John Lugo-Trebble reflects on the iconic TV show(s), one of the things that put Manchester’s gay Village on the map and looks at how it influenced the culture and community, in the city and across the world.
Earlier this year it was announced that Queer as Folk would be rebooted once more, this time in New Orleans. The previous US version set in Pittsburgh became a ground-breaking series in its own right. It aired for five seasons through some of the quickest succession of LGBTQ+ rights reforms and battles that the US has ever seen. As UK origin shows rarely make it Stateside and retain their original appeal, I decided to go back to the original series which aired on Channel 4 in February 1999.
In case you have been living under a rock or haven’t wandered through the vaults of Channel 4’s streaming service, Russell T Davies’ Queer as Folk follows the lives of a group of mainly gay male friends in and around Manchester’s Gay Village, Canal Street. This by today’s standards may seem incredibly limiting in LGBTQ+ representation but remember that 1999, was still the time where the Age of Consent was 21 (lowered to 18 in 2000) and that Section 28 (repealed in 2003 in England/ Wales) was still enforced. What made QAF groundbreaking were the characters that were unapologetic in their pursuit of sex and fun, most notably Stuart. At the time, the series received criticism for its lack of emphasis on HIV/AIDS. For those of who didn’t live through those days, it is worth noting that by 1999, HIV/ AIDS was not the guaranteed death sentence it had been at the start of the decade; and that as a result, sex was fun again. Safer sex had become a part of our daily lives.