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Glad To Be Gay 2004

Unreleased acoustic version recorded for Queer Music Heritage, 11 June 2004

Tom Robinson, 11 June 2004

[Lyrics new to this version are marked in bold]

The LA police are the best in the world
I don’t believe one of these stories I’ve heard
About pretty policemen in leather and jeans
Showing their leg through a split in the seams
Seeking out superstars, leading them on
Then running them in when they start to respond
But back home in Britain, we’re equal and free
Except when the case is a Labour MP

Sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy that way

Now young Matthew Shepherd was killed in the States
And left alone dying, and tied to a gate
For being a pretty and gay 21
He was tortured by kids who thought killing was fun
At his funeral Christian love showed its face
As the bigots all picketed, twisted with hate
But God doesn’t hate fags, you sickos, it’s true
He even loves people as evil as you

Sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy that way

For 29 years now I’ve fought for the right
For people to love just whoever they like
Today as we laugh, as we march in the park
And Clause 28’s just confined to the past
The Admiral Duncan, the victims of hate
Let’s remember the friends we’ve all lost on the way
Bisexual, lesbian, glad to be gay
We’re here and we’re queer and we won’t go away

Cos we say
Sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy that way

Sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy this way

Download MP3

Queer Music heritage have the audio file of their hour-long interview with Tom at which this version was recorded, and an edited transcript of the interview, on their page for August 2004.

Explanatory notes:

“The LA police are the best in the world
I don’t believe one of these stories I’ve heard
About pretty policemen in leather and jeans
Showing their leg through a split in the seams
Seeking out superstars, leading them on
Then running them in when they start to respond”

Famously, in 1998 George Michael was caught out cottaging by an undercover LA cop.

“the case is a Labour MP”

In 1998 Ron Davies MP, Secretary of State for Wales, was robbed by a man he’d met on Clapham Common, a well-known cruising ground. Although he denied it was a gay sex incident, he resigned soon after, and has never given full details of what happened. He later said he was bisexual.

He was elected to the new Welsh Assembly, but in 2003 The Sun reported him in a cottaging incident. He denied it completely, then changed his story to say he had been there but only to use the toilet. The pressure sustained and from his already weakened position, he resigned.

“Clause 28’s just confined to the past”

Stop The Clause badgeClause 28 – as Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 is known – was a law prohibiting local government from ‘promoting homosexuality’, or from having any school teach ‘the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’.

Conceived during the height of the Aids scare – routinely referred to in the media as ‘the gay plague’ – the meaning was obvious. Whilst it was never the basis of any prosecution, it had an immediate impact of self-censorship and diversion of funds.

It was seen by the public as part of wider homophobic repression, and indeed this was the intention of the politicians who enacted it. During a House of Commons debate on Clause 28 a Conservative MP was asked about the recent arson attack on the offices of Capital Gay newspaper. She replied, ‘I am quite prepared to affirm that it is quite right that there should be an intolerance of evil’.

The repeal of Clause 28 was one of a number of equal rights measures brought in by the Blair government, alongside equalising the ages of consent and granting civil partnerships.

The clause was repealed by the Scottish parliament in 2000. It took longer in Westminster as the House of Lords refused to agree. It wasn’t off the statute in the rest of the UK until November 2003, under the Local Government Act.

“The Admiral Duncan”

The Admiral Duncan is a well-known gay pub in Old Compton Street, London. On April 30th 1999 it was the target of the third and final attack in the nail-bombing campaign of neo-Nazi David Copeland.

Having already bombed two multi-ethnic sites, this was a specifically homophobic attack. Three people were killed and around seventy injured.

“Now young Matthew Shepard was killed in the States,
And left alone dying, and tied to a gate,
For being a pretty and gay 21
He was
tortured by kids who thought killing was fun”

Matthew ShepardIn the early hours of October 7th 1998 Matthew Shepard, a 21 year old gay man, was abducted by two men and robbed, pistol whipped, tortured and left to die tied to a fence in a remote area near Laramie, Wyoming. Shepard begged for his life. The beating was so severe that the only areas on Shepard’s face that were not covered in blood were those where his tears had washed the blood stains away.

Eighteen hours later he was discovered, still tied to the fence, by Aaron Kreifels who at first thought that he’d found a scarecrow. Matthew Shepard died five days later without regaining consciousness.

The killers’ girlfriends testified that the men had planned to rob a gay man, and that they had gone out to do it whilst sober. One of the women, Kristen Price, said in an early interview that ‘they just wanted to beat him bad enough to teach him a lesson, not to come on to straight people, and don’t be aggressive about it anymore’.

