Russell T. Davies on Gay Rights: “There’s Always a Bit of Hope”

Russell T. Davies has recently spoken to Wales Online following the successful launch of his new television show, Years and Years, where he spoke about gay rights, women’s rights, black rights, as well as the death of his husband after 13 years of happy marriage.

When he left Doctor Who in 2010 with The End of Time, Davies pledged to only work on scripts about gay relationships. With the exception of The Sarah Jane Adventures (for which he wrote The Death of the Doctor), he has stuck to that and it has paid-off with great success.

Years and Years received a lot of praise from critics with Variety describing it as ‘consistently elegant and better, resonant’. Hollywood Reporter, said it’s ‘magnificently agile’. It’s also been nominated for an Emmy; he’ll find whether he’s won at next month’s award ceremony.

Davies has commented that he’s had quiet a few “gay years” lately with Years and Years being a follow up to A Very British Scandal, a show about MP Jeremy Thorpe’s relationship with Norman Josiffe and the court case that followed. That too, was a hit, even if it made for some uncomfortable viewing.

Of course, Davies’ first big break came in the form of a television series called Queer as Folk which has not long celebrated its twentieth anniversary. It was an instant hit, breaking taboos about playing homosexual characters on television in a conservative period in the late 1990s when gay characters were still something of a novelty in prime-time dramas. Davies commented:

“It’s what I write well, and I’m passionate about it and I feel I’ve got a lot to say about it.”

Davies doesn’t label himself as a pioneer, although there are plenty who would disagree. He is, however, more open about his life than other people in his position, mainly because he feels that it helps people. But he still shies away from the term “role model” because he said he never had one when he was younger. He is also determined to talk about gay rights in every interview he does. Davies went on to say:

“If you’re a 12-year-old and beginning to wonder about yourself, then seeing people in public talking about the life they’re living is so important. But gayness isn’t everywhere. It’s not part of our culture, or our books, you don’t see it in Dickens or Asterix or the Bible. We don’t exist in the vast quantity of literature and culture.”

He is worried about how we seem to going backwards as a society and puts a lot of the blame at the door of America, a country he says the UK lives in the shadow of. And I have to agree with him. Davies said that gay rights, women’s rights, and black rights are so paper thin, even nowadays it’s still illegal and punishable by death in certain countries. But when the President of the United States says divisive things, why aren’t we standing up to him? Davies is clearly shocked by it.

However, Davies does seem pleased that attitudes have changed so much in his lifetime and the miracle of teenagers being able to speak out and find strength in the LGBT+ community. He says:

“It’s wonderful but it needs to be fought for. You do hear good stuff but it’s all so easy to forget when you hear the bad stuff. My favourite anecdote at the moment is about a father who kicked his son out of his home when he came out. The father then went on to tell his son’s football team that his son was gay but so supportive of his son was the football team that they convinced him to invite his son back into the family home. That’s my favourite story at the moment. There’s always a bit of hope.”

And so long as writers like Russell T. Davies continue to do such brilliant work, then there will always be just that. There will always be hope. But the meaning behind Davies other words also rings true – with the state the world is in right now, will that hope be enough?

Davies is currently working on a new project for Channel 4; it’s a drama about the AIDs crisis in the 1980s. It’s set to start filming in October and will be on screens at some point next year.