Yvette Lewis and Karen Lewis: Full Interview
TRANSCRIPTYvette Lewis and Karen Lewis
Interview by Rachel Larman
5 September 2018
RL: Rachel Larman for West Yorkshire Queer Stories. It is the 5th of September 2018, and I’m with Yvette, who’s going to introduce herself.
YL: Hi, I’m Yvette Lewis. I live in South Leeds. My date of birth’s 02/10/1971, and I identify myself as a lesbian.
RL: So Yvette can you tell me about Kitson College?
YL: […] Yeah, um, basically I went to Kitson College for a printing diploma course, and when I was there I got involved with the student union and I got elected as sports union representative. And I asked the question why there wasn’t a lesbian/gay officer, and they, ‘because Kitson College won’t let us’, because of Section 28 at the time, cos this was back in ’89. And so we – I went to the student union officer, and I explained to them, and they said, ‘well they should have one!’ And I said, ‘I know they should have one’. So, basically, we took it, I got the union involved with the lesbian and disabled officers in the student union body involved as well, so I had West Yorkshire involved – it went quite quick because it was a bit thing that, y’know, this college was – didn’t have a lesbian/gay officer when the rest of them did, y’know like Park Lane College and stuff.
Their argument was that it was to do with Section 28 and the age that people were going to the college was from 16 upwards, and of course at the time Section 28, you had to be 21 to – and you couldn’t promote homosexuality in a college, and I said, ‘but this is different because it’s supporting the lesbian/gay people – there is people that are coming out will need help and stuff and will need a group, y’know – they’d thought that I wanted to set up this officer and have groups as a dating agency [laughs]. Y’know, it’s like, ‘no, that wasn’t the case’.
So yeah, so we did work – I mean, we were in lots of papers; Leeds University got involved as well, and I got printed in their paper, and stuff, oh I was everywhere. And, we actually won it, we got it turned around – I had to sit in the, one of the regular meetings of – directors’ meetings, and I had to presented a case, and I had to make like reassurance that it wasn’t going to be promoting y’know homosexuality, with Section 28, that was an absolute ball [laughs].
And y’know, we managed to get them to listen and say, ‘look it is needed, y’know, you’re not, you are breaking’ – it was sommat we were breaking, I can’t remember, it was such a long time. But, like I say, we won it and, as far as I know, y’know it only kept going, y’know the lesbian/gay officer, so I was quite pleased about that.
And then, that’s when I was at college, and I wasn’t at college that long afterwards because I was finding it difficult, because I lived in Harrogate at the time, so travelling back and forth was hard. Well, actually, I hardly didn’t go back home, because I was always tempted to go out [laughs] to, on – to the gay scene, basically.
RL: Ok, tell me about that.
YL: Well, basically, there was Bananas and Rock Shots, we used to love going there, because if you started off in Bananas and you wanted to go to the Rock Shots – cos it was, Bananas was at the basement, and then the Rock Shots was a nightclub that had two – it was either two or three floors, it had. And if you was in Bananas and you wanted to go up, they let you up first before they let the people outside, so it used to be pretty cool, that, I used to love that.
There used to be the nightclub in Merrion Centre, I used to go to that, used to be in the basement, and I can’t remember what it is, but they used to have it – there’s no sign of it now, cos I was telling Karen the other day when we were in Merrion Centre, I said I remember going in this basement going in and they used to have a nightclub there, and of course used to be the monthly ones that Mr Craig’s used to do, that’s the nightclub up by the Grand, next door to the Grand – I don’t know if it’s still there or what name it’s under, cos it’s had God knows how many different names. They used to have a monthly lesbian and gay do, and they used to be fun, yeah. You know, they used to get acts on, y’know, like – oh what’s her name now? It was like 80s, 80s used to come in and do stuff, y’know, and they used to do like parties as well.
