Difference Is Born On The Lips
Part memoir, part meditation on what it means to be othered as a working class gay man, this book is beautifully written, brave, challenging and hopeful. I'm a fair bit older than the author, but from a similar background, and so much of what he says rings true - the pressure to fit in, the snobbery one often encounters within gay social circles. In some ways, things are easier for this generation than they were for mine - we have full legal equality now, and people with HIV often live long and healthy lives. But stigma still remains and social conditioning can be just as damaging to young gay men as it was in my day.
Handrick is at his best when telling his own story. Some of his observations about the shortage of gay working class representation omit key films like My Beautiful Launderette and Beautiful Thing, which were a refreshing change from all those early 80s films about posh boys in cricket whites (although who didn't swoon over Scudder in Maurice?)
But these are minor quibbles. The author's broader point holds true. All too often, working class gay men are there to be fetishised, be it in mainstream entertainment or the porn films which are more easily accessible than ever before. Thanks to the growth of the internet and developments in technology, these are often the first images of gay sex a young man sees.
When he writes about his personal experience of mental health and abusive relationships, Handrick's often poetic prose is filled with insight and deeply moving. It may be one man's story but it's also a call to arms and a reminder of the power of community. We can do better. We deserve better. Essential reading.