can be seen as a positive example that to be on the small screen every day does not require a pretence of something false? I will never pretend to be a prissy little thing just to get work. I’m gay, I’m not camp. The two are not synonymous!
Obviously, being in the public eye garners me a lot of attention. I dislike bars and clubs (Can you imagine the amount of young guys who’d hit on me if I went out after Revenge had started? Not that I wouldn’t be flattered but I’d just be out for a drink with friends and nothing else) and choose where I socialise rather carefully. With the character I portray, there of course is negative publicity but I have no problem with it. Firstly, I don’t really care if I get a good or bad reaction, as long as I get one (You despise me? Fine but thanks for watching and bumping up my fee!) and I’d much rather any haters targeted me who isn’t fazed rather than someone who would be deeply distressed by it.
I was so happy and relieved when I came out. As I didn’t have any friends, it was only to myself I had to be honest. I’m now free, constantly smiling and calm within my own skin. Why would anyone need me to compartmentalise myself by taking on a facade simply to make me more ‘socially acceptable’ according to somebody else’s misguided standards. I refuse to believe the British can’t cope unless everyone is securely labelled and pigeon holed. I prefer to live outside the box.
Being on television and in the public eye will be my life for some time I imagine. Then again, I will never be willing to change who I really am simply to extend my career. I am honest with myself and everybody else and lying is not in my nature.
I’m here, I’m… not queer. I’m just gay. I’m just me.