The theme for this LGBT+ History month is ‘behind the lens’, a theme which aims to celebrate LGBT+ storytelling in TV and Film as well as celebrating queer people who work in the industry. Network members have shared their stories of how seeing representations of LGBT+ people in TV and Film affected them.
My first memory of an LGBT+ character and storyline in a TV show I watched was on Holby City (and later Casualty) in 2002. I would have been fourteen at the time (so slightly too young to have seen Queer as Folk), at an all-boys Grammar School, and I remember being very drawn to the actor (David Paisley). This wouldn’t have been my first crush, but as it turns out, it was my first crush on someone who was actually gay (on screen and in real life as well). I’m pretty sure his character wasn’t openly gay when first introduced onto the show, but insinuations were made because he was a male midwife. He started a relationship with another character on Casualty who eventually killed him, I’m not sure happily ever after storylines were allowed for LGBT+ characters at the time, there the old trope that gay characters are often killed.
I would have mostly watched the show with my Mum and possibly my Dad if he was home – my older sisters would have been out of the house or away at university and my younger brother wasn’t interested in the medical programmes. At the time I was coming to terms with my own sexuality (I came out when I was fifteen). I knew I was gay, but I didn’t know what that was and what that meant. There were no LGBT+ role models that I knew of and the limit of my experience was being called gay in the playground, and that wasn’t a compliment!
I still remember that feeling when the two characters first kissed, a mix of awe and guilt, alongside the squeamishness of watching it with my parents. I don’t remember how my parents reacted, if they even did, but my eventual coming out was a bit of a shock to them. Reflecting back, this storyline gave me confidence that there were other gay people and pushed me to explore other programmes with LGBT+ storylines, such as Tipping the Velvet which was released the same year.
Just in case David gets to see this, I’ll add a personal message. This visibility on a mainstream TV programme had a real impact on me and gave me a role model when I had none. I’ve no idea whether you took on this role for that reason, or just because it was a job, but I’m really glad you did.
Holby City finished it’s run in March 2022, however Casualty is on BBC 1 every week and is part of the Holby City cinematic universe. David Paisley has campaigned for LGBTQIA+ rights and inclusion, he has played roles in River City, Tinsel Town and EastEnders to name a few. When Adam isn’t watching medical drama with his Mum, he works for Merseyside Police and can be reached on Adam.Hodgson@merseyside.police.uk