There was a foam party they done once, and that – it was supposed to be a swimming pool, but health and safety wouldn’t let the water go in, so it ended up being all this foam, which was fun, y’know, and of course, back then, you had promotion like Malibu promote a certain one, or some type of beer would promote it, and you’d get like whistles and blow-up toys and y’know like little hammers and stuff. Y’know, it used to be really great, the scene back then, you used to be able to let your hair down. I know I mentioned Merrion Centre, but the used – there’s another nightclub – and I’m not quite sure if it’s there now – that used to be at the top of Merrion Centre and that used to do monthly events as well. So we had our own little pubs and stuff, and then we had the nightclubs, so we had quite a big scene that you could really go out and enjoy yourself.
RL: What were the names of the pubs then?
YL: I can’t remember the ones in Merrion Centre, because they keep changing their names, but somebody might’ve mentioned it. Boy George used to always come and sing in it, and stuff, so y’know it used to be quite a big one, especially for all university y’know and college students and stuff, they used to all go there, y’know. I mean, there was like New Penny, and that’s still happening, you, they used to do drag acts on a Sunday – that used to be good. Then you had The Bridge, and then there’s used to be the Red Lion, and then of course the Barnardo’s – Rock Shots and Bana-bana -ah! I can’t pronounce it now!
We didn’t have Queens Court back then, cos Queens Court came after that, because – this is a story, I don’t know if this got told, about, I think it was – was it Vicky, I think her name was – the owner of Bananas and Rock Shots, she actually done a runner with all the money. And that’s why it closed down; that’s why Bananas and Rock Shots ended.
RL: So when was this?
YL: That was early 90s, beginning of the early – by about ’91, ’92 I think it was, y’know. Cos we were all shocked, cos we thought, ‘hang on, why can’t we get in?’ y’know – because it was the place to go, because it wasn’t that regular nightclubs for gay people, you had the months that the, straight nightclubs that did the offer once a month kind of thing, but there wasn’t – this was the only one that was basically for homosexuals to go and enjoy themselves and feel safe in that little area. Y’know cos you don’t particularly want to go off on your own because you did have a lot of hate crime back then, y’know people calling you names and stuff, so you had to be safes and keep yourself safe, so a nice little quarter used to be really, really good.
RL: And was this for men and women?
YL: Yeah, men and women, yeah, anybody, bisexual men and women, y’know, and it used to be really good, and then we lost it, so then we didn’t have a nightclub for, I think it was about two or three years. And then they – I don’t remember when it opened – and then Queens Court opened. Of course, then we got our nightclub back again, back down in that vicinity, so y’know, I mean, there’s been some comes and goings, like, I mentioned about New Penny, and y’know they used to do the drag acts – Nicky and Vicky! That’s the names that used to run the old Penny, I used to be quite close to them because I used to deliver the Pink Paper there, so I knew them by name and stuff, they were brilliant, and I think it was Vicky that used to do the drag act as well, every so often she’d done her own famous drag act – don’t ask me what the name was, cos I can’t remember, cos most of stuff names-wise I’m not very good with, I just remember y’know what happened and stuff. So y’know it was pretty good nightlife, I mean that’s what attracted me to move to Leeds.
RL: What about the women’s discos? Were you involved in those?
YL: Oh yeah, the women’s discos, well there was a thing that – we wanted women-only disco, because it wasn’t around, y’know. Women wanted a place to feel safe, to feel relaxed and stuff, and there was a group of friends that got together and organised it, and it wasn’t on a regular basis, it was maybe like once a year or, yeah I think it was once a year or something like that, cos it was a lot to organise, y’know and they all were working and it was funding – all the beginning of the stuff was funded by them, and then the got the money back from the ticket sales, if they got enough ticket sales, but there were quite a few places that we had – the one that sticks in mind was actually the pub up at by the university at Hyde Park, that one on the corner. I can’t remember the name – we had one there. We took the upstairs floor, y’know and it used to, they used to put like a little show on, there used to be like a disco, and then they we used to take the mickey or something. One time they did… an Abba song, and they come out with rubber gloves on and stuff [laughs] – I have got pictures somewhere.
