Leonard read by Paul Bailey

Identity – who I have been and who I am. This story, read by author Paul Bailey, is taken from a series of interviews with Leonard, an 80 year old gay man living in a London care home. When care companies say “We treat everyone the same” it usually means we treat everyone as if they are heterosexual. People with dementia – homosexual or not - are often isolated, or hidden, because of stigma or the possibility of negative reactions from neighbours and relatives. I’ve interviewed half a dozen gay men with dementia living in care. Living closeted double lives was part and parcel of who they were and it wasn’t going to change after 80 years. For each of them their anxieties were made worse by the imposition of communal living. For much of their lives they had been criminalised, diagnosed as deviants and rejected as sinners. Some had been arrested, charged and ‘outed’ under criminal laws. As his dementia progressed Leonard repeatedly forgot whether we knew he was gay and he agonized over how much control he had over what he might say, and what he might do, and the trouble that he might find himself in as a result. Four years after this interview Leonard’s anxieties and ‘problem behaviour’ were being ‘treated’ with anti-psychotic medications which left him sleepy and largely unable to care for himself. Leonard’s dementia symptoms were as much the result of post war politics as they were the deterioration of brain tissue. It disturbs me that his treatment echoes of the ‘chemical cures’ given to some homosexuals in Britain after the Second World War. The piece was originally broadcast on Resonance F.M. in 2013.