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Bridget Malin and Barbara Carter

Barbara Carter (53) and Bridget Malin (62)

Barbara (53) and Bridget (62) have been together for 26 years. They compare and contrast coming out within the Women’s Movement, and outside, and talk about many aspects of women’s politics in the seventies and eighties, including the various campaigns, and venues of the time. They also analyse issues such as men’s views of lesbians, then and now, lesbians’ relationships to gay men, and the depoliticisation of young lesbians. They talk about – not - coming out to their fathers, and being out at work.

Closet affairs 20
Gay Switchboard 30
Trocadero 21
Cross dressing 21
Matador 30 160
Homophobia at work 40
Female friendships 50
Butch/femme 60
Women’s Liberation Movement 70 80 150 170
Coming out through feminism 70
Communism and left wing politics and the WLM 80
Heterosexual women in the women’s movement 90
Transsexuals 100
Lesbian appearance 60 100
Star Club 110 160
Women’s scene in the seventies 130
The Old Moseley Arms 140 150
Lesbian Feminist meetings at the Tindal Street School 150
Trouble at the venues 160
Political v straight lesbians 170
Academic bullying among lesbians 180
Vegetarian/hummus eaters 190
Getting together 200
Non-monogamy 210
Women’s liberation movement 220 230 240
Consciousness raising groups 230
Mens ideas of lesbians 240 250
Young lesbians nowadays 250 260
Greenham Common 270
Margaret Thatcher 280
Picketing and demos 290
The MAC 290
Pornography 290
Women against violence against women 290
Reclaim the Night 290
Inequalities for women 300
Attacks on the Abortion Act 300
Women’s Centre 300
Balsall Heath 310
Birmingham localities 310
Sexism/homophobia 320 330
Police response 330
Birmingham Pride Community Trust 340
Rainbow Voices 340
Gay Birmingham Remembered 340
Lesbians’ relationship to gay men 350
Coming out to family 360 365
Coming out at work 370
Civil Partnership 380

10 Growing up
Barbara was born in 1954 and lived in Germany until the age of three; she moved to Birmingham to go to University in 1973. Born in 1945 Bridget was adopted and brought up in Broadway in the Cotswolds and also moved to Birmingham for university, in the sixties. As she grew up, Barbara was unaware of any reference to same sex relationships.

20 Closet affairs
Bridget talked about life in the swinging sixties, where anything goes. She had a number of closet affairs with women, including another nurse while she was working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. After a particularly painful break up, with a partner who left her for a man, she felt she needed to socialise with and have the support of other lesbians. “I was quite desperate really, and particularly embittered. I didn’t know where to go, my life was more and more committed to a lesbian lifestyle. The one thing you couldn’t do then was grieve, because there was no-one to talk to. I just wanted to meet other lesbians not for a relationship, but to talk.”

21 Cross dressing queens at the Trocadero
Bridget hadn’t heard of anything going on for lesbians and gay men, other than the cross dressing queens that went to the Trocadero.

30 Switchboard meet Bridget at the Matador
Fortunately Bridget somehow got hold of the number of the Gay Switchboard in the late seventies. They said “Come along and have a drink”. This was an important moment for her as volunteers arranged to meet her at the monthly lesbian disco at the Matador, in the Bull Ring near St Martins, which she describes as “A ghastly sixties concrete building”. She thought there was about an hour on a Tuesday when Switchboard met up with new lesbians. As the Matador became known as a lesbian venue, it got a reputation for incidents where people got beaten up outside.

40 Barbara’s job as a solicitor
After she qualified as a solicitor in about 1983/84 and got her first job, Barbara’s boss (Brendon Flemming) invited Bridget as Barbara’s partner to a ‘do’ at the solicitors. Then he devised a game of the men removing their trousers, then he disappeared into the loo and reappeared as an SS officer with whip and the whole gear. Barbara and Bridget told him they found it offensive on many levels but it had passed him by.

50 Female friendships
Bridget talked about the fact that although it was never illegal for lesbians, it was assumed amongst most of the population that women didn’t really have a sexuality, so that lesbianism didn’t happen and was therefore ignored. “There was a sort of acceptance of ladies having very close female friendships, even in a small village like Broadway (where she grew up), women could live together as it wasn’t thought of as sexual, and indeed they probably never conceived themselves that it could have been. We have some friends, older women who live together who are just like us but they would be horrified at the thought of sleeping together, they are a smashing couple and good friends, they are good Christian women, but it is rather curious that that whole part of our lives isn’t mentioned with them. It’s never actually fronted face on, we all swim in the nude in the pool and they display no embarrassment, we don‘t do anything too overt.”.

