What’s the opposite of a rose tint?

From the BBC (which considers this front-page news):

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres was praised by the US president for her influence on the gay rights movement as she received the country’s highest civilian honour.

Barack Obama said it was easy to forget the risk Ellen DeGeneres took to come out as gay in 1997.

He said her bravery helped “push our country in the direction of justice”.

“It’s easy to forget now, when we’ve come so far… just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago,” he said during the award ceremony at the White House.

“What an incredible burden that was to bear – to risk your career like that – people don’t do that very often. And then, to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders.”

It is probably easy to forget how far we’ve come in twenty years because it’s equally easy to remember what 1997 was like, and a hotbed of homophobia the western world was not.

I was in university in 1997, the year Tony Blair won the General Election for Labour with no little help from Peter Mandelson.  Julien Clary was a household name and Graham Norton was getting there.  Diana died in 1997 and Elton John – who came out of the closet in 1976, when times really were different – wrote a song for her which reached number one on the singles chart.  The Mardis Gras was a mainstream event in Manchester, and Canal Street was as much a feature of the city as Maine Road.

Perhaps New York was different, and perhaps women coming out as gay was less common, and hence more difficult, than it was for men.  I just get the feeling there are vested interests out there trying to convince people that twenty years ago the world was a darker place than it was, and any progress is due to the benevolent actions of our enlightened political classes.  So we must grant them more power and allow them to intrude more deeply into our personal lives, of course.

Obama would have had a stronger point had he said 1987, and definitely 1977.  But 1997?  Nah.  Sex and the City hit the screens in 1998, and the (many) references to gay life and culture in there were hardly shocking.  Philadelphia came out in cinemas in 1993.  Things have improved to some degree of course, but I think any changes in public attitudes towards gays in the last 20 years have come almost exclusively from the older generations dying out and being replaced by people for whom homosexuality is unremarkable.

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17 thoughts on “What’s the opposite of a rose tint?

  1. Some wag used to paint over the first letter of each word of the Canal Street roadsign.

  2. And the Dark Ages were anything but and no one thought that the earth was flat back then either.

    Don’t worry New York was very gay in the seventies and eighties, the West Village was chock a block full of Dykes. I tried to Christianise many of them.

  3. We had Kenneth Williams in the 60s for crissake. Did anyone think Julian and Sandy were just good friends? Really? And Charles Hawtrey, straight as a die, right? And lets not get started on Liberace.

  4. Gays happened way back when I was a kid in Secondary school in the early ‘sixties. The only difference as that the present-day ‘gay lifestyle’ didn’t exist. Everyone back then knew who these people were and what they did for fun and amusement, but it was their choice if done quietly and everyone left it at that. Any repulsion was more down to the fact that people didn’t want these private acts pushed into the faces of ‘straight’ people — and I first came across that word about that time in some edition of Playboy, somewhere between the Ray Bradbury stories and the large boobs centrefold. But the media started to portray it as acceptable: Mr Humphries, in Are You Being Served, take a bow. Even at school people would say “you don’t have to bend over backwards to get on at the BBC, only forwards.”

    Putin I have heard it said doesn’t hate gays; he dislikes the flaunting of their openly aggressive, self-congratulating lifestyle. As we know, whole chunks of the Middle East will do play privately but kill, horribly, the public ones (and the main religion of that area still gets the unrestrained support of the LGBTQ crowd, or however they call themselves)

    As for Obama handing out awards, this is just a feeble US president in his last days making some sort of statement to the fawning, all-loving show-business types. Political statements though have no great lasting power, as he will find out when he’s gone.

  5. As for Obama handing out awards, this is just a feeble US president in his last days making some sort of statement to the fawning, all-loving show-business types.

    Tsk! According to people on Facebook “this is what real leadership looks like”.

  6. If I recall 1997 correctly, it would have been bolder for a celeb to announce they had no gay friends, and did not know one gay person, and furthermore had no interest in ever mixing socially with gay folk.

  7. @Watcher on November 23, 2016 at 2:06 pm
    Putin I have heard it said doesn’t hate gays; he dislikes the flaunting of their openly aggressive, self-congratulating lifestyle.

    Same with me, mother, brother and friends.

    As for 1997, utter tosh. Gay/TV etc became quite mainstream acceptable in late 1970’s early 1980’s. Boy George, Marilyn, Pete Burns, New Romantics etc.

    Goths have been straight/bi/gay/cd/tv for decades.

    Barry again demonstrates how out of touch and ignorant of world outside “establishment” he and his peers are.

    P

  8. “It is probably easy to forget how far we’ve come in twenty years because it’s equally easy to remember what 1997 was like, and a hotbed of homophobia the western world was not.”

    Its also easy to remember that in 1997, Ellen’s career was not a hotbed of success either.

    If anything, she had nothing to lose by coming out and has managed to parley that bit of notoriety to help sustain a decent career since.

  9. Germany 1962 – a large US Army hospital found itself with an increasing number of effeminate Pfc’s. No muss, no fuss as one morning we found 6 of them had been transferred to other bases – to meet the needs of the Army. Recall one of them had been at a party in Paris while on leave and the guest of honor was none other than Rock Hudson.

    No one was really all that bothered by them as long as they were somewhat discrete. Of course it would likely have been a different story in a combat unit.

  10. Billy Jean King came out in 1981. Why did it take the luvvies so long to summon up the “courage”?

  11. @Graeme,

    I have one declared homosexual sibling (and another that, unless my and a few other peoples’ gaydar is totally dysfunctional, hasn’t told anyone yet). Having seen the reaction of various people to the announcement of the first, I can understand peoples’ reticence to announce.

    It’s not just the public you have to take account of.

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