Bibliophile | Michael Cashman is ‘One of Them’

One of Them
by Michael Cashman
Bloomsbury Publishing

Born in 1951, Michael Cashman recalls that if there was no entertainment when he was a child – he would make his own. He was only seven or eight when he was dancing for his mother and her friend and he heard her say “I think he’s one of them”. And he knew he was different from the other boys.

At high school, drama became his haven and he put up with the pain of the other classes because he knew at lunchtime he “could escape to that kaleidoscope on the other side of the red curtain”. Getting a part in Oliver at the age of 12, the boy from the East End of London was transported to the West End to lead an exciting life before returning to his roots by playing a gay character in the BBC’s long-running, popular soap opera EastEnders.

Questions were asked in parliament as to why there was a homosexual character on a family television show when AIDS and HIV were “swirling around”. Tabloids, eager for scandal, published his address and even the straight actor playing his partner in the show received homophobic threats and verbal abuse.

Cashman capitalized on his gay character’s fame by becoming the poster boy for the fight against the anti-gay clause 28 passed by parliament. This was the beginning of a lifetime fighting for LGBT+ rights; including helping establish the civil liberties group Stonewall with Ian McKellen and being elected to serve in the European parliament for 15 years.

There were many bleak times in his life and Cashman writes how he was in his thirties before he managed to come to terms with the burden of secrecy he carried about the systematic abuse and sexual assault he received from an early age. Only then could he discover the difference between sex and love.

The book opens with the civil partnership with his long-term partner Paul, which was something Michael thought would never happen in his lifetime. It is then that the reader realizes that as well as being an incredible memoir from a life lived at a pivotal time in history, the book is also a love story to the man who shared his life.

Lezly Herbert

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