The political nature of Pride and its commercialization are ideas hotly contested each time Pride month comes around. At its origins, Pride had no choice but to stand as a protest.
Among the loudest of those protesters in the United Kingdom was Tom Robinson, a singer from Cambridge who would come to write what some consider Britain’s “national gay anthem”.
Robinson had originally written a song called “Good to be Gay” in the ’60s, which possessed the same underlying messages as its successor, but without the necessary bite. In contrast, his 1975 song “Glad to Be Gay” came about from a perfect storm of influences, cultural pressures, and righteous political anger.
“I’d become politicised after becoming the musician with a theatrical troupe from New York called Hot Peaches, who were very camp,” he told The Guardian. “They exposed me to the notion of being proud of being gay. I also saw the Sex Pistols, who kicked open the doors for the art of confrontation.
“At the time, the police were regularly targeting London’s oldest gay pub, the Coleherne in Earls Court, on a regular basis. When the editor of Gay News famously tried to take a photograph of one raid, he was charged and fined for obstruction.”
Bits of the song like the hate crime outlined in the third verse weren’t hypothetical, nor exaggerated for effect. These real-life issues and scenes provided the fuel for the writer’s fire.
“There was plenty of scope for anger and venom,” Robinson asserted. “The line about a friend getting beaten up by queer-bashers was true.”
Even with it being quickly banned from airplay by the BBC, the song made a resounding impact on the culture. “Glad to Be Gay” has been performed at countless shows and festivals over the years, with the lyrics being revamped and updated to address different problems facing the queer community as time goes on.
Sing along if you’re, as aforementioned, “Glad To Be Gay”: