Owen Jones: Queer as Folk was a joyful revelation for LGBT viewers like me | Owen Jones

The defiant Channel 4 drama that aired 20 years ago was a lifeline for anxious teenagers surrounded by negative stereotypes.

It was like coming up for air. When Queer As Folk was first televised, 20 years ago, I was a closeted 14-year-old who was, frankly, desperate not to be gay. Life is hassle enough, I thought. Any thoughts of same-sex attraction were met with an oh-God-please-not-this panic. A vision of a supposedly normal future life – wife, kids – was being snatched away, with no clear desirable alternative. Being gay seemed to me to be a mishmash of the threat of Aids, not being “a man”, dying alone, and a lifetime of misery and rejection.

I grew up in the centre of Stockport, and Queer As Folk was set just seven miles away, on Canal Street (“Anal Street”, my peers would snigger), the heart of Manchester’s LGBT community. It may as well have been a different universe: I lived in a suffocatingly laddish, heterosexual world (the Facebook wall of one of my then best friends is today rife with Tommy Robinson videos) full of jibes about being gay – taunts I would indulge, in order to fit in. It wasn’t for another six years, after a silent unrequited love for an evangelical Christian and several relationships with girls, that I came out.

Related: How we made Queer as Folk

Related: Cucumber: ‘It’s about sex – really, really about sex’

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