The Switchboard Caller Mix
Gay Switchboard Callers
Mike was asked whether he had identified any common traits among the callers and responded that about half came from the “Greater Birmingham” area – Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell. About 25% came from the Black Country and surrounding areas – Shropshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire. The remainder came from much further afield – East Midlands, South, North.
He didn’t understand that at first but then learnt that people rang Switchboards outside their own geographical area because it was “safer, more anonymous” so that they felt totally free to talk about what was bothering them.
Common themes from the local callers were focused on people trying to come to terms with their sexuality and wanting to talk to someone who was not biased. When asked about this lack of confidence about their own identity on the part of the callers Mike said that he felt that life as a gay person in Birmingham was as positive as in any of the other big cities and certainly better than that in the smaller market towns around the region.
He did feel however that the fact that Birmingham contained such a wider diversity of social class, culture, religion and background had a huge impact on a person’s sexual identity and the degree to which they were comfortable with it. He also discussed the impact of ethnic and cultural diversity in communities where to be gay is a cultural taboo, explaining that Switchboard got calls from the black and Asian communities that were “quite difficult to deal with because of the experiences of the callers” (39.40).
Contributed by: Mike