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Toby's Book

by Charles Lacey

Chapter 8

Dr Broadhurst was nothing like the ogre I had been led to expect. He was not a tall man, perhaps an inch or two shorter than me. He was quite rotund, with a ring of fluffy white hair around a bald dome, little twinkling eyes and a gentle manner. He seemed reassuring, but I was still very apprehensive of what might happen. I'd read up about the electric shock treatment at the library and it sounded as if it would be very painful and frightening.

Dr Broadhurst stood up when Mother and I came into his room and greeted us. Then he said, "Oh, Mrs Nutting, I really need to talk to Toby on his own. We'll be at least two hours. Would you like to wait in the waiting room? If so I'll ask my receptionist to get you some coffee and biscuits."

I'm not sure whether that made me more or less nervous than I had before. At any rate, Mother said rather crossly, "No, thank you. I've got some shopping to do," and left.

"You seem rather nervous," Dr Broadhurst began, "is there anything worrying you in particular?"

"Yes, sir" I replied, "I've been told you are going to give me electric shocks."

"Good heavens! We certainly don't do that sort of thing here! No, no. We're going to have a good long chat, and I may run some tests on you, but I promise there won't be anything that hurts you."

I relaxed, at least a little. The doctor smiled, and he had a very gentle, kindly smile, a little bit like John's.

"Now, let me start by asking you to tell me about your family. What does your father do?"

So I explained to the doctor about my father, and mother, and Wayne Buckley. He listened quietly, occasionally prompting me with a question. Then he asked me about school, the work. I told him about that, and in particular how much I disliked games in general, and football in particular.

Then he asked me about my friends. We had plenty of time, and he seemed sympathetic, so I told him about my friendship with Matthew, and how I still missed him. I didn't tell him about Leo, though. But the doctor looked at me in an "I'm sure there's more to tell" manner, so I explained that I had a friend called John, who lived in a flat in Mouseborough and whom I visited regularly.

"I see…" said Dr Broadhurst. "Tell me about John."

"John…" I began, and suddenly broke down in tears, thinking of his kindness and generosity to me. The doctor pushed a box of tissues over to me and said, "take your time, Toby. There's no hurry. Has this man hurt you in some way, or done something to you that you don't like?"

"No!" I replied, "John's my friend. He's kind and caring and gentle and clever. He's helped me more than anyone else in the world. He'd never do anything bad to anyone."

"Are you sure about that? Has he ever touched you? In an intimate way, I mean."

"No. Never." And then I added, "I wish he would. I wish I could do something for him. But if you mean, has he ever tried to have sex with me, then no, he hasn't. If he'd asked me to I would have agreed because he is so kind, but he hasn't."

"I see. Well, Toby, I'm going to do some tests on you. I'm going to put some wires on your head and on your chest, but I promise there won't be any electric shocks. The only thing you will feel is slight coldness because of the conductive gel we put on the pads. Would you like to take off your shirt?"

The doctor put some pads with wires connected to them on my chest, my back and my forehead. He was right, they were a bit cold.

"Now," he said, "I've got a book here I'd like you to look at. Please turn each page when I ask you to, and look at the pictures."

A machine on his desk started to emit a paper strip with wavy lines on it, and I looked at the pictures. Some were of girls or women, some of boys or men. When I came to one, which was a boy who looked very like Leo, the breath caught in my throat and I heard the tickers on the doctor's desk speed up. The whole process took about ten minutes, and then the doctor tore off the paper strip, switched off the machine and removed the pads and wires.

Then he said, "there was one of those pictures which really affected you. Could you find it again for me?"

I flipped over the pages until I found the picture which looked like Leo, and showed it to him. Dr Broadhurst looked at it for a moment, then he looked at me, and said, "who does that remind you of?"

I was again on the verge of tears, but I told him about Leo. I told him how much I loved Leo, and that he loved me. I told him that my mother had forbidden me ever to see him or write to him again. And then I did break down into a storm of weeping. The doctor went out and spoke to his receptionist, then came back and stood for a moment with his hand on my shoulder before sitting down again. His receptionist opened the door and the doctor went over to her, and then came back to me with a mug of hot chocolate and a plate of biscuits.

