THE LOG BOOKS
Season 3 Episode 10 - “Thank you for being here”
Presenters: Tash Walker, Adam Zmith
Contributors: Anne Howard, Tony Whitehead, Lisa Power, Judith Skinner, Monty Moncrieff, Diana James, Rita, Ruth Turner, Finn Greig, Steph Fuller, Richard Desmond, Oliver, Poppy, Lucas, Noa, Sai
Producers: Shivani Dave, Tash Walker, Adam Zmith
Music: Tom Foskett-Barnes
Artwork: Natalie Doto
TW: This episode contains biphobia, suicide and archaic language around transgender identities.
AZ: Hi everyone, its Adam. I’m just locking up my bike - on the traffic island outside the studio where Shiv records me and Tash doing our links for The Log Books. This is the last time we are going to meet in the studio for this purpose so it’s quite a momentous occasion.
[traffic noises and background talking]
AZ: And here they are
TW: How are you doing. Oh my god sorry I’ve lost my voice because I spent the weekend singing Cher too emphatically.
AZ: We are supposed to be recording today…
TW: I know. I’m sorry. Our last day in the studio.
SD: Behind the scenes …
AZ: It’s funny to think that there was a time that we didn’t know each other.
TW: I know, and this is best relationship I’ve ever had
AZ: Probably the longest …
SD: That’s too real for the podcast …
AZ: How are we feeling about today being the last day that we are going to record stuff for The Log Books in the studio?
SD: Emotional. Sad. I don’t know how to put it into words. Adam, I don’t speak on mike for reason…
TW: I feel reflective and emotional … and also kind of really proud and happy of what we’ve done to get here and what I think we’ve achieved.
SD: I’m … grateful to both of you in my life and I’m grateful that like we made this thing and apparently people like it.
AZ: I would be grateful for a coffee before we go in. Shall we do that? Ok let’s go in.
AZ: You're listening to The Log Books: stories from Britain's LGBTQ+ history and conversations about being queer today. In partnership with Switchboard: the LGBT+ helpline.
TW: In this season we're reading through the notes made by the volunteers who took calls between 1992 and 2003. I’m Tash Walker.
AZ: And I'm Adam Zmith
Episode 10: “Thank you for being here.”
AZ: We are closing the log books.
TW: So, we’ve got memories from Switchboard volunteers, some thank you’s from the log books, and some thoughts and feelings from young people who are carrying our queer family into the future.
I’ve said it so many times - but the log books are undoubtedly the best book I’ve ever read. When I first came across them at Switchboard, I remember opening them and just not believing what I was seeing. Once we had moved them to Bishopsgate Institute I spent about two years reading the log books and I just knew I had to find a way to tell these stories -that they had to be shared because so often censored hidden history
AZ: And you we retelling them about that talk at Bishopsgate Institute that I saw you and met you. And I could just hear -when I listened to that talk- how important it was to share these stories actually and how we could bring these stories to more and more people.
TW: When we started this project .. what did you want to do as part of it?
AZ: Yes share those stories with more and more people. And also for me to hear those voices of our queer family through the pages of the log books. I remember when I started to reading the log book entries myself this one particular one that touched me is from June 23 1984 which was the year I was born -and it says ‘caller reports that he was attacked by two skin heads at Old Street Station at 23:15 last night. He suffered a black eye and bruising.’ And that just really touched me that entry because it’s a station I’ve used quite a lot - to go to the pubs and clubs nearby and obviously this person is just probably living the same life as I was living -but in 1984. And so I feel that real sense of connection to our queer family through the log entries and thinking - in this case about the horrors this person had to go through and many members of our queer family today are still going through.
Tash, what about you - when we started what did you want to do?
TW: I think its kind of similar really when I was looking through the log book entries - one thing that’s always struck me - is how many of those stories how many of those callers, how many of those volunteers - have been through things that I’ve been through. And time has changed - societal attitudes has changed -legislation has changed -awareness has changed -but why are these things still happening today? Because they are. I really believe that the only way that we can push for a better -more inclusive future -is by looking back at the past and learning from it and this is something that really struck me when I was looking at the log book entries. And even now I can remember three distinct log book entries one from 1975 another from 88 and the final one from 2003 which all could have been written today.