In 2007 the American Congress passed the ‘Matthew Shepard Act’, amending United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. President Bush vetoed it. President Obama got it passed in October 2009.

The Mathew Shepard Foundation advances the cause of LGBT equality.

Queer Music Heritage has a listing of around fifty songs about Matthew Shepard, with MP3s of most.

The battle is far from over, nor is it unknown in the UK. Johann Hari recounts the death of Jonathan Reynolds in January 2006.

Jonathan ReynoldsHe was a 15 year-old boy from Bridgend, South Wales, who came out to some of his friends last year…

So one day, after he sat a GCSE exam where he earned a starred A grade, he lay down on the train tracks near his home. He texted his sister Sam: “Tell everyone that this is for anybody who eva said anything bad about me, see I do have feelings too. Blame the people who were horrible and injust 2 me. This is because of them, I am human just like them. None of you blame yourself, mum, dad, Sam and the rest of the family. This is not because of you.”

Joey DobrowskiIn October 2005, 24 year old Jody Dobrowski was murdered on Clapham Common, a well-known cruising area. They shouted homophobic comments as they killed him. His face was so pulped that his body had to be identified by his fingerprints.

In January 2008 Barry Parkin was stabbed to death in an argument after he told his female partner and mother of his child that he was gay. She walked free from court.

Michael CauserIn July 2008 Michael Causer was asleep upstairs at a party. People found gay sexual images on his phone, beat him into a coma and dumped his body in the street.

Michael died a week later from his injuries. One of the three men involved was acquitted.

“At his funeral Christian love showed its face
As the bigots all picketed, twisted with hate”

A delegation from Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, picketed Matthew Shepard’s funeral and the trial of his killers. Placard slogans on the pickets included ‘Matt Shepard rots in Hell’, ‘AIDS Kills Fags Dead’ and ‘God Hates Fags’. The picket was surrounded by a counter demonstration wearing large angel robes and wigs in order to shield the funeral from the sight of the bigots.

In 2003 the homophobes also applied to put up a monument in Caspar, Shepard’s home town, with Shepard’s image and a plaque reading ‘MATTHEW SHEPARD, Entered Hell October 12, 1998, in Defiance of God’s Warning: ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.’ Leviticus 18:22.’

They were not believed to similarly picket shops selling wurst even though Leviticus prohibits the eating of blood [Leviticus 17:10-14], nor have they been observed carrying placards decrying menstrual sex even though Leviticus forbids that too [18:19]. Restaurants selling shellfish are equally sinful [Leviticus 11:9-12] – you leave my homosexuality alone, and I won’t grass you up to the lord for eating a prawn cocktail.

Farms have yet to be picketed by the Westboro Baptists for the sinful practice of planting the fields with two kinds of seed [Leviticus 19:19]. Clothes shops remain strangely unharried for selling clothes made of two kinds of material woven together [Leviticus 19:19]. If you’re going to do this archaic hallucinatory Leviticus bullshit, do it properly.

And by the way, there’s just one decree from the Lord in the book of Leviticus that Jesus saw fit to reiterate. It’s the command to love your neighbour as yourself [Leviticus 19:18, Mark 12:31].

Talking to Tom:

It was The Sun’s reporting of a cottaging incident that forced Ron Davies’ resignation.

I actually met the editor of the News of The World around then and said you’ve been a bit hard on Ron Davies. He rounded on me, looked me in the eye and said ‘I think having sex in a public toilet is disgusting. Do you agree?’. I said, well… and tried to wriggle out of it. And he just kept repeating, ‘Do you or do you not agree that it’s disgusting to have sex in a public toilet?’ The hardcore oldschool doorstepping journalist’s technique was very fucking scary to suddenly encounter like that.

And you can just see the potential headlines in your head so you have to back down.

He just gave me that little bit of what it’s like when they turn someone over. Terrifying. They don’t even have to make stuff up – they can manipulate people into saying almost anything. It could happen to anybody, anytime like it happened to Ron Davies. Any little piece of the truth, turn it and twist it.

Why did the Matthew Shepard case in particular get your attention?

Because I was in the States, and just like you couldn’t not mention Aids in the 80s, you couldn’t not mention Matthew.

But in America, like the UK, they must have numerous queerbashing murders.

But this had the guys that picketed the funeral – ‘God Hates Fags’ placards – that’s just so unspeakably evil. So, ‘God doesn’t hate fags you sickos, it’s true, he even loves people as evil as you’. It’s not just about the death – it was just hard to believe the depths these twisted people would go to. To bother to turn up to torture his family in that way after that brutal murder. In the name of Jesus. Unimaginable.

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