Friday, September 17, 2010

Tom Robinson - Glad To Be Gay (Secret Policeman's Ball)

Here's what you need to know to put this in context historically. Or queer-storically.

In 1979, in London, there was a fundraiser for Amnesty International. They asked Tom Robinson, "the most prominent gay rock star," to perform for them, even though at the time, Amnesty "refused to acknowledge gay prisoners as human rights cases."

here's one lyric:
Have you heard the story about Peter Wells
Who one day was arrested and dragged to the cells
For being in love with a man of 18
The vicar found out they’d been having a scene
The magistrates sent him for trial by the Crown
He even appealed but they still sent him down
He was only mistreated a couple of years
Cos even in prison they look after the queers

Tom explained

What happened to Peter Wells was a genuine scandal and a reason to be very f[***]ing angry. But, specifically with the Secret Policeman’s Ball, Amnesty had ruled that gays did not count as political prisoners and therefore they didn’t support gay prisoners. That’s why I was singing it and that’s why I was so angry, because I was singing it to an Amnesty audience. Hence the venom. Amnesty asked me to come and perform, OK, well have this then.

I think this was very brave of Tom, and still has so much power today. And Tom and this song were part of the movement that changed things to where Today, Amnesty International DOES fight for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights - because our rights are finally understood as being Human Rights. But we still have a distance to go to get to full equality. There's still a lot to be angry about. We still have to raise our voices to protest injustice. We still have to be proud!

Check out more about Tom Robinson and his performance at the Secret Policeman's Ball here.

My thanks to Daniel for sharing this with me, so I could share it with you!

Sing if you're glad to be gay,
Sing if you're happy this way!

(I'm going to be singing that - as an Anthem of fierce pride - all weekend!)



Steph said...

I love this! =D Scary homophobic preacher Brother Jed came to my campus last tuesday, and though I knew that there was a silent protest planned, I had no idea how effective it was going to be. As I came out of class I saw that he was freaking surrounded by sign carriers, and random people who might not have heard he was coming but still stuck around to support us; not to mention others who decided that they did not want to protest silently. Too bad no one started singing this song when Jed started singing his gay song! It was still a wonderful reminder that the LGBTQA community is actually a community, and even though we still have to deal with shit, we are fighting it and winning!

Someone even posted a video of the protest on youtube (I am one of the sign carriers):

So yeah, I AM glad to be gay!

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thank you so much for your comment Steph, and the link. I love the video of the protest - especially the moment about 1:30-1:50 in, when you see that all of you with your equality signs have surrounded the hate preacher and muffled his impact with your steadfast strength and resolve - like you're protecting your community from that contamination. It's really powerful!
Keep on fighting the good fight for equality for all!
And I'm GLAD to be Gay, too!

ivanova said...

One more awesome thing about Tom Robinson. He ended up falling in love with a woman and marrying her, but he did not stop identifying as gay. He basically just said, "Stop being so narrowminded, the whole point is to love who you love."

I think Steph's video is great--the signs are fabulous, and I didn't even know the homophobic preacher was in there until halfway through. His wacko message was definitely drowned out. And it looks like people were having fun.


merrick said...

Hi Lee,

I'm so pleased you picked up on this song from my blog.

I'd just like to let folks know that Tom Robinson reworked the lyrics many times over the years, keeping the meaning and references current.

I've done a website with seventeen different versions, with all the lyrics transcribed, references explained, and streaming audio and free MP3 downloads, as well as an interview with Tom about it all.

It's up at

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

what an amazing resource!!!
Thank you.