True Stories: Gay Memories – Meeting Another Gay Person For The First Time #LGBTQI #LGBT

At 17-years-old, I had no idea if I’d ever encountered another gay person. I probably had, but I lived during times when being out and gay could put your life in danger.

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Gay Memories

I had my suspicions about who I thought was gay, such as the bus driver who lived on the next street. Even though his bus wasn’t going in the direction I wanted, I’d ride around on it so I could see him and hoped he’d notice me.

There was one way I thought would guarantee me meeting gay people, but it meant breaking the law – a law I thought was stupid. What was wrong with a 17-year-old lad answering an advert in Gay News?

South Wales area – a genuine, nice guy in his early 40s, looking to meet other guys who haven’t come out yet. Maybe we could help each other? Write to Richard at Box 223D, Gay News, London…

Richard remained on my mind for a few weeks after reading the advert. Like me, he hadn’t ‘come out’ as gay. But unlike me, he was over the age of consent, 21, when sleeping with someone of the same sex was not illegal.

The constant bragging about which girls he had slept with from Michael, my best friend, eventually persuaded me to put pen to paper and respond to Richard’s advert. While Michael could sleep with as many girls as he wanted, I thought it unfair that it was illegal for me to meet and sleep with other guys.

I can’t remember what I said in my letter to Richard, but I lied about my age. I had to; otherwise, he may not respond. Or he could have reported me to the police. Fortunately, his advert did not mention sending a photo, so I didn’t have to prove I was 21.

It took me a week to post my reply. Every time I approached the postbox at the bottom of the street, police sirens would sound in my head.

The thought of Richard having my home address and turning up unannounced also terrified me. But the more Michael bragged about who he had slept with and questioned why I was still a virgin, the more courage I got. Finally, I posted the letter after convincing myself that I’d run away to London if Richard turned up. I’d be safe with so many other gay people living there.

A month later, not only had I not had a reply from Richard, but I’d also placed an advert in the lonelyhearts column of Gay News.

21-year-old gay guy looking to make new friends and meet his first boyfriend. Currently living in South Wales, but looking to live and work in London. Age/looks unimportant, but please send a photo. Write to Rob at Box D867, Gay News, London…

Two weeks after my advert appeared, I came home from work to find my mother holding an envelope.

“It’s for you. Whose handwriting is this? I don’t recognise it,” she examined.

Terrified that she was about to tear the letter open, I snatched it off her and ran upstairs, shouting that I’d got a new pen-pal. Fortunately, my mother knew that I had pen-pals and liked to write letters, although she had failed to notice that the stamp on the envelope was British, not foreign.

I was trembling at the thought that my mother could have forced me to come out of the closet had she opened the letter. I’d convinced myself that if the family found out I was gay, I’d be homeless.

Studying the envelope closely, I was too scared to open it and placed it in the same place I’d hid my copies of Gay News – under the carpet under my bed.

Two weeks later, as I climbed into the passenger seat of a car, I was greeted with the words ‘Hi, I’m Richard. I’m a little nervous, but it’s finally good to meet you, Hugh.”

I was meeting who I thought was the first gay person in my life.

But the following day, I would be threatened again with coming out of the closet.

“Who’s car did I see you getting into yesterday?” asked Michael.

Did you enjoy reading this post? Then you may also enjoy…

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48 thoughts on “True Stories: Gay Memories – Meeting Another Gay Person For The First Time #LGBTQI #LGBT

  1. I could only imagine how difficult it was in those days to meet someone while being openly gay was taboo. But you were quite clever working around it. 🙂

    1. I consider myself lucky, Debby. For many, though, it was an entirely different path. Many people were cruel back then, and it’s a shame that homophobia is once again on the rise in the UK. It shows that we must never take our eyes off the ball. But things are a lot better now than they were 50 years ago.

      1. The world has gone mad Hugh. There is so much hatred in too many directions. As you said, we all must keep our eyes on the ball. Happy weekend to you. ❤

  2. Oh Hugh, that age is tough for most people, but those ridiculous laws and societal expectations put such an extra burden on you. Fortunately, the laws have changed, but there are still way too many unaccepting asshats.


  3. This was a great story. It is amazing how the internet has changed things like this. I am hoping that someday everyone will simply be accepted for who they are and not who they love.

    1. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.

      It would be lovely to live in a world where people could love whoever they wanted without being judged. I like to think that one day that is what will happen.

  4. i have vivid memories of the terror of asking a girl out, wondering if I could kiss her, wondering what my friends might say, pretending I was no longer a virgin – and yet that all pales alongside the level of threat you experienced while seeking the same solace. It takes so long, doesn’t it, to shift the dial and still there are so many, as you say, terrified to come out of live in countries where it is still illegal. Thanks Hugh, for this; i may have heard some of it before but it is such a compelling read – when’s the memoir coming out!?

    1. A memoir? That sounds a good idea, Geoff, especially given that I’ve written a few of these posts over the years and have more to come.

      I remember most of my mates boosting at the time about how many girls they’d slept with. Of course, at the time, I believed them, but I now wonder how many of them were simply boosting about something they’d not done.

  5. Brilliant post, Hugh. It’s shattering to realize how many people experienced the same isolation and fear that you did, and how many still do…

    1. Yes, I wonder how many people were going through the same experiences as me, Aimer. Back then, there was no easy way to find those people so we could help each other. It involved a lot of hard work and living secretively with an element of danger always following you.

    1. We do, and there is still lots of work to be done. It breaks my heart when I hear of hate towards anyone who is condoned for loving somebody of the same sex. We must do all we can to eliminate discrimination and hatred towards others who are different from the lifestyles we leada.