But, and that one was at the university; that’s another place we held it, was at the university nightclubby space they have there, I’ve forgot where it is now, but I know it’s at the univer- at Leeds University, y’know so, and it was really good because women did like it, and they looked at for – I can’t remember the name, and it’s really, and it was a certain name, and women used to jump for joy when they found out that it was happening, cos we used to put posters up and stuff to let people know that it was going on y’know. It was quite – it was the in thing to go to, and that’s – because of that, then we started getting night dos done just solely for women in different places.
There was one up in Roundhay; that’s not there no more [laughs] it got knocked down. That used to do women-only nightclub, which used to be really good. And that was regular, and there used to be another one… it used to be where it could get – where, there was one place that was up Chapel Allerton, I think it was started there, we had a pub there. I think they didn’t like it, so we had to move somewhere else, y’know. It all depends, do y’know what I mean, but y’know we did do all that y’know, so it was pretty cool.
RL: So what kind of music was being played at those women’s nights?
YL: Oh – it was um, it was a mixture… It was a lot of Gabrielle, Gabrielle was played, y’know, that kind of music that were in the charts in the early 90s. Y’know, there was like dance music, kind of thing, and female artists were quite – y’know like, um, Alison Moyet, Gabrie – I know Gabrielle was there; Steps wasn’t there, that was too early. Oh, come on. Belinda Carlisle, yes! [laughs] Them kind of you know music that was played, y’know. Y’know, dance music, really, y’know, and of course we used to let our hair down because it was all women. And at the end of the night, because there was so many drunken people, they went topless [laughs] That was the excitement of the evening! [laughs] All these women just taking their bras off and their t-shirts and just dancing, y’know, and it’s like, it’s like, ‘okay!’ [laughs]
But it was a space for us to feel secure and knew that we wasn’t threatened or anything, yeah. We didn’t have a fear that something was going to happen; we did have a couple of bouncers on the doors to keep people out that shouldn’t be there, y’know, but no it was great, y’know the live acts used to be absolutely brilliant, y’know you used to be able to enjoy yourself and let your hair down – I don’t think they do it as much now, with promotions and stuff, y’know, and but yeah. It was absolutely fantastic.
RL: You mentioned delivering the Pink Paper before, do you wanna say a bit about that?
YL: Yeah, I used to deliver the Pink Paper with Jackie Clayton, she’d actually always done it, and she dragged me into it, cos I knew her. And we used to go around the pubs, like, y’know the Penny, and the Bridge, and the Red Lion and stuff, and Mesmac – and there was a couple of other obscure places you wouldn’t think we would do, like Waterstones – yeah, who would think Waterstones would do the Pink Paper, but it did, and y’know, and it had quite a lot of Pink Papers and they did go quite quickly cos people knew they were there. We used to deliver to Leeds University.
There was a hairdressers that we used to deliver in Leeds, and there was like a health shop that we used to leave some at. We used to go up to Headingley and there was a women’s refuge that we used to drop of there, and then when we’d finished doing Leeds, we would then hop over to Bradford and do pubs in Bradford. There weren’t that many in Bradford, I think there was about two or three we used to – and I can’t remember the names [laughs].
RL: So when was this?
YL: That was the early 90s, again, we did it for quite a long time until… when people didn’t want the paper and everything electronic started going on the internet and stuff. I mean, I used to have the Pink Papers delivered to my house, so y’know, every Friday used to be a big stack of papers [laughs] y’know, the delivery van would come – I mean, first of all we used to get them from… train station, cos they used to put them on the train and we used to go to the depot in Leeds, which is not there now, because it’s actually the drop-off centre, the new place that, y’know that you park and you drop-off, that’s it, the new, that’s where you used to pick up your deliveries, your papers and stuff and you used to then just go around, y’know.
