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Derek, born 1972


Childhood exploring sexuality 10
Attitudes to gays at school 20
Clause 28 20
Homophobic harassment and queer bashing 40
Suicidal 50
Birmingham Friend 60 70 80 220
Coming Out to family 110
Coming out at work 130
Attitude of peers 110 20
Police – working for them 140 - 200
Stereotypes / camp 20 30
Matador 70
Jug 100
Jester 100
Gavans 100
Gay & Lesbian Youth Group 90
Partners Bar 90
Religion – Jesus in Me (JIM) 210
AIDS 20 30
Book – ‘coming out of the blue’ 200
Pressure to appear straight 170

10 Exploring sexuality age six to eight

"I probably realised I was different at the age of five. A lot of people say ‘How can you know at that age?’ At that age I didn't understand what gay was but I knew I was different. However some of the stuff about me was stereotypical about some wasn't. I didn't want to play with my sister's dolls; I always had Action Men Star Wars, I always had Lego. At the same time I wasn't a fighter, I wasn't into football. I was probably exploring my sexuality around five or six with kids my own age, lying on top of boys when I was five, six, seven. It was probably of a sexual nature but I probably didn't realise at that age. When I was about 8 in 1979 my mum found me doing something with a kid from across the road and she said it was dirty. The kid I was doing things with said ‘Do you want to do some stuff?’. I said ‘Yes but I can't because mum says it's dirty’. I knew from then that it was wrong, you're different and that's bad. A lot of kids go through that phase; a lot of the kids I did things with have turned out to be heterosexual, allegedly”.

20 Attitudes to gays at secondary school in Four Oaks 1984 - 1989

" We had a few pop stars that were camp and flamboyant. John Inman was on the telly in the 70s and 80s in Are You Being Served? and Larry Grayson. They weren't any kind of positive role models. All I saw was gay as being effeminate or camp. At the age of 14,15 I remember being conscious of some kids that were quite camp. In earlier times in junior school I was quite cruel to kids myself, taking the piss out of them by saying that they were gay and things like that. I was probably deferring my feelings. By the time I was 14,15 I was not like that and I tried to talk to people who I thought were gay and it turned out that I was right in some ways. They weren't easy to approach, they were terrible, they were so mixed-up. I remember my mate asking me about Clause 28 (which came in in 1988). I said 'What's that?' He said 'It’s about the promotion of homosexuality; I don't agree with it.' I wasn't that clued up about it. We had a discussion at school about what should happen to people with AIDS. All the lads said 'They should be put on a line and left to die'; the women were a bit more empathic. The House Tutor wasn't enforcing any of his views. We had the BNP outside our school.”

30 Gay stereotypes and AIDS in the media late 80s
“It was the height of the AIDS epidemic, there was such a fear. They see things on telly, these stereotypes of HIV / AIDS in the late 80s. There were a lot of government adverts that looked like Goth-Rock videos that spelled death. That if you had sex you would die immediately of AIDS. The paranoia and 'Don't die of ignorance' was very prevalent. The adverts said 'At the moment it's confined to minority groups but it's spreading. Everybody knew what that meant, that meant gay men. There were these adverts with tombstones and underwater scenes and flowers falling. 'Don't Die of Ignorance' with leaflets put through the door.

40 Harassment through late teens

“At the age of 15,16, there was an older kid in the street who accused me of being gay, he was 19 and he was a milkman in the area that I went to school in (Kingstanding on the Sutton border). He was going around asking kids whether they knew me and he said that he was going to get me queer bashed and everything. One thing I never did was really kind of cower down to him. I was quite defiant. I wouldn't fight him, I would just stare him out. I found the whole thing very stressful more the psychological part because it went on for so long. Even when I was 18, 19 and going out to straight pubs people were saying ‘So and so says you're gay’. I live in a cul-de-sac so I had no real choice but to walk past his house. I remember phoning the police in about 1990 after he got his mate to punch me while I was taking my two dogs for a walk. He wouldn't do anything but get his mates to attack me. In the end it just put me to the limit where I offered his mate out for a fight but he wouldn't fight me. Even when I was 20 he was going around telling people I was queer. Ironically now that person is a police officer like myself. I think he was infatuated by me. I think now that he saw something in himself that he didn't like. Apparently he's married now that they have no children but that's always quite questionable”.

