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‘We’re all the same underneath, aren’t we?’ The 75-year-old who grew up gay when it was against the law

Bryan Bale spoke to ITV Wales about his experience of growing up gay in the 60s

Bryan Bale grew up in Rumney, Cardiff.

While he always knew he was gay, he said he did not come out until the 1960s when he moved to London.

“There were [gay] bars and things in Cardiff but nobody went to them because, you know, everybody thought their mother would see them go in.”

Bryan worked in the retail sector where he said many people would hide their sexuality Credit: Bryan Bale

It was in the early stages of his long career in retail that Bryan first felt he could be open about his sexuality.

“I was always in employment where it was slightly creative or artistic, so you were accepted a little more, perhaps for being a little bit unusual.

“There was a lot of other people in the retail industry in Cardiff that were gay, but it was all under the carpet.

Bryan said he finally felt he could be more himself when he moved to London Credit: Bryan Bale

Bryan moved to London in 1963, when he was 19 years old.

“It was a different kettle of fish then.

“One wasn’t afraid to go to the bars and the clubs because your aunty Alice is not going to pass by when you’re coming out.”

Bryan was creative director of a company which designed mannequins Credit: Bryan Bale

While he no longer feared bumping into relatives, Bryan still had to be cautious. Homosexual acts were illegal in Wales and England until 1967.

“I learned how to meet people discreetly, because it was very dangerous to go cruising, and a lot of people got into terrible scrapes.”

Bryan found his first relationship through a small ad in a newspaper, where adverts would be used as a disguise for gay people to connect.

“My first partner, John, he was a professional person.

“He wouldn’t go to any venues [together]… He was always in the closet, he never came out at all.”

Bryan never officially came out to his family, but says they were aware of his sexuality.

“I remember my grandmother and I being at my sister’s wedding and she saying to me - because she knew all along - ‘I’ll never dance at your wedding, darling’.

“She told me I was gay and smiled, and made me feel it’s okay.”

Bryan also enjoyed performing in cabaret shows Credit: Bryan Bale

Now living back in Cardiff, Bryan says attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people have improved, but he believes there is still a long way to go.

“I see a lot of prejudice… I don’t think gay people are really taken seriously.

“I think people need to be tolerant and compassionate.

“We’re all the same underneath, aren’t we? So we should treat each other as equals, always.

“We’re all human beings, and human beings are frail creatures.”