This is a log book entry from June 16 1975:
19 year old boy got drunk. Was taken advantage of by guy in late 20s. Girlfriend found out. She thinks he should go to the police. Caller says he has homosexual tendencies. No sexual experience at all. They planned to get married at Christmas. Guy was almost in tears about the whole situation. Didn’t really know what he wanted except he loved his girlfriend very much and wanted to live with her. He couldn’t imagine a strong relationship with a man, but he fancies them sexually.
This is a log book entry from July 13 1988:
Woman called. First time she’s told anyone she’s gay. Married last year to a man she’s lived with for some time hoping things will change. Husband doesn’t know. Very unhappy and isolated.
I had a one hour and ten-minute call from a bisexual guy today who started off feeling full of shame and shy about expressing himself. With lots of reassurance - and welcoming his need to speak openly and coarsely about cocks, cum and arse fucking he became very emotional about his fears, coming out and his past paedophilia - sex as a child. By the end of the call, he said he felt great. He thanked me for allowing him to speak openly and being patient and laughing with him.
TW: One thing that stands out to me throughout this whole podcast -is human connection and Switchboard does that – it brings people today that and queer people really look after each other …
AZ: Through the police raids, the age of consent campaign, explorations of gender, HIV/AIDS …
TW: Media hostility, legal battles ..
AZ: Yeah everything … everything we’ve covered across three seasons. Everything Switchboard volunteers have handled. You know I always think - the volunteers do it anonymously and confidentially and when they put the phone down they may never know what happens next.
TW: And right you know what, Adam - there is one type of log book entry that is always present in the log books that we’ve barely touched on it across the pod cast.
AZ: It’s hard to believe there is a type of log book entry we haven’t covered.
TW: I know! But let’s share these stories now. Its when the caller phones back to say thank you.
This is a log book entry from February 2 1992:
Leanne called to speak to Sarah. All’s gone great she’s out out out. Happy as hell. Can’t believe she ever wanted to commit suicide. And to top it all she is madly in love. Thank you, Sarah- she says.
This is a log book entry from February 27 1995
At 6.45 am a very very nice man phoned to say ‘thank you for being there all the times I and the gay community have needed you’. So, everybody for being here – reading this and being basically really nice people. Thanks.
AZ: Basically being nice people -it says in that log book entry. I mean it is just amazing. I think Switchboard volunteers are amazing people -and I say this as someone who is not a Switchboard volunteer. And making The Log Books - I am so grateful for being let in their world and to hear their stories.
TW: I guess as someone who is a part of Switchboard - thinking about how it has impacted me. I started as a listening volunteer and I am now in my final 4th year of being co-chair I mean … I cannot tell you how much Switchboard has impacted me. I’ve grown up in this organisation - it means so much to me and more importantly I know really know the value of listening - really listening.
AZ: You are a really good listener, Tash
But everyone that we’ve spoken to who has been a part of Switchboard - as a volunteer or a caller - one thing always stands out to me and that’s how much Switchboard has touched them. So we asked people what Switchboard means to them.
Anne Howard: I think it’s true to say that I have a number of memorable calls - often as I mentioned previously from a young people. But the most memorable call - that I still think about - is that once a year, very often on a Saturday afternoon, and I took the call twice. A woman from somewhere in Scotland would call to say that her that she was in her late 80s her partner had died some ten years previously. And they had never been out as lesbians -although they were and they lived together - none of their friends, relatives or anybody that they knew knew that they were lesbians. Her partner had died, and she it was the anniversary of the death and she wanted to talk to someone about her partner. And so I talked to her for nearly two hours on this particular Saturday afternoon. And then strangely, a year later I got her as well. And I remembered the call and she remembered me. And she didn’t have to give me all the details because I could remember them, and I said to her that I could remember our call and that it had stayed with me for a year and she was absolutely thrilled that we could just pick up and talk about her partner and their lives together right from the point that they had been together. It turned into a chat - a happy chat and that is a very memorable call.
