Well, what can I say about It’s a Sin, the latest luscious offering from local lad Russell T Davies – and totally truthful take on the AIDS epidemic from the early 80’s on.
It was insightful, inspiring, inflammatory, with every other emotion in between – set in my much-loved London to a superb soundtrack too.
The biggest bonus for me was, whether by accident or design, it landed lovingly across almost the whole of LGBT History Month 2021.
One of the must do dates in the queer calendar, the respectful remembrance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the fight for our rights, always falls flamboyantly in February – just as the series started telling a poignant piece of our back-story.
Suddenly, this second sad month of our queer quarantine was brilliantly brightened with the tale of the 1980’s meanly media-named ‘Gay Plague.’
Truth be told, it’s real, raw look at life living in the shadow of AIDS, against the backdrop of Section 28, was a five-hour long HIV history lesson in itself.
It probably did more to educate, inform, and entertain, than any panel event, swift social post, or fabulous flyer ever could – no matter how heavy they are on those trusty Rainbow colours.
The theme of LGBT History Month this year was ‘Body, Mind, Spirit.’ How absolutely apt for those five friends who found themselves in the flat named the ‘Pink Palace’, and whose lives are shared, and shaped, by a decade living, loving, and laughing, through the epidemic.
Wow, didn’t it also feel like everyone in our wonderful Wales was up all night, bleary-eyed from binge watching, whilst simultaneously sobbing, and smiling.
We weren’t alone mind. After a few weeks, ‘It’s a Sin’ was viewed in its entirety more than 6.5 million times. It was the most binge-watched show to stream on the Channel 4 platform with first episode becoming biggest drama launch –making history of course.
For me, it was sweet to see how my beautiful Barry community collided with my queer community to see the story not just as a gay drama but as a spotlight on the scene and sounds of forty years ago.
Suddenly straight friends, who may have clicked the odd like on a LGBT History Month post, were getting involved – speaking on the socials, googling for the gossiping, and taking time to understand the history of those who went before.
HIV Testing, also went through the roof, as the series showed the seriousness of the situation, and dispelled the much-spread myth that this was only a disease for ‘the gays.’
During 2019’s Testing Week, 8,068 people checked their HIV status but this year, that number was smashed in a single day, with over 10,000 extra tests being ordered to keep up with demand.
For me, It’s a Sin, surely told the true tale of the ‘AIDS epidemic’ – the ignorance, the prejudice and the anguish. But also the kindness, the solidarity, and the support.
I believe that everyone should watch it, and perhaps worth also putting it on every school curriculum to show our history that has largely been erased in the education system.
I was only 13 in 1980 so don’t even pretend to have been at the heart of the HIV happening, I know only about celebrities who died of the disease, and only kind of understood the back story from my queer activism anyway.
But I am aware, that forty years on those living with HIV, which I actually now know a few, face less discrimination, less shame, and the certainty they can live a long healthy life.
Make no mistake though this series is also a commemoration to those who lost their lives to HIV despite what the death certificate may have said.
This was a tale that needed to be told.
Thanks Russell T Davies.
Sue Vincent-Jones, writing as Mrs SVJ, is a Barry born journalist, editor, and communications specialist. She blogs about Barry – and her life in the wider world, through the eyes of a, quirky and queer, local girl done good.