As we approach November 11th, spare a thought for Rose Robertson who died last August, age 94. She was a secret agent in Nazi-occupied France, a member of the Special Operations Executive suffering trauma and had great difficulty talking about her wartime experiences.
However, she did reveal an incident which occurred in 1941. Billeted with two young male French Resistance agents, Rose entered their room and discovered them in an embrace. She knew nothing of homosexuality, was curious and horrified to hear of family prejudice and rejection. Their story affected her deeply. She was shocked that ignorant parents could be so heartless to their gay children.
In the years after the war, Rose set out to learn more about people like me. She met distressed gay teens damaged by self-hate from religious groups chanting biblical passages with a homophobic interpretation. She met parents – like Mr and Mrs Annable – who were variously distraught, angry, guilty, ashamed and hostile towards their children’s ‘perversion’.
In 1965 she formed the Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays – FFLAG – which seeks to mediate between parents and kids in an effort to find understanding, acceptance and reconciliation.
Rose was an effective campaigner, an enlightened heterosexual with a conscience impressing people who had been wary of supporting teenagers of same-sex attraction. Gradually, police, local authorities, irate mums and dads began to trust this reassuring middle-aged figure with her family orientated approach.
It all comes too late for Narvel. My parents are dead. To the best of my knowledge, I have one sister living in the
. We have not spoken since 1963. Could Rose have made a difference? USA