To celebrate LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari is publishing a daily series of LGBT Heroes, selected by the magazine’s team of writers and special contributors.
Stephen Fry – Writer, Actor, Presenter, Comic.
by Mat Price (from the Proud2Be Project)
Stephen Fry is one of the people I would invite to my imaginary dinner party. He’s intelligent, well read and articulate, and he’s not snobbish, nor does he belittle or look down on anyone.
I remember overhearing a conversation when I was young about him running away and having a nervous breakdown. The other thing I remember was that he was gay. At the time I was unsure exactly what the word gay meant but even at a young age I could hear a very quiet voice at the pit of my stomach saying ‘this is relevant information…they are talking about you’.
Growing up I heard so many negative things about being gay from my church, school and certain members of my family. Having worked with young children for a number of years I now realise how important it is for every child to hear positive things about themselves and for who they are to be affirmed by the people in their lives. And I realise how important it is for them to have role models to look up to.
Throughout my teenage years I looked up to Stephen Fry and he became my role model. I realized I could relate to him as a gay man. He wasn’t hiding the fact that he was gay and people were not rejecting him for it. In fact, people seemed to like him. For me, a young gay man desperate for affirmation, this was a powerful message and something I held onto.
Years later, my twin brother Jon and I felt that, although laws were changing, the messages that LGBT people were receiving about who they were from society in general were still negative and much like the ones we received as children. We wanted to create a positive message that could in some way start counterbalancing all the other messages. We founded the Proud2Be video campaign in June 2011 and both made a list of the high profile figures we would most like to front it. You can guess who was on the top of my list.
I sent an email to Stephen’s PA to ask if he would tweet about our video campaign. I received a reply the next day informing me that Stephen would tweet about us the following Friday. For a few hours on that Friday afternoon our twitter account went crazy.
A week later we emailed to say thank you and to invite Stephen to make a video for our campaign. But I was taken aback when on that weekend we received an email from Stephen’s PA with a video. It seemed to take forever to download … When I saw Stephen’s face on the screen, explaining in his usual poetic manner that he was proud to be gay, I let out a little scream. Jon came into the room and I said, ”I think you better come here and see this.” We watched the video and then proceeded to dance around our flat. We then went to our local for a beer.
So why is Stephen Fry my hero? It’s not only because he honest about who he is, but that he’s proud of it, too. As a young gay man he was my role model and unbeknownst to him he was guiding me, inspiring me and encouraging me to be proud of who I was even though there were others in my life encouraging me not to be. For someone you have never met to have such a positive effect on the way you feel about yourself by merely being who they are, is there anything more heroic?