Olly Alexander would join in with cruel playground AIDS jokes as a scared, closeted kid
Discussing his new role in Russell T Davies’ new drama It’s a Sin, which follows a group of gay men in 1980s London at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, Alexander said that the school playground was the first place he ever heard AIDS mentioned.
Throughout primary school and the beginning of secondary school Alexander was educated under Thatcher’s Section 28, a viciously homophobic law that banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in school. It was repealed in 2003, when the actor and Years & Years frontman was 13.
He told NME that he was also relentlessly bullied at school, only finding sanctuary in his school’s drama club.
He said: “When you’re in a drama club, that’s your time to shine. And the rest of the time at school, I was bullied. The only time I felt good was when I was performing because suddenly I was good at something.”
The homophobic bullying and lack of LGBT+ education left Alexander terrified.
He said: “I remember being scared that if I had sex, I would get HIV. That was something that was always in my mind; this anxiety that it could happen.
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“There’s such a huge amount of shame that surrounds our sexuality, but the issue of what it means is something we’re still unpacking now. There’s still so much stigma.”
He continued: “I just knew it was connected to gay people and it would be used as the butt of jokes.
“There was an episode of Family Guy with a song and dance routine called ‘You’ve Got Aids’ and that was sung at school.
“And you know, I joined in. At the time, I didn’t understand the way it made me feel or my own sexuality. I was just afraid of going anywhere near that.”
It’s a Sin begins Friday (22 January) on Channel 4 at 9pm.
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