60 Butch/femme
Bridget worked at Lee Hospital in Bromsgrove in the sixties, “There were two women, a nursing Sister called Hardy and a nursing assistant called Rose, Rose and Hardy. Rose was 100% butch, she never wore anything other than men’s clothes, she had a man’s haircut and she was in every way a man, except physically, and they were a couple, it was acknowledged. They would talk as if they were a married couple, Rose would refer to Hardy as ‘the missus’ and everybody accepted it, nobody made any difficulties about it.” Barbara said that The Killing of Sister George, depicted the butch/femme scene which was going on in London, since the Well of Loneliness and all that, the only way you could actually be a lesbian was by adopting these very stereotypical roles of male and female.

70 Women’s Liberation Movement, a life-transforming experience
Barbara compared the old butch/femme stereotypes with the way she came out. “That interestingly was very different from how I got into recognising my sexuality, which was through feminism and women’s liberation. I studied English at Birmingham University and very soon got involved with Women’s Liberation which had by now hit Birmingham, and I joined the Women’s Liberation Group at the University in the first year in 1973 and it just opened my eyes, not just about my sexuality, but about politics generally, it was just a totally life-transforming experience for me. I got absolutely whole-heartedly swept up in it. There were other lesbians, not so much at University but in the wider women’s liberation movement in Birmingham and it was really through that that I started making the connections between the feelings I was having for other women, that connected the two things and gave me permission to feel the way I did; to explore my sexuality and start having relationships.”

80 Politicising through the Women’s Liberation Movement
Barbara said that “During the early and mid seventies, 74 onwards, it was a very big political movement with lots of different strands and factions, there was a lot of infighting and stuff, not least between lesbians and straight women within the movement, there was a real issue with those who were identifying themselves as lesbians who were very often the ones who were in the forefront, not exclusively so, but they embraced the women’s movement in a way that meant that they were at the front of organising actions, and groups and goodness knows what else.”

90 Tensions with heterosexual women
For heterosexual women, one of the big tensions, was that the straight women were made to feel, did feel, that they had to apologise for their sexuality, it was some how more right on to be lesbian. For some women there was an element of experimentation, then they’d scuttle back to their relationships with men. Having said that, people did manage to work together, and there were also prominent heterosexual women, but they were often located on the political left of the spectrum, as were a lot of lesbians, like Jean Turley, who was a dyke but working with the communist party or various Marxist organisations, whereas, a huge generalisation, a lot of lesbians were located more centrally within Women’s Liberation, were rejecting of those old associations, and were into things, as I was like radical feminist rhetoric.”

100 Seventies feminists rejected trans women
Bridget said the Women’s Liberation Movement was also “a safe haven for the misfits who would have had some difficulty fitting into society”. Barbara said, “Yes, there were some lesbians who were on the periphery and coming more from the sexuality than the politics,. and we were a broad church and would accept everybody. Bridget said, “Everybody except transsexuals – transgendered people were viewed with a huge amount of suspicion because they were basically men.” Bridget said that a lot of these women were practically homicidal about these women coming to join the party. Barbara said there were a lot of women only events and things and transsexual men to women were regarded still as being men, so they were, then, made very unwelcome. Bridget said she wasn’t a part of that particular group, while Barbara said “I’m ashamed to say I was”. Bridget said “I’d rather have got rid of the tough lesbians who smashed the place up.” It was also because often, in order to adopt, being a woman, it was done in quite a stereotypical way, the rest of us were all dressed in our jeans and dungarees and we weren’t going round in coiffured hair and loads of make-up, this was the very sort of thing we were trying to distance ourselves from. Different planetsville, really”. Bridget said “They weren’t just kicked out of our movement but also from their own, they were in ‘no man’s land’ in the middle, I always thought we should be a bit more open about that.”

110 Star Club
Barbara said that the Star Club was the centre of what happened in Birmingham, it was the social club of the Communist Party, in Essex Street, close to what is now the gay area. They made the Star Club available for loads of women’s things and lesbian dos, we had some fabulous dos there. Bridget said “It was slightly grimy, down at heel, up a back street, ghetto type of existence””.

