A message from a man in his 90's
John: I would like to come and stay at your hotel and thought I would share some personal information about myself. I get your Newsletter weekly and have for some time and thought I would write you a piece so please use it if appropriate.
Back in the mid 1960's when I realised I was homosexual ( who knew the word GAY back then ... ) - I had to hide it from absolutely everyone or I could have been sent to jail just for being born different to others.
I knew nothing. And I mean - NOTHING.
I am in my 90's and as fit as ever John, and while I knew I was not the only homosexual, as I read and heard things, and when I was just a kid I remember Lord Montagu of Beaulieu was prosecuted for homosexual offences, ( 1954 - against scouts camping on his grounds - and later that was changed to airmen to save a member of the elite ) and he Was put on trial in the full glare of the public spotlight and imprisoned for a crime that amounted to little more than a youthful indiscretion - while anyone else prosecuted for homosexuality were jailed and this double standards of one law for the common folk and another for the toffs - taught me a lot.
I had absolutely no idea about sex at all and did meet a few men for sexual encounters in park toilets etc. and it was so risky. Wanks were all we ever knew and always is smelly dirty toilets. The smell of stale urine, bleach and pine disinfectant went hand in hand with wanking with another man. There was no where else to meet and nowhere else to take someone back to and you really had to keep your wits about you in case caught.
I married. Had to really. Couldn't be seen as being ' One of Montague's Friends' - which was an expression going around the mens pubs back then.
There was always cross dressing in panto - and many ' in the arts' were clearly flambouyant and 'over the top' and got away with as as they were ' in the arts' and it was sort of understood.
Mens clothing shop staff were always on the homosexual radar as were women's hair dressers, and later on, flight crew or ' trolley dollies' and yet most homosexuality back then had a very limited experience of actual gayness as they would be prosecuted and jailed.
The whole gay lifestyle had not even started until after 1967 when the law was changed and being over 21 was now legal - and bars and disco's exclusively for us homosexuals started opening.
It was a revelation - but ultra dangerous and risky of being seen and recognised.
It may have been legal, but lives were still at risk of blackmail, abuse, ruination and even murder.
Life became different and while I managed a double life, like the vast majority of gay men even today - married with kids and living a secret life, it was never easy. The fear of being found out and shamed, and loose employment and so much more, exposed in the papers, that for me anyway, I just kept my head down and brought up my 3 sons and took care of my wife until she died and I did love her John, I really did. I think she knew. She was always very patient with me. Our boys were brought up in a different world and knew so much more than me about gay men and the gay world and while I secretly bought and read Gay Times, realised quickly the 'scene' as it was becoming known, was not for me. I may have been homosexual, but not a gay man living a gay lifestyle.
After my wife died I was able to be more open and I did come out to my sons, one of which came out to me in return and we actually cried together and laughed. It bonded us deeper than ever and the other boys ( actually men by now ) saw that and were a wonder to me, an absolute wonder.
Maybe I was born to early and would have enjoyed an out gay life had I been born 30 or 40 years later, but then, I would not have my 3 strapping boys and 4 grandchildren and now I can honestly say, through all the emotional, sexual and mental torment of it all back then, it was worth it and I would change nothing.
I do hope you do not mind this lengthy personal piece from an old man like me, It just seems so many young guys do not understand what came before and how very lucky they are and not to take it or anything for granted.
I must admit to crying while writing this. It brought back so many memories.
Thanks to you John. For all you do.
JB RESPONDS -----------------
I have offered Brian to come as my guest any time and shall be delighted to meet and chat in person.
When I came out in 1970 aged 15 - my first lover for over 8 years working and living together was 42 when we met and through him I met many older, MUCH older gay men like Brian and have heard this sort of story many times. Most of my clients when I was an escort were married men of all ages and many lived a secret life and even today, homophobia comes largely from some of those bitter old men who feel they have missed out - rather than like Brian, accepting and thanking for what they have.
It also brought tears to my eyes when I re read his piece for putting on here and it really did move my heart.
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