It’s the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.
One of the first LGBT books I read was E M Forster‘s Maurice. Famous for novels like A Passage to India and Howard’s End, Forster wrote subtle social studies of class and relationships.Forster remained closeted to the general public during his lifetime, even after homosexuality was legalised in the UK, and Maurice was not release until after his death.
The significant thing about Maurice (and I hope no one considers this a spoiler!) is that it has a happy ending. If it hadn’t, it would have been publishable long before the legalisation of homosexuality. LGBT relationships were fine as long as everyone ended up miserable and alone. Films like 1961’s Victim, staring Dirk Bogarde, could tell sympathetic stories about gay men and their relationships, as long as your homosexual lead suffered for his sexuality.
With a happy ending, Maurice could be accused to promoting homosexuality. This stopped being a legal issue when homosexuality was legalised, but became so again in 1988. For a lot of LGBT youth in the UK, including myself, that was the world we grew up in, a world where it was legal to be gay but people were scared they’d be accused to breaking the law if they talked about it in public. Pre-existing LGBT clubs were shut down, biology text books were edited, and teachers refused to counsel LGBT students. It was fine to be gay, but you couldn’t tell children that.
Section 28 was finally repealed in 2003, after repeated attempts (which the UK’s current prime minster voted against, at the time, though he apologised for this in 2010). That’s fifteen years of hushhush education. Fifteen years of teaching LGBT youths to be ashamed. Fifteen years of letting homophobic bullies get their own way because it supported the government’s idea that being gay ought to be miserable.
Read Maurice. Read its happy ending. Everyone has a right to an ending that makes them happy.
I have up for grabs a copy of Maurice (print or ebook), A DVD of Victim, and a copy of my latest release, Inescapable (ebook). For a chance to win, comment on this post and tell me about the first LGBT book you read. The winner will be chosen using a random number generator.