I mean it was quite a big stack of papers, I mean, you’re probably talking over a thousand we delivered, y’know locally, and Bradford, y’know – we just wanted to do our bit, y’know and make sure people got the news. Like I said, it started to, y’know, ease off so, y’know and I think we just stopped it – it think it was… would probably be late 90s when it actually fizzled out, y’know, and I think they started – they found out it was cheaper to send it to them direct. I don’t even think it’s around still now, the Pink Paper, because it used to be a big thing, y’know.
RL: So how many years did you do that for?
YL: Oh good God – probably about eight years. So, y’know – I mean, I was quite known on the scene, y’know, everybody used to look out, if – because we used to start on, we used to start at set times, it used to be on an evening, we used to deliver the papers Friday evening. We used to start about six o’clock, and we probably wouldn’t finish until about 11 o’clock at night. Well, if you think about it, you start off in Leeds – we had a little route set out – and then we’d head over to Bradford, and then we’d do our bit round Bradford, which was quite a few places, and there’s, y’know like I said, there was the pubs, but they weren’t close together, they were kinda like, spilled out, cos there was a couple in the town centre and then there was one that was outskirts that we had to go – it was the pub where all the riots were, the riot in Bradford – in the 90s there was a big riot – I can’t remember who it was against; it wasn’t nothing to do with homosexuals or anything like that, but the riot, and the pub was up there – d’you know, I’m not very good with memories, but yeah.
So I done that for about eight years, and I did enjoy it, y’know I felt like I was a bit of service to the community, y’know letting ‘em get the Pink Paper. Yeah, cos that’s what it was, it was – back then it was people that were offering to do the deliveries, if we didn’t do it, they probably wouldn’t have got the Pink Paper.
RL: And you were doing it for free?
YL: Yeah, so y’know, I was doing it to help my mate out [laughs].
RL: Could you tell me a bit about the first gay pride?
YL: Oh yes, yeah. That’s pretty good. I didn’t organise the first one; I organised the second one. The first one was only a small one, it was like a little picnic up at Hyde Park, which was the one that was by the main road, it was that bit of Hyde Park it was on, by – by the pub actually [laughs] And then it grew and we got a couple of important people involved, like there was a counc- no, not councillor, an MP was quite involved, and we had a couple of people from the Council helping us out, so we can book things on. Then we grew and we were able to put tents up, y’know marquees, we had marquees up, we had fun fair up, we even had a red bus come up for the performers and stuff, y’know, it was pretty good. Then – I can’t remember why it got stopped, but they stopped it, and then, of course now we’ve got the gay pride that’s in Leeds city centre.
We didn’t used to march, it was just a party – party in t’park, basically, just a day to relax, enjoy it, where you just celebrated y’know being gay. Y’know, you had different types of organisations there that were y’know like AIDS Awareness, and Mesmac was there, what else was there? Y’know and some of the charity things, y’know, a lot of hard work was put into it, y’know, and I was quite gutted – I got voted off because you volunteered for it, and it got, I think it was very political and stuff, and I wasn’t wanted to get down that route, so I pulled out.
RL: So what was going on, what sort of political issues were coming up?
YL: It was just – I think it was just – that were it, they wanted to commercialise it. And, to me, y’know, it didn’t need to be – it needed to be what we started it off as, y’know, but they wanted to make it a bit like London, y’know – it never gets like London, it still doesn’t get like London, or even Manchester or anything like that, y’know. I mean, I know they try their best, but they don’t get many named artists really to turn up. We used to have like Gay Abandon turn up, y’know the gay choir and stuff, and a couple of other things, y’know, and we used to have drag queens and things – y’know, it was a nice relaxing day, y’know it wasn’t, we weren’t pressurised, we weren’t enclosed in a metal fence, like they do now up at the… what’s it called now – it’s up by where Council office are…
RL: Millennium Square?
