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Stifyn Parri reflects on ‘Clause 28’ with S4C

S4C

Stifyn Parri reflects on ‘Clause 28’ with S4C

Stifyn Parri has described the experience of presenting a new documentary to S4C as similar to ‘coming out’ publicly as a gay person for the second time.

In a special programme tonight (1st December) to coincide with World AIDS Day – Paid â Dweud Hoyw (Don’t Say Gay) – Stifyn discusses a troubling chapter in recent British history. The subject of the programme is Clause 28. This clause was a law that was in force between 1988-2003 and which prohibited public institutions from teaching children and young people about anything related to the LGBTQ+ community.

When it came into being in 1988, AIDS was claiming the headlines and Margaret Thatcher’s government was in power in Westminster. Presenting this programme and talking to so many inspiring people has meant that Stifyn feels that he is ‘coming out’ again, positively and constructively.

Stifyn Parri:

“I’ve admitted things in this programme that I’ve never admitted before because I wasn’t ready to share or I wasn’t aware. For example, I have shared the fact that while I was on Les Misérables in the West End I had HIV tests and nobody knew that… because people were so prejudiced. While waiting for the results I was singing empty chairs at empty tables – the emotion was real.”

In the popular soap series Brookside on Channel 4, Stifyn played the role of Christopher Duncan, a character who was one-half of one of the first openly gay relationships on British television. Although Stifyn himself was gay, he hadn’t ‘come out’ to anyone at that time.

Stifyn Parri:

“People have assumed that I came out of the womb all singing all dancing, but no, it wasn’t like that. I had no confidence, I didn’t want people to be against me and people judging me.”

A huge protest was held in Manchester to oppose Clause 28 on February 20th 1988, and Stifyn was at the front of the march holding a flag and addressing the crowd.

“I wasn’t a campaigner, but an actor who happened to play a gay character in Brookside… but there was nothing I’d rather be than on the frontline – whatever line that was – with Ian McKellen and Michael Cashman… and to have thousands of people respond, I felt like the Pope!”

Among those to whom Stifyn talks in the programme is the gay rights campaigner and author, John Sam Jones. John explains about the time in his life when he presented himself to a psychiatrist at Denbigh hospital in order to try to ‘cure’ himself of being gay. The treatment John received there included wearing a bracelet that gave him an electric shock.

John Sam Jones recalled, “I had absorbed all the negativity about being gay… If I can get this treatment… mum and dad will never have to know that I have been gay and brought shame on the family.”

It was John’s minister who gave him the confidence to try to regain control of his life after such a low period, a period when John tried to kill himself, he said: “The Minister told me, if that’s what God has called you to be, you have to be the best gay man you can. And that was the basis for rebuilding my life.”

It has been twenty years since the repeal of Clause 28 and so many more years since Stifyn’s gay kiss on television – a kiss on the cheek that gave rise to several complaints. Stifyn looks at gay people’s lives in society today as well, where the long shadow of Clause 28 continues to make many afraid to ‘come out’. Coming out to Stifyn meant no longer living a lie.

Stifyn Parri:

“Before I came out, it was against the law – I should have been cancelled. That’s my strength – no-one on the face of this Earth is going to cancel me. All I did was listen and accept and announce myself.”

Paid â Dweud Hoyw / Don’t Say Gay, tonight at 9 pm on S4C

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