I remember so long ago, I was on the phone with one of my friends (she loved talking on the phone – most of our friendship was conducted via telephone conversations that literally lasted hours) and she and I were both channel-surfing at the same time. We were mid-conversation when suddenly she said, “Miya! Turn on channel 50! There’s two guys having sex!” I turned the channel and both of us (just 14 at the time) were titillated and awe-struck by this graphic display of homosexuality before us. Shortly thereafter, my friend had to go, to bed. And I kept watching channel 50… a man, Michael, had fallen off a ladder at work while doing inventory; he was directed to an older, albeit handsome chiropractor who he developed an instant crush on; however, his close-knit female co-worker, who has a crush on him, didn’t know he was gay; concurrently, a young (and attractive) high school kid, Justin, was desperately trying to attract the attentions of an even MORE attractive (GOD – SO attractive) older man, Brian… there were great lines, great cinematography, and amazing characters who I fell for instantly. I did some investigating and learned that the show was called Queer as Folk, an American Showtime drama based on an equally boundary-shoving miniseries created by Russel T. Davies. And I was enamoured.
Queer as Folk was my second exposure to homosexuality and diversity; my first was when my best friend in high school told me he was bi-sexual (and later, that he said ‘bisexual’ to “soften the blow” and that he was actually gay). That was a real shock for me, but I accepted it, and nothing came of my shock. But Queer as Folk invited me into a world I didn’t know, where gay people are both like straight people, and they’re not; the show represents that in a gay lifestyle, there are human concerns “just like everyone else” but there are also unique concerns, that manifest themselves in the show through high school bullying, ignorant politicians, hiring and firing in the workplace, and in love and family and friendships. Anyway, that’s the bare bones of the show; the meat of the show for me is in the group of friends that the show is focused on; they are really the most wonderful group of well-rounded, well-visualized, well-enacted characters I had ever seen on a TV show. What could have been an illustration of homosexuality through palace eunuch innuendos and camp, is delivered with pathos, aggressivity, romance, tragedy and a touch of (incredibly witty) humour. Queer as Folk helped a small-town girl, and her inner circle of both gay and straight friends, to see the world through someone else’s window. I was expanded, socialized, and made tolerant of a minority group simply by being enthralled with this amazing, ground-breaking, always romantic and loveable television show, which still continues to impact my life today and the way I see the world – not just the homosexual world, but the world of people. Where your friends have the power to hurt you, where romances fail, where you can be perpetually flawed and hurt and feel awful about yourself but still experience a light at the end of the tunnel; where people triumph over their enemies and make a difference for themselves and for their community; and where people love each other unconditionally. It will always be a mainstay in cultural documents that have deeply moved and influenced my life.
I could have a poster up in my office that indicates “everything I needed to learn in life, I learned from Queer as Folk” but here are a few of the quotes I’ve forever gleaned and traveled with because of the show:
“It takes more courage to wear a dress for an hour than it does to wear a suit for a lifetime.”
“Mourn the losses because they’re many, but celebrate the victories because they’re few.”
“A song and a snack can turn any moment into an occasion!”
“…So in other words, for Justin to live here with you, he has to deny who he is… what he thinks… and how he feels. Well, that’s not love. That’s hate.”
“I’d rather let my flame burn bright, than be some puny little pilot light.”
“It’s not who you love, it’s how you love; genitalia is simply just God’s way of accessorizing.”
“…in ways that maybe no one intended, those superheroes were a lot like me. At work they’re meek, underappreciated… they’re the guys that never get laid. And when they’re around other people, they can never let anyone get too close for fear that their true identities will be discovered.”