Thursday, August 2, 2007

Queer as old folk

(I wrote this review for the TVScope column in The Irish Times, 31st July 2007):

Queer as Old Folk, Channel 4, Thursday, 11:05 pm

Alan is 73 and about to marry his partner Jimmy. They’ve been together for 43 years. When they met, gay relationships were still illegal in Britain. Alan tearfully recalls the many gay friends he lost to suicide in the 1950s because of legal and social repression. Alan himself never hid the fact that he was gay.

Clive, on the other hand, now aged 57 (and why the Channel 4 thinks it is appropriate to classify a 57-year-old as “old folk” I have no idea) only came out to his wife and son two years ago. Now, he’s making up for lost time. Alan and Jimmy have been monogamous since they met. Clive claims to have had sex with almost a thousand men in the past two years.

Roger is in his 60s. He is a retired headmaster and he lives with a former pupil, Ian, who is 25 years old. Ian works as a stripper. While Roger hid his sexuality from the public, his wife knew for many years that he was gay and accepted the fact.

This program was part of Channel 4’s “40 Years Out” series which commemorates the legalisation of homosexual relationships in Britain in 1967.

In the programme, Clive chats to his teenage son about how he is going off to Southend for a threesome. Not the sort of thing most 17 year-olds hear from Dad but Clive’s son is unfazed by it all.

Ian’s mother accepts his relationship with the much older Roger and even comes along to one of her son’s strip shows.

But it’s not all one big party for gay people. Alan points out that many people of all ages are still hiding their sexuality from everybody else. An older gay couple stay away from Alan and Jimmy’s wedding because one of the partners is still hiding his sexuality from his wife.

Unsurprisingly, since he doesn’t bother with safe sex, Clive gets a sexually transmitted disease. Since it is not HIV he’s fairly relaxed about it. So relaxed that though he only has to stop having sex for five days to allow the antibiotics to work, he goes off on the evening of his diagnosis and has sex without telling his partner about the infection. Telling, he explained later, “could have spoilt it”.

You could not imagine Alan taking such a cavalier approach to other people’s health in a million years. When he was growing up, his mother told him never to let anyone kiss him on the lips because he could get a disease. So the day of his marriage to Jimmy is actually the first time that he let him kiss him on the lips. He does remark though, with a wicked twinkle in his eye, that his mother neglected to tell them about other things you can do with your lips.

Enough said.

No comments: