Ahead of his event at Birmingham Town Hall, Queer Eye’s Tan France shares this story from his book, Naturally Tan:
My own very short foray into music was the violin when I was eleven. There was a successful violinist at the time called Vanessa Mae, who I thought was so talented, and I wanted to be able to play the violin like she did. Her take on pop violin really was my weird preteen jam.
It had been so difficult to convince my dad to let me do it. The violin itself was expensive, and we didn’t have a lot of disposable in-come. And the classes themselves cost a lot. More importantly, I’m sure my dad was hyperaware of what a complete lazy shit I was and that there was no way on God’s green earth that I would commit to learning a new skill. I swore that I was going to excel at it, and it would be great for university applications.
About two classes in, I thought, Holy fuck, i’ve made the biggest mistake. My dad is going to kill me. I stopped taking the classes, but because I didn’t want to deal with the confrontation of telling my family, I continued to pretend I was still going.
My dad passed away very shortly afterward, before he found out I was quitting the violin, so I never got in trouble for it. If I remember correctly, horribly, I used it as a good time to announce to my mother that I was going to quit the violin, so I was able to bury that nugget along with everything else that was going on at that time.
But performing arts class wasn’t entirely bad. Even though the majority of the kids were different from me, it was there that I first noticed there was another gay student at our school. He never mentioned it directly to me, but he was rather effeminate and loved a Judy song. He was the first person I got to know who was gay. At least, I think he was gay. Maybe he was just a very effeminate straight guy. No, he made a killer friendship bracelet. His fucking bracelet-making skills were in-sane, yo. He had to have been gay.
Everyone in class was very loving with him. They were kind and inclusive and laughed at his jokes. And the more flamboyant he was, the more people enjoyed him. He was the first person I encountered where I thought, Oh, shit, I’m not the only one in school. I knew there were other gay people out there in the world at large, but in our school, hadn’t known anyone else. They were all clearly doing what I was doing (even if it was not quite convincing). Playing it straight. I had thought I was very much alone, and it was nice to discover that I wasn’t.
He and I never really spoke, as he was one of the kids from the other side of the tracks, but it comforted me to know that I was not alone at school.