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We’re here, we’re queer… we have no fear?

By Will Stroude

I was travelling in New York when my Dad died. It was December 8th, 2011, and I flew back the next day. I ended up living back in my sleepy rural hometown, just outside Bristol, for three months. Parts of being back home were beautiful. Others weren’t so pretty: including the actively homophobic neighbours. When I took my boyfriend home recently, we were warned not to be “demonstrative”. Evidently, just in case we decided to have anal sex on the driveway.

In 2011, I’d spent the past two years on the London gay scene where the visibly different, the glittered and diverse, the peacocks, were embraced. It made me wonder how my sleepy home town would react if any of those vodka-swigging, Britney-strutting drag queens of Brewer Street should rock up in the local Tesco. And that’s where Trashbag Trish was born: a cheap drag queen who returns to her rural hometown and has to navigate the local job centre.

When it came to writing Queers, a play about LGBTQ equality and empowerment in 2017, Trish’s story came back to me. Reactions to her drag provoke plenty of laughs – always at the other’s expense – but her drag also serves as a visible metaphor for being ‘queer’. As I found out by going back home with my boyfriend, some people can ‘tolerate’ (rather than accept) an alternative sexuality as long it’s not expressed. Which essentially is still oppression.

This can produce difficulties for queer people to love their true selves: a strand Queers explores in the character of Larry, a ‘real straight lad’ on a ‘real straight stag do.’ But I also wanted to look at relationships between each other in the community: particularly inter-generational. Young(ish) barman Danny finds himself alone with drunk regular Old Tom, before he discovers Tom’s past of fighting for our rights with the Gay Liberation Front.

I feel it’s important to celebrate our LGBTQ history, especially in times of uncertainty. Who’d have thought that in 2017 we’d be in a position where the heavily homophobic, anti-same-sex marriage DUP might have a direct say in the UK government? Knowing what we’ve achieved together as a community – from the first Pride protests to gaining the right to marry who we love – makes us stronger when it comes to standing up to Arlene Foster and her party who would deny us basic equality.

And that’s together as L, G, B, T and Q people. The play also includes lesbian and trans characters, and explores how we find solidarity together within this melting pot acronym of LGBTQIA. It explores how we find pride and power as all the characters come together on one fateful night in London, April 2017, to stand against hate. Because as elderly drag queen Lavinia Co-Op said: “you gotta know where you’re coming from, and where you’re going to.”

‘Queers’ is at the King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, N1 1QN, from 27 June – 2 July. To book tickets, click here.

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