Tony Whitehead: Notwithstanding the serious … very serious often … very difficult sometimes emotionally very sad, very difficult issues that we were dealing with at Switchboard I absolutely relished my time working at Switchboard. I loved the people I worked with -mostly because we didn’t all get on- but it was ... it was really felt you were part of something that mattered. Because I remembered and everyone, I worked with remembered, what it was like growing up gay at a time long before Switchboard and I just thinking goodness I wish this had been around when I was ten, twelve, thirteen. And also, there were many very … I remember very many really really difficult sad calls - but also some very funny ones and there were people that were people that were just a joy to speak to - even though it was down a telephone. Something much more intimate about being able to talk to someone and there ever could be in a chat room or a message online. Hearing the sighs, hearing the emotion, hearing the laughs. Because as I said it - wasn’t all sad serious life and death stuff. There was a lot of humour and there was a lot of humour in the office which …. I miss that.
Lisa Power: Switchboard was my finishing school. Switchboard is where I gained 90% of the confidence that I have today, and I know that I come across as ridiculously confident. Every human being who is not a complete sociopath has imposter syndrome - has doubts, has all of those things. And especially if you are a woman - coz we are trained to double guess ourselves in a way that a lot of men aren’t - but Switchboard really taught me to be bold. I used to say it was the longest relationship of my life which was definitely true. Subsequently I was at THT for 17 years, but I’ve got to say you know Switchboard … there is a lingering fondness for it because it kind of is where I grew up. It also gave me the level of verbal dexterity that means I can be a complete cow on twitter in a way in which it is quite difficult to answer
RT: So I am going to read you the letter that I sent to Switchboard replying to the contact team who’d written to me asking me to go and train to be a volunteer. I chose my very best paper it has got a beautiful rainbow and a seaside scene and a lighthouse on it.
2 March 1996
Dear Contact team,
Thank for the letter of the 29/2/96. I would like to come to the CAT Sundays sessions beginning Sunday April 14 1996. I’m able to attend all of the dates in this series. I look forward to seeing you then. Best wishes Ruth Turner
Best handwriting as well!
AZ: I love the sound of Ruth’s letter head paper - very fancy!
TW: We are going to hear from Judith now who is going to mention the FROGS and that stands for Friends of Gay Switchboard - basically our regular donors.
Judith Skinner: It wasn’t just the taking calls - there was the working groups and the fundraising. I was heavily in the working group that looked after the FROGS. Wo we had a FROGS tea party at Switchboard a few times which … a guy called Kevin and I … kind of organisation and I got this terribly funny picture of us standing behind a table kind of beaming - with food behind us. It was fun and I was just full of admiration for it - they were such fantastic people there who put so much into it. Like lovely Martin who was the treasurer for ever and ever. He was so nice - Martin Williams- he was marvellous and he just slogged his guts out and he was very kind and very supportive.
And lots of other people as well some great Chairs and people … people just being kind and lovely and friendly and I you know - I still know people now that I first met at Switchboard. In fact I am going to have supper with one on Friday night. Yeah, it was so good for me and I also I think it did make me much better at listening to people - not trying to problem solve but letting them talk and asking questions that might help them to think about how they could help themselves. Or about how things could change. I remember talking to people who were very very upset about -maybe a break up- and kind of saying ‘Well I think, probably, in six months you will feel better and in a year you will probably feel much better’ and just kind of trying to give people some sense of - you will be able to move on from this – which, you know, often did seem to help.
Monty Moncrieff: Switchboard will also have a special place in my heart. Having been a volunteer for such a period of time but not only because of the work I did there because of what it gave me. It gave me confidence, it gave me experience, it gave me access to the experiences of my fellow volunteers and callers. And that has informed my work - informed my life values immensely. I love that Switchboard has been there for such a vital and accessible part of the community for such a long time. And I love the unique role that its played right since the early semblance of LGBT community within London and beyond.
This is a log book entry from November 21 1993:
Sarah. A TV/TS who you spoke to last week phoned and said thanks very much. She/he took the plunge and hasn’t looked back.
Richard, the plastic man you spoke to on Friday also took the plunge and now wants more plastic to play in.
This is a log book entry from February 27 1998:
Amputee from Lancashire rang back. He rang to say thank you very much for advice to advertise for another gay amputee. He did. He found one 4 months ago and now they lie together with 3 arms and 1 leg total. And are very happy. So, thanks to the volunteer who really helped him make a difference.
Diana James: When I joined the Switchboard, I was like the first of the trans volunteers of Switchboard. Which was ground breaking.
