He likes me. And vice versa.


Declaration of interest: I’m friends with Philip’s husband Tommy. Nevertheless, the following is my true view.

We buy more music than straight people, we are more loyal to the artists that inspire us than straight people, we are more vocal in our support of tunes we love than straight people… but us LGBT+ people are rarely the target for album releases.

Yeah, there are some specifically gay artists out there – Matt Fishell, who is enthusiastic but not always good; Steve Grand, who is good but not always enthusiastic – who aim for a gay (male) audience. But they do it more through YouTube and ‘going viral’. They leave less of a real footprint because of it. They’re not mainstream.

There are also mainstream gay artists – Cliff Richard, Elton John, Morrissey – who specifically avoid aiming for us directly and look more to selling albums to straight people.

There’s a sub-genre of male artists who take songs usually sung by women and sing them afresh, usually changing the gender of the object of the song. And there are those that leave the gender alone, but turn a happy song into one of frustration and persecution while they’re at it.

Where are all the happy songs, sung by a mainstream artist, where the object of the song and the singer are of the same sex? It’s pretty rare, alas, alas.

For this reason, Philip Chaffin’s new album, Will He Like Me?, immediately stands out. These are (for the most part) happy songs, songs that celebrate finding love. They’re from Broadway/West End musicals, so they’re crowd-pleasers (this is not a criticism, quite the reverse) and we’re likely to already know at least some of them.

And it’s a man singing about how much he loves another man. Songs originally written (often by gay writers) for women to sing about men. And here they are, finally providing some romance, longing and delight to a gay male audience who, just once, would like a gay romantic song that wasn’t all heartbreak and despair.

I couldn’t help but sing along (thus drowning out Philip’s gorgeous baritone with my own wavery caterwauling) with this album.

My husband, who long ago gave up seeking anything useful from mainstream artists that would speak to him personally, was enraptured by this album. It worked for him. He was delighted by it. And not just for ‘gay rights’ reasons – he specifically noted that Philip was one of the best singers he’d heard in years and that the album would’ve worked for him even if the roles were reversed and it was Philip singing about a woman.

Tommy Krasker’s production on the album is spot on. He knows where the music should come first and where the lyrics are most important. He knows when the whole sound should be quiet and refined and when it should blast our ears (in a good way). This seems to be a rare skill these days, and I last heard it used this well in the soundtrack album to the brilliant musical ‘Fun Home’… which Tommy also produced.

I bought Will He Like Me? on CD because I’m old fashioned, and also because that seems to be the way to give the most back to the people behind albums these days – streaming is basically worthless to the artist whilst being lucrative to the streaming company.

Nevertheless, however you choose to listen, it’s worth you listening. Enjoy.

At the start

I can remember his dick in amazing detail – a scar-like line ran from the slit to the frenulum, bulging outwards. I can remember his smell – sweet sweat, not pungent but gentle and endlessly intoxicating. I can remember his taste – salty, youthful, slightly soapy, different from my own but instantly recognisable for what it was.

His name? No, that’s gone. Couldn’t tell you. This many years later, I doubt I could pick him out of a line-up either.

What I remember most is not those physical feelings, the sights and smells and tastes of sex that would eventually become commonplace. What I remember most is the reaction of my brain. This was the point of no return. (Take off your shirt). This was where the line was being drawn. (I’ll unbutton your jeans). There was no mistake now. (A hand on the back of my pants). I was gay. It was a relief to know for certain, to be sure of what I’d been sure of since I was 4 or 5 years old. (Getting your pants down in your excited state makes us both laugh). There was no going back now. (Do you like that?). No denying it. (Touch me like this). This was just ever so right. This was forever.

Welcome home


The UK changed the law to make heart-warming homecomings such as this possible in 1999. Nice to see President Obama sticking to a promise and making them legal in the US last year, only 12 years later than our slightly more advanced country.

It does get better


This video, like most REM videos, is a??fascinating??watch. However, if you've never heard the song before (and what's wrong with you?) listen to it with your eyes closed first and tell me what it makes you remember. It's an odd song, because for most people it tells a different autobiographical story. You may never have been skinny dipping at night, but I'm sure you've got some memory from adolescence with the same hint of danger-mixed-with-pleasure the song seems to be??describing.

The band themselves are split as to what it means, with lead singer Michael Stipe saying that it's autobiographical in places but mostly just made up while other members recall memories of the early days of the group getting together – but not the same memories as each other.

For me, the song seems to be about boys. That first flush of adolescence when I first noticed other boys, when I first realised that whatever was going to happen as I grew up, other boys were going to feature quite prominently in life. That time as a teenager when life seemed full of??possibilities??and the promise of sex, rather than mortgages and cleaning the lav and thinking that a trip to B&Q makes a lovely thing to do as a couple of a Sunday. This song brings it back to me: the sight of male flesh; the smell of being outdoors at night; the taste of cheap ciggies and cheaper cider; the sound of other boys breathing while asleep; the feeling of being touched for the first time.

Pretty good for 4 minutes 23 seconds of American songwriting.

What might have been

Lesbian, gay and trans kids get a very raw deal. Children are positively??mediaeval??in the pleasure they take from taunting other children, especially ones that seem 'different' in some way. Grown-ups are often no better: the reason that so many homeless kids are LGBT is not because we're unstable as people, but because loving, ordinary parents would rather throw a child out to sleep rough than accept that they are different. The reason we suffer more mental illness than average society is not because being LGBT causes mental illness but because of the rejection and hate received at the hands of the organisations other people would turn to for help – churches, charities, even the state.??

When I was growing, the state, in the shape of the Tories, feared that people like me were "being taught" that we had an "inalienable right to be gay" and that this was wrong. They passed evil, homophobic legislation that they still haven't properly apologised for, banning the "promotion" (read: discussion) of homosexuality in schools. Hundreds of gay children took their lives in that period. And I've got news for Tories who still worry that people believe they have an??inalienable right to be gay: we do.

These attitudes are slowly changing. But very very slowly. Too slowly. A couple of organisations try to do practical things to change this. Diversity Role Models??is sending ordinary, happy LGBT people into schools – primary and secondary – to challenge homophobic behaviour and to offer a route out of hell from those homophobia affects, simply by standing in front of a class and saying: look at me – I'm you. I'm normal. I'm happy.

At the other end, cleaning up the damage society's attitudes can do, are the Albert Kennedy Trust. Albert was triple-cursed: gay; abandoned by his own family; and, at 16, as the state is wont to do, tipped out of a children's home to live on the streets. He died running away from the mob that was trying to give him a beating.

There but for the grace of fate goes any LGBT child. The video above is part of their "AKT NOW" campaign to remind us all, gay, straight and everything in between, that this happens and it must be stopped. The stars are all famous celebrities who happen to be gay and happen not to have had their lives ruined – or ended – senselessly because of it.

I defy you not to be moved.