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Norman

Norman, born 1950


Summary

Norman is a 58 year old gay man from Birmingham, who has lived here all his life. He talks about coming to terms with being gay and how difficult it was for him. He mentions early sexual experiences and coming onto the gay scene in the early 1970s. He also mentions bars such as the Victoria, Viking and Trocadero.


Contents

Trocadero - 100 70
Victoria - 100 70
Early feelings of shame - 30 50
Coming to terms with his sexuality - 60
Early sexual experiences - 40
Police harassment - 120
Jaycee Cinema - 40 60
Nightingale - 150 160
Grosvenor - 170
Viking Bar - 100 110
Mature Gay Men's Group - 200
Homophobic Taunts in the 1960s - 30
Thoughts on Birmingham - 210
Relationships - 80 180
The Jester - 130
Terminology - 30
Classification of homosexuality as a disease - 30
Media - 200


10 Initial Chat

Norman is an older gay man he is 58, initially talking with the interview about the weather and what a poor event this year's Pride and the previous years' were, weather wise.

Norman heard about Gay Birmingham Remembered after being given a postcard outside the Fountain pub at Pride 2007, he was asked to take part in the survey. He asked if the interviewers were gay.

20 About Norman

Norman has lived in Birmingham all his life. He was born and brought up in Quinton, moved around until he was fifteen. He lived with his mother but felt he needed a place on his own but his mother was against him moving. When he was 27 she said it was fine for him to have his own place in Longbridge, four miles away, as she was on her own. His first house in 1976 cost him 7, 500. He talks of rising mortgage rates and financial worries. He now lives in Northfield.

30 Early gay feelings in the 1960s

Norman remembers realising he was homosexual at the age of 13, and how it made him feel. (In the 1960s. the term 'gay' meant bright and happy, the usual term for a gay man was 'homosexual.' ) "My mother had a medical directory and it had an article about homosexuality. I'd heard the kids say 'homo' at school but never knew what it meant. I read the medical directory and it explained all about it, that they are attracted to the same sex. It suddenly dawned on me that was how I felt. I was just horrified, I said 'No that's not me, I won't do that'. The way it described it was as if it was an illness. I was 13"

"I tried to suppress my feelings for a long time, I was always looking and attracted to other boys but no one knew I was gay, everyone thought it did not exist."


40 Visits to the Jaycee Cinema

Norman used to go to a cinema called the Jaycee on Station Street (now the Electric Cinema). He found out about it as he used to visit as a child to see cartoons, "My brother went with me and he was touched up by a man. My brother refused the man and brushed the incident off. I went alone several times so as to be touched up by men, I was under 16, that was in the 1960s"

50 Isolation and Loneliness

When Norman was 19-24 years old he suffered from depression, he felt lonely and isolated. "You thought you were the only gay man in the world, gradually I got to realise I wasn't."

60 Accepting his sexuality

At the age of 24 Norman decided not to suppress his feelings anymore. He had had many attempts at dating women and trying to be straight. He says he could not cope with it and he decided to go and find a man. "It was 1974 and I was coming home from Scotland and I felt very randy. I had not experienced anything with a man in a while now. The Jaycee was now an adult cinema and I linked up with a guy, I had a small car, and we went to a lock up garage and had sex. I dropped the guy off and the next day I felt so elated to have had sexual contact with a man."


70 Gay scene in the 1970s

In the 1970s Norman was afraid to go to the Victoria alone "I went to the Victoria, but it was too outrageous. My straight friends would go to look at gay people. I was scared to go alone in case I was recognised by anyone! I was not out at the time."

He also went to the Trocadero but this had 'gone off the boil' as every one was going to the Victoria. (1970s)


80 Relationships

During the late 1970s. Norman met an older guy at the Trocadero, who was a bastard to him but he fell in love with him, the guy was married with two children. Norman says he was bisexual and the relationship was doomed, and he stopped seeing him as he met someone else around the same time.

He still knows the second guy and their relationship has ended but they are great friends still. The original guy tried to contact him a few times but nothing happened as Norman felt he was better off without him, as he had a violent streak and a temper.

90 Work life

Norman was not out at work, and did not want anyone to find out. He came out to one guy who was bisexual. He told him after he gave him a lift home and the man assumed he wanted to have sex with him, but he was not Norman's type and nothing happened.

100 The Gay Scene

Norman says he was living the life he wanted to lead now going to various bars and meeting guys, he went to other gay bars, the Victoria, the Viking, the Jester opened 1977 (had a thirty years lifespan) and became the place to go. It was originally a straight bar.

110 Norman talks about the Viking "The Viking was on Smallbrook Queensway between the station and the Albany, it was a cellar bar in a relatively new stretch of buildings, it was OK to go in and have a drink."

120 Talks about police harassment

Norman recalls police double standards in the 1970s. "I met a guy in the Trocadero and we went in the car by some garages for sex and we were found by two police men. The police warned me; the other lad was younger and did not receive so much telling off. I felt discriminated against as a man and a woman would have been left alone!"


130 The Jester

Norman says that the Jester was the place to go and he went there a lot. He was in there one night and bumped into some girls he knew from straight bars. He says he went red. "We had a bit of a conversation, they did not ask me anything and I don't know what they might have thought. I bumped into one some years later and she asked if I still went into the Jester"

140 Norman's family and his sexuality

In his family he has told his nephew who is straight, who asked him directly 'was there anything between Norman and his 'friend'', so he told him. His nephew was cool about the situation and went to some gay bars with Norman. He says his nephew's father (Norman's brother) suspected. He does not see his nephew very much now.


150 The Nightingale at Camp Hill

Norman says "I also used to go the Nightingale, firstly when it was in Camp Hill, only a small place a downstairs bar, with a restaurant and toilets upstairs. People came from miles around. I'd heard people talking about it in the Trocadero, I found someone to take me there and I was scared. I remember the barman was very camp. The behaviour in the club was very different to the bars as people were more open. We went a few times but it was a bit seedy."


160 The Nightingale at Witton

Norman recalls "When the Nightingale moved to Witton Lane, I went every week with my 'friend' of thirty years. I am still a member of the 'Gale', not sure why as I rarely go, I am one of the oldest members. I pay 60 a year for membership."


170 The Grosvenor House Hotel

Norman remembers the restaurant more than the club "We went to the Grosvenor a few times, it was a nice place. We had Sunday lunch there a few times."


180 Relationships

Norman and his partner were faithful for 7 years then started to drift apart. They did not speak for 3 months and then became close friends, and they are now like companions.


190 The scene now

Norman has not been in most of the newer gay bars but tends to drink in the Fountain and the Wellington and occasionally the Swan as they cater for the older age group.

He says the Loft Lounge only caters for a younger age group. He says the gay life is infinitely better in Birmingham than the mid seventies.


200 Mature Gay Men's Group

Norman talks about the Mature Gay Men's Group and the fact that (Phil Oldershaw) would not list this group in his Evening Mail column because it only focuses on the commercial businesses.


210 Thoughts on Birmingham

He says from a gay man's point of view Birmingham is a much better place than it was in the sixties and seventies: "I've seen a lot of changes, when I was a kid I can remember the old Bull Ring that had been bombed in the war and we used to go down there, where St Martins Church is, buses went down there."

Norman remembers in the sixties when they were doing a lot of redevelopment work, building the Rotunda and Smallbrook Queensway he thought at the time "It will be like this for the rest of my life" and now forty years later they are pulling it all down and rebuilding again.