It was all so validating to see that my community saw me for me who I am. I was not taken on as a trans volunteer - I was taken on as a lesbian volunteer who happened to have been trans. Not as a trans volunteer and that’s extremely validating at that time for a young woman to feel that. And that was extraordinary and that incredible. That gave me a loyalty to the organisation and the people within it that was extremely strong which was why I’ve been so staunchly supportive of Switchboard ever since. For an organisation that’s been there so long - its never stopped changing, never stopped evolving and being there for an ever evolving and changing community and that is perhaps the most stunning way you can Switchboard. always there for the community not for itself.
Rita: So, for me Switchboard is a gateway to openness and when I say openness I mean your heart as well as your mind - because when you’ve got somebody on the other end of the phone listening it is so so powerful. So that the road to being open and to discovering, reclaiming yourself.
This is a log book entry from January 13 1992:
To the volunteer who advised a caller to read the Lost Language of Cranes - he rang back saying it had transformed his life. He’s had sex with another man for the first time of his life. It was middling good and he was wondering how and when and whether to tell his wife – voila.
Ruth Turner: Switchboard is a really important part of who I am. And I genuinely think when I leave this earth, I will look back at it and think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s that important. And I could never have guessed but its become so part of my life and therefore - because of the nature of what volunteering is -its become a really important part of me. And I’m grateful to it. I’m grateful to all of our callers. It’s just the most fantastic service. I can’t foresee a time that it will never not be needed. So many people have issues around loneliness and heartbreak. The type of callers you get is changing as society changes, but I just can’t foresee a time when we’ll not be needed. It’s the most amazing thing. Its almost I find it almost hard to put into words and often - I know spoken to you about this Tash- I often get emotional when I think about it because its just there … its there for people. But being a volunteer is not a one way exchange its such a gift. Its an absolute gift.
Finn Greig: Yeah I suppose my experience of Switchboard is very minimal but it the word that comes to mind is kind – kindness and because that person who I dealth with .. who was obviously one person at the time. But that can’t happen if the culture isn’t there to encourage the person whose answering the phone and taking the call - to behave in that way- to say the right things. So not everyone will know the right thing to say - but you can be kind to people and you can give them space and time. In the interim years apart from referring people to phone you I haven’t had any other interaction but more recently we’ve been in touch and that’s also resonated there. So, yeah, that would be my word – kindness.
This is a log book entry from June 5 1992:
To who was on shift on Monday night. A 15-year-old boy from Lincoln phoned to say thank you to the man he spoke to.
This is a letter pasted into the log book on January 9 1997:
Dear People, Just wanted to say a big thank you, to all of you, for the help you gave me when I called after my son told me he was gay. I was proud that he had the courage to - but a little shell shocked. I gather he has spoken to you and you’ve helped him greatly. Last night we were able to talk about how we both felt and that was lovely. No doubt I shall learn more in the weeks to come and perhaps shed some opinions. Hope you all had a lovely a Christmas and the new year would bring you all you wish for yourselves. Thanks again.
Steph Fuller: So, for me it means everything - it means a place to be authentically me myself without any limitations. But it also means a place where I can bring the best of me to something and it not be kind of questioned or up for debate or any of those things I’m just here on my merit and that’s it – and, you know for me that is really really empowering. I just think for me Switchboard, is just such a wonderful place - its full of so many amazingly diverse, brilliant people, that all kind of pull a different perspective together maybe on different views to kind of form this one voice for the caller. And I think that is incredible.
Richard Desmond: Actually all in one word [TW:have two]
Switchboard is my mild obsession. Because I don’t have that much else going on in my life they everything I do it kind of … I care enormously about the callers and about Switchboard. That the organisation can become what it needs to be for the callers. Our tendency has been to vet ourselves and to make the changes that we’ve had to do. And we’ve made some enormous changes in recent years. But we have to keep our focus on the phones ... that never stop ringing, the messages that constantly come in, and the string of emails. Because we are there from them because we are them. Switchboard volunteers are the people who phone - we can’t use our own service - but we’ve been there … we know that - we share elements of experience. And as an organisation our strength is because we are unique - because we have all these new people joining. And we get some truly brilliant young people. We have amazing volunteers.
This is a log book entry from December 18 1997
The Teletubby cake that Richard Desmond made and left for volunteers to eat was fabulous. Thanks
Another volunteer writes I’ll second that!
