Why Is This Podcast Important?
It’s important that these stories and experiences are gathered because they form the rich fabric of our history and lived experiences and the Romp podcast is always looking for new guests to tell their stories of how they met other gay men before we had smartphones, apps and location tracking…..
In a world where everything is disposable and forgotten in the blink of an eye its important to capture what we had to go through to meet other men, whether it was for sex or friendship, to make ourselves feel worthy, desired and to belong to a community when the public, backed up by the government, were telling us we were wrong, disgusting, shouldnt be seen and in some cases alive, in Britain in the 1980s.
As Stewart talks about in episode 5 – before the smartphone, if you didnt have a local scene to visit, or were too scared to go to – contact was done through newspapers and magazines where you would read a small message of 4 or 5 lines, decide that you liked the sound of that person and send in a letter and a recent(ish) photo if you had one – selfies weren’t a thing, cameras had film that had to go to a shop to be processed or posted away and the person taking the photo rarely appeared in the shot. ID photos from booths was an option but would you meet me aged 17 in this photo? not sure I would. 🙂 – and the reply could take weeks to come back, if at all.
There was always the gay scene to meet people on, if you lived near to a large city like Manchester there were bars and clubs that catered for different interests – the leather scene was popular in Manchester as Colin talks about in Episode 1 – and he also talks about the gay switchboards that sprung up across the country that were run by volunteer call handlers and were a great resource for info on clubs and befriending services where someone would arrange to meet you and introduce you to the scene so that you weren’t alone on your first few visits.
Cruising was also an option – where you would hang around an area known to be frequented by other men, in public, often under the nose of the unsuspecting general public going about their business, and hope to meet other gay men, Tim talks about areas like these in Episode 4 in the US and Canada or how you did it in your car in the 1950’s in small towns in semi rural Cheshire Where you would drive around the town in the evening, sometimes seeing the same person over a number of weeks before having the courage to flash your lights at them in the hope they knew what you meant before taking the chance on pulling over the car and talking to them – still with the fear of being gaybashed as Ron talks about in Episode 2.
Then there was cottaging, the act of meeting other men in public toilets – sometimes safer with its buils in excuse – afterall you were only in there for a piss if anyone asked but at the same time, it was dirty, smelt and generally left you with that feeling of having to hide, being shameful or abhorent to others and as Maurice in Episode 3 tells us there is always the risk of being arrested by the police who used to target gay men in toilets by sending in young good looking policeman as bait and then sounding whisltes and arresting everyone in the toilet as soon as action started. these names would then be displayed in the local paper – not great if you are a man married with kids, living a closed life or a respected pillar of the community.
but today, its much easier, whether you’re out, out and about in a new place, in the closet, married, young, or old you can download an app and meet someone new within the hour and whilst i am certain there are many tales to tell, I want to capture the olden days, before we forget! So if you want to tell your story or have a chat about potentially taking part, read this page to find out more and fill in the contact form, or open the link to whatsapp and email.