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Russell T Davies: ‘Politicians keep forgetting vulnerable LGBTQ+ people’

“My god, if we can be niched, if we can be forgotten, then we will be. That is the astonishing lesson that keeps coming out of Westminster: if we can find a way to forget you, we will do it again and again and again.”
Russell T Davies' new drama, It's A Sin, looks at the Aids epidemic.

TV writer Russell T Davies has spoken out about the overrepresentation of LGBTQ+ people in the UK’s homeless population, blasting politicians for “forgetting” about vulnerable young people during the pandemic. 

Ahead of the release of new drama It’s a Sin, Davies spoke to the Big Issue’s Adrian Lobb about how problems which still plague many gay young people have escalated during the pandemic.

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“I have a friend who is a barman on [Manchester’s] Canal Street who has told me about the suicide of friends over this past year in lockdown,” he said.

“Young gay men on zero wages, living in rubbish flats, with no prospects – and along comes this pandemic and the same people end up forgotten.” 

Last October, frontline charities warned that vulnerable young people and the “hidden homeless” are being forced onto the streets as new regional lockdowns rendered sofa surfing illegal. LGBTQ+ young people, in particular, had reported using informal living arrangements. 

Davies said that just like during the Aids crisis, the subject It’s a Sin tackles, politicians have continued to neglect LGBTQ+ people.  

“They stand there at their press conferences assuming everyone is online, everyone has a budget, everyone is furloughed – and as ever, and you will know this better than anyone – vast chunks of the population are being forgotten. As happened during the HIV virus.

“My god, if we can be niched, if we can be forgotten, then we will be. That is the astonishing lesson that keeps coming out of Westminster: if we can find a way to forget you, we will do it again and again and again.”

The screenwriter, whose credits include Doctor Who, A Very English Scandal and Queer as Folk, also said the experience for many gay young people hasn’t changed. 

“Let’s not pretend everyone is fluid and out and happy,” he said. “Those closeted school children are still staring through the gate wishing for their future to come. And it will.” 

When asked if he feared for a future in which vital gay spaces could close forever due to the pandemic, Davies said he did but believed they would ultimately prevail.

“I worry about the future of theatres and the future of gay bars – but those kind of things always survive,” he said. “We go underground. We will have the most amazing underground scene for a few years and will rise again.”

Talking about the hotly anticipated It’s a Sin, which stars Years and Years lead man Olly Alexander, Davies said the Aids crisis of the 1980s felt like fake news before the term received the use it does now. 

“The whole thing seemed impossible,” he said. “We finally get equality, we finally get the law on our side, and this disease comes along and kills us? It sounds false. It felt like fake news before we had invented the notion of fake news.” 

Davies also talked about the difficulties of representing the 1980s and 90s misinformation surrounding Aids on screen. 

“In a pre-internet age, pre-mobile phone age, most of us had no idea what was going on until 1984, 1985, I could mount an argument to say 1994, 1995. An awful lot of ignorance went on for decades,” he said.

Read more from Russell T Davies in this week’s Big Issue, available through our online shop now or on The Big Issue app.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article you can contact the Mind Out charity, providing mental health support for LGBTQ+ people, or the Samaritans.

It’s A Sin begins on Channel 4 on January 22 – all episodes will then be available via All4