(Sing If You're) Glad To Be Gay

Album: Power In The Darkness (1977)
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  • "(Sing If You're) Glad To Be Gay" by the Tom Robinson Band (TRB) was recorded as part of a live EP in November 1977 and appears on Robinson's critically acclaimed debut album Power In The Darkness. As the title implies, it's a song about gay pride, released at a time when it was very difficult to be gay in Britain.

    "A lot of heterosexuals don't understand that you grow up being taught to hate and fear homosexuals before you're of an age to know you are one," Robinson told Q magazine. "After all, male homosexual activity was illegal in Britain until 1967."
  • In 1972, David Bowie came out as gay in the British music magazine Melody Maker. This was a watershed moment for many gay youth in the UK who found the strength to come out, Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Boy George of Culture Club among them. Tom Robinson, who was 21 at the time, was similarly empowered and felt a responsibility to carry the torch. "I swore that if I could ever pass on to others what Bowie had done for me I would," he said. "That's what 'Glad To Be Gay' is about: fulfilling that pledge."
  • The song contains the interesting couplet:

    There's no nudes in Gay News, our one magazine
    But they still found excuses to call it obscene

    In June 1976, Gay News published a poem by the academic James Kirkup, The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name (a pun on Oscar Wilde). This "poem" described a centurion performing sexual acts on the dead body of Christ, and caused grave offense to many people, especially Christians.

    As a result, the Christian activist Mrs. Mary Whitehouse (one half of "Mary Long") brought a prosecution for blasphemous libel – the first in Britain since 1921 - against the paper and its editor, Denis Lemon. The trial, in July 1977, resulted in their conviction, a fine for both defendants, and a suspended sentence for Lemon; Kirkup was not prosecuted. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England
  • Richard Coles of the Communards played this song to his mother when he was 16 as a way of coming out to her.

Comments: 3

  • George from Vancouver, Canadabloody censors. . . not my cuppa, this gay thing, but to each their own, really! Straight, gay, or somewhere in between -- I don't care to hear of your bedroom activities! But if I have the option not to, then whatever. . . I'm not going to demand censorship to make it easier to change the channel or album I'm playing. . . That's what I have HANDS for!
  • Stephen from UkThis is a bit of a one-sided trope. I will add that the suspended prison sentence against Dennis Lemon was quashed by the appeal court in 1978 and the defendants would be guilty of nothing in the modern world, the archaic blasphemous libel law was abolished in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
    There also needs to be some context about the rest of the lyrics. This was a hugely groundbreaking and courageous recording. While Bowie had alluded to his bisexuality, there were no openly gay musicians at this time, and even popular camp celebrities like Frankie Howerd and Kenneth Williams felt the need to hide their sexuality, such was the extreme hostility from the media.
    A later version of the song highlights the case of Peter Wells, a 26 year old who was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for having a consensual relationship with an 18 year old man. This was because the age of consent for homosexuals was five years higher than for heterosexuals. (There was no equality until 2001).
    Also, the song was a beacon of hope to many young gay people. Tom Robinson told The Guardian newspaper of one such man in a 2013 interview: "I received a letter from a US teenager who had been disowned by his Christian parents. He'd just taken an overdose when Glad to Be Gay came on his college radio station. He put his fingers down his throat, threw up, and moved to San Franscisco, where he was now living happily. It would have been worth writing the song for him alone."
  • Matt from York, Pa"Those familiar with the story behind this claim might beg to differ. In June 1996..." Almost 20 years after the song was released. If it can be proven that there were nudes or something especially obscene in Gay News at the time the song came out, then one can "beg to differ". Maybe that couplet doesn't hold true anymore, but it's not proven that it did not at the time. Therefore, it is still a credible claim: that people called the magazine "obscene" simply because it featured "gay" topics. In my opinion, the libel suit against the magazine was an act of unnecessary and unlawful censorship. Why would a conservative Christian be reading Gay News, except to find reasons to be offended and bring opposition against it? The magazine was a special interest magazine, not one that would be found in a doctor's office like People or Times. Although, if I were chief editor, I would try to ensure that it could be. I guess I am what you would call a "family-friendly" gay man. Children are justifiably exposed to motifs of marriage and dating in mainstream media, but obviously we should try to limit their exposure to explicitly sexual material for as long as possible. Keeping that kind of material out of a magazine is a good way to reach a wider audience and increase social acceptance. And for the record, it highly offends me when anyone supports the defense of child molestation; a crime against humanity and innocence as wicked and sick as rape or murder.
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