When I had recovered, which took some time, he asked me about Wayne. I told him how much I disliked the man, and how he had tried to get me to have sex with him, and how John had warned him off. I looked at my watch and was astonished to see that I had been there for over two hours. The telephone on the doctor's desk buzzed, and he answered it and then said to me, "your mother's here. I think we've gone as far as we can today, but I'd like to see you again. How would you feel about that?"

"I'd be very happy to, sir".

"Oh, don't call me 'sir' as if I was a teacher. Just Doctor will do."

He stood up and put another chair in front of his desk. When the receptionist showed Mother in he asked her to sit down and then sat behind his desk, fitting his fingertips together.

"Well, Doctor?" said Mother. "Are you able to cure him?"

Dr Broadhurst was silent for a few moments, then he said, "Mrs Nutting, I can't cure Toby because he isn't ill. No… hear me out, please."

There was another moment's pause.

"Most boys go through a phase when they are attracted to other boys. In the majority of cases it passes and they go on to have relationships with girls, and eventually marry. In a few cases it's not a passing phase but a permanent state. But if a boy or a man is like that, it doesn't mean that they are ill, or bad, or that there is anything wrong with them. There have been civilizations where it was encouraged and thought to be a very good thing."

Mother interrupted, "But it's… unnatural… nobody normal can want to do that sort of filthy thing."

"No, Mrs Nutting. Let me give you a little booklet that I've written which explains it in more detail. Toby is a perfectly normal, very pleasant young man, but just now he is rather in need of a little gentle understanding. I'd like to see him again in two weeks' time, and then once a month for perhaps six or eight visits. My receptionist will make the appointments for you. And I'm going to give you a prescription for some tablets. Toby should take one each evening when he goes to bed. They are not strong, but they will help him to get a good night's sleep and cope with the stresses of school."

"But, doctor, what about this electric treatment? It can't be right, him being… like that…"

"No, Mrs Nutting. Electric shock treatment may have some limited value in helping violent criminals to avoid re-offending, but apart from that it is nothing but pointless and cruel. Toby is not a criminal, he is just a very nice, rather confused young man."

I visited Dr Broadhurst several times and found him very helpful indeed. In reality the best thing he did for me was to enable me to accept that I was homosexual, and that there was nothing wrong with being so. Once I had done so I felt an enormous sense of relief. John, of course, had known for a while, but accepted it just as he had accepted everything else about me.

At that time homosexual relationships between consenting adults had ceased to be illegal, though the age of consent was still twenty-one as against sixteen for heterosexuals. The Campaign for Homosexual Equality was just getting under way, but it was still a brave man who would "come out" and admit publicly that he was queer. I wondered whether I should look for a girl-friend. Unfortunately being at an all-boys' school meant that I met very few girls, and I didn't belong to any social groups. But I think it would have been a non-starter anyway.

It was around then that a report appeared in the local paper about a young man who had taken his own life. It was Peter Watkins. The newspaper article was very cagey about the precise circumstances, but I later pieced the story together. Poor Peter had had an affair with an older, married man, whose wife had found out. Because Peter was under twenty-one the man had been prosecuted and imprisoned, although Peter had told the police that it had been he who had started the affair. But the feeling of responsibility for the man's imprisonment, on top of the many problems he already had with being bullied at school, proved too much for him and he had stolen a bottle of whiskey from a local off-licence and drunk the entire bottle along with a large quantity of pain-killers.

I'd liked Peter well enough, though we were never emotionally close. But I remember my feelings of resentment and alienation, that people like Peter and myself could never show our true feelings and be happy with one another as could the heterosexual majority.

The love between two boys, when it happens, can be one of the purest and most beautiful of all loves. When they truly care for each other, and if they are allowed to follow their hearts rather than other people's prejudices, the result can be something so gentle and so tender that it lasts life-long. And even if it does not last for a lifetime, it can leave an after-glow that lights up a person's whole life. Who can understand a boy's physical needs and pleasures better than another boy? In a truly loving relationship sex is not the most important element, though mutual enjoyment of each other's bodies has a very special place. All too often such love is completely misunderstood by parents, teachers or society at large and two perfectly innocent people are made to feel that they are in the wrong. But the only things that are wrong about it are other people's ignorance and prejudice.

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