During our Loud & Proud series, we’ve been looking back at what have been the key, formative moments that have helped create the LGBT culture we have in 2016.
However, while today it feels like celebrations of queer culture are more prevalent than ever before, it’s important to remember that there hasn’t always been such a warm and welcoming atmosphere towards gay and trans people, and in the past, these key moments have been met with derision and hostility.
Even moments that are now considered key in the LGBT timeline over the years only received lukewarm receptions at best, as evidenced here, where we have picked 14 key moments that were met with a negative reaction at the time….
Oscar Wilde has long been regarded as one of the key figures in gay history, especially here in Britain.
However, during his own era, he was publicly derided and imprisoned for being gay. Now celebrated as one of our greatest minds, he recalled in ‘De Profundis’: “On November 13th, 1895, I was brought down here from London. From two o’clock till half-past two on that day I had to stand on the centre platform of Clapham Junction in convict dress, and handcuffed, for the world to look at.
“When people saw me they laughed. Each train as it came up swelled the audience. Nothing could exceed their amusement. That was, of course, before they knew who I was. As soon as they had been informed, they laughed still more.”
In a seemingly simple act, but a pretty defiant one all the same, David Bowie raised eyebrows when he put his arm around guitarist Mick Ronson during a performance of ‘Starman’ on ‘Top Of The Pops’.
Dylan Jones, a Bowie biographer and journalist, commented that this felt like the moment “the future had arrived”, though it left a bad taste in the mouth of more conservative viewers.
A decade later, and Culture Club made their first appearance on ‘Top Of The Pops’ in 1982, which turned out to be a true water-cooler moment, thanks to Boy George’s androgynous appearance, seemingly confusing, enraging and delighting viewers in equal measure.
George recalled 25 years later: “I stayed up all night trying to decide what to wear because Top of the Pops was such a big deal back then. I did use a lot of make-up at the time, and it really freaked people out. People couldn't deal with my sexual energy when they met me, and I loved that. It was my life's work.
“There were newspaper headlines the next day saying things like 'Is it a Boy or a Girl?' but the reaction from the public was completely different.”
The suggestive promotion in the lead-up to ‘Relax’ (that would be an ad featuring the slogan ‘ALL THE NICE BOYS LOVE SEA MEN’ and suggesting the band would ‘make Duran Duran lick the shit off their shoes’) helped create a suitable buzz, and the song’s lyrical content eventually saw it banned by the BBC.
The lyrics, while quite obviously sexual, weren’t anything compared to those sung by modern day artists… and the BBC’s ban had the reverse effect, with ‘Relax’ eventually charting at number one here in the UK.
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Rock Hudson never came out publicly during his lifetime, but did tell fans he had been diagnosed with AIDS in the months before his untimely death. After disclosing that he was living with the disease, he unfairly faced a backlash for a scene in ‘Dynasty’, where he kissed fellow star Linda Evans, who had been unaware of his illness.
‘EastEnders’ has the honour of saying it is the first programme to show a same-sex kiss on British TV, between actors Michael Cashman and Nicholas Donovan, who played Colin and Guido. The Sun described the moment, an undeniable landmark for LGBT people here in the UK, as a “love scene between yuppie poofs”, criticising the decision to air the peck before watershed.
Colin’s prior relationship with Barry Clark had also been heavily criticised by some more narrow-minded viewers.
The press took a distasteful tone as it documented the Queen frontman’s final days, including this front page of The Sun, featuring a long-lens photograph of the ailing Freddie Mercury, taken on private property.
Five years later, and ‘Brookside’ became the first show to air a kiss between two women before the watershed, between actresses Nicola Stephenson and Anna Friel. Such was the backlash at the time that the scene was removed from a subsequent omnibus showing of ‘Brookside’.
In 1998, George Michael was arrested for a “lewd act” in a public restroom in Central Park, with the ensuing media coverage outing him as gay and missing no opportunity to stick the boot in (lest we forget The Sun’s headling ‘Zip Me Up Before You Go Go’).
Describing the incident as a sting operation, George told MTV: “I got followed into the restroom and then this cop—I didn't know it was a cop, obviously—he started playing this game, which I think is called, 'I'll show you mine, you show me yours, and then when you show me yours, I'm going to nick you!”
He later took control of the situation, sending up the whole incident in his ‘Outside’ music video.
Queer As Folk
The infamous ‘rimming’ scene from ‘Queer As Folk’ is still controversial, with Netflix even making the decision to edit out the much-discussed moment when it began streaming the series, proving the show was perhaps ahead of its time, even by today’s standards.
While ‘Corrie’ may have been the first soap to introduce a transgender character, they waited a full 14 years after ‘EastEnders’ to show its first kiss between two men, a moment which attracted 26 separate complaints from viewers.
Adam was curiously silent about his sexuality for almost his entire time on ‘American Idol’, coming out as gay a week before the final, so he made sure he had nothing to be ashamed of with his first performance of debut single ‘For Your Entertainment’ at the AMAs in 2009.
The shocking performance saw Adam walking one of his dancers on a leash, grinding against another and, crucially, kissing his male keyboardist on the mouth, a moment which was slammed as inappropriate by the Parents Television Council.
During a discussion on the following day’s ‘Good Morning America’, Adam’s kiss was censored, but a re-airing of Britney and Madonna’s kiss at the VMAs was not.
He said of the controversy: “Female performers have been doing this for years - pushing the envelope about sexuality - and the minute a man does it, everybody freaks out. We're in 2009 - it's time to take risks, be a little more brave, time to open people's eyes and if it offends them, then maybe I'm not for them. My goal was not to piss people off, it was to promote freedom of expression and artistic freedom.”
Ferdaus Shamim via Getty Images
Less than a week after the tragic death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately, Jan Moir wrote a now-notorious column in the Daily Mail, distastefully describing his death as “not a natural one” and casting aspersions about the “happy-ever-after myth” of civil partnerships.
Despite a multitude of complaints to the PCC, the Daily Mail managed to avoid being penalised for publishing the column as it, in the words of chairwoman Baroness Buscombe, “just failed to cross the line”.
Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair magazine cover was immediately iconic, with media outlets rushing to shower her with praise for her courage, dignity and poise in speaking out on an issue that affects people all over the world.
However, with near-unanimous positivity aimed at Caitlyn, it’s easy to forget that months earlier, the coverage hadn’t quite been as supportive. In the months that led up to Caitlyn’s coming out interview, the US press had been hounding her daily, and running often-insensitive headlines speculating about when she’d be coming out, her family’s reaction and other baseless details about her private life.