The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) were always regarded as the bastion of British Broadcasting and part of the country’s Establishment. Even today they are still one of the world’s most trusted news service.
There was however another side to them when in their earlier days they also produced some ground-breaking programming in their Play For Today TV series. As forward think as they strived to be, our reactions were usuallymixed as the controversial subjects were often presented them in a negative light.
Occasionally they included homosexuality. Although these dramas were well-acted and well-written, but they didn’t waste time with acceptance or progressiveness. After all ‘The Boys In The Band’ didn’t have the exclusivity in portraying bitterly unhappy homosexuals at that time.
The gay men in Coming Out (1979) form a nest of spiteful poofs intent on destroying one another. Jane Lapotaire’s character in The Other Woman (1976) is a man-hating dyke who ‘becomes’ a lesbian following a childhood rape and ends up miserable and alone, and serve her right too.
But then in 1979 that tide turned with ‘Even Solomon’ : a play where lead character was transsexual.
It’s the story of young Stephen who works in a bank. He is a virgin and when he shows no interest in sex, he is cruelly scorned by an aggressive female neighbour when he rebuffs her advances. He lives with his mother, an overbearing woman who mocks him for being wet. But Stephen has a secret – he likes to wear women’s clothing. When his horrified mother finds out, she takes him to meet a fellow cross-dresser to ‘solve’ the problem. But the meeting ends unexpectedly, when the other man realises that Stephen is not transvestite, but transsexual.
The Play was a real first for British TV. Asides from A Change of Sex (also in 1979), a documentary series that followed a male-female transition, this was the first time we ever saw a transgender character on our screens.
Maybe not be a perfect fit in today’s PC culture but it was positive as it could be back then, even giving Stephen/Susan a happy ending of sorts,.
Sadly the BBC have never released this on a DVD (Yet) BUT the BFI are screening it in London at the National Film Theatre on Thursday 22 October 2020 18:00 (Tickets HERE) Or alternative you can see this wonderful piece of LGBTQ history on Amazon Prime Video UK