“Which is the most popular Gay Bar in town these days” I asked my young friend
She laughed out loud “there isn’t a Gay Bar anymore all the pubs are gay friendly”
I’ll believe that when I see it I thought, this is the North where things take aeons to change.
The Greyhound pub had been a beacon of hope for my kind, an oasis in the middle of a heterosexual desert, a place where a young woman could find her feet and just maybe the love of her life.
Every Friday was party night down the Greyhound; the pushing and heaving to get to the bar, the swaying and grinding on a dance floor no bigger than a tabletop, and snogging your girlfriend (or occasionally someone else’s) in the Ladies Toilets, these were our rituals. Somehow I can’t see that happening in one of the so-called ‘gay friendly pubs’.
Growing up in a working class Northern pit village during the 50’s and 60’s I was fed on a diet of homophobia, ingesting it into every cell. My only role model was Bessie the bus conductress who cut her hair short and wore trousers! I made cow eyes at her every morning on my way to school but she just smiled knowingly from a distance.
I too fought against wearing dresses and putting on the cloak of conformity but in the end I succumbed and it took Maggie’s megalomania over the striking Miners to eventually liberate me & enable me to fight for my cause.
From the Greyhound three coaches took us to London to March with Pride past Parliament’s house and two more to Manchester to raise our voices against Clause 28. I was well and truly out of a very crowded closet and exercising my political right to be ME! There was a tsunami of feeling that enough was enough and we were only going in one direction, I was young and strong and rode that wave through storm and tempest.
I’m glad I have lived in these interesting times. I have been privileged to see my gay brothers shake off the Law and to see openly gay politicians, police, artists and performers: that closet door is now a mile wide and the boundaries invisible. Gay parenting works alongside any other kind of family, and now of course we can get married.
I still miss the Greyhound though and am yet to be convinced that the standard Northern boozer is ‘gay friendly’, but perhaps like me it belonged to an age of struggle and activism and would be out of place in today’s world. I admire my young friend’s hope and optimism that the world has changed and feel proud knowing that what we did back then has made things so very different in the here and now!!
The Revolution is over; Long Live the Revolution!!!