Oliver: I think sometimes you feel like you made a real connection with someone and even if even in those situations where you can’t help them with whatever it is they are going through -you feel that having been with them in those feelings is worthwhile. And you know sometimes - sometimes - they express that they feel better. They don’t always express that they feel better - but that’s ok because you can tell that the call was valuable for them. Even if they didn’t finish the call being, like - hooray! I am better now.
TW: Oh, it’s so amazing hearing all those log book entries and expressions of Switchboard means to people - volunteers, callers, anyone really.
AZ: And amazing to hear the collective wisdom especially of our queer elders through all these three seasons now.
TW: Yeah, in many ways what is the point of this podcast if not to learn from our elders?
AZ: But the younger generation is always pushing forward creating new ways to express themselves.
TW: Yeah, we’ve been listening to the past - but we’ve got so much to learn from the future
AZ: I’m going to miss your tag lines, Tash. So as we are working on this final set of log book entries - putting them into a podcast, interviewing people in the usual way, last summer. We had this idea to capture the hopes and something of the way in which young people are living today.
TW: Especially four young people who were born around the early 00s and 2003.The year that the log books closed.
Poppy: Hi I’m Poppy. I’m 20. I was born in 2001 and I’m queer.
For me it’s a term that I can use that covers a little bit of everything - because anyone who wants to use it can. So for me - I love people who are men, who are women, who are neither. I don’t mind what people identify as I just love who I love and that’s that. I first starting the word queer a lot more recently. When I was about 13 I came out to my mum who is a lesbian and I said …we were at a gay event … and I said ‘Mum - by the way I think I’m bi’ and she was like ‘oh no you are not -you like boys.’ And I said ‘I do like boys.’ I think she was a bit sceptical at first as she has only known me talk about boys and I think that is a societal thing as she definitely knows I like everyone now.
As I got older - I didn’t really know what queer was until a lot later on. And then I was like -oh that one captures me a lot more perfectly! When I cut my hair -coz my hair used to be very long- I actually got told by this guy I went on a date with ‘yeah you used to look so straight before’ and I cut my hair and after I did that I started to get people make comments and be like - and they’d just be little throw away remarks but there was one occasion where this guy was like to me ‘oh you lesbian dyke slut’ and I was like ‘oh that’s new -ok alright’ and it took me aback a little bit. Because I thought … I remember when my parents - when I was growing up and I was going down the street with my mums and people would give my parents dirty looks or whatever and - you know say things. But I hadn’t had that directly targeted at me before and I was just like - ok this is still very much a thing. But I think its like a quieter homophobia where it’s like its very still very much there. But I do think in the future things are going to continue to become more and more accepting for everyone and more positive. And I think one of the big things for me that I’m more newly become open about is the fact although I do have monogamous relationships I am also very open to not having monogamous relationships. Being queer perfectly captures all of that because it covers so many different things. And I think they’ll be more understanding of what that means to people as on an individual basis and more sort accepting for every little aspect of that as a whole. I hope. I really hope - that within 20 years that that is something that can happen and if I was to come home and go ‘Oh, this is my husband, this is my wife’ people will just be like ‘ok. That’s cool don’t care.’ I think - heaven knows whether that will happen in 20 years or not but I hope so as that would be cool!
Noa: Hi I’m Noa my pronouns are he/they. I’m 16 and I was born in 2005.
I identify as non binary. I like non binary as a label because it’s the sort of label that I can have - where to me it doesn’t feel like a label really. It’s more like .. I describe it as like a canyon – canyons are really big spaces, but they are very hard to get out of and it’s not somewhere like I don’t think I’m leaving being non binary any time soon. But it just means to me on certain days if I feel more feminine that’s ok and I’m not in this confined box. Because when I was younger, I used to put myself in that and it feels a lot more opening- freeing. I think some part of me always knew that I was trans. I remember I have memories of when I was younger -when I got my hair cut short -because it was very very long and I first got it short and its almost like how I have it at the moment. Quite a pixie cut type thing. I left the hairdressers and my sister said to me ‘Why do you all of a sudden want to get your hair cut short. Do you think you are a boy?’ And I was like ‘No’ which is kind of true. And that was sort of like the first time I ever thought about that properly. And there have just been like situations that I know think about that why didn’t I know sooner. And I started to think about it more and more and I was like I’m not really sure about this and I went online on the Mermaids website, and I did some online chats with people from there that really helped me. I would go on and I would chat to them for like three hours about it and cry a lot. Because it is kind of a scary thing. Now it’s not a scary thing - but back then I was very scared of it. I have this group of friends and we are all non binary and we can share those experiences together instead of sort of .. at least what I imagine what would be more solitary - an experience where you didn’t understand yourself and there was nothing to explain it and to have you’d be like ‘oh androgynous’ which is 2021 is more of a word we use to describe as how you present yourself- expression. And I’m really glad that we have that space where I can have all my friends and we can share that experience and know that we are all somewhat of the same gender.
