Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride - 30 Years of Gay Britain by Paul Flynn
|Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride - 30 Years of Gay Britain by Paul Flynn|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: Both a study and a celebration, Good As You explores the last 30 years of gay life in Britain. From AIDS to acceptance through celebrity, culture and clubbing, Paul Flynn has written a book that should be required reading for gay men and their allies in the UK. Gripping, enlightening and emotional.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: April 2017|
|Publisher: Ebury Press|
|External links: Author's website|
The last 30 years have seen a tidal wave of change sweep the country with regards to how gay people are perceived and accepted. In 1984, the pulsing electronic beats of Smalltown Boy became an anthem to unite gay men, but just a month later, a virus called HIV would be identified, spreading a climate of panic and fear across the nation, and marginalising a community who were already ostracised. 30 years later though, the long road to gay equality would reach a climax with the legalistion of gay marriage. Journalist Paul Flynn charts this remarkable journey via the cultural milestones that affected this change - with interviews with such protagonists as Kylie, Russell T Davies, Will Young, Holly Johnson and Lord Chris Smith. This is the story of Britain's brothers, sons, cousins, fathers and husbands. Of public outrage and personal loss, the (not always legal) highs and desperate lows, and the final collective victory as gay men were finally recognised to be as Good As You.
A book covering the last 30 years of gay life in the UK was always going to be one that appealed hugely to me - a gay man who has been around for what's rapidly approching all 30 of those years. Every gay man's journey to acceptance is different, but author Paul Flynn has cleverly looked into the cultural and political moments that have changed gay society as a whole - from the songs that both promoted equality and brough life to the dancefloor, to towns that changed to accept and love their gay communities, the tv characters who broke boundaries, and the public figures and politicians who pushed hard for change, acceptance and equality.
It's a fascinating subject, and one which hasn't been written about all that much - surprising given the huge amount of fascinating characters and situations that make up the history. However, Flynn manages to tread a fine line very well indeed, writing a detailed, in depth and hugely educational history by choosing specific milestones and moments that inform just as much as they entertain, and, for me in particular, evoked very speficic moments that meant a huge amount to me throughout my childhood and teens - from the thrill of seeing gay characters in something as mundane and everday as Eastenders, to the excitement of seeing gay sexuality explored in Queer as Folk, through to the performers who produced the music that allowed a release on the dancefloor over the years.
The interviews that Flynn compiles here are wonderfully informative - personal, touching and utterly fascinating. From Holly Johnson through to Kylie Minogue, the anecdotes from the entertainment world are both charming and touching, showing the business savvy, personal bravery and sheer chutzpah that many performers had in being either openly gay or openly embracing a gay audience. It's in the interviews with the slightly less public figures that the real emotional punches come though - from the AIDS-related recollections of the fascinating Rupert Whitaker, through to the outspokenness and, frankly, immense balls of someone like Lord Chris Smith - one of the first MPs to announce that he was publicly gay, and the first to announce that he was HIV positive. All of the interviews and anecdotes are threaded through with details of Paul Flynn's personal journey, one which, as a gay northern bloke, immediately resonated - and that Northern survivors spirit (that, as mentioned in the book, made so many of the female characters in Coronation Street gay role models) is imbued throughout this book - a dry wry humour and sense of fun makes this far more than a dull history book - instead Flynn has created an immensely powerful, moving and important book that joyously celebrates quite how far the gay community has come in the last 30 years, remembering the sacrifices that many made, the stigmas that many have faced and truly showing the reader quite how much things have changed.
The road to equality has been long and troubled, but Flynn takes care to remember the humour, emotion and spirit of a community who have suffered, endured, and risen to a place of acceptance and equality. It makes for an outstandingly good read - I laughed, cried, and closed this book grateful for the sacrifices that others have made, glad to be gay, and comfortable in the knowledge that I, just like anyone else in the gay community, are as Good as You. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
For further reading I heartily recommend Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin - the Tales of the City series are mentioned a few times throughout the interviews in Flynn's book, and they're a hugely influential series. Michael Tolliver Lives is the seventh in the series, so I'd definitely recommend working back to book one, Tales of the City and starting from there.
You can read more book reviews or buy Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride - 30 Years of Gay Britain by Paul Flynn at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride - 30 Years of Gay Britain by Paul Flynn at Amazon.com.
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