Friendship and support
Sean talks of his friendship with Darren and how they responded to Darren's HIV diagnosis through 'hard partying', finding community support from older men in leather bars.
TRANSCRIPTWe had a lodger at the time. A guy called Darren, who was from Birmingham ironically which is why we kind of just missed each other a lot of times in, down in Birmingham. And I got to know him really well cos he, he had the spare room in my partner’s house at the time. And... we got really comfortable with each other, I used to take up a brew, a, a tea or a coffee to him every morning, and he’d go ‘oh this is who I’ve picked up, what’s your name?’ [laughs] And I’d make them a brew as well! So we were really kind of comfortable with each other, and a lot of people thought we were going out with each other, but we never... we never did, we just felt... it just felt really comfortable and really [pause] kind of [pause] fraternal really. So, we… we kind of moved in together, as flatmates.
And, he… – I think like a lot of gay men at the time, he had problems with his sexuality, it wasn’t acceptable, he came from a working class background, his family didn’t want him to be gay. And he found it really hard to cope with it. And he contracted HIV. At a time when there were no treatments available. And I remember him coming round to, to, to see me, and saying, you know, ‘I’ve got HIV’. And then it was a death sentence. And I remember him saying…’the reason I kept talking to you is cos you didn’t burst into tears, you just said’ [laughs] I remember I said to him ‘are we going for a drink then? Cos you’re not dead yet, let’s get on with it’ [laughs].
So, we did... lots of kind of hard partying really. We would – we had very little money, but what we did have we spent on the scene. And we did go to... places like... Rocky’s and the Mineshaft, which people thought was too old for us cos it was a leather scene, but we really liked it cos the music was amazing, and in those days the only place you could hear mixed music – where music is mixed one into the other, and high-energy, which was very distinctive music for the time, and was fantastic, we’d never heard anything like it – was only in these leather bars [laughs]. So we used to go in these leather bars [laughs], and they used to say ‘you have to take your shirt off if you’re coming in the Mineshaft’ and I was like ‘oh really?!’ cos I was just so skinny still, so I felt ridiculous, all these like, muscular guys and me stood there look, looking like I’d been, you know, I’d forgotten my sports kit or something. But it was great, and I actually had... a real education, which I think a lot of people miss out on these days. Cos you’re – a) you had to be gay to go into these clubs, you had to knock on the door, the bouncers said ‘you’re not gay you’re not coming in’ and you had to ‘yes I am and I know so-and-so behind the bar’, and they’d let you in, and, you know, you’d miss the last bus home. And guys would say ‘do you wanna stay with me?’ and you’d think ‘hmmmm...’, you know, ‘are they going to try something on?’. And actually, when I said to them ‘yeah but... I don’t want, you know, I don’t want to sleep with you’ they’d go ‘that’s fine, just sleep on the couch, it’s fine’. So I had a real community support there, I never once had anyone try anything on inappropriate. Older guys looked after me, and looked out for me when – cos a couple of times I got completely drunk, when I was upset about Darren get – starting to get ill. And people would pick you up, and put you in a cab and, and get you home. So the community was really incredibly supportive and helpful, I felt.