FYI, Paul O’Grady was an unflinching trans ally: ‘Trans people are extremely brave’

Paul O'Grady in a grey suit and tie, smiling and pointing upwards, against a purple and red background.

Alongside bringing drag into mainstream entertainment with his alter ego Lily Savage, and being a fierce campaigner against homophobia, TV legend Paul O’Grady was a staunch ally of the trans community.

O’Grady died “unexpectedly but peacefully” on Tuesday (28 March), and LGBTQ+ people have since come together to reflect on the impact he had on the queer community.

Speaking to Times Radio last year, O’Grady reaffirmed his support for trans people, saying that it was “about time we accepted” them for who they are.

“They’re very brave. Trans people are extremely brave,” the comedian said. “Once they’ve made that transition, they’ve then got to slot into what you would call ‘normal’ society. But I’m afraid society isn’t very normal, it never has been and never will be.”

He went on to say that he was angered by the increasing hatred trans people face.

“I’m a great believer in whatever makes you happy. People are so quick to make remarks, it annoys me,” he said.

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“I know so many trans people and it’s no big deal. It never has been… fair play to them. Live your life, that’s what I say.”

Paul O’Grady had long used his platform to fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

Among the hundreds of moments being talked about following his death, many people have taken the time to celebrate his cutting response to the police storming the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in 1987, while he was on stage as Lily.

The raid was at the height of the 1980s HIV/Aids crisis, so police wore rubber gloves while making arrests, to ensure they didn’t touch those they were apprehending – in the belief that the condition could be spread by touch alone.

“It was 34 years ago when the cops raided the Vauxhall,” O’Grady wrote in a social media post, reflecting on the incident. “I was doing the late show and within seconds the place was heaving with coppers, all wearing rubber gloves. I remember saying something like, ‘Well, well, it looks like we’ve got help with the washing up’.”

In the months leading up to his death, O’Grady was working on a campaign to demand the police apologise for the “homophobic” arrests.

Fans and celebrities are continuing to flood the internet with tributes to the star, with RuPaul praising his “brilliant career”.

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