YL: Millennium Square, yeah! Where they do it Millennium Square now and they put a big metal bloody fence round you. It doesn’t make you feel good though does it? [laughs] Y‘know, and then they try and then fit it all in down Lower Briggate, y’know, and it’s like, it’s just not the same as what it used to be – I think it still should be at Hyde Park, because it were brilliant, and you had the park, a full park, y’know and stuff, and –
RL: What was the feeling like?
YL: Oh! It were great! It was nice and relaxed. We didn’t have any trouble or anything like that, y’know. You could just be yourself, y’know there was – it was just a great day; a big buzz. I just remember the – it was a pride buzz that you did get when you were down in London and – not the actual march bit – but when you went on to the party that they did, y’know, the concerts and stuff. It’s that kind of thing, y’know, where you, weren’t rushed, y’know, you could lie down on the grass and chill out. Y’know you could have a little picnic and stuff, y’know you can’t do that with this one [laughs] Y’know, you’re on concrete aren’t you, and it’s so pushed in, y’know, it’s not really to me. I mean I can understand why they do it, cos it’s in the gay quarter area so I can understand that, but y’know, to me, it’s sort of y’know they need to go back to a field [laughs] Y’know, it’d be better.
RL: Do you want to tell me a little bit about moving to Leeds and what happened; the incident.
YL: Yeah. Well basically, I was living in Harrogate, y’know, being gay – it just wasn’t said, it wasn’t known, they didn’t really have any gay places in Harrogate, it was very conservative, that’s what I can say, y’know. You didn’t want to advertise too much in Harrogate that you were gay, so when I started college in Leeds and I was opened to this new fantastic world of nightclubs and pubs and y’know, how people were and stuff, and so I thought, ‘right! I’m going to move to Leeds’. So I did. In the 90s I moved over, early 90s, and then within about a year and a half of moving over I were walking my dogs up in – not quite s- – that’s it, Belle Isle South, this is Belle Isle North, it was Belle Isle South, which was quite a rough area and got a – there was a lot of teenagers that thought it was big and hard to call names out to people they thought were gay, y’know like the usual, ‘lesbian!’ y’know, and, ‘you’re a dyke!’ y’know and all that kind of stuff, or they harass you at home by pressing your doorbell and running away, or knocking on your windows – basically scaring you.
But anyway, I was walking the dogs and I saw them on the back of a motorbike, y’know one of these off-road motorbikes, and I thought, ‘oh I don’t fancy them giving me an ‘ard time today’, so I turned around, thinking that they didn’t see me, cos they were giving each other on the back of the, on this bike. And I didn’t think much of it, and I turned to walk home. And I heard the bike coming up, so I moved to one side to let the bike go past, and then t’next minute I know, I felt this enormous pain in the base of my spine. And, basically, the passenger on the back kicked me straight in the base of my spine, and I collapsed [laughs] I couldn’t walk, and I ended up with degenerated disc disease, y’know, because of it, and that’s why I’ve got my disability now. But, it was – back then it was just a hard life if you were gay and if you got gay-bashed or anything like that the police really didn’t wanna know, because they didn’t entertain homosexuality, y’know, in that way – I think they felt like ‘we asked for it’ kind of thing.
So I did report it to the police, at half past six. I waited for the police to come where the incident happened and they didn’t turn up, so I dragged myself back home, cos it wasn’t far where I lived, and I literally had to drag myself back home because at the time I didn’t have any usage of my legs. They really affected my spine. They tore two – y’know the gel muscles inside, I torn to of them, and the gel came out, so I was in a lot of pain and stuff. Anyway, the police decided to turn up at about half past nine. They took my statement, and they just – you knew that was it, well that was it, y’know, I didn’t know anything about compensation or anything like that that I was entitled to. I explained that they were teenagers, that they were down that field when I rang ‘em up, they said they were gonna turn up to, so they could catch them, and they never did, so that’s the kind of thing they were like, it’s kinda like, ‘oh it’s a gay hate crime, so we’re not really rushing out to it’, y’know. Like I said, I waited, y’know, they took my statement, and I never heard anything more after that. Not a word. Not a thing. I had to get on with my life. Lucky enough, I was in a Council property, so I went straight to the Council and I said, ‘I need to be moved’. I said, ‘it’s not good’, I said, ‘cos y’know I have been, they are picking on me, y’know they are picking me on my house and now I’ve been assaulted and I couldn’t barely walk’, and so they did move me, moved me down to Dewsbury Road, Beeston, and so I lived there for a while, and then I moved back up here, but I didn’t go back to South Leeds, I came to the decent area, which is North Belle Isle, it was South Belle Isle, so yeah, that’s it.