So when I was 9 I decided I want to do animation as a career as I watched a bunch of documentaries about Pixar and I was like - that’s what I want. So I did that and then maybe a couple of years later I decided where I was going to university which I actually went and visited so I am going to going to university at Ringland College of Art and Design in Florida which is a lovely lovely place. And so, I gonna do college and then straight after that - when I turn 18 - in April 2023 I’m going to go to …. there’s a surgeon in the States that I really want to do my top surgery. Because I think she is really good and I’ve seen her work and she gets great results. And so, when I’m 18 I’m going to do that and then I’m going to go off to uni and that’s going to be great and then I’m going to get a job at Pixar or Marvel or somewhere like that and do animation. But that’s a solid seven years of my life planned out.
A message for the non binary elders who paved the way for us younger non binary people to present how we want and be who want to be and be able to live freely with that because I know that wasn’t an easy thing. And its just sort I want to say thank you for being able to walk the hard path and so I can come, and I can thrive and I can have my friends around me and know they are there to support me and I can support them.
LucAZ: Hi my name is Lucas. My pronouns are he/him. I’m 21 and I was born in 1999.
If you had to put a label on it I say I identify as bisexual - but I kind of reject that label it’s probably because I grew up it was a public school and if you are different to the crowd they immediately go ‘hah that guy is gay!’ And you know its … ironically as I got older I was like -maybe I do have feelings for guys - but also I kind of rejected the whole idea of it in the first place because I was constantly being viewed as different and ostracised in a negative way - because of just being different. And then when those feelings did finally emerge I kind of started I had a lot of trouble with it and I really felt like I tried to not represses it as such I didn’t talk it with any of my friends - I was uncomfortable speaking about it with my family.
Now I am a bit more open with it and I’ve accepted it a lot more. I meet other people from LGBTQ backgrounds and sometimes I will be very hard pressed and they’ll want me to be like ‘what would you identify as’ and I every time I just go ‘I identify as Lucas and I’m my own person’ and they kind of and they ask ‘are you into boys, into girls, are you gay, bisexual or stuff like that?’ And I just think as much as it is good to have a community to have a people round you and be able to identify as a certain crowd there is a certain degree of this is just my life that I am living and I don’t really want to fit into a box. So, I would say that - from my own personal experience- that has been a lot of pressure on just anyone to fall into a certain sexual demographic.
I’m a very strong believer in that sexuality is a spectrum - no one is 100% anything and there are 7. something people in the world. There’s always going to be someone who makes you question your sexuality, there’s always going to be someone who fits your on paper type and you are just not attracted to them. I don’t think there is a science to it. I just think is more of a visceral human thing. I am a pretty agreeable person. I would say that I found it pretty easy to get along with people without making my sexuality even really known.
It will come up in a conversation and I will have known them for months and months and sometimes even years and they will be like ‘wow I had no idea that you were bi.’ And I will be like ‘well, it’s a little bit different to that but yes if you wanted to categorise it in your mind yeah -you can say I’m bi I’m bisexual.’ But I just think that a lot of the time I don’t think I didn’t ever feel pressured or that I was supposed to just be friends with people on the LGBT spectrum and I have met so many hetero cis gendered people who are just brilliant and completely accepting and completely onboard with whatever you are as a person. I think when you grow up in a school - you grow up in an area which is very influenced by social media and influenced by whatever the hell is happening in America and stuff like that. And they are all trying to be something that they are not anyway -being yourself is kind of seen as controversial almost. And I just think yeah, the harder you try to kind of fit into a box the more kind of it feels like you are kind of chopping off parts of your personality just to fit into that box. I think one of the best things that you can do even if you straight, if you are gay, if you’re bisexual, if you’re trans is to have that but to have that but to be so much more outside of it. If I was speaking to our LGBTQ elders, I would say firstly thank you because things would have been a hell of a lot worse if you weren’t there. And also that I think not that jobs done pack it in but we are seeing results now and its good and it’s not like everything is for nothing - and there are always going to be people who resist it - and there is always going to be people who are closed off and have a problem with it but what you have done has impacted so many peoples lives in such a positive way and I just don’t think you can be thanked enough for it.
