I’ve just finished re-reading The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp (pictured), and while the famous autobiography (John Hurt played him in the film adaptation) is now 45 years old, the book is still relevant today.
Crisp is up there with Oscar Wilde as an example of a noble human negotiating his way through a homophobic world. And this got me thinking about queer role models. For me, Crisp and Wilde should be on the list along with George Michael, who never stints on honesty when talking about being a gay man (even if he did take ages to come out, crashes his car into photo shops and smokes funny tabs – George is far from perfect but he knows it and I love him for it). I still can’t listen to his album, Older, without wondering how he got through the grief of losing his partner while still publicly closeted. So we’ve got Quentin, Oscar and George – who else? No matter what you thought of Outrage and their outing antics there’s no denying the importance of Peter Tatchell’s continued humanitarian campaigning, so he’s on my list too. (Remember none of these people have to be on your list.) I am giving away my age here – but Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova blazed a trail for so many of us and I salute them both. Personally and because I am a writer I have to say Jeanette Winterson (although she detests being labelled as a lesbian author) and the sadly departed and truly great Gertrude Stein. There’s so many famous queers who could go on my list, but I also think about the anonymous, ordinary everyday folk going about their business. Queers on housing estates, in quiet villages and noisy streets; people living their lives, bringing up their kids and being honest about who they are. All the tiny acts of courage that go on every day of the week are worth a mention too. To all of you, all of us, I say be proud of who you are and remember, if we don’t stand for something we will fall for anything.