What a gay day! – Fiction now based on real life 50 years ago

I write historical crime thrillers set in the 1970s and one of the key factors is balancing today’s accepted norms with those from nearly 50 years ago. No mobile phones, no internet, no personal computers and a reliance on personal contact are among them.
One key factor, especially when writing about the world of entertainment, is the way in which homosexuality has become a normal part of life. It is now fully understood – by intelligent people – that no-one chooses to be gay or bisexual, no-one decides their sexuality, and there is no ‘cure’ for something that isn’t an illness. But this wasn’t always the belief.
Take religion, for example, for nearly two thousand years all the world’s major religions, whilst offering moral guidance and even political direction, stated that homosexuality was a sin. Fifty or sixty years ago the reality of being gay began to be accepted. That’s nearly two thousand years of denial and steadfast teaching to be switched, volte-face, at almost a stroke. No wonder it’s difficult to accept.
I was a teenager in the 1960s and I can vividly remember the jibes and insults, even bullying, at a time when boys were going through the difficult stage of puberty. They’d had parental and possibly sibling love; they’d made deep and emotionally binding friendships with other boys; and then came the series of thunderbolts that shook the very foundation of their souls … girls. It was difficult for everyone, but a lot easier for people like me, who were attracted to girls for their shape and animal allure. How horrendously awful must it have been for boys who did not have those feelings and found that they were sexually aroused by maybe one or two other boys.
How did we – who were lumped together as heterosexual, even if we didn’t know what that meant – react? By joining in the sniping and bullying, of course: we were teenagers. That’s what we did.
Now, as I rapidly approach my three score and ten, I am writing about an era and environment that has to accept those attitudes were wrong, almost criminally wrong.
I was, in retrospect, lucky. I frequented nightclubs where some of the great rock bands played before they became stadium and festival bands, and in those clubs we, lovers of music, encountered all sorts of different people. Among them I knew gay guys and, while lesbianism was not commonly mentioned (apart from the wonderful Dusty Springfield, and even that some years down the line), gay girls. What drew us together was music, not the animal wish to sleep together.
In First Dead Body, my self-published debut under my pen name of Tony R Cox, a key character is semi aggressively queer, and he is based on someone I knew. A Fatal Drug hints at perversity, and Vinyl Junkie is a full-blooded look at teenage abuse as well as a more nuanced and understanding expose of broad homosexuality as a fact of life, just as heterosexuality is.
The dichotomy, as a novelist, is writing for the time in which the book is set as well as accepting today’s standards. I’m lucky. I’ve always felt fine with people who have different directions for their sexual lives. It’s not a conscious thing: it’s just realising that my persuasion – which happened then and now to be girls – are just that … mine, no-one else’s.
So read on. Straight, gay, bi-sexual or confused. Crime thrillers are for everyone.

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