Coming out against the backdrop of AIDS

Mark recalls how AIDS gave him 'a fight to join' and enabled him to feel part of the LGBT community when he came out.

Duration 02:45


M: [sighs] It's the lies isn't it – d'you know what I mean? To, to [sighs] to stay in the closet. Think a lot of people don't, don't realise that – you know you have to – you have to lie and you have to limi... So when you're living with a group of people that you've known a long time um – and I'd start to have friends from 16 to 18 when I was in the sixth form. Things improved for me a little bit socially in that sense.

You know I used to go out – there was a group of lads and we used to go out... drinking in Morley on a Friday night. So the social side of things had improved a little bit by then. But of course by then as well um... the AIDS crisis was all in the news. So the kind of backdrop to me kind of like coming to terms with... my sexuality was a whole lot of negativity and er stigma and um... stuff going on.

In the news and on the TV I remember watching um – I was very interested in AIDS obviously so I was like making sure I was totally up to date on everything that happening, watching all the TV shows. And I remember a guy going on um on like a talk type – it was like a Question Time type thing arranged specifically on AIDS. And this guy arguing that um being gay should be made illegal again. So... [nervous laugh] there was quite a lot of uh... negativity but um...

So it's scary in that sense but in the um – on the other side of it. It, it did activate me as well. You know it gave me a... something to – I don't know cl- grab on to. Whether it was something to... it gave me a fight to join [laughs]. So it did have its positive benefits and I, I thought at the time that you know uh I would never get HIV because I understood – you know how it was transmitted. And um I was just gonna use condoms.

Um and then you know when I did come out after 18 everyone was using condoms in 1988. It was like blanket [pause] blanket usage at that time. So I was never scared of AIDS, never scared of catching it. [Pause] um but it did give me – you know a way to openly fight against public hostilities against gay people um without coming out. So in a sense it had a [nervous laughter] practical use for me even though um – you know it made me realise that um I was becoming – I was uh coming – if I did come out I would be coming out into a really hostile environment. Or what I thought would be really hostile.