Men open up about the ‘misery and futility’ of being gay before decriminalisation
The 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales has prompted many men to tell their often tragic stories.
Many were driven to the medical profession and while some men were urged to find someone they love, presumably in secret, others were drugged and driven to near-suicide.
Henry Robertson, a man in his early-20s prior to decriminalisation, is one of those who shares his story in Not Guilty, by Sue Elliott and Steve Humphries, from Biteback Publishing and available to purchase now.
An accompanying TV programme, Convicted For Love, aired earlier this month on Channel 4, and is now available to watch via catch-up.
Below is an exclusive extract from Not Guilty, where Henry talks about his struggles.
After several unsatisfactory and guilt-ridden encounters on the beaches outside his Aberdeen home and lusting fruitlessly after unobtainable men, Henry Robertson, then in his early twenties, felt desperate.
“After a further period of falling in love with yet another straight man which ended pathetically as usual, I did actually go to see a doctor and said, ‘I’m homosexual, I want to change.’ He was the first person I ever said that to and I can remember shaking uncontrollably, crying and having a kind of nervous breakdown on the spot.
“And he said I should take up something of absorbing interest which might take my mind off these things. I thought of gardening or stamp-collecting or knitting but none of them seemed to have the same interest for me as sex. I was also given three sets of pills: hormone tablets, Dexedrine and sleeping tablets.
“I took the hormone tablets, which seemed to make me hornier than before, so I stopped taking those. I did take Dexedrine for some time and I unfortunately drank with it and this led to alcohol abuse as well. For several years I was addicted to Dexedrine and sleeping tablets, and of course I didn’t change. The cure didn’t work.
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At times Henry considered suicide.
“Oh, it was a frequent thought really… I was looking for a partner, looking for Mr Right, of course. It was a basic contradiction in the sense that Mr Right would have to be heterosexual, and living with this contradiction just created all sorts of misery and futility and thoughts of suicide.
“You just felt that other people knew what life was about. They went to work, they courted, got married, had children, with divorce a possible option. But how was I supposed to live my life? There was nobody to tell me and most of the books of the time did treat it like a disease, a sickness rather than a very prevalent condition.”