Seventeen years down the mines
Geoff talks about the difficulties of being gay and working as a miner.
TRANSCRIPTI, for work-wise, when I left school I always wanted to join the Royal Navy, and I did have actually call-up papers to join the Royal Navy in April of 1982, and I was quite scared about it because obviously being gay in the armed forces wasn’t allowed then as it is now, and I wasn’t sure how I would cope in that kind of environment, but as it happened, I went underground, I went to work as a coal miner, which is an all-male environment, funnily enough. And I worked underground for 17 years, and – it was very difficult, hiding it, and – because going out with your mates from work and young single lads, obviously wanting to find themselves a woman to settle down with or whatever. I wasn’t interested in that, I was just happy to go out with them drinking. And then when I did finish my engagement I went into a bit of um, I became a bit of a recluse and didn’t want to go out because I felt I knew what my sexuality was but didn’t want to broadcast it, obviously, working underground, but didn’t know how to take it forward. And, my mates at work thought that was strange, that a young lad, 19, didn’t want to go out, having just finished with a girlfriend, and there was life for living. I just didn’t want to go out, and they put two and two and actually got four, and one young lad said, ‘You’re gay, aren’t you?’ And – not being very good at lying – I just blushed and it caused a hell of a lot of problems for me, so much so that they actually threatened to throw me down the pit shaft.
And because working in an all-male environment like that, you have to know that you can rely on your mates because there’s lots of safety issues, and being gay they considered not to be one of trust. So they didn’t like it. So I went on sick and, arranged for a transfer to a different pit, and the bloke I was seeing at the time actually worked in the, in the coal industry as well but in the offices in the wages, and was older than me – ten years older than me, and actually said, ‘You can’t be like this, you’ve got to create a double life for yourself and lead it to the full, so you cannot deviate from that’. And so, what I did, I created a whole separate life, so I had a girlfriend, even though I didn’t – she was a lesbian friend who, we, by mutual consent agreed that if we needed a partner we could rely on each other, and so for events for her I would go as the boyfriend, and likewise if I needed her we would go to my event, but she worked for a solicitor’s and I used to say, ‘Oh our lass is too posh for all this, she won’t come out with you lot’, so I could get away from not going to too many events with people down the pit because I’d say we moved in different circles, which was very true but wasn’t letting them know why and what circles we were moving in. So, it was very difficult, and I had some really good exciting times underground, it was – I don’t know, in some ways, it being in such a masculine environment, I found it interesting. The job wasn’t challenging, but I did enjoy going to work, and maybe it was the sexual aspect of it, working with 300 blokes, but yeah, I really enjoyed my 17 years underground.