65 year old Retired Male Academic from Brighton
Question 1. In what kind of place did you grow up? (e.g. village, small town, city) Do you still live there now?
I grew up on a farm about halfway between Dundee and Forfar. There were other farms scattered around the neighbourhood but there was no identifiable village nearby although there was a shop and a church and two primary schools. I went everywhere by bus and when I was a teenager I travelled for miles by bicycle. My family were tenant farmers who were able in the 60s to buy their own farm. I never wanted to be a farmer and one of my motivations for going to university was to get away from there. When my brother sold the farm in 2009, forty seven years after I went to university, I felt a great surge of sadness and went back (much to his surprise) to say goodbye to the land where I had grown up.
Question 2. How would you describe your sexual orientation?
Gay. I spent several years coming to terms with this and tried very hard to be heterosexual. I had what I can now identify as gay desires when I was 13/14; I first had sex with another man when I was 20; I came out as gay when I was 26.
Question 3. What were the best and worst things to happen to you at school?
On my first day at primary school, I made a friend called Frank and we were close for the next four years until he was sent to a private school. At secondary school, I enjoyed the discussions that we had, inside and outside class, with my fellow pupils about topics which were not part of our everyday lives then e.g capital punishment, colonialism, etc. One of the worst things was playing team sports where I was always one of the last to be chosen to football teams, rughby teams and so on. One of the other worst things was feeling that somehow I was not masculine enough.
Question 4. Do you ever have to conceal any aspect of your personal life? Give an example.
Not any longer. But it took me a long time to be open about my sexuality in my extended family and the first person to whom I came out (a female cousin) proved to be very negative and has not contacted me since then (30 years ago). I don't talk about my socialist politics or humanist beliefs very much with my Tory, churchgoing family.
Question 5. Do your friends and family know about your sexuality/gender? If you have come out, give an idea of when this was and of how people responded.
I began to come out as gay in London in the early 1970s after I was involved in the Gay Liberation Front. Most people were friendly, although they often did not know what to say. One old friend dropped me after he met me with my then lover; he had been no better or worse than any of my other friends when I first told him about my sexuality but the sight of me sitting on a sofa together with my lover was clearly too much for him. People often respond by telling me intimate things about their own lives.
Question 6. Do you experience discrimination in everyday life? If so, give an example.
Not any longer. But I did have difficulties about coming out when I was teaching in a college of further education; the fear of the students' response and the fear of lack of support from colleagues and managers were usually worse than the actual experience itself. I have also had difficulties with some healthcare professionals, particularly nurses, when it comes to giving contacts details to be used in emergency situations; some try to insist on the name of a blood relative.
Question 7. Who is likely to be more hostile to you and who is the most supportive of you in your life?
Unthinking people are a problem. Some heterosexual people of my own age who do not seem to have reflected on homsexuality since the publication of the Wolfenden Report in 1957 often make me feel that they see me a second class citizen. I have a number of close friends, such as an ex-partner, an ex-housemate and several longstanding friends (all gay men and heterosexual women) who are particularly important. I also value the more casual friendships that I have made at work, through political activities or walking groups; these include gay men, lesbians, heterosexual men and heterosexual women.