120 Working for Lesbian Line/Switchboard
Barbara worked for the Switchboard for a while in the late seventies / early eighties. “For people who weren’t part of the gay or feminist movement, or even the more standard butch – femme scene which was still out there – making contact was quite difficult and people would phone up, not about forming relationships, but just about finding other lesbians, making friendships and becoming part of and belonging to that. Although there weren’t huge numbers of events you could say, ‘There’s a disco on such a date’, and people would take the trouble to go and meet them beforehand. The Lesbian Line part operated a couple of nights a week, there weren’t many volunteers, on a shoe string. Bridget said there wasn’t any lesbian literature so the number must have been in the local press.

130 The scene in the seventies
Bridget said there wasn’t really a gay area at that time, but places dotted over the city, the Grosvenor Hotel up Hagley Road, the Greyhound (Holloway Head) at Five Ways, the Matador in town, the Jester, mainly men, the Silver Web in Wolverhampton.

140 The Old Moseley Arms
Bridget said “The biggest meeting place round here (King’s Heath) was the Old Moseley Arms - the ‘Old Mo’ which was quite amazing really – in the public bar at the front, were prostitutes, tramps, alcoholics, police drinking, and a huge lesbian clientele. The landlord and landlady were a wonderful straight Irish couple, their daughter was a policewoman. We used to go down on a Saturday night and drink and play pool in the room at the back, which was entirely women really. We could still be there and have a fry up breakfast on Sunday morning, on occasions!, That was really where we went for day to day socialising for all of us, as opposed to the once a month disco. For at least ten years, the back room at the Old Mo was the epicentre for lesbians. “There was a ladies’ five a side football team formed and although we were the heavy drinking heavy smoking dykes, we won the local cup one year, god knows how!”

150 Lesbian Feminist meetings at Tindal Street School
Bridget said “Opposite the Old Mo was Tindal Street School, which allowed lesbian feminist meetings to be held on a Sunday, and those were hilarious, you could look back now and do a sit com – there was one very diminutive woman who used to knit all the time and never contributed a word, other than to object to the smoking!!!”

160 Trouble at the venues
Bridget said that “Some of the other places which were known as a gay pub, like the Jester, people would be tactile, but not so much at the Old Mo, although everyone knew it was a load of dykes. There was trouble at times, at of the places, for example coming out of the Matador where there were socials, and even at the Star Club (Communist Party Club) – they got known as venues for lesbians and some men would be outside and create trouble with women leaving. One day we had a disco at the Star Club, some men bashed the door and came up the stairs, jumped on the banister and dropped his trousers. “We had a lighted cigarette at the time so we were able to leave an indication of our views on that on his backside!”. There were people there deliberately to cause trouble. The police at that time weren’t viewed as being very sympathetic so you wouldn’t contact the police unless you absolutely had to, they were still very homophobic and you’d like as not end up with the gay person being arrested rather than the perpetrator, so they were viewed with a high degree of suspicion and were not involved unless it was really unavoidable. That’s changed a lot now.

170 Political v straight lesbians
Bridget said “There were two completely different types of lesbian gathering in Birmingham – the political lesbians and feminists, and the straight dykes, and at most venues there was a predominance of one or the other. At the Old Mo there were very few ‘straight dykes’ i.e. those with no politics”. Bridget didn’t think the political lesbians were into very overt displays of physical affection. “I can’t imagine someone like Trisha or Stacey becoming overtly physical unless Stacey was going to smash their face in. The odd peck on the cheek or holding hands, but nothing more overt than that”. Barbara said “Overt affection might be seen as somewhat intrusive on others, therefore not a cool thing to do among the feminists”.

180 Academic bullying amongst lesbians
Bridget said that during the mid seventies to mid eighties, “There was a great deal of academic bullying in the lesbian feminist movement, there was quite a lot of repression by people who were the most vocal and the most literate, on those that weren’t. I know the people at the bottom of the pecking order felt quite intimidated, there were several key figures, and we’re coming on to people now, not the actual people, but people of the same type as Bea Campbell, or Germaine Greer, that same sort of overbearing presence, but they were still part of the movement, but not the sort that were down the Old Mo. But there was a nucleus of quite academic, university graduate feminists there. Barbara came to lesbianism by the feminist route, but a lot of time everyone got on well and mucked in, but there were a lot of tensions”.

190 The hummus eaters
“We were the great hummus eaters, everywhere you went, in the kitchen, which was usually filthy, was an enormous pot of homemade, lumpy hummus. Yucky!”

200 Getting together
Barbara and Bridget got together in 1982, having got to know each other through both going to the Old Mo and various socials, but both were originally in other relationships; then Bridget had split up from her partner and Barbara had had a bad time with hers.