But it was quite y’know bad, y’know for hate crime and stuff and people just calling names and picking at you, y’know. There was people that I knew got stabbed. A friend of mine got raped, y’know, cos they were gay, y’know. One got raped and it was a person that was [unclear] carrying HIV, and he wanted to give her HIV, because she was gay. That’s the kinda nasty stuff that we had to deal with. Lucky enough it’s not that bad anymore, because society is more acceptable, but back then it wasn’t – it was taboo, it wasn’t allowed to be acknowledged, y’know. You were an alien, kind of thing, an outsider, y’know, so I knew what it were like to be discriminated against, y’know, being gay, and I think it only got better til the year 2000 that things started to change and people’s attitude started to change, y’know.
RL: Why do you think that was?
YL: I think it’s because we were standing up and saying we wanted rights and stuff, and we tried campaigning for civil partnership and stuff, and so I think that’s the reason why it changed. And of course, you’ve got, you started to get rid of that generation that didn’t like gays, that used to turn round to kids and say, y’know, ‘oh I hope you’re not queer,’ or ‘don’t hang around with queers’, or did derogative things about me if they were on TV – ‘oh look there’s a programme on about queers again’ – they used to, so the children used to take that on and that’s what we got because they were just mimicking what the parents were doing. So, y’know, I mean I was a typical lesbian, so I used to dress in my jeans and my shirt and stuff, and have short hair, so y’know they knew I looked like a lesbian so it’s kinda like that’s why they picked on me basically. I think every, for the majority, that’s what happened, y’know, but I’m thankful that society’s got better. And of course now we’ve got y’know recognition and the law now lets us be a couple and stuff, but y’know it was hard back then, being gay.
RL: So Yvette, do you want to say a little bit about that violent incident and disability has then impacted on you?
YL: Well, basically, at the beginning, I couldn’t walk properly for about six months. I had to retrain my legs to walk again. And then I was going back and forth to hospital, but they weren’t really investigating it as such. They would do x-rays, but because it didn’t show up on the x-rays they just dismissed it as ‘back pain’, ‘back pain’. I think it was, eight- ’93 or ’94 when the MRI scans came to Leeds, and so I was under a specialist – it wasn’t any particular specialist, cos they didn’t know where to put me, so I was just in a certain department. I put my foot down, because I said, ‘look, this is ridiculous, we need to know what’s going on’, so they did an MRI scan on me and that’s when I found out that I had two of my squashy bits in between my disc torn and half of this stuff has come out and that’s how come I was so bad, and basically they said that for me to keep alright I had to do nothing.
I couldn’t iron, I couldn’t clean, y’know they reckon I couldn’t do my dancing, cos I used to like going out dancing, nightclubbing, all this lot, and I was a bit rebellious and I didn’t want to give in back then, so I carried on. Through my own – not my silly fault, because I’m glad I did it, I’m glad I bit the pain and I still went nightclubbing and stuff, and I still cycled and I was living on my own at the time, so house cleaning had to be done, y’know, it could not be done, it’s alright a professor turning round and saying, ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that’ – ‘oh hello, how am I supposed to live here?!’ [laughs].
