First Published: May 2006
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
Stonewall, the gay campaign group, has just launched a new book in which prominent gay and lesbians offer their insights into what life is actually like for us in contemporary Britain, however far equality and acceptance has increased. OutUK's Adrian Gillan has been meeting some of the contributors.
“We want to help build a Britain where every lesbian and gay person is not just entitled to freedom and respect, but where they are actually accorded freedom and respect,” Stonewall chief, and editor of The Way We Are Now, Ben Summerskill tells OutUK.

“That will only happen when there is a greater understanding of the humanity of every lesbian and gay man. That’s why I’m so thrilled with this new book; and with the varied, wonderful and often humorous human insights its contributors have shared.”

Ben Summerskill is chief executive of Stonewall, Europe’s largest gay equality organisation. Formerly Assistant Editor of the Observer, he still writes regularly for The Guardian.
No mere hymn - to quote the rear cover – to “the way the world has been transformed for millions of gay people within a generation”; no mere slap-on-the-back, rags-to-riches, fights-to-rights story. The book really does deliver what’s promised on the lid – a diverse series of frank snap-shot portraits of The Way We Are Now.

Contributors include Alan Hollinghurst (writer), Anthony Sher (actor), Brian Paddick (policeman), Maggi Hambling (artist), Matthew Parris (commentator), David Starkey (historian), Daniel Harbour (writer), Jane Czyzselska (journalist), Robert Taylor (photographer), Craig Jones (navy) and Stephen Hough (pianist). Many of them discuss their lives and work – past and present - with extreme candour. Some of them are downright non-PC and subversive: David Starkey’s feisty interview, in particular, is gripping, challenging and jaw-dropping in equal measure.

Ben Summerskill’s introduction highlights the progress in law; as well as the massive struggle for social acceptance that still remains for our nation’s gays – a challenge he hopes this book will help meet by reaching as wide a readership as possible, and not just us queers: “When you compare the rather one-dimensional portrayals of LGB people sometimes bandied about – not least amongst ourselves - and the hugely varied insights of the wonderful contributions to The Way We Are Now, one must surely reflect that, in the 21st Century, lesbians and gay men are all hugely different from one another.”

“If some of us ever did have something in common,” he opines optimistically, “it was that we were committed to securing legal equality - to end the criminalisation that had blighted so many lives over so many years. Having now seen the arrival of equality in so many key areas, we are now all the more committed to ensuring it’s not just the law that is changed, but wider society as well.”

“I had been shortlisted for the Booker [Prize] ten years earlier and didn’t win. I think the relative success of The Line of Beauty is probably an indicator of the big change of attitudes since 1994, though I would also note that the book has sold less well in paperback so far than any other Booker winner of the past seven years.” - Alan Hollinghurst writer
“In my opinion, the police service is half-way along its journey towards equality of opportunity: it’s OK to be “different” in the police, provided you behave like a straight white man! We need to move from a position where diversity is tolerated to one where diversity is celebrated.” - Brian Paddick Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police
“I see the fact that I am gay as absolutely central to my identity. But it’s not wholly me. It doesn’t subsume or consume me, and this is what I get very worried about when people become professionally gay. I think it’s something that’s happened to Ian McKellen.” - David Starkey historian
“If we [in the armed forces] genuinely aspire to be a world-class employer of gay men and women, there must be no let-up in our efforts to achieve genuine change – indeed, they must gather greater pace.” - Lieutenant Commander Craig Jones MBE
“It is time we stopped thinking of ourselves as special. This, as it occurs, will be the final act of emancipation. [Moreover] Self-pity is the final closet, and others’ sympathies our final chains.” - Matthew Parris political journalist and commentator
“Lesbianism has a bit of an image problem. The mainstream press still seems to have only two registers where gay women are concerned – over-sexed minx or frumpy old dyke. We are in a time of change, and young women are looking for new ways to identify themselves and their sexuality.” - Jane Czyzselska journalist
“Overall I’d say that I’m one of the lucky ones for whom being different has drawn largely positive and supportive attention. Sadly, I don’t feel that I’m so typical.” - Robert Taylor photographer
“[Humans] are complicated: we are a weird, beautiful, wise, stupid, vulnerable, dangerous form of life. Outsiders simply learn to recognise this picture of humankind sooner than the rest.” - Sir Anthony Sher actor
“Real families stretch across generations, continents and languages. And such extended families extend to homosexuals. When the ‘family values’ lobby pretends otherwise, they reveal a sad misvaluing of family life.” - Daniel Harbour writer
“Coming out? I’ve never been in. And victims of bullying should get some muscles! Or make people laugh! And be proud! They should be proud!” - Maggi Hambling artist
Buy Online From Amazon The Way We Are Now edited by Ben Summerskill published by Continuum Books is available from Amazon or from all good bookshops. A proportion of royalties is donated to Stonewall. To find out more about Stonewall’s work and to help it campaign or raise funds check out


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