210 Non-monogamy
The other great divider (between feminists) was the monogamy versus non-monogamy debate, which Bridget said “That was a cop out for people that wanted to whizz round as many parties as they wanted to. There was a period when everyone thought it was awfully retro and repressive to be monogamous, you had to move ahead and have someone every night of the week. Barbara said that wasn’t so widespread, “Most of the dykes I hung around with were serial monogamists, moving from one relationship to the next to the next”. Bridget said that when Barbara had been with her partner “You were in this ‘who was going to be the primary relationship?’, but that wasn’t of her choosing, there were other issues. It was more talk than action. Monogamy was seen as a heterosexual construct, but also an excuse for people who wanted to have multiple relationships to go on and do so, but look like they were being right on instead of right off! Or indeed a cop out for people who weren’t capable of sustaining a relationship”.

220 Empowerment
Barbara said “Some women were quite empowered, got drawn into it and helped move things on, especially once women got beyond the self-destructive cliques that women’s liberation turned into and really just ended up destroying itself as a proper viable movement. For a lot of women it was an inspiration but for other women, it was quite threatening.

230 Consciousness raising
Barbara said “One of the chief tenets of women’s liberation was consciousness raising groups, which transformed things, as women who had been isolated with different men, were coming together in groups, and this enabled women to share their experiences, and realise these were shared with a lot of other women out there, which was a very empowering process. In order to get women to that stage you had to get women past the (feminist) stereotype which in some ways we did reinforce. It was undermining a lot of the values we’d grown up with in the fifties and sixties”.

240 Men’s image of lesbian feminists in the seventies
Bridget said “People assumed that all women involved in women’s liberation were dykes, bra-burning, man-hating stereotypes that a lot of women believed and were terrified by. As far as men saw us, the working class men were largely horrified and thought we were filthy dirty perverted scum of the earth, because they were so threatened by it, but couldn’t articulate their fear so it all spilled out as this real bile. The professional men were a lot more reticent, but found they couldn’t relate to you as they normally did to women, which was a lot more sexist and patronising in those days. They knew they couldn’t do that to lesbians, who would tell them to get stuffed, so they just didn’t relate to you at all”.

250 Men’s view of lesbians nowadays
Bridget said that “Nowadays, lesbians are quite objectified by men in porn, so now it’s a macho thing to like lesbians”. Barbara said that “There has been the feminisation of lesbians, lipstick lesbians, it’s gone mainstream, glamorous bimbos doing it for the pleasure of someone watching, it’s not now about man-hating dykes, there’s a whole turn around”. Bridget said that whereas a lot of women are quite comfortable with the idea of lesbians, and quite enjoy a men-free evening in the company of lesbians, men’s views haven’t changed much at all. “Most of our clients are working class and think about what they tell us, and when lesbians come in it is in the most derogatory terms”.

260 Younger lesbians nowadays
Bridget doesn’t think young lesbians are the same as in the 70s/80s, she doesn’t think they are politicised. “In our day, the Iraq/Iran thing, we had our doc martens on and would be going somewhere, not just about gay and lesbian issues, we would have been out there as an identified group, ‘Lesbians against the Iraq War’. I don’t see that happening now, though not just gays, but young people generally, are too comfortable now, they are all products of Mrs Thatcher. It’s a pity there isn’t more organised protest these days”. Barbara said “We don’t have a lot to do with young people other than at work, but we’re not on the scene so have very limited contact with young lesbians, but if there was stuff going on we would have heard about it. ‘It’s about me, me, me’”.

270 Greenham Common women
Bridget said how proud she was of the Greenham Common Women, (a camp set up at an American base which was using it as a nuclear base) “There was lots of protest going on about nuclear war and missiles being used. Women camped out there for several years, and lived in tents, broke into the base, stopped vehicles etc. It moved from being those terrible women, to being a core of respect and support for their commitment, some women lived there for years, some from Birmingham used to go, there was a photo a few months ago of Trisha and others in one of the papers, the Guardian did it, some sort of anniversary, almost the same ilk as the Suffragettes, it went down in history as a massive movement for change and it did bring about change as they stopped using it as a nuclear base. That was a radicalising process for a lot of young women, started off with old feminists and lesbians but it wasn’t just the academics, there were a lot of working class women and anarchists and new age women and others along the spectrum down there.

