Olly Alexander: I was advised to stay in the closet when I got a record deal

Nick Duffy March 17, 2018
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NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 24: Olly Alexander of Years & Years performs at the ERDEM X H&M Exclusive Event at H&M Flagship Fifth Avenue Store on October 24, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for H&M)

Years & Years singer Olly Alexander has revealed that he was advised to stay in the closet when his band got a record deal.

The singer made the comments while speaking in support of LGBT charity Stonewall at a dinner last night.

He said:  “What happened after we signed was, we got offered media training.

“One afternoon I met a very nice lady whose job was to help us answer questions in interviews – give us tips, tell us what journalists might try to trip us up on. I asked her what she thought about me being gay.

Olly Alexander (centre) with his Years & Years bandmates (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for H&M)

“She said, with very good intentions I’m sure: Why does anybody need to know about your sexuality? What business is it who you go to bed with? Do you really want to invite personal questions like that? Maybe it’s better to not say anything about your sexuality at all.”

He added: “I ignored her advice.”

The singer told the audience of LGBT activists: “The moment came when a journalist did ask me what my sexuality was, and I said, yes, I’m gay, this song is about a man.

“It was a really big moment for me, and I realised I needed to say that for my 15-year-old self. I needed to say to him, look, we are not hiding any more.”

Alexander added: “I decided to keep speaking out, and I did not expect the response I got. I saw first-hand how being open and honest and vulnerable in myself inspired that in others.

“I got so many messages from fans who wanted to share their story, who were struggling with their sexuality or gender identity, had problems at school or at home.

“I was honestly quite shocked at the extent of pain people were struggling with. I felt like I was hearing an alarm bell ringing. A cry for help that was largely going ignored.”

(Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

He later made documentary Growing Up Gay, a documentary about LGBT issues and mental health, which aired on the BBC.

He added: “I know that being gay isn’t the reason I had anxiety and depression and took so long to get help, it was growing up in a society that taught me I had to behave in a certain way and that being gay was not normal.

“A lot of people said to me, do you really need to do this? Isn’t it fine to be gay now?

“…I said yes, we have [made progress] but I knew from what I was seeing and hearing that that was not the case. Tell that to the trans kid who has attempted suicide three times, or the young Muslim girl who is being thrown out of her family home for being gay.

“People are struggling, still, in this country, now. It’s impacting many lives.”

The singer added: “We don’t get equality until we all have equality. It’s not OK now because it’s OK for a small group of people. Homophobia doesn’t end until we end racism and sexism and transphobia.

“We need to support the services that help LGBT people most. We can demand LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education in schools.

“We can show our support for organisations that train educators and lobby governments. We can empower LGBT people to speak for their own intersectional communities and their identities.

“We have to listen from each other and learn from each other so that we can lift each other up, and so that all of us can live the life that we deserve.”

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More: band, coming out, Gay, LGBT, Music, Olly Alexander, Years & Years

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