LGBTQ+ History Month: Growing up in a time when being homosexual was illegal

Home Instead Brighton, Hove and Shoreham are working towards improving the quality of care and support for older LGBTQ+ people in our local area. Read on for Alan's story.

Home Instead Brighton, Hove and Shoreham are working towards improving the quality of care and support for older lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer+ people in our local area. We look to assist LGBTQ+ people over 50 to live full, vibrant and respected lives free from isolation, loneliness, discrimination and prejudice.

In support of LGBTQ+ History month we spoke to our own client, Alan, who told us of many times in his life when he had faced prejudice for being gay. He shared with us some of his personal experiences and how times have changed since he was a young man.

Alan was born in the war in 1941. His Dad was a North Yorkshire bricklayer who moved down to the South. The divide between North England and South England was prominent at the time and when his father left the small village where he grew up, his sister put a curse on him and his family. Alan’s father decided to marry Alan’s mother regardless and they all moved down to Morden (just outside of London). Shortly after, Alan’s father went off to war.

There was no such thing as known homosexuality as nobody spoke about it at that time, but Alan believes people were far more secretive about their sexual identity. Alan said “I wasn’t aware of gay people before puberty because that’s when your life starts and you begin to realise things… I don’t really know when I found out I was gay. I was at school and I was approached variously because I went to a boys school in Horsham for most of my education. It was a grammar school and very old fashioned, quite Dickensian, but I liked it.“

Alan said he eventually left school because of his first boyhood crush and then felt the need to have girlfriends because everybody else did. Alan shares that he was only interested in one man when he was younger, but he got married to another woman. He was married 5 or 6 times and Alan believes he was very unhappy in his relationships.

When describing his relationships and experiences growing up, Alan says that it could be lonely. Living in Morden was a different place to be in those days because of the war. Alan doesn’t believe there was any support for LGBTQ+ communities when he was younger. He says, “I can’t really identify a time when I realised my feelings were only for men. I just put up with it. A lot of people were happily matched and even got married, it was a thing you had to do. I never got married but I nearly got engaged to a woman. I did feel like it was forced because I wasn’t getting much emotion out of it and I was doing it because I felt like I should. I could see others were getting married and having children, so I thought ‘they are doing it and they are fine so perhaps I should.’”

There was never a sex education class at school and sexuality wasn’t something spoken about. Alan never brought up sexuality with his parents but shares, “My mum said to me whilst she was hanging the curtains, ‘are you queer?’ and my dad was dead by this time. I was in my 60’s and I told my mum then. She was fine and didn’t really know what it meant.” Alan hasn’t had lasting relationships with men, he said he was ‘a single child and went through life single’. Many times when he was younger, Alan experienced prejudice for being who he was. There were gangs who used to pick on people, bully them and even attack. 

At the age of 18, Alan started to play the double bass and found a love for playing music. “I was a bit shy and reticent and very used to my own company. Being a bass player in a band and into music was my way out if you like… for my whole life. I was quite good at the bass but I never went professional. When I retired, I became a freelance musician. I’ve had a reasonably good life because I was single and on my own. I’ve never felt very down about being alone but it has been lonely at times.”

Alan said in his 30s and 40s, gay people were a lot more accepted. He was a manager at a bank for many years and felt colleagues knew of his sexuality at work. At the time, he believed there were nowhere near as many gay men back then as there truly were. Throughout life, Alan has deliberately hidden his sexual identity, but people could sometimes recognise him as gay because he believes he is too soft and forgiving. 

“My father was surly and my mother was soft, so I knew I had taken after her and not him. Everybody knows I am gay now. However, when you live with a stigma for many years it can be difficult to shake off. People laugh at me when I say it but they don’t understand because they haven’t been in the position themselves. However, now I feel I can be open and honest about my sexuality. I feel supported by Home Instead and can be my true self when the Care Professional’s come to visit. Times have changed to such a degree, this feels like heaven now… after the lengths we had to go to in the past!”

Are you an older member of the LGBTQ+ community and looking for support at home? We offer a range of tailored services to help you get the best out of life. To learn more about our services or find local LGBTQ+ support, please give us a call on 01273 284090 or email [email protected].

Alan, client of Home Instead

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