Get Out! – Why Some Homosexuals Shocked Me Back In The 1980s And How I Recovered From It
That is the first school photo ever taken of me. I was four years old. My mum was a huge fan of Liberace. You can tell can’t you? Still, it could have been worse. My mum was also a massive fan of Elvis. Given that this photo was taken in 1973, I might have ended up going to school that morning wearing a rhinestone encrusted white leather jump suit.
Fortunately, my mum was more Liberace than Elvis so I merely ended up dressed like a lounge room piano player. Not as severe as a leather jumpsuit but a brandy balloon full of dollar bills wouldn’t have looked out of place if you’d stuck it in front of me before taking the photo.
About a decade after my first school photo was taken, my mum was shocked by allegations that Liberace was gay. Now, if you’re a younger reader and you don’t know who Liberace was, here’s a photo of him.
Yes, that is a stage costume, but his workaday clothes were only slightly less gaudy. I was only thirteen when Liberace’s former “live-in assistant” sued him for palimony but even I had never considered for one moment that the Liberace might be straight. It was pretty obvious from the pictures on the many, many album covers owned by my mum.
I was quite surprised at my mum’s indignation at her favourite piano player’s alleged homosexuality. Until my dad pointed out that my mum knew fine well the man was gay, she just didn’t want him to be because she fancied him. Fair enough, I suppose.
Liberace isn’t the only man who the world has been asked to believe was straight when he was, quite clearly, a screaming queen.
I was quite shocked when Elton John got married. Not when he got married to David Furnish. It was obvious that was going to happen. No, I was shocked when he married Renate Blauel in 1984. Renate Blauel being a woman. I was fifteen by this point and had figured out what the words “flamboyant” and “showman” actually meant in certain contexts.
To be fair to Elton, he had announced that he was bisexual in 1976. But everyone was too busy listening to his songs to notice or just thought that he was copying David Bowie who had already proclaimed his bisexuality a few years earlier. Besides, back in the 70s, bisexuality was regarded as just tinkering around with your lifestyle a little bit. It tended to be lumped in with self-sufficiency and learning to make raffia-work bottle covers.
The year after Elton married Renate Blauel, he released “Nikita”. The video featured a stunningly beautiful female Soviet border guard. Here she is:
Nikita was a bitter sweet tale of unrequited love and the public adored it. Except of course that Nikita is a boy’s name in Russia. This seemed to pass everyone by, despite the fact that Nikita Khrushchev had been the most famous Russian leader of recent times.
Around about the same time that Elton released “Nikita”, the heart-throbs that were making teenage girls froth at the gusset were Wham! George Michael and Andrew Ridgely. I told all the girls in my class that George Michael was clearly gay. They were all in denial, despite the clearest evidence possible. What evidence? M’Lud, I present exhibit one. The video to Club Tropicana:
I rest my case.
And I was right, of course. Mind you, I also thought that the video was proof that Andrew Ridgely was gay and he’s been shacked up with Keren Woodward of Bananarama for the best part of twenty five years. So I was only right by default.
The Eighties were a long time ago though. Back then, you couldn’t actually say you were gay. You could only imply it. Elton implied it with the lyrics of Nikita. George Michael implied it with his white swimming trunks in the “Club Tropicana” video. And Liberace implied it by…well…by being Liberace.
Thankfully nowadays nobody has to hide their sexuality in order to protect their showbiz career. If you talented, nobody gives a fuck if you’re gay. Nobody worth taking heed of anyway.
There is a flip side to this coin though. Namely, Tom Robinson. He is probably best remembered as a tireless campaigner for gay rights and for penning the 1970s anthem “Sing If You’re Glad To Be Gay”. It’s a good tune, though personally, I prefer “2-4-6-8 Motorway”.
We all thought we had Tom pretty much pegged. Then, in 1985, he married a woman. But not in the same “haven’t quite come to terms with my sexuality yet” way that Elton John did.
No, Tom married her and they had children and by all accounts they have had a very happy life together ever since. He still claims to be gay though. As he put it “I met the love of my life and it just so happens, rather inconveniently, that the love of my life happens to be a woman”.
The reactionary newspapers tore him to shreds for this. He was booed off stage at a gay pride rally in 1987. He was classed as either self-deluding or a traitor.
Personally, I think he hit the nail on the head. A nail that nobody seems to like talking about. Human sexuality is a fluid and complicated thing. Nobody is either totally straight or totally gay. Any individual’s levels of “gayness” or “straightness”- for want of less clumsy terms- can fluctuate wildly .
No matter what you consider your sexuality to be, a special soulmate can crash into your life at any time and it can be literally anybody.
So, say it loud and say it proud. We’re here and we’re Queer. Or we’re not. Or we are, but we happen to be blissfully married to someone of the opposite sex. Whatever. Get over it. I did.
Though I never quite got over the trauma of that school photo.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015