And of course I didn’t think that I deserved to have home help or anything like that back then, so I only, I kinda like really, really kept doing it and picking up my niece and stuff, and then one day I just bent over the washing machine, my back went again – and I made it even more worse and got a bulging disk. And that happened, and then basically I thought, ‘oo I should really behave’, but I didn’t, and I was showing the professionals – cos they kept saying, ‘exercise, you’ll be fine!’ y’know, ‘just do some exercise or something, you’ll be fine; that’s all you need, y’know to get by’. And I’d say, ‘no I don’t; it doesn’t help – it aggravates it, y’know, I need to not aggravate it’. But anyway, I thought, ‘right’ – I was a bit stupid, I thought, ‘I’ll show you’, so I went to the gym – I wasn’t doing too much. I was like walking, quick walking on an escalator, y’know, the treadmills – not the treadmills, the walking machines, I was on there. And I was just doing that and that three times a week, four times a week I were going to it, and then it was actually New Year’s Eve about three – three/four years ago, I bent over and I collapsed again. And I done another – I done more damage again and I had a couple of more bulging disks, so I’ve got the two disks that are gone – well they’re rubbing bits – and then I got three bulging disks that could go any minute, so I try and manage it, so yeah, I mean my walking is out, I had to stop dancing, cos that was aggravating it. I had to stop cycling, y’know, it’s like my life changed because of it, y’know it’s like I was a healthy 19-year-old that was able to walk and do everything that just all of a sudden, just by one kick in the base of your spine, through a hate crime and that’s it, and y’know, my life was taken away from me, y’know – my 20s got taken away from me because I couldn’t do as much thing, y’know even now it still affects me, y’know there’s certain things I’d like to do I can’t do, like I can’t fly, because of the pressure of flying and being up there sets it off, y’know – it’s them kinda things, I can’t swim – people say, ‘swimming helps’, but it doesn’t, it aggravates it, y’know because – it’s to do with the water, you’re body’s in a different – your body feels different inside the water, and then when you’re getting out the swimming pool I feel like there’s sommat like grabbing my back, kind of thing, y’know, it’s really hard for me to get out.
And then, the cold affects it, I’ve got to have a certain temperature. So I found that that would affect it, y’know. The weather affects it – winter, I hate winter. I hibernate at winter because I’m just in so much pain, y’know, with it, so it has taken over my life, it has ruled it, it has caused me problems; it’s caused me mental health problems because I’ve had to accept my limitations, y’know, and sometimes you don’t want to accept your limitations, y’know – you don’t want to give in and have a scooter to help you get around, y’know, and stuff, or you can’t walk like you used to do, y’know, all that got taken away. I’ve had to adapt to it and y’know just carry on, y’know. But now I don’t go out as much like I used to do. Y’know, I don’t go nightclubbing no more, and I don’t go out to the pubs, I just kinda like keep myself here really.
RL: So do you still feel part of the LGBT scene, but in a different way?
YL: Not now. Not now – not like I used to do. I’m not as active in the scene, I don’t go out to the clubs and the pubs, mind you it’s too bloody expensive to go out – you need a mortgage to go out on a night-time; I think I went out once nine years ago, and I couldn’t believe how much it cost me [laughs] I thought, ‘bloody hell, I can’t do this every day like I used to do’. And so I kinda like just keep myself to myself, really, y’know just get on with little things that I do, get on with my – I like watching my birds. I do go birdwatching, y’know, I do things like that. I have got a mobility scooter that I can go out and about in, but I mean that took Karen quite a long time for me to have, y’know before that it was either wheelchair or a walker, yeah and stuff, so. So yes it does affect my life immensely, yeah, and I do hate them for it, y’know because there’s so many – so much stuff that I wasn’t told about that I was entitled to, like compensation – cos even though they didn’t catch them, there was still like a pot that I could have compensation, so I missed that.
And then, of course, that new thing came in where you go to a solicitor and they would like get you compensation for you, but when I – when it first came out they said that it had to be within four years or something – the actual accident, and I was just past it. And so it’s kinda like, ‘oh God!’ [laughs] Y’know, it’s getting at me again, y’know?! So I’ve never got compensation for it; the police never did anything else towards it; the kids that did it, the teenagers got away with it, y’know – and it’s like, y’know it changed my life dramatically. Yeah so… But, life goes on [laughs].
