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A 1985 protest in New York City. Source: https://mashable.com/2016/10/26/aids-epidemic-study/

Russell T Davies’ forthcoming series on Channel 4, It’s a Sin, could not be timelier. This is NOT the first plague in living memory. We have been here before.

For almost a year, I have bored anyone who would listen about the relentless familiarity of the current pandemic’s lexicon. The resonances we have repeatedly tripped over. I am not about to let up. And yet the arrival of It’s a Sin has stopped me in my tracks. I am impatient for it but pulsating with apprehension.

I cannot think of safer hands for a small screen AIDS drama to be in — especially now. It was Davies, after all, who brought us the groundbreaking Queer as Folk, and its discombobulating successors, Cucumber and Banana. More recently he gave us Years and Years which, horribly unsurprisingly, already feels like a great foretelling. …


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Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

“I’ve asked so many people if they know anyone who has had Covid. Hardly anyone. Two people knew someone (not close) who’d died. Without daily news would we even know there was an epidemic?”

I don’t know which world Allison Pearson inhabits. I’m sure, once upon a time, it collided with mine as the viewer of a late-night chat show about art and poetry. Nice stuff. I’m not usually given to calling out individuals, either. Nor piling on. Nor responding to clickbait on Twitter or anywhere else.

But I live in this world. A world where this year, 60,000 people, 1 in every 1000 people in the UK, have died after testing positive for COVID-19. That’s rapidly approaching the number of civilians who died in WW2 — so often erroneously evoked in recent times. …


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Photo by Sergey mikheev on Unsplash

“I guess the last lesson I’ve learned as an AIDS activist and the hardest one to learn, is that fights are never won. They just go on and on. They are. And yet they must be fought. They must, must, still, continually, and forever, be fought. Over and over and over, they must be fought.”

Almost the final words from Larry Kramer’s updated and expanded Reports from the holocaust: the story of an AIDS activist, published in 1994. And then the book’s parting shot: “I’ll think of ways to continue to raise hell.”

He did too. The man who had enraged many gay men with his novel Faggots in 1978 continued to rage on our behalf, whether we liked it or not, for the next four decades. But in May this year, as the world paused, he let out his last breath and his roiling presence left us. …


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Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

Half a lifetime ago, on a bright, crisp December day in Harrogate, I was reunited with an old friend. We had first met 12 years before at university — as politics students, fellow Labour Club members and union hacks.

Tragedy had brought us together again — the premature death of a mutual friend who had been killed in an air crash in Kathmandu. It wasn’t that we’d not seen each other in the intervening decade. But even the best friendships can be messy and ours had been just that.

We had arrived on campus just five months after the election of Margaret Thatcher. That had been our first taste of democratic participation. …


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Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

“Go for a long hard run, take a cold shower, and avoid the occasion of sin.”

My dad’s closing words in a letter he wrote to me 40 years ago. And the first that came to me as I read this afternoon that Pope Francis has said he thinks same-sex couples should be afforded legal protection for civil unions.

There will be those who say he’s late to the party, even that he’s missed it. But make no mistake about it, tardy though his arrival maybe, he’s a star guest. What he says matters.

I was in my first year at university when I came out publicly. News travelled more slowly in those days, but small-town gossip had its means. Fearing my parents would hear from someone else, I travelled home to make my confession. …


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Photo by Hannah Rodrigo on Unsplash

I have only ever met Andrew O’Hagan across a signing table. Such meetings are odd, often full of anticipation for the reader, sometimes mild exhaustion on the part of the author. Occasionally they are memorable too.

The signing may be no more than the briefest of exchanges to confirm who you’d like the book dedicated to. Sometimes there’s a conversation. It’s never lengthy, even if you know the author. There is a queue behind you waiting for their moment too.

Sometimes you come away feeling embarrassed by your gaucheness — as if it would even be remembered. Other times you leave with a wee gem — yours to keep, as well as the book. …


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Photo by Joe Tree on Unsplash

‘This is not a set of recommendations, it’s a call to action’, said Jim McCormick introducing the final report of Edinburgh Poverty Commission’s report today.

With characteristic calm candour, McCormick, the commission’s chair, levelled with us. That call to action is not merely for officialdom. It is for all of us — the citizens of Edinburgh.

The report, A Just Capital: Actions to End Poverty in Edinburgh, is an outstanding piece of work and required reading for anyone who cares about the future of our city and its people.

As I listened to the commissioners and the city’s respondents speak at this afternoon’s event, I had to catch myself. …


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Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

‘I’ve always assumed suicide’s the way I’ll go.’

A short sentence from a conversation with someone I used to know. Those words have stayed with me. How could they not?

I have thought about him a lot these past few months. And now it’s World Suicide Prevention Day. So, of course, I’m thinking of him today.

The day he uttered those words, we were comparing notes about suicide. He’d tried to take his own life several times in the past. I’ve only tried the once, 18 years ago.

But, like his words, my suicide attempt has left its mark right enough. …


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Photo by Stanley Dai on Unsplash

How old were you when you first knew you were straight? If you are straight, I wonder if anyone has ever asked you that question. You may be the exception that proves the rule but I’d hazard a guess they haven’t. Because that’s not how it works.

But as the tragic death of Jamel Myles has reminded us, it’s a question that still gets asked all too often if you’re gay. It’s a reminder that the question we actually need to be asking — still — is why the disparity and what should we do about it?

And actually, the answer’s quite simple. To borrow Matthew Todd’s phrase, stop putting kids in straight jackets. …


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Photo by Maico Pereira on Unsplash

As a teenage boy growing up in the 1970s, I couldn’t read about myself. There were no boys like me in books, nor men like the one I might become. I didn’t exist in the literature that was available to me.

As the row over Baroness Emma Nicholson’s honorary position at the Booker Prize Foundation raged this week, I couldn’t help but return to the mind of my teenage self. Unexpanded and unenlightened by the books around me, about something at the very core of who I was.

Our sitting room was lined with bookcases. My parents read by the fire in the lamp-lit evenings, Mum ploughing her way through the canon of English literature, while Dad read George Simenon’s Maigret novels — in French. …

About

Chris Creegan

Chair @SAMHtweets, Non Exec @socsecscot & runner @EdinburghAC, Views my own

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