50 Suicidal at 19 in 1991

"I was hanging around with my straight mates from school up until about 18. That started to wear off once they got girlfriends and I wasn't really going to go through that. I did have one sort of girlfriend but that was really out of peer pressure. At the age of eighteen, nineteen with no girlfriend apart from this one girl that I saw, it was getting quite difficult. I found myself very confused, probably suicidal round 18, 19, probably planned my own death by gassing myself in a car. I just didn't see a way out. I used to read these Ceefax pages from Agony Aunts and Agony Uncles that would say ' Don't lock yourself into anything. Don't pigeonhole yourself.' I used to hope that one day I would be married with kids or something”

60 Phoning Birmingham Friend in 1991

“When I was about nineteen I contacted Birmingham Friend after seeing an advertisement that used to be on after ITV Central News at about 10.35 pm 'Are you gay or lesbian?', pretending I was not taking any notice but then took down the number. I went to a phone box and phoned them and was then greeted by a woman. I didn't have any problems with women but it kind of really put me off. I lost the angle of what I was going to ask. I asked about pubs. She basically just said 'go into a pub.' I then phoned back a couple of weeks later”.

70 Friend socials at the Matador

“I came out to a social with Birmingham Friend that used to be held at a pub at the Holloway Head (The Matador) which was a straight pub but the landlord was gay-friendly. He let a room out of a Friday night. I was quite shocked and a little naive. It was full of predominantly old men 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s. Some of them involved in the Friend counseling charity didn't have the best intentions and were using it in my opinion for their own sexual exploitation of people who were vulnerable. Some of the men there were using it as a chat-up place. I was quite disillusioned because you grow up with all these negative feelings about being gay and then you meet a lot of stereotypes that you have and you're being tolerant because you want to kind of fit in although they're not really your type of people. I always felt very much on the outside that they weren't that really interested in me and I had nothing in common with them. After a few visits to the Matador I was quite put off with it. I couldn't really relate to people that were sort of making little sexual innuendos. I just wanted to find somebody I could get along with, someone of my own age.

80 Questions about his sexuality/ experience of counseling

“I had spoken to a Friend counselor in a face-to face situation and he was very supportive. He just said 'Be careful because of your age.' I was nineteen, twenty at the time. 'Good Luck. I think you'll be alright.' He wasn't looking to sexually exploit me or anybody. He seemed quite genuine. After a few weeks of going to the Friend Socials I met another counselor and I was just curious to ask questions. ‘ Where does it come from? Is it genetic? Is it a domineering mother?’ His reaction was an aggressive one. He turned round and said 'It's in nature. Animals do it.' I was kind of taken aback by his attitude bearing in my mind that counseling meant to be non-directed, non judgmental and empathic. He did take me to The Jester and kind of said 'Get on with it.' He said he was going on to other places like the Nightingale; I wasn't prepared to go. I was grateful for him showing me around”.

90 Gay Youth Group

"I did get introduced to the Gay Youth Group called the Gay and Lesbian Youth Group which was aimed at 16 - 25 year olds. It met at Nechells Community Centre on a Saturday between 11 and 2 and then we'd always go for a drink in Partners which is called the Glamourous Show Bar now, or The Village which was open at the time”.

100 Pubs/Clubs at the time

"At that time a lot of pubs were still knock on the door. You could walk into Partners. The Jester was up Holloway Head, and is one of the oldest gay pubs in Birmingham; I think it's renamed now. There's a police station above it and it's opposite Clydesdale and Cleveland Towers. The Jug was round where Subway City is now. You used to have to knock the door to get in there. Bill Gavan had a club around that time in Wolverhampton on a Saturday Gavans. I went, I think it was a straight club but some of the nights it was gay”.

110 Coming out to family in 1993

"I didn't do anything of a sexual nature until I was about 20, and moved out of home around 21. When I was on holiday in America I realised I can't go on living this lie pretending I've got a girlfriend. I'm no good at lying and it's not who I am. So when I was 21 I came out to my mum. Then my mum told my dad who told my sister. My mum and sisters were crying, crying because they thought I was going to have this terrible life. I said ‘What you crying for?’ I expected a bad reaction, I wasn't quite sure what I'd get. I kind of anticipated a bad reaction that's why I moved out of home. There was a song by Erasure called ‘Hide Away’ - it was a coming out song. It was quite poignant for me”.

120 Losing friends

"I was losing touch with my straight mates because I knew they would not accept me. That was again quite difficult. I don't think they were intellectual enough to sort of sit there and say 'It's not a problem, we don't like them but we like you’. I made a conscious decision at the age of 19, 20 that I was just going to forget them and try and find new friends."

130 Work
"I worked in the civil service and you were protected more in that kind of environment than perhaps working in private industry. By the time I was 20, 21, I had come out to a few people at work."