280 Lesbian feminist views on Margaret Thatcher in the eighties
“What did lesbians and feminists think of Margaret Thatcher? We loathed her, most of us seeing her would physically shudder, yet she was put up as woman prime minister but had such a male way of doing things with no interest in progressing women’s causes, such a disappointment, as the first and only woman prime minister, she might as well have been a man but she had to adopt a male strategy. Early on she actually said something about the young men in the city and suddenly there was a series of young men turning into multi-millionaires overnight, this is what Thatcherism can do, she thought it was wonderful, to have half a dozen young men earning a fortune and she would think she’s succeeded. Lesbians had a lot of sympathy for the miners strike, because we were politicised. We went on a Clause 28 march in Manchester where we got spat on. Clause 28 epitomised Thatcher’s view - she opposed homosexuality and lesbianism by talking about family values.”

290 Picketing at the MAC
“We also went on Reclaim the Night marches, Women Against Violence Against Women, and an upsurge against pornography and films and clubs. Even the MAC was showing films that portrayed violence against women, so we went and demonstrated and picketed at the MAC at Cannon Hill, when they showed the film ‘Dressed to Kill’ a ghastly Brian Palmer thing, of this woman in the shower getting killed”.

300 Inequalities for women in the seventies and eighties
Barbara said “It’s hard to imagine now but there were such huge inequalities, huge differences in pay, even in the early eighties there weren’t that many women lawyers around. There was a Women’s Centre in Balsall Heath, a little terraced house, but one of the women who had some money, bought it, and it was basic things about basic legal rights and welfare benefits, and things like that that set me on the trail of thinking about doing law, and I thought, ‘I can do that’, but before feminism, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to think I could even start to do that, but so many women were not working or in low paid dead end jobs. Even nursing, Bridget was doing a grand job but paid an absolute pittance, it’s not great now but it’s a heck of a lot better than it was, and things like abortion were a huge issue a women’s right to choose, in spite of the 1967 Abortion Act, because it was still so trammelled round with what you could and couldn’t do, and there were constant bills coming before parliament, we were just looking through some old stuff yesterday, Corrie, Benyon, and although those weren’t issues that affected me as a lesbian, they were incredibly important for young women out there, and constant battles, it was an onslaught, and when you were open to thinking, ‘Why can’t I be treated as an equal like the bloke next door?’”. Bridget said “My father wouldn’t allow my mother to work, it was her role to stay at home, it was so demoralising, and women were abused on every level, financially, physically, domestically and by society generally. That’s why parts of the movement got into women against violence against women etc, there were these marches in Birmingham, (in the early to mid-eighties) and the police used to divert us of the main track into some industrial estate in Aston! You could feel the contempt of the woman PC marching next to you”.

Barbara said a lot of things that women take for granted weren’t then. Bridget said “I used to have clients that had no idea how much their husband earned, and were given housekeeping, weren’t allowed to open their own post. It’s no surprise that lesbians were at the forefront as we weren’t in that situation with men and mostly didn’t have children, some did and that’s another whole story, we had the freedom to stand up and be at the forefront of changing things”.

310 Kings Heath
Barbara and Bridget live in Kings Heath. Barbara said “I’ve lived in Balsall Heath, Kings Heath or Moseley since my second or third year in university, which is the area most lesbians gravitate to be with others of the same kind, lots of feminists, lesbians and left wing people. Then, house prices weren’t the issue, lots of professionals were in a position to buy, a lot of large Victorian properties, where shared residents could live together and take over a house, e.g. dykes, and literally a few communes, some lent themselves well to turning into flats or in the case of lesbians, shared houses. A lot of socialising went on this side of the city, but those in Handsworth or Bearwood felt very isolated as they had to get at least two buses. You couldn’t guarantee it but you could expect someone in the neighbourhood who would help you, and had similar values”. Barbara said when she lived in a flat in Balsall heath and “A woman was attacked in the street late at night and everyone came out and helped her, in a very mixed neighbourhood. There was a great racial mix, and a lot of unemployment but on the whole it worked well”.

320 Sexism on the golf course in 2001
Barbara and Bridget got into a huge row about women’s access to private golf clubs. “We were outed in the Observer, at the time that was happening, we were getting abusive phone calls, ‘Fucking lesbians ruining our golf club’, and so on. We were set upon verbally by an elderly gentlemen who said ‘You should be at home getting your husband’s dinner on a Sunday, not on the golf course, damn it!’” That was about six years ago so not that long ago”.

330 Positive Police response
Bridget and Barbara contacted the police when they were getting the obscene calls regarding their objections to the sexism at the golf club. “It would not be PC if the Police didn’t respond appropriately, there is still some homophobia but a lot of police are now sympathetic and they’ve got an LGB section; I would be confident that they’d make a full investigation. There’s been a sea change. The whole police culture has changed in terms not just of gay rights, but ethnic minorities etc. When you see them at the Pride Festival they are actually enjoying themselves”.

