Streetlife: Male and trans sex workers' voices from the AIDS era

Barbara Gibson

Streetlife: Male and trans sex workers' voices from the AIDS era
Lume Books
28 July 2022

Streetlife: Male and trans sex workers’ voices from the AIDS era

Barbara Gibson

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A searingly honest depiction of life lived on the margins; of street life, sex work, and survival during the AIDS era.

Streetlife presents a collection of interviews, recorded by the author, with four men and two trans women she met in the course of her work during the 1980s and early 1990s. They are voices from the very edges of society; though their stories take us from the ‘cardboard city’ to parties with the rich and famous, taking in drugs, clubs, glamour, violence, money, brothels, safe and unsafe sex, and the fear of HIV.

These stories are told in the words of those who lived them, with in-depth descriptions of how they navigated diverse journeys to define and express their sexuality and transgender identities. They are variously shocking, provocative, and extremely moving. They are also stories of vulnerable individuals whose unhappy childhoods compelled them to leave home at a young age for a better life, seeking acceptance, warmth, and - above all else - love.

In Streetlife, Barbara Gibson gives a voice to those long ignored. In doing so she makes a valuable contribution to the literature on British society and marginalized groups, and shows how modern attitudes and approaches have evolved. This book is a gritty read, but will be welcomed by anyone with an interest in modern British history and social issues, particularly the HIV/AIDS crisis and LGBTQ+ history.

Praise for Streetlife: We are really pleased to have these insightful interviews in the British Library oral history collections - furthering our mission to preserve a diverse range of stories from people from all walks of life. Mary Stewart, Lead Curator of Oral History at the British Library.

These stories highlight the consequences of the isolation, marginalisation, and lack of understanding they (the young men) faced. This is as true today as when these life stories were first recorded. So many people survive in the shadowed corners of our big cities, to empower them to move into a brighter future we need to understand what brought them there in the beginning. Barbara Gibson has given these young men a voice and us the rare opportunity to listen. Tony Whitehead MBE, first director of the Terrence Higgins Trust and the director of Streetwise Youth

Barbara Gibson MA is an oral historian. She recorded the interviewees’ life histories and created these stories from the recordings in 1993 and 1994. She is a former director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, former co-founder and facilitator of the bygone Positive Youth group, and one of the few people in the UK to have worked exclusively with young men and trans women who sold sex on the streets in the 1980s and 1990s. During her five years as HIV and health consultant for the original charity Streetwise Youth, her role grew to encompass work as a professional educator, counsellor, befriender and streetworker.

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