The Number

“It was a telephone number that I saw on a wall, and I still look back as something that changed my life . . . This number gave me a little bit of direction . . . Prior to going to university I was unsettled, I was unhappy within myself.  I knew there was something different about me from my friends, my college associates but there was no clarity but I knew there was something of an attraction towards some of the guys . . . but it was all a bit of mystery for me”.

“I was part of a volleyball team and we went to Middlesborough for a competition, and I remember where all these boys, men from different colleges, and I was very excited, I had never been to a place where there was a large concentration of guys, of similar age, peer group, we were playing games and competing . . . Our team didn’t win but I do remember going back to the changing rooms and before the other guys came in, I remember at this particular moment, there was another guy already there, undressing in front of me, he was absolutely perfect in every sense . . . I watched him from a far . . to me, he was an Adonis, the epitome of beauty. . . I was very, very shaken by it, I just couldn’t put into words to express myself, or my feelings.

Gay switchboard

I was slowly getting dressed and it was there, this number, handwritten, scribbled number on the changing room wall. It was like any other ubiquitous number – this number had the word G A Y on top of it . . . I was very scared that someone might see me, but I memorised that number and that’s why the number plays a pivotal role in my being . . . I remember that number and it’s etched into my memory . . . it was the number for the Lesbian and Gay Switchboard in London . . . It was the kickstart for me to find out more about myself . . . It was my turning point”.

Kamran, 57, Pakistani, male, b.UK