340 Getting active again
“We’ve tended to get very isolated from things, which is a shame, but what is the movement, now, we used to go to things that were for younger people, what else is there, there isn’t a big movement that we would be part. Bridget said “There was about a ten year period when we had very little to do but just spend time with friends, having meals in each other’s houses. More recently we’ve got more involved again, going to things in town, the Gay Birmingham Remembered thing at the Library (February 2006), Rainbow Voices concerts, those sort of things, we’re coming out of our shell a bit, there was an exhibition in the library, and we get emails – we’ve signed up to (the Birmingham Pride community Trust e-group) telling us what’s going on so we’re back in the loop.”

350 Lesbians’ relationships to gay men
Barbara said for her the relationship between lesbians and gay men has changed. “In my most radical phase, in the 70s, it was so women focussed to the exclusion of men, obviously we identified as lesbians and as such, with gay liberation, but there were still difficulties because the men running it found it hard to work with stroppy outspoken women, and the women weren’t used to working with men who were patronising them etc so the working relationships would break down, it was always a bit difficult. Things have moved on a lot now, feminism has become more mellow as we have got older, it’s much easier”.

Bridget said “I’ve always been very fond of gay men, some of my best friends are gay men, if I had to choose, I’d pick going out for dinner with a bunch of gay men rather than lesbian feminists. I know their problems are different but I’ve always felt a unity of cause, not a division, They are also victims of masculinity. I was too frightened to put my head above the parapet then but did so in terms of cross dressers, but I wouldn’t have dared said I liked gay men back then. The group in power at the time would really not have appreciated that view, and people like Stacey for example could be extremely difficult. Barbara said, “Well Stacey was the extreme end of it, but intimidating nevertheless”. Bridget said “Other lesbians weren’t desperately interested in gay men partly because they had no politics at all, and weren’t interested in them being gay, now things have moved on and people see the commonalities”.

360 Coming out to their families
Barbara said “Feminism provided a smoke screen for coming out, while I made it clear to my family that my politics had changed and I was into Women’s Liberation and goodness knows what else, going through their minds with the associations with bra burners and men haters meant I didn’t have to actually say I was having a relationship with a woman. In my early twenties I came out to my mother but not to my father, initially my mother was shocked and blamed herself, she was in her late seventies, and felt she’d done something wrong, which she thought was to do with Barbara being born out of wedlock in1954 in Germany; she was in a children’s home for three years as her parents couldn’t live together until they came back to this country and got married. My mother was intent that my father shouldn’t know, in spite of the fact that I’d lived in a series of houses with women, but the crunch came when Bridget and I bought our first house together in the early eighties. My father had met Bridget and got on well with her, until the penny dropped that it was a sexual relationship and he refused to deal with it, he would never visit, and never did until his dying day, he thought it he did he’d be condoning it. Whereas my mother eventually got over the guilt and visited regularly, and got on well with everyone and enjoyed coming up to Birmingham and meeting gay male friends as well.” However Bridget said “She didn’t totally overcome her prejudice, she decided not to invite some of her friends to Barbara’s birthday because Tom was going to be there and he was a stereotypical gay man with body piercings etc. It was going too far, letting other people know”. They recall other people’s experiences coming out as quite mixed, “One would be quite frightened about coming out in different circumstances, and sometimes the most worried ones turned out to be the best, and vice versa, it was terribly difficult to judge.”

365 Bridget came out in 1965. Having been married for 50 years, Bridget’s father ended up living with them for years while he was in his eighties. She said “Some people have this amazing ability, they can’t see what’s right in front of them. My father lived with us, knew we shared a bed, everything but he never discussed it, because then he would have had to confront it, and he must have known the situation, I would have happily said it, my mother was a different matter, I would have liked to have discussed it but she got dementia years ago, and feels that her biggest fear would have been what to do about her father”.

370 Coming out at work
Barbara said “On the work front, it’s not our mission in life to say ‘I’m gay’ but equally if the issue crops up I’ve never lied about it, and people do know, and it’s quite liberal. In the early stages I would have been more reticent, though when I first qualified in 1983 I did tell her employer Brendon Flemming because I didn’t’ want to work for someone and not know that. Now in the work sphere everyone treats them as partners. Bridget says “It’s their problem not mine!”

380 Civil partnership
After 26 years together, Barbara and Bridget became civil partners on 29th September 2007 at Birmingham Register Office.