  6. Wow, I cannot even imagine the emotions that were accompanying you during these times… from totally excited and thrilled to completely terrified. Thank you for sharing this part of your life to spread awareness about how difficult it was for you and probably for almost everyone gay. Still, the obstacles are not removed but at least there is a lot more openness.

    1. Yes, acceptance of gay people has come a long way, Erika. However, there are still many gay people who fear ‘coming out’ to family and friends, and many go on to lives full of lies and unhappiness.

      Deep down inside, there is still that fear of telling someone I have a partner of the same sex. I guess the scars go deep, but I’m glad they don’t affect me in a way that I would live a totally different life. I’m very happy with how my life worked out.

      1. I believe it takes a lot… I mean really a lot … of courage to go that path. As you said, I can imagine well that still, this is a big problem in some families and very sad for those who only want to be the person they feel that they are – not more, not less.

        1. I have a gay nephew who had no difficulty coming out to the family, but a gay niece, I have, struggled with it. When she finally came out, she wondered what all the fuss and anxiety she gave herself was about. Now she has a loving partner and is such a happier person. It’s so lovely to see her living the life she has and not having to pretend her life.

        2. I saw this happiness in a few people who finally took that step and it is touching and moving every time again. Everybody must be allowed to be who they want to be without being judged or even questioned. Just be… and all is fine. Only that way everybody’s potential can unfold as it should and let them be an example of how powerful authenticity is.
          Sorry, but something like this is always going so deep.

        3. No need to apologise, Erika. I only wish every society allowed love to always take its course instead of trying to build dams to stop it. The time they spend not allowing people to be who they could be put to much better use.

        4. I am convinced that the movement can no longer be stopped. Even if individual heads of state still resist it. The wave is too big, and it affects the entire population. We were at the first #pride event in Liechtenstein on Saturday and the response was overwhelming.

  7. A gripping tale, Hugh. I hope you will continue this series as it makes for great reading, despite the fear and emotions that went with those experiences “way back when.”

    I’m sure I’ve met plenty of gay people, but often I didn’t know or couldn’t tell if they were gay. Especially while sailing for eight years. And it didn’t matter. I have a few friends who I expect are gay, but again, the topic never came up. One of Mark’s nieces is gay and it warms my heart to see how her relationship and partner are accepted within the family, just like any partner.

    1. I’ve got plenty more to talk about in these posts, Liesebet, so expect a few more from me.

      That’s so lovely to hear how Mark’s niece and her partner have been accepted into the family. Things are certainly a lot different now, and being gay is much more acceptable, but there is still much reaching out to be done. June is pride month all over the world, but work continues each and every day.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story, again, Hugh. I can’t imagine the fear you must have felt from your parents and again from your classmates, not to mention feeling so lonely. I remember when my brother came out to me. He had it much easier being born in 1969 and coming of age when being gay was “tolerable.”

    1. I’ve lots more of these stories, Terri. This was a continuation of my previous True Stories post.

      It wasn’t until the year 2000 that the age of consent for homosexual men was bought into line with that of heterosexual men. In the 1980s, the UK even went backwards when the then government banned all teaching of homosexuality in schools. By the time the 1990s came, tolerance toward gay people began to get a little easier, but by then I’d managed to build up a big group of friends and worked in retail which was populated by a large number of gay people.

  9. I enjoyed reading that, Hugh. It is so interesting to hear your perspective. It must have been terrifying for you to go through so entirely on your own, not only without the support of your family but in fear of them finding out.
    I am straight, but am horrified that loving someone could be a criminal offence within my own lifetime!

    1. What I feared the most from my family was that if I came out to them, I’d be thrown out of the family home and be on the streets. That fear alone kept me from revealing to anyone that I was gay. However, as I learned about 10 years later, my mother had an idea that I was gay but didn’t want to ask me. When I went to tell her, she asked me why I’d waited so long to say it to her. When I told my father, he disowned me and never spoke to me again for over 30 years (my parents were divorced at the time).

      In the UK during the last 1970s (when this story is based), you had to be over 21 to sleep with someone of the same sex, although the law never applied to women, only men. Yet my friends were all sleeping around (or trying to) with members of the opposite sex. It made me think that something was seriously wrong with me.

      Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment.

  10. Great story! I enjoyed reading about your experiences. I can’t imagine how scary all of that must have felt. I completely understand the desire to meet people and feel connected, and I am sure that all of that secrecy was really difficult. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Thank you.

      It was a terrifying situation, mainly because I had nobody I could talk to about how I felt. Sometimes, I felt very lonely, as if I was the only gay person in the world. I saw London as the place to go, live, and work because I knew that was where many gay people were. Yet it still seemed a million miles away from me.

      This part of my life was a difficult journey, but I got through it. I’ll be sharing more on my blog.

  11. Great read Hugh. I was very invested there, could have read more. I can only imagine how scary it would have been.
    I remember my first trip to London at 18 to experience the gay scene. I must write a post about it. Thanks for sharing Hugh.

    1. Thanks, Wayne. Things were so much different when I was 17 years old. There were gay charchters on TV that everyone seemed to enjoy watching. Even the comedy duo Morcombe and Wise did comedy sketches of them both sharing a bed, yet nobody ever questioned it. But in real life, outside of TV, being out and gay was a dangerous situation.

      I hope you do write that post. I’d love to read it. And you’re welcome to write it as a guest post here on my blog, so the door is open if you like the idea, but don’t feel pressured to say yes.

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