The queer Years and Years singer Olly Alexander has released a new BBC Three documentary.
The documentary wastes no time in giving you the exact vibe you will take away from watching Growing Up Gay.
Olly Alexander begins his story in the liberating setting of Sink the Pink’s mighty hoopla festival.
It’s a bastion of bright color, sexual freedom, and jubilant scenes.
Juxtapose this, with Alexander’s stark message in the opening minutes.
‘I’m yet to meet one LGBTI person who is unscathed by the experience of growing up, as LGBTI.’
Created by Antidote Productions, who also created Professor Green’s Suicide and Me, this show is at times difficult viewing – but a crucial piece of storytelling.
It asks difficult questions about the lack of services LGBTI people have in the UK, but also looks at one way that every queer child growing up can feel better about their identity whilst at school.
What’s the show about?
Alexander’s documents what’s it’ like to Grow Up Gay in his new documentary.
It’s a story that LGBTI people from across the UK, and indeed the world will be able to take narratives from.
Whether from his bedroom in Coleford which he says feels like ‘the cupboard under the stairs’ or from the people the singer meets with darkness and fear as their friends.
This documentary is raw, beautiful and tells such an important story.
It’s clear, the journey creating this show was difficult for the singer.
In a Q&A after a preview, he said the project was ‘overwhelming.’
As he meets young people, and friends and family we begin to grasp at an underlying sense of anger in him. One that comes out in tears of frustration at why it can be so difficult to grow up gay.
We learn a lot about Alexander
Alexanders story is particularly difficult as he documents his struggle with bulimia.
One moving scene follows the singer visiting the only male UK bulimia support group, Men Get Eating Disorders Too.
In the documentary, Alexander explains ‘I’ve never really spoken about it before.
‘I found it so difficult to want to stop.’
Describing the condition he says: ‘It’s like your brain gets re-wired, it’s so hard to undo it.
There are also hints, the narrative of this documentary and the people he has met, have influenced the writing for Years and Years’ upcoming album.
Olly Alexander pictured with his mom – © Antidote Productions
Why do we have to be so proud all the time?
Speaking after a preview of the documentary he noted that as queer people, we’re often expected to portray a rainbow like pride at all times.
And don’t get me wrong, this documentary does show that, in its true glorious way.
I stand by how it is an important part of the modern queer movement. I am the biggest advocate of rainbows, unicorns, and glitter for everyone.
But the reason I applaud this show is because it also shows so many important narratives we don’t always hear.
The stories of addiction, mental health and unfortunately, the pain growing up gay in the UK can cause is where the show excels in storytelling.
One way to make growing up gay easier for all
It also highlights one way to begin to tackle some of the issues growing up gay can cause.
Looking at the amazing work the Diversity Role Models are doing, highlighting the massive drop in homophobic bullying that takes place in schools they do lessons at.
Alexander is joined by trans activist Paris Lees, to deliver a lesson about growing up LGBTI in a school.
The way the children responded was incredible. I imagine many people will wish their school classroom was as welcoming as this school was.
Imagine the power if they were.
Alexander uses the documentary as calling card for the power for LGBTI inclusive sex and relationships education.
Speaking to Gay Star News at a Q&A after a preview of his show, Alexander added this, to the message of his show:
‘LGBTI sex and relationship education is one clear way to help students who are struggling. I know it’s a tricky conversation in terms of schools that have pupils with a mixture of faiths. It becomes a flash point that is not easy for schools to address. But I do think we need it.
‘I’m distrustful of any policy the current government says they are going to bring in. We need to be vigilant and keep shouting for LGBTI inclusive education.’
Released as part of BBC’s Gay Britannia series marking 50 years since the UK’s partial decriminalization of gay sex – Growing Up Gay is on BBC3 Now.