Review by Katelyn Smith
In order to fully appreciate Colin Clews’ book Gay in the 80s: From Fighting for Our Rights to Fighting for Our Lives (2016), it seems necessary to supplement the text with his extensive blog of the same name. Clews began his blog in March 2012 and has continued through 2017, writing short summaries of important events in gay history during the 1980s. He claims the 80s are a particularly important decade to educate others about because there was a “major shift towards the emergence of a global gay culture.” Clews further reveals on his blog a major motivation behind his writing: “Maybe it’s a sign of my advancing years but I’m increasingly coming to appreciate the value of knowing our history.” Although written for a general audience, Clews’ book is aimed toward those a part of the LGBT community. Rather than writing his blog chronologically, he instead chooses various topics from the decade, often writing about events on the anniversary of important milestones for gay rights. Gay in the 80s is a culmination and addition to Clews’ blog, which is currently featured on the website. A PDF version is available for purchase on Clews’ website, with a hard copy currently available only in the U.K.
Clews’ book is broken into five chapters of varying length: Increased Visibility, The Growth of Queer Communities, Mainstream Politics, Under Attack, and HIV/AIDS. Clews claims there is “no scientific rationale” for these groupings and they are entirely based on his opinion, which is both a strength and weakness to the work. The 1980s was a time of personal transformation for Clews, who describes this as a “pivotal decade” for both himself and gay activists. Beginning the decade as a “necessarily closeted” residential childcare worker in Leicester, England, he ended the decade as an active advocate for gay rights, arguing for HIV/AIDS care in Sydney, Australia. Clews uses personal testimony to supplement the wider history of changing attitude toward homosexuality, seen in the media, governments, and activist efforts. Continue reading “Book Review: Gay in the 80s”