Meeting Kylie – my role model and equality champion


In 1988, I became a Kylie Minogue fan. I was at school and it was the same year that Section 28 of the UK Local Government Act came into effect. For those who are too young to remember this, the act made it illegal for homosexuality to be ‘promoted’ in schools and described non-heterosexual relationships as ‘pretend family relationships’ (it was finally repealed in 2003). In that environment, it is hardly surprising that I wouldn’t admit to anyone (including myself) that I had a bit of a confusing teenage crush on Kylie. So I associate Kylie with my own initial discovery of my sexual orientation. That discovery, for the first few years at least, was characterised largely by shame and denial. Over the years, Kylie has become a source of inspiration and energy, a role model and someone who can, through her music, put a smile on my face and help me to keep going during the most difficult of times. She is a woman who has found ways of being successful over long periods of time in an industry which is notorious for being dominated and controlled primarily by men. For this reason, she is also one of the people who now inspires my own work on researching discourses of gender and sexuality.

27 years later, it is perhaps fitting that the year when I finally met Kylie (2014) is also the year when another significant law in England and Wales came into effect relating to same-sex relationships – the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act1 – happily, this time a more positive piece of legislation! On the day that we were meeting Kylie (we had managed to buy some ‘Meet and Greet’ tickets for one of her shows in Manchester), it seemed a perfect time for this reason for me to ask my partner, Caroline, if she wanted to ‘upgrade’ our civil partnership to marriage when it becomes legal for us to do so after 10 December. 26 September 2014 felt like a day of perfect synergy – a coming together of energies, events and people who have and continue to be important to me. For me, it was a culmination of a 27-year-long journey – both a legal journey which moved from the homophobia of Section 28 to the full equality offered by the same-sex marriage act, and also a personal journey from struggling with accepting my own sexuality to an out and proud gay woman whose job now involves teaching and researching about gender and sexualities equality and diversity and educating and supporting others. I have been helped along the way by many people, but I always include Kylie in this list even though I have not (until now) known her personally. Kylie started to become a spokesperson for LGBT rights in the early 1990s. Knowing that Kylie thought that being gay was actually okay helped me to come out. I eventually came out in 1994, not long after the release of ‘Confide in Me’, a song whose lyrics could be interpreted as an invitation to come out and it is particularly meaningful to me for that reason (as well as it being a fantastic song!).

Kylie has continued to be a vocal supporter of LGBT rights and, more recently, she has spoken publicly in support of same-sex marriage. She has, for example, been very critical about Australia’s 2013 court ruling against same-sex marriage2. Kylie routinely attends and performs at LGBT pride events around the world. She is, of course, known for having a big fan base of gay men but actually her audience is very diverse which only adds to the enjoyment of going to her live shows and interacting with other fans. Kylie’s commitment to sexual equality and diversity continues to be reflected in aspects of her work. In the Kiss Me Once show which is touring the UK and Europe at the moment, the song ‘All The Lovers’ is performed against a projection at the back of the stage containing artistic images of heterosexual, gay and lesbian couples and the symbols indicating male-female, male-male and female-female relationships.

Kylie is not just a role model for me because of her support of LGBT equality. She is also a personal inspiration because of her work ethic and her tenacity both in her personal and professional life. At times when I’m working on a big writing project and hit the inevitable obstacles that crop up along the way, I often think of Kylie’s ability to overcome difficulties, to keep going, and to not be afraid to do things differently whilst at the same time staying true to herself. Kylie is an artist who has found a way to be original in a music genre which is largely characterised by being formulaic. The way that Kylie manages that tension is impressive. She is, in my opinion, an innovator and a cultural icon and should be admired for what she brings to the arts as well as for her ongoing contributions to LGBT rights.


So… back to the green room in the Manchester Phones 4 U arena, with scented candles dotted around, Kylie music playing in the background, and minutes away from meeting my idol of almost three decades, there was no better moment for me to propose marriage to Caroline! And she said yes! Kylie was officially the first person in the world to see the ring on Caroline’s finger! She seemed very excited by this news and, after we had told her, asked if she could tell her crew who were standing at the side – she told them and they all clapped and cheered – it was an absolutely perfect moment! We chatted a bit more with Kylie, then there were photos after which we said goodbye, wished her luck for the show and went back to the green room for more drinks (which went down very quickly!) and to chat with other fans. The atmosphere was amazing and we met some lovely people who we ended up watching the show with. Finally, we were escorted out of the green room and into a sectioned off area of the arena right next to the stage from which we could watch the show – to top off an already perfect evening, we had a brilliant view of the stage and the show was, as expected, spectacular beyond words!

I love this photo (below) not only because it is a memento of our once-in-a-lifetime meeting with Kylie, but it has significance because Caroline and I had just decided to upgrade to full, legal marriage. And Kylie, who has inadvertently helped me along the way in my acceptance of my own sexuality and who is a powerful and vocal public supporter of same-sex marriage, was there to share in the moment with us.


York St John will hopefully soon be offering the ‘LGBT Allies Programme’ from Stonewall to its staff. Perhaps the training should start with this photo – with an illustration of Kylie as an equality champion and straight ally role model. She is, in my opinion, an excellent example of someone who is powerful because they are in the public eye, and who uses that position to support and endorse equality for others. What an amazing woman!!

1 ^ A remaining provision of the Act which will allow civil partners to be able to convert their civil partnership into a marriage (section 9) will be brought into force on 10 December 2014.

2 ^ Reported in PrideSource.

Helen Sauntson

At York St John University, I am a Senior Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics. Much of my teaching and research focuses on LGBT issues, especially in relation to language and education. As a former teacher, I maintain an interest in how gender and sexuality identities are constructed through linguistic interaction in classroom settings. I am currently working on research into the role that language plays in constructing sexuality discourses in educational contexts, with a specific focus upon linguistic manifestations of homophobia in UK secondary schools. I regularly liaise with local schools over LGBT issues and sexual diversity more broadly.

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