August 1 2014 Latest news:
Sam Blewett, Reporter
Saturday, May 17, 2014
It may only seem like yesterday, but the Nineties had a far different and less tolerant political climate than today’s.
In 1991, Cllr Mark Flewitt used the Recorder to announce that he was gay, making him Havering’s first openly non-hetrosexual councillor.
He faced some homophobic backlash but his bravery helped shape today’s situation in which people no longer need to even “come out”.
He said: “The gay agenda was more about campaigning then – it was much safer just to come out with it. Now it’s not so necessary to do that.”
Cllr Flewitt, who now sits on Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, admitted that, while preparing to make the announcement, he failed to tell some very important people.
“In all my planning, I forgot to tell my family,” he said.
His loved ones were “absolutely fine” with it and said they always knew anyway.
His decision to go public was influenced by gay equality organisation Stonewall and the activism of Peter Tatchell who would “out” public figures who were homophobic in public but gay in private.
“Tatchell’s work may have seemed outrageous at the time, but would seem much less so now,” said Cllr Flewitt.
Stonewall founder Michael Cashman, now a Labour MEP, also played a big part in the councillor’s decision.
Mr Cashman started out as an actor and received the first gay kiss on British television when his EastEnders character , Colin Russell, was kissed on the forehead by his male partner in 1987.