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|JAMES HASLAM INTERVIEWMonday, 3 August, 2009|
I did poorly at school and when I left I did a YTS (Youth Training Scheme) in catering; which I hatedI then drifted into hair dressing – this was the 80′s and the gender bender movement was at its height – with me leading it! I had a great career working in the hair industry and in many top places. I then opened my own shop in Greenwich and finally got round to auditioning for Drama School. I got in first time and studied acting to a degree level.Since leaving Drama School, I have plugged away at my performing career and also work in Covent Garden part time cutting hair…the two work brilliantly together.I suppose hair styling was an easy industry for me to drift into in terms of my sexuality. I had a very rough time at school for being gay and so it was just wonderful to suddenly find myself in an environment where I was easily accepted… mind you, I have experienced homophobia in a hair salon!
I have always had great communication skills; because of the prejudice I received when younger I have learnt to get on with people. Performing was always a dream of mine but always too scary to do – because of the past, I suppose… I was a late bloomer.
My family were great about it. I have always been my own person so I suppose they knew it would make no difference anyway. I didn’t find the actual being gay bit difficult but I did find talking about myself so intimately with my family a bit challenging. It’s just cringy to think about your mum having this vision of you. So that is what I struggled with.
When I told my mum, she knew anyway, she said “It’s what I like about you…” I think I am lucky really.
I think that being gay and the reaction of others has had an effect upon my self esteem. I feel very marginalised by others. I would say that I am an obviously gay man… you’d know as soon as I open my mouth. In one way it is good because it reveals who you are almost immediately to others… however, I hate being judged upon it.
I think homophobia is the worst prejudice we have in this country today – it’s very subtle and everywhere! I could give you a million examples.
I also think the gay community are prejudiced towards each other – especially to camp gay men – they are so undervalued for the role they play in the gay community – they should be celebrated.
It is very important to have role models and heroes. Role models are who we strive to be like. I think youngsters have terrible role models at the moment, and that is reflected in hate crimes and knife crimes that are on the up at the moment.There is so much anger about but youngsters do not just happen to be this way… it starts with parents, teachers … role models.
The celebrity culture is terrible. The media and the way it treats people is appalling; making people public property. Even royalty owes it demise to the media. OK, heat magazine, newspapers etc… all create a terrible atmosphere where it is ok to rip the life out of people. I don’t/won’t indulge in any of it.
Unfortunately it provides terrible role models to the younger generations. Even at my age, I am still very influenced by role models.
The media has a huge role to play in the role of providing positive role models. The problem we have though is that the media exist on negativity and it is the darker side of human nature to enjoy seeing people ripped to pieces in the media. So I do think the media play a huge role. I believe that adults need to act responsibly and become positive role models. Give teachers and police etc… give them back their authority!
Adults need to claim back their respect from the younger generations.
I don’t think gay people are represented very well in the media. I think who I am is really based on the people who I know or have known or have read about etc. I believe we are all under the influence of each other and therefore we need to live consciously and responsibly.
Influence and Inspiration
My life changes course all the time because of other people and their views, good or bad.
Communication is a gift that we need to value and use wisely. So yes, I have been inspired to change my life in positive ways through the influence of others but I have also been influenced in negative ways… hence low self esteem issues, becoming a hair stylist is considered to be a gay job…I think I was definitely influenced to do it… I hate hair!
My attitudes towards myself have been influenced by people I admire. One of the great self help guru’s Louise L Hay has really changed my perspective of who I am and how to love myself.
My mum did something very simple for me when I was young – she taught me manners and I pride myself upon them now. Manners are going from society nowadays and I try my best to have manners wherever I go and whoever I encounter.
I am a practicing Buddhist and I live my life by these principles and philosophy – I do believe that having a clear view helps one to make wise and focused choices…but I do think it is a conscious choice and one that does not always come naturally. Being a human being is tough and I think we are naturally negative and selfish and that even the best of people struggle with this… the main thing is that we try to change and live our lives full of thanks and gratitude.
I have become aware of my social responsibility, and that the way I respond to others is incredibly important. I have really started to recognise subtle homophobia and have learnt to stand up to it, as quite often people don’t realise they are doing it.
I always try to have great manners and show gratitude. I like others to see a decent human being and then it becomes very difficult to justify any prejudice they may be feeling.
| COME OUT, COME OUT…WHEREVER YOU ARE…
It is very important for everyone to be out. If we act ashamed of who we are then we cannot blame others for picking on us.
To a family of someone coming out I’d say try to keep a dialogue open and don’t give too many strong opinions. The person coming out has always been that way and they are trusting you and letting you into their life.
Try to remember that true love has no conditions attached. To the parents I’d say you made it and that person has to now live with it. If you don’t like someone for what they do in their bedroom, then don’t think about it as it really has nothing to do with you. If you don’t like someone because they are gay, then you are homophobic and that is unacceptable
I think parents of gay children just need to let them live their lives normally and as they choose…interfering or trying to be over protective just means that they feel there is something wrong with their child. Let your kids live their own lives their own way.
I’d say to anyone struggling with their sexual orientation to talk to someone you trust and build up a support network of good friends. Construct a plan of action of how you are going to come out and take it slowly… you don’t have to be a flag waver to be gay. Talk to the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard or the Samaritans… just take some time and slowly find who you are at your own pace. It can take time and that is good and remember that denying what you are does not make it go away – you have a right to be here.
I feel that gay people have to now take some responsibility for how we represent ourselves… If we wish to be fully accepted, we have to act acceptably and responsibly.
We have to recognise homophobia in its subtle form and not laugh along with it. We have to value each other and set a good example for the younger generations to look up to and be great gay men and gay women role models.
Finally, I love being gay – I think it is a sex of its own and we should not be confused or compared to heterosexual men and women. I think differently and I am different, irrelevant of my body.
I have huge potential as a human being and I am entitled to my life. If I get the chance to come back again I will definitely come back as a gay man.
JAMES HASLAM – THE LOST SUPPER
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