Queer as Folk fans share how the show inspired them 21 years on
Queer as Folk turns 21 today. The British show can now legally drink alcohol in the States, but the real cause for celebration is now radical and fearless it still is more than two decades on.
An unflinchingly honest look at gay life in the late 1990s and early 200s, the show’s graphic sex scenes and hot button issues may not feel as taboo today, but that just shows how path-breaking Queer as Folk was.
Created by gay screenwriting legend Russell T Davies, the show tracked the lives of three gay men – best pals Stuart Jones and Vince Tyler, and 15-year-old Nathan Maloney.
The trio live in Manchester, England’s gay village. Airing on Channel 4 in 1999, it was a different time for the LGBT+ community.
Section 28, the legislation banning local authorities and schools from “promoting” homosexuality, had been commonplace for a decade.
Civil partnerships weren’t on the cards, let alone marriage. And only during the show’s two season run did the age of consent get legalised by lawmakers.
Queer as Folk broke barriers and ‘opened so many eyes’ to the LGBT+ world.
On its 21st anniversary, some fans took to Twitter to reminisce the days of watching it in secrecy. Sneaking downstairs their parent’s place to watch it with the audio switched off, whispering with friends by the water cooler the next day recapping the chaotic adventures.
Today marks 21 years since #QueerAsFolk first aired. The LGBTQ+ cult classic written by Russell T Davis was a game changer, smashing down barriers and paving the way for better representation in media. The show was a lifeline for many, helping them understand their own sexuality. pic.twitter.com/L0qJq7xS2S
— Tom Knight (@TJ_Knight) February 23, 2020
I watched the first episode #QueerAsFolk in a shared hospital flat, w/a few other medical students
I wasn’t out, at all
Their reaction to it was -mixed- at best (“that’s gross!”)
It made me happy and uncomfortable at the same time
But it felt like the world changing a little https://t.co/iUvfg4jqCo
— Mike (@thefourthcraw) February 23, 2020
Can’t believe it’s been 21 years since this first aired! Queer as folk was trail blazing at the time and opened so many peoples eyes to gay culture in and around Manchester’s Gay Village. #QueerAsFolk pic.twitter.com/Pupeeyio9O
— Andi Watson ??????? (@andiabz) February 23, 2020
— Andrew… ?️??? (@RatHangUK) February 23, 2020
To celebrate the show’s birthday, Davies swung by Cruz 101, a creaky bar in Manchester’s Canal Street on Saturday.
The joint held an anniversary party where cheap beers were sold and drag queens performed, but the spot holds a lot of significance to the Doctor Who writer.
The amazing creator of Queer as Folk, Russel T. Davies is here!! ?? pic.twitter.com/hk4kR3hOb8
— Cruz 101 Manchester (@Cruz101Official) February 23, 2020
As a bystander in Cruz 101 on April 12, 1998, Davies caught eyes with a man while he lent on a railing. That man would later become his late husband, Andrew Smith.
Russell T Davies: ‘We had complaints everywhere.’
Cruz 101 was regularly featured in Queer as Folk – rebranded as Babylon – as the beating heart of queer nightlife. But being a dramatisation of urban gay living, the clubs shown dotted with vodka shots and sweat were also spaces of safety.
The meandering streets of Manchester’s queer neighbourhood and the clubs that honeycombed it was safety net from a world outside.
A world where queer folk were navigating a hostile press and felt weary and beaten down by the HIV/Aids crisis of the decade prior.
“We had complaints everywhere,” Davies recounted to PinkNews.
“We had complaints from straight people. We had complaints from gay people. But do you know who we had complaints from? Folk dancers. ‘Dear sir, Don’t associate my hobby with rimming and paedophilia.’ Frankly, it’s a fine line between that and the tarantella. Not that much of difference!”
Despite the struggles he faced, Davies said that he wouldn’t have preferred to write in a more tolerant era if he had the choice.
“If I could’ve started writing 20 years earlier, in the 60s and 70s, that would have been glorious,” he said. “But certainly not later, no, I enjoyed being the first with Queer as Folk.
“I loved knocking down the walls, I loved challenging the press, I loved the fight we had to make!
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“It was great fun. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”