Sai Hi my name is Sai. My pronouns are they/them. I’m 18 and I was born in the year 2003. And I identify as gender fluid.
To me it means that I can that I just wake one morning and just myself the way I feel that day. So, say I wake up and I feel more masculine - I can present myself as more masculine or more feminine or just of kind of like a mix in between. And for me its good because I don’t have to identify as being one constant … thing. I do drag sometimes – drag king stuff I do that so that for me that’s just kind of dressing up however gender I want. Nothing is like …clothing shouldn’t be gender specific. I could present myself - I can look completely masculine and could pass. But I would like to implement a skirt or something … be out of the norm, I would say. We are in 2021 there are a lot of people who actually embrace people being … gender fluid, non binary, trans, whatever. And there was this one time I actually went to an art party stuff and I saw so many …. LGBT people in just like one space. I was really shocked - I was like there are so many of us but I barely see them. And it was so nice to just see people be themselves - express themselves however they want to and just not really care about what other people are saying. It wasn’t really a party it was a gathering where you could …. come with your form of art – paintings and stuff – and look around and they will buy it and stuff like that like an exhibition. So, I make jewellery - like crystal necklaces. I make crystal necklaces, I make paintings, clothes as well sometimes. But that day when I went to the exhibition, I didn’t bring my stuff with me because it was just …. it just happened - my friend just invited me and I just went. And they did take their stuff with them and it was so nice -there were so many arty people, people doing tattoos and stuff. I saw someone get a tattoo with ‘Yeah, I’m gay – what about it?’ I just thought oh wow. That day really changed me to be fair. I started being more expressive in what I wear, how I do my makeup, my hair. I really. .. that day really changed me.
For me being bi sexual is just like … it’s basically loving whoever I want to. No matter what they look like or what gender they are. For me personally I say bi sexual but other people would see it as pan sexual but I just say bisexual because trans male, trans female they are male they are female. So, it’s just about the person – I don’t really care much how or what gender they are, how they identify as. If I like the person that’s it – I like you, I want to be with you. And that’s pretty much how I feel. So basically, the whole situation with me and my mum was that … I had a girlfriend at the time. And she found out through my phone – she was always taking my phone and look through it. I forgot to delete the messages. There was just this whole big fuss about it that night I got kicked out as well – it was New Year’s Eve – got kicked out. Luckily, I went to stay with my girlfriends’ family for five days. And every time my mum would kick me out, she will let me come back - because I’m moved here from Belgium two years ago with my mum and my two siblings and it is really hard for us. So, she really needs me. And so, I’ve kind of abandoned my whole identity at the time just to please my mum- just to make her happy. But throughout the few times that she’s kicked me out – she’s kicked me out six times – I’ve realised that there is nothing I can do to make things – as long as I am bi sexual - as long as I identify as gender fluid she will continue to dislike anything I do. And so, she kicked me out for the last time and I was – I’m not coming back. I am done. I’m trying to live my life and be happy and you are preventing me from doing that, so I just said ciao. Its not like something that’s gonna change sadly – there is still going to be hate around especially from family. Its very rare, sadly, for a family to completely accept you for who you are. And it so sad to see that there is literally young people out here on the streets just because of who they are. Just because of their sexuality – they’ve done nothing wrong; they’ve not hurt anyone. It’s a confused thing. And I hope one day the world can come to see that we are people – people like everyone else. We have the exact same rights as everyone else. I hope that day comes because life for us will just be much better and much easier than it is right now.
My message for the queer elders is just thank you because if it wasn’t for them we would not have this whole sense of freedom that we have right now. It may not be much, but they set a steppingstone for us to continue as Gen Z and I can really see that its changing. I can see the change. And I just think it’s just wonderful. I was watching Drag Race and I don’t know what her name is, but she was -she is - the oldest drag queen that’s still alive. And I was like wow – that’s amazing. Because it is the amount of things that they went through back in the days especially - it must have been hard to be doing drag just like that. The hatred was definitely more prominent back then in the days and just to see that she kept going - kept being who she is and she still here to tell the story is amazing. So, shout out to all the elders all the queer elders – I love you guys. You guys really made it a much better space for us now.
