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Discrete about our sexuality in Sparkhill


Gill and Betty live in , a predominantly area.

GILL : “Initially we were living in two houses, for a time I moved into Betty’s because her children were quite young and then when we decided that the children really should fend for themselves and since they weren’t moving out we moved in here together.”
G: “We haven’t really experienced any problems with living in this road. This bit of Sparkhill is predominantly Pakistani Muslim, but not entirely and we have got people in this street from many different parts of the world. The minuses are things like rubbish and noise. The pluses are very friendly neighbours; people whose commitment is really to their families and not necessarily to conspicuous consumption.”
Betty: “It’s quite a safe neighbourhood. There’s people out on the streets day and night for legitimate reasons. Partly because we have a lot of shift and restaurant workers but partly because a number of families on the road and in the area have more than one house within their extended family, so people wandering up and down the road with casserole dishes and children and video tapes is quite normal. So there are people out on foot quite a lot as opposed to a lot of whiter areas of Birmingham where people come out, get into their car and go away.”
G: “Round here you couldn’t walk along the street without meeting people all the time and people are generally very friendly and supportive. The fact that we were then living between two houses was quite normal for this street and there are shops open late.”
G: “In many ways we feel comfortable here most of the time but we have to be discrete about our sexuality. I don’t know which neighbours know and which don’t.”
B: “Most of my women neighbours don’t speak much English. The invisibility that older women have is an advantage and especially older women with children and so there may be neighbours who are just assuming that it is two divorced women. In fact I have had neighbours say things like ‘It is good for friends to live together, it is not good for women to live on their own’.”
B: “Certainly some of the white neighbours know, a rather bluff sort of man did comment ‘Your kids have turned out rather well, surprising really’, but that may have also been about them being adopted as older kids.”
G: “The chap who made that little speech to me once about there being many different ways to live and not being into judging was probably significant.”

Contributed by: Gill Coffin, 63, Betty Hagglund, 50

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