And on a happy note, now because of all the laws that have been passed and we have rights and stuff, I’ve been happily married to Karen, my partner, and we’ve been together now for 14 years. We had a civil partnership when they first came out – that was, was it eight years ago?
YL: Ten, ten years we’ve done the civil partnership, and this year we actually changed the civil partnership to marriage, so – cos at the time the marriage wasn’t on offer, y’know when civil partnerships, so yes, so even though my life can be y’know, I am happily married to a nice, lovely woman.
RL: Where did you have your civil partnership?
YL: The first one we had it at Park Plaza in the town centre, and we were one of the first ones they actually held there. We actually had the ceremony there and everything: the meal and stuff, and it was the first one they ever did, so they were quite pleased about that. And then when we got married it was Haley’s Hotel in Headingley, and we got a – what would you-?
Karen: Well it was a complete wedding package, so we had the whole of the hotel.
YL: Yes, but the person that done it –
Karen: The wedding coordinator?
YL: No the one that done the ceremony.
Karen: Oh, the celebrant! Louisa!
YL: The celebrant, yeah – we didn’t get – we could’ve had them at Town Hall to come, but it was too expensive, so we decided to go down the route that we felt comfortable, and we had a celebrant came, and it was like a hand fasting kind of blessing that we had, wasn’t it? I mean, we still changed, had to go to the registry office and get our certificates changed from civil partnership to marriage, and we got them both, but it’s nice to say, ‘ah, we’ve done both!’ Not many people can say that, that they’ve done both, y’know, it was a nice ceremony, wasn’t it – not many people know about y’know this option that you can have, y’know everybody thinks that it’s gotta be kind of religious or y’know you’ve got to have, somebody from Town Hall to do it, y’know, but no there is other options out there y’know, it was quite good, wasn’t it?
Karen: Everybody enjoyed it.
YL: Everybody enjoyed it. And they said it was a beautiful service and they wished that they knew, when they got married, that cos they woulda done it, y’know, and this couple of people said that if they were thinking of getting married, they probably woulda done as well, y’know – it’s not just marriages she does, it’s christenings and name ceremonies she does, funerals as well. Louise Star.
Karen: Louisa Star.
YL: Yeah, that’s her name.
Karen: We even, we put it live on Facebook, cos we got family in Australia who couldn’t make it, so they watched it in Australia. And then family in Wales were watching it on Facebook, as well.
YL: And the rest of Facebook, that were our friends.
Karen: Our friends and everybody watched it, so it was quite an event, wasn’t it?
RL: What did you wear?
YL: I wore a suit, a grey suit, and we had a – one of the friends, one of our friends made our shirts – we designed our own purple shirts. So it was like in a silky –
Karen: It was satin.
YL: Satin, silky thing, it were gorgeous.
Karen: And I was in an ivory trouser suit. With the same shirt, but a different design.
YL: We even made the rings. We actually went to a jewellers that made the rings and we helped the beginning process of melting the gold and then stretching it out, twisting it together, cos there’s three different types of gold in the rings, and flattening it out.
Karen: They were rings that we’d inherited, weren’t they? That we recycled.
YL: Yeah, from Karen’s parents, mum, and my mum. So it’s kinda like they’re quite incentive to us really aren’t they. You’ve got the history there, y’know – our mums used to wear the rings and now they’ve been melted down and made into two beautiful wedding bands, y’know, and a lot of people love ‘em, y’know they can’t believe, y’know – and it’s nice to know that we actually did some work for it, y’know, we melted the gold down and done all the bits that we had to do, y’know, it just made you feel better and part of it, y’know – special, yeah, made it feel like it’s last forever. So, and they’re worth quite a lot of money [laughs].
Karen: Don’t say that! They’re not! [laughs]
RL: I think we’ve definitely ended on a happier note, that’s good, thank you.