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LOUD & PROUD: Peter Tatchell On Hollywood's 'Crazy' Celluloid Closet And Why He Despised The Gay TV Stars Of The 70s

'As long as they remain in the closet, it signals there’s something wrong with being LGBT.'

19/04/2016 16:05 | Updated 20 April 2016
loud and proud

HuffPost UK has turned Loud & Proud, celebrating gay culture in all its forms across the entertainment industry.

Peter Tatchell is the very definition of Loud & Proud, having been at the forefront of LGBT rights, thanks to his tireless work as a human and gay rights campaigner since the 1980s.

In a wide-ranging chat, he tells HuffPostUK what have been his stand-out LGBT moments in entertainment, what films had the biggest impact on him, and why it's 'crazy' that no major A-list Hollywood star has come out of the closet... yet.

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Peter Tatchell

What was the very first moment you can remember seeing gay culture/people on screen?

My first recollection was the film ‘Victim’, starring Dirk Bogarde and ‘Rebel Without A Cause’. Although in both instances it was very subtle and you had to read between the lines.

What do you think has been the most significant moment in film, TV and music for the LGBT community?

My Beautiful Laundrette’ was groundbreaking, as was The Miracles’ song ‘Ain’t Nobody Straight In LA’ (below). Also Tom Robinson’s ‘Glad To Be Gay’ and The Communards in the 1980s.

In terms of the Entertainment world, who or what has made the biggest impact on you personally?

Quentin Crisp's ‘The Naked Civil Servant’ was another trailblazer, which depicted his enormous courage and defiance in the face of homophobic hostilities. The Vanessa Redgrave film ‘Second Serve’ about the life of trans tennis player Renee Richards was a real trailblazer too. It was an incredibly powerful, moving story and probably one of Vanessa Redgrave’s finest performances. She managed to portray totally convincingly the transition from male to female. ‘Ma Vie En Rose’ is another really important trans movie about a little boy who’s gender non-conformist and his struggle for recognition and his parent’s battle to cope with it. In terms of depicting the trans story to cisgender audiences, there’s no film that does it better.

How important is TV, film and music’s role in bringing gay culture into the mainstream?

I specialise in political and human rights campaigning but cultural references of these issues are important because they often reach people who are often turned off by traditional campaigning.

Has any show or film ever got it wrong?

Yes, I used to utterly despise characters like Larry Grayson and John Inman for their negative, stereotypical representation of gay men. There’s nothing wrong with camp but in an era where they were the only representation it was a big turn off for many gay and bisexual men who didn’t identify with effeminacy.

PA/PA Archive
John Inman starred in the hugely popular 'Are You Being Served' in the 1970s and early 80s.

Who do you think are the most positive role models for young LGBT people within pop culture?

Young people are probably going to be able to best relate to the new generation of LGBT cultural figures, such as Olly Alexander, Samantha Ronson, Ronan Parke and Paris Lees.

Why do you think there are still no big name, A-list Hollywood stars that are out?

Still far too many Hollywood LGBT celebrities mistakenly assume that coming out will diminish their chances of getting big leading roles, especially ones that involve hetereosexual relationships. That’s crazy. They are actors, which means they adopt roles and personas that are not necessarily their own, just as many straight actors have convincingly portrayed gay characters, likewise LGBT actors can take on straight roles. So why aren’t they coming out? Some celebrities stay in the closet because they’re fearful of paparazzi intrusion but it’s being secretive that tends to excite paparazzi interest. So that justification doesn’t really hold water.

Do you think we’re close to a huge Hollywood star coming out?

It’s bound to happen sooner or later given the way public, media and business opinion is changing to become more LGBT friendly.

How important do you think it is that a big Hollywood star comes out?

It’s really important, because so long as they remain in the closet, it tends to signal that there’s something wrong with being LGBT.

HuffPost UK is turning Loud & Proud. Over the next fortnight, we'll be celebrating how gay culture has influenced and, in turn, been embraced by all fields of entertainment, inspiring cinema-goers, TV audiences, music-lovers and wider society with its wit, creativity and power of expression.

Through features, video and blogs, we'll be championing those brave pioneers who paved the way, exploring the broad range of gay culture in British film, TV and music and asking - what is left to be done? If you’d like to blog on our platform around these topics, please email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with a summary of who you are and what you’d like to blog about.

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