10:30pm, Tuesday 23rd February 1999. It was twenty years ago today that UK broadcaster Channel 4 aired the first episode of the groundbreaking gay television series Queer As Folk, created by Russell T. Davies.
In 1999 I was in my final year at university in London and still only out to a handful of close friends. It was only later that year that I would come out to my mother and then anyone who would listen! Looking back I’m sure the validation of seeing people with my own sexuality on national TV in such a well-written drama, with flawed, layered characters, that everyone was talking about might have had more than a little something to do with the timing.
My first boyfriend was in his late twenties and had been engaged to a girl until he watched Queer As Folk and couldn’t ignore any longer that he was living a lie. The show gave him the courage to come out at work and start his first relationship with a man. There must be countless other stories of young LGBTQ people living in the UK in 1999 under the shadow of homophobic government legislation in the form of Section 28, with no equal age of consent or equal recognition of same sex relationships, with a largely hostile press, whose lives were dramatically changed for the better by seeing Queer As Folk.
With little other LGBTQ representation on UK television in 1999 the show didn’t air without controversy, attracting its share of detractors within the community itself and losing its sponsors.
All ten episodes are available to stream on demand in the UK on Channel 4′s website.