How is life as a gay man different now than it was in the 1970’s?
The challenge of any book is to write it. The story line the book will follow, the surroundings and the characters. All of these separate elements come together to one cohesive story that eventually create a book. I love a challenge, and with my fourth book I wanted to do something quite challenging for me. After writing my first fiction novel in 2020, I wanted to turn my head to another, but instead of being purely fiction, I wanted to set my story in an entirely real setting. 1970’s Canada, and the USA. Also London, at a time where the gay rights movement was taking strides after the Stonewall riots of 1969. Gay men were seen more often, and felt they could express themselves in whole new ways never before seen.
I, obviously was not born in the 70’s, I was born 20 years later in the 90’s, and to say life was a little different is an understatement. Only six years after I was born same sex civil partnerships were legalised, and it was common place to see a gay scene, and it was no longer seen as something criminal or taboo. But, in the 70s it was still something new, something foreign and I wanted to channel and put a spotlight on this with my book The Painters Muse. The book is the story of a gay man called Elliot, older when writing it, but he writes about his experiences as a young man in the 70’s, coming to terms with his sexuality. He lives in the sticks in a small town called Nipawin, Saskatchewan, in Canada.
To write the book, I had to really take a deep dive through pictures and accounts from the time to get a feeling and sense of what it was like to be gay during the 1970’s. I was shocked when reading how open, but also how hard it still was, and far we have come as a society. We still have a long way to go, with some places around the world still having the death penalty as the law for anyone who identifies as gay.
Extract from the diary extract (short story) called ‘Reflection’
I guess as you grow older, you become more cynical of the world and its strange ways in regards to this matter, but when the world realises that being gay is not a lifestyle choice, I will sleep very well at night. Society have come leaps and bounds, I walk down the street and see many gay couples walking hand in hand, something I wished daily that me and Anton could of had a chance to do, and they receive no hateful stares, so rocks or punches thrown at them. The threat of arrest or even death, not even on the cards. It is a beautiful thing to see and humbling to see society change in such a great way, when all around the world you are reminded of the doom and gloom. However, there is still a long way to go, mainstream brands grabbing onto the gay scene, selling gay sandwiches and merchandise when the pride season comes along, yet not doing anything to counteract the rising hate against gay men and women, trans men and women and everyone in-between. It is saddening, and it’s like being gay is a fashion trend, when it is much more than that, it’s my life, it’s many peoples lives. Girls and boys still have to come out to their friends, their family and everyone they know because somehow it is still something not considered the norm. Straight people don’t come out as straight, but a gay boy or girl must come out, declare to the world they are not aligned with the societal norms of today. But the question that remains is what is the norm? It was the norm not that long ago for criminals to be hung in public for the crimes they committed. A little further back and it was the norm for those said criminals to have their bodies mutilated and hung for the world to see on railings as a deterrent against crime. Yet if that were done today it would be censored by the media and cause as outcry from society. Be declared barbaric and cruel. But that was the norm, norms change, but somehow norms can be so clearly ‘defined’. Why is me loving Anton different to Tony loving a girl? Such a simple and much emphasised point that still is never answered with a straight answer. Usually the answer to that question would be ‘well it isn’t’, whereas in reality I need to tell my parents I am gay before I would bring Anton home because if I did bring Anton home without any warning, it may come as a shock. Whereas Tony could bring a girl home and no one would batter an eye lid.
Thankfully, you hear more and more of families that don’t feel the need for coming out, and this is a great. In my eyes that is the norm. We are just human beings, living on this revolving rock that is one of millions in a universe so big we cannot even comprehend its true size. We love people, we lose people, we have happy times, and sad times. Yet we feel the need that some people are inadequate because of who they chose to love, who they want to be happy with and what they want to do with their partner.
I hope, that in the years to come and I am an old man now, so even if I am deep in the ground, that someday the definition of ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ becomes so irrelevant it isn’t even and definable thing anymore. That who someone loves isn’t such a mortal sin, that a man can love a man without prejudice, anywhere in the world. A woman can love a woman, and it not just be for a straight mans pleasure or fetish. That a trans woman or man is just treated as a woman, or a man.
Lets hope, that this next generation of thinkers, can continue the progress, and that the so called ‘norms’ of today, become the norms of yesterday.