140 Joining the Police in 1995 age 23

"My sister told me not to join the Police because she was in the Police and she said it was quite homophobic; this was in 1995. She said ' I wouldn't advise it. I work with people who said 'I wouldn't work with gays’.' I thought I can't let that hold me back for the rest of my life. I went from an office (in the Civil Service) predominantly women where I wasn't totally out, but I was out to a few people into an environment which was predominantly men. It was a bit of a culture shock. Part of me got paranoid; part of me got sensitive. I remember going to the training school and being quite shocked by some of the attitudes."

150 Backing into the closet in the Police

"I wasn't out in the Police - I found myself going more back in the closet because of the attitude. If anybody was camp or effeminate even if they were straight or married it was picked upon by a few people. I just thought, ‘No, this isn't going to work’. I could tell some people's attitudes were fine, those who had been to university didn't have a problem. I was 23,24 at the time, the youngest person at the station. I joined with an ex-Navy guy, quite the lad, drinking, liked the ladies so there was this comparison between me and him because we were similar age. I thought, it wasn’t going to work at the station I was stationed at at that time; it was full of community beat officers who were quite old and staid in their ways."

160 - Police Training - Gay Issues

"The Police training had role-plays where the class would split into two groups. One part would play police officers and the other would play members of the public. They would have these scenarios and have these mock houses. Then they would introduce gays into it; they didn't focus on gays all of the time. There would be a gay domestic and people would play the parts of the gays. As you can imagine the gays were stereotypical with the generic voice and the generic actions and some story of 'How could you go off with a woman?' being very stereotypical. This was all videoed and watched back in front of the class for feedback. ‘Could you have dealt with that better?’. One of the trainers turned and round and said ' Someone could be deeply offended by this in the class; is anybody gay in the class?' I remember thinking ‘God I am not going to put my hand up!’ I did say a few things where I probably outed myself to somebody; I think some of the trainers cottoned on. For some people it just flew over their head. I always spoke about it in the third person; like people that I knew that had suffered problems or people had stereotyped. "

170 Pressure to appear straight

"When I was 24 I ended up having a ‘public relations’ girlfriend. Basically getting a gay woman friend I knew to pretend to be my girlfriend which saddened me in a way because I thought this was going backwards. She was bi, and subsequently is now straight. It became difficult because people would ask 'How is she?' and I hadn't seen her for months. I felt quite awful because that wasn't really me, lying”.

180 Experiences working in the Police in 1997

"In 1997, the first tutor I had on the streets was a bit old-school. There was a gay sauna on our area and he made a few comments about it. He said 'There's puffters in there. That's where the puffters go. He didn't actually know that I was gay at the time. I became quite paranoid. I think that really affected my confidence within the job. It was hard enough dealing with the people that we deal with and fighting battles on two different levels. I was described as being quite quiet and introverted which wasn't me. I didn't know how to act. I thought ‘How do I act in this environment? What am I supposed to do?’ If I say too much I might give myself away or out myself. It was quite difficult."

190 Working in the Police Force in 2007 - the present

“On the whole in 2007 it is quite positive. Gay people are joining the Police. I don't think people are coming out straight away but feeling quite comfortable perhaps after a few months."

200 Book: ‘Coming out of the blue’ - 1990

"’Coming out of the blue’ was written in 1990; I remember reading that at the time of joining. In my experience 75 -80 per cent of it was quite negative with the problems that people have (in the Police). It was almost more accepting of women to be gay in the Police force because obviously straight men didn't really have a problem with it. You had to be seen as a woman to be that bit tougher, I suppose being slightly masculine. I'm not saying lesbians are all masculine but it was a bit more acceptable than gays. I'd heard stories of gays years ago that they didn't know what to do with them so they just ended up putting them in the control room or the office. No one could really handle it”.

210 Jesus In Me Group (JIM) 1996/7

"When I was in my early twenties about 1995/97 there was this religious group called ‘Jesus In Me’, advertised quite a bit around Birmingham. One of the leaflets talked about Edward who was a homosexual but now he's found God and he's married with two kids. I remember seeing billboards on bus shelters about Jesus In Me. The leaflets had the obligatory drug addict who had turned their life around, somebody who had had a life of crime and then somebody who was gay who was then converted through Jesus In Me. I remember reading the leaflet and thinking that this was just propaganda and anti-gay at the time. They even had bags with ‘JIM - Jesus In Me’ and I remember being handed a Jesus In Me bag from a charity shop”.

220 Friend Counseling Service

"I was involved with Friend West Midlands, a gay lesbian bisexual counseling service that used to run alongside Switchboard. There was Gay Switchboard one side of the room. It used to be above the Nightingale then it moved to Hurst Street. They had a recruitment centre. There was a guy who was about 55 who joined who wanted to become a counselor. The elder counselors thought that perhaps his intentions were not the best, that he wanted only wanted to speak to boys or young men and was not interested in talking to women about coming out”.