Gay Centre Committee and Switchboard 1977
Caroline was on the first Gay Community Centre Committee and Gay Switchboard 1970s:
“I’m someone who gets involved in things so after coming out, I was involved with various groups. I was on the committee of the first [Gay Community Centre,] on the corner of Allison Street and Bordesley Street and that was extremely good fun. I was the second woman on [Gay Switchboard,] from 1977 – 1983. That was a great learning experience, because we knew nothing (stressed). We were hopeless and terribly unprofessional, luckily a woman called Anna Durell joined and decided to make us more professional, which she did very effectively, and that improved things”.
Gay Centre Committee – “I was very young, but they knew they needed women, and big mouth, appearance of self-confidence, and willingness to say ‘yes’ – it was enormously exciting, my first experience of working at that level of organisation, and fortunately there were a number of guys involved who did know how to, I joined in the great good fun of being on the committee.
“One of my jobs, as for all on the committee, was to ‘be responsible’ and one of the things that meant, was when there was an event, was to go round and stop men from having sex. There was this great big rabbit warren of a tall thin building with lots of rooms and I only once had to. Fortunately, they hadn’t got very far and I knew one of the guys and embarrassed him by saying, you should know better”.
“Another of the jobs was to keep an eye on the ‘Teen Queens’, young guys way under the age of consent, for whom it was a very safe place to hang out, so they would run around being teenage young men, I do remember one of the jobs was to involve them in the jobs that had to be done. One of them said, ‘Why should I, I’m not a woman’ – I sort of picked him up by his collar and can’t remember what I said, but I was fairly firm, and things like that helped me maintain my reputation for being fierce. I’d worked out very early on that gay men’s views of lesbians, was either to dismiss them as not interesting, and ignore them, or else we terrified them, and I decided I’d rather terrify them. Occasionally I still bump into them and I can see them thinking, is she going to bite my head off and I’m really laid back actually (peals of laughter) so very fond memories of that time, of course lots of them are dead, which is really sad. A lot of them became very good mates”.
Contributed by: Caroline Hutton, 51