‘Glad To Be Gay’ | HISTORY

Photo via Tom Robinson Music, Facebook.

Tom Robinson (born 1 June 1950) is a British singer, bassist, radio presenter and long-time LGBT rights activist.

At the age of 13, Robinson realized that he was gay when he fell in love with another boy at school. Until 1967, male homosexual activity was a crime in England, punishable by prison. He had a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide at 16. A head teacher got him transferred to Finchen Manor, a therapeutic community for teenagers with emotional difficulties, where he spent his following six years.

Back in London, Robinson became involved in the emerging gay scene and embraced the politics of gay liberation which linked gay rights to wider issues of social justice. Inspired by an early Sex Pistols gig, he founded the more political Tom Robinson Band in 1976. The following year the group released the single "2-4-6-8 Motorway", which peaked at No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart for two weeks. The song alludes obliquely to a gay truck driver. In February 1978, the band released the Rising Free, which peaked at No. 18 in the UK Singles Chart and included his anthemic song "Glad to Be Gay" originally written for a 1976 London gay pride parade. The song was banned by the BBC. It was the first explicit gay pride pop song and it became the world’s first out and political pop hit. In an instant the song was embraced as the defacto queer national anthem. In 1979, Robinson co-wrote several songs with Elton John, including his minor hit "Sartorial Eloquence," which peaked at No. 39 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and a song about a young boy in boarding school who has a crush on an older student called “Elton's Song."

In 2009, Robinson founded "Fresh on the Net," a showcase website for upcoming bands and artists whose aim is "to help independent musicians find new listeners, and independent listeners find new music."

In 2014, he was one of the performers at the opening ceremonies of World Pride in Toronto, Canada, alongside Melissa Etheridge, Deborah Cox and Steve Grand.

Robinson does not identify exclusively as gay. He has had past experiences with women and has asserted that he has always made it clear that he liked both men and women. He now identifies as bisexual, but in the past he used the phrase “gay,” synonymous with “queer,” to encompass the entire LGBT community. He felt the term “bisexual” was a cop-out.

A longtime supporter and former volunteer of London's Gay Switchboard help-line, it was at a 1982 benefit party for the organization that Robinson met Sue Brearley, the woman with whom he would eventually live and have two children, and later marry.

In the mid-1990s, when Robinson became a father, the tabloids ran stories about what they deemed as a sexual orientation change, running headlines such as "Britain's Number One Gay in Love with Girl Biker!". Robinson continued to identify as a gay man, telling an interviewer: "I have much more sympathy with bisexuals now, but I am absolutely not one.” He added, "Our enemies do not draw the distinction between gay and bisexual."

In a 1994 interview for The Boston Globe newspaper, Robinson asserted: "We've been fighting for tolerance for the last 20 years, and I've campaigned for people to be able to love whoever the hell they want. That's what we're talking about: tolerance and freedom and liberty — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So if somebody won't grant me the same tolerance I've been fighting for them, hey, they've got a problem, not me."

In 1996 Robinson released an album Having It Both Ways. On it, he added a verse to "Glad to Be Gay," in which he sings: "Well if gay liberation means freedom for all, a label is no liberation at all. I'm here and I'm queer and do what I do, I'm not going to wear a straitjacket for you." In 1998, his epic about bisexuality, Blood Brother, won three awards at the Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards in New York. In the same year, he also performed at the fifth International Conference on Bisexuality at Harvard University.

Ever since the beginning of his relationship with Sue, he has continued to describe himself as “a gay man who happens to be in love with a woman.” Who could quarrel with that? I can't.


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