TW: If I was turning 18 this year – I hope that I could be inspired and informed by so many people in the media, or people in politics. Showing how being gay was an important part of their life but they had gone on to do so many things as a gay person. That – world of possibilities - certainly that’s very positive. I wish I’d had that at 18. We also get - can get some unrealistic ideas about sex and relationships. If the internet is going to be one of your major sources of information – and porn is going to be one of the major sources of how you understand about sex – real life doesn’t quite measure up in all sorts of ways. So go out there – live your life without apologies, live the best life you can – there will be trips along the way, pitfalls happen. That’s life.
AZ: Live your life without apologies. Live the best life you can. Thanks Tony!
That’s Tony Whitehead – who’s done so much for the queer community and among other things being a Switchboard volunteer decades ago. And it is just such incredible wisdom – so thanks, Tony.
TW: I wish I’d had that 18 as well – it feels so emotional listening to Tony and it reminds me of when I first read the log book entries and how much of it is something I had been so desperate to find without realising. I remember in season one when I said that you’re born with this gay badge but you have no idea what to do with it. Speaking to these people like Tony throughout the making of this podcast and the sharing of this podcast has changed me. And I’m forever grateful for that.
It also reminds me of all the people that Tony volunteered with – all the people that he supported on calls. And part of this whole project is about remembering the people – the people who were Switchboard and the people who called Switchboard. Those people who reached out for help and the volunteers who picked up the phones to support them. All of those people who are no longer with us. That their memories and lives live on in the log books and they live on in this podcast.
AZ: And that’s what we’ve been trying to do is -bring these stories out and share them with people either from the log books or from the memories that people share when we interview them. It’s just amazing that we’ve managed to collect all these stories and these memories from these people. And I just listen to people like Tony there and I sat with him - had a cup of tea with him and heard his stories there and asked him that question ‘what would you say to someone who is turning 18 today?’ and he’s right - they’ve got a better chance. I also hope that some people who may be that age or maybe of any age listening to The Log Books gives them a better chance – I hope.
TW: Yeah, me too
AZ: So much of our history is forgotten or just not told. But what even is history anyway? It’s this moment right now - every second we live becomes history. And life continues. As is evident on the very last page of the very last log book.
This is a log book entry from May 3 2003:
Repeat caller. Softly spoken older gay man who begins by saying he’s called before and thinks he might be gay. Has had a relationship with women and sex with men. Unsure about starting a relationship with a man – keeps bringing conversation back to ‘do you think I’m gay?’ He’s very pleasant to talk with but does not seem to move on with his issues at all. He already goes on the scene and to a gay group and has no difficulty meeting men, but we never get beyond the idea that he might say yes of the offer of a date next time.
This is a log book entry from April 27 2003:
Unfortunately, the kettle has broken – as a temporary measure I have taken the one from the common room. Both kettles to be replaced by the end of the week.
Three days later the same volunteer writes:
The kettle has been replaced in the phone room and the common room. They are rapid boil kettles. Enjoy.
TW: Calls to Switchboard are confidential so to bring the log books to life we’ve changed the caller’s details.
AZ: The Log Books is produced by Shivani Dave, Tash Walker and Adam Zmith in partnership with Switchboard: the LGBT+ helpline and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
TW: If you think other people would like The Log Books please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. These ratings and reviews really help others to discover the show. You can send us your feedback and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation on social media with #thelogbooks
AZ: Our music is by Tom Foskett-Barnes and our artwork is by Natalie Doto.
TW: Thanks to
AZ: Stef Dickers and team at the Bishopsgate Institute. The folks at Acast, Content is Queen, David Pie, the staff and volunteers at Switchboard and everyone who shared their stories with us.
Switchboard continues to take phone calls from 10am to 10pm every day. If you are affected by any of the issues in this podcast or need to discuss anything to do with gender identity or sexuality you can call Switchboard on 0300 3300630; email email@example.com; or instant message via switchboard.lgbt where you can also donate money or time to help.