I want to take you back with me some 26 years to 1979. The location is where I stayed for most of my early life, in Paisley - a large Scottish textile town eight miles west of Glasgow . I was twenty eight then and had always worked in Glasgow and commuted daily. It was a cold November night, and walking through the bleak Paisley Cross, returning from a social evening in Glasgow with my workmates, I could hear the town hall clock chime the hour.
Though I had enjoyed the evening, it was male company I sought at this late hour. Aware of my persuasion and needs, and the places where like minded souls would be... The night was yet young! I have to remind some amongst you that this was some years before an established commercial gay scene was in existence in Scotland, and what 'gay scene' did exist was almost exclusively centred in the few listed gay bars there were in the larger cities. I have chosen not to relate this incident to a living soul, till now. Yet even now, when I think back on it, I get quite unsettled about its potential outcome.
I descended the dark grey steps to the Cross toilets below. The main toilet gates were always shut early, and only the old original small external block was open. On entering I noticed in the dark only one large person present, unusually leaning against the far away wall. I had been standing at the urinal for only two seconds when the cold menacing voice cut the air! 'You wan o those poofy cunts, are yeh? Queerhawk, eh? Should drown you fuckers at birth so they should! Living's too good for your kind of pervert shites!'
I froze, and my mind raced ahead as to what I should do, or should I even respond? I could only see the outline of his large ball face in the darkness and the vapour of his breath in the air as he forced out his threatening oaths. I tried to ignore these outbursts, but this only made him even more enraged.
I decided to turn and try to get out. But he blocked my way! 'What's wrang? No speaking? In that stall ya queer bastard!' And with this request he snatched off my glasses and I heard the crisp clear sound of grinding glass under his boots!
This focused my thoughts rapidly! My heart began pounding, waiting for his fists to move! I was shaking by this time and, despite his increasing anger, I was stuck to the spot. I was going nowhere. I stayed put and then pleaded with him. 'I have done you no harm, now let me leave.'
'Oh no pal! you're no going anywhere till I've finished with you ya cunt!' and he started to grasp my arms and shove me towards the dark stalls behind.
Then, thankfully! I heard the sound of slow footsteps descending from the street level, and immediately his grip relaxed on my arms. The bowed figure of an older man entered and staggered to the near stall. I wasted no time to look back and vaulted the stairs towards the pavement above, anxiously listening for any pursuing footsteps behind me and breathlessly reached the top step. He did not follow me up. Thank god! My ordeal over, I made off in panic direct for my bus home.
You can read of horrible cases of homophobic murder in the national papers today. You can try to understand why people feel the need to express their prejudice against gay people and their lifestyles. But until you have experienced actual personal verbal and physical hate towards you for being gay! That is when it makes you never want to be subjected to homophobia or to be vulnerable ever again.
I really wanted to join a group for gay rights after this incident, and weeks later, as if answering a prayer, I saw a small advertisement for the Scottish Homosexual Rights Group in the local Paisley Daily Express. I wanted to be a part of this group and contacted the local branch. It changed my life and it got me back my self esteem, but most important of all it helped me not to 'look back in anger.'