Interview with Barbara Castle-Farmer

What made you realise that you had to write this book?
I’ve been writing this book all my life really. Many chapters are taken from articles I’ve had published over the years. But the defining moment came when [yet another] friend burst into tears and told me that her daughter had ‘turned’ gay. The agony that was all over my poor friend’s face made me wish for the hundredth time that I could whisk a book out of my purse [handbag] saying, “Well I’ve got just the book for you!" Because ‘gay’ and ‘happy’ are NOT mutually exclusive. In my experience - of traumatised parents, confused youngsters, well-meaning friends, ill-informed medical practitioners and more - I'd say there is a real need for such a book. And straight people, especially those with gay relatives, need to know that while it might not all be feathers and sunshine it can be pretty wonderful to be gay.
What did you hope this book might achieve?
Well, in a nutshell... I hoped that it would give straight people a clearer picture of us gay people. That it would give gay people a sense of pride. And that it would encourage acceptance of those who are ‘different’ among us. Most importantly I hoped it might enlighten friends and family, colleagues and medicos to the point where they could be helpful and supportive ... if need be. Rather than frightened out of their wits and filled with gloomy doom.
If you look back on your life, is there any advice you would have given your younger self, knowing what you do now?
Oh for sure, I like to think I would have told myself to forget about all the bed-hopping with guys. But then again would I be the same person I am today if I hadn’t tried to “sleep myself straight”? It’s what we do as youngsters that informs who we eventually become. So the only bit of advice I wish I’d given myself was, “Take as much care of other people’s feelings as you do of your own.” But then I doubt that a 16 year old would ever have heeded that advice.
Do you find it easy to write?
I’ve always thought of my writing as a “gift.” I love writing. I love it for all the interesting places it takes me. And all the internal interrogation that must go before a single decent sentence can be written. Every word must earn its keep, so to speak. So in one way I found the whole book hard to write… to write well. But on the other hand it was a wonderful journey of discovery and reminiscence… and joy. It was far harder for me to ‘let go’ of the book than it was to write it.
Were there any parts of the book that you found particularly difficult to write?
Not really. Although some chapters I blushed over. You see I hadn't realised at first that I'd have to go into fairly personal, sexual detail. But when I realised that for this book to succeed as a helpful support I would have to share some of my most embarrassing moments ... well then I just screwed up my face ... poured another glass of Pinotage ... and wrote.
Do you think lesbians in South Africa have, or had, an especially challenging time?
No I think being gay is pretty challenging where ever you live ... how to tell your folks, when to 'confess' to your friends, how much to tell your employers, and more. Although my book is set in South Africa, the coming out process poses the same hurdles, obstacles and crises the world over ... it's simply a case of same circus, different tent. The challenges I met back in the 60s, are still those faced by gay people today . And in spite of all the information available, all the TV exposure, all the gay-themed movies ... coming out was just as fraught last month as it was last century.
And what do you think is the way forward?
Sadly there are bigots out there and there always will be. Someone might say they’re “gay friendly” but behind the scenes they’re uncomfortable and wary of us. So the best way forward, I feel, is to let kindness be your guide and your integrity be beyond question. Then you will have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to regret and nothing to hide. After all people have multiple labels that are used to ‘identify’ them … such as woman, English, blind, teacher, kind, numerate, etc. All of which could combine to make up one person. So my advice would be: don't let being gay overshadow all the other facets that make up the whole person. You may very well find it's the least most important 'label' of all.
Published 2014-11-24.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Finding my Own Way to Happy and Gay
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 70,970. Language: Commonwealth English. Published: November 24, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Gay & Lesbian » Coming out, Nonfiction » Relationships & Family » Life stages / adolescence
An often hilarious often heartbreaking account of coming out by a young lesbian in 60s South Africa. It wasn’t all sliding along on buttered feet ... there was angst & anguish along the way, battles won, hopes lost, and many laughably embarrassing moments. And in spite of all the available reading, it’s no easier coming out today than it was last century - no matter where you live!