About

takes an exciting chance to interview founder, creator, editor and chief writer of - penwing - a.k.a. Alex Lambert. We could have talked to him about the new site, what its aims are in terms of both content and look, but felt that getting to know the real person behind the facade was by far the most important thing we could do with this extraordinary opportunity.

The exterior of his room looks like any other in the house he occupies with his parents. The door is real wood, with not a hint of the true personality that lies within. But, much like the elegance, and sparseness of the door is a thin veneer, behind which lies utter confusion - the state Alex, 23, has a love of.

The first thing to notice is just how small Alex's room is. The jump from the doorway to the bed is not something which would trouble even the most incompetent long jumper. And jump is right - the floor is a sea of books, bags, magazines and boxes. The second thing is just how much stuff is crammed in there. It is fitting that Alex, who has a 2ii in Computer Science from The University of York, has chosen a Mac Mini as the central hub of his computer empire - for surely anything more would just not fit. From the small, portable, television mounted high on the one bit of wall not covered with shelves, to the DVDs lining what would otherwise be the only piece of visible skirting board, it is clear that the room has been well thought out. [Editor's Note: Since this article went to press, Alex has moved out of his parents' house and now lives with the ever lovely Wendy. He therefore has a bigger room, bigger DVD collection, Bigger book collection and only marginally more floor space on a normal day.]

Unfortunately, Alex's habit of buying ever more books and DVDs limits the usefulness of this planning. DVDs are stacked, books are strewn, and underwear is... well... you don't want to know - but we did get it off our feet eventually.

Alexs Photo

Sitting on Alex's single bed taking notes as we interview him, he seems relaxed. His long, muscular legs which have carried him over mountains and along valleys are stretched in front of him, as he leans back in his old, and rather precarious looking swivel seat. We joke about how this relaxed show contrasts with the chaos surrounding him, and his whole body vibrates in beautiful appreciation.

Needing to get this interview off to start, we venture a question about where he thinks he's come from. Completely flippantly, he responds with "Nottingham" before sitting and pondering...

Well, I think the most recent place that's formed me is University. I went to a small campus university in York and studied Computer Science. I had made the decision before going that I wasn't going to go through the whole coming out phase again and that I would be open and out from the start. This meant I was able to talk to the LGB officer freely and become involved. And I did. And I think being in an environment which allowed me to do things I cared about politically, to discuss and debate issues which I'd have been petrified to touch at High School lent me a new personality.

It is this personality which drew Alex away from the realms of true geekdom and onto broader pastures. Alex screwed up his degree failing his third year project and thus was forcibly graduated with a Bachelors Degree rather than continuing to a fourth, Masters, year. He maintains that he works best under pressure but acknowledges that two weeks with the SU elections is not a good time span for completing a major part of a degree.

Earlier on in that academic year, Alex had his first ventures into national politics. First as the organiser of a Scrap Kent Section 28 campaign which taught him many things about campaign organisation...

The day before the protest was due to go ahead, I got a phone call. I was getting used to these, The Guardian, The BBC, Diva. But this one was different. Kent Police had found out and were asking about it. Seems there's this little law which require you to inform the police if you plan to gather more than a certain number of people for a protest. In writing. Seven days beforehand. Whoops.

Thankfully the police were understanding and Alex is not rotting in a cell somewhere. We asked him briefly about his views on new legislation surrounding protest and terrorism. We eventually shut him up after half an hour and promised we'd let him write a piece for .

His second foray into the national arena was through the letters pages of The Pink Paper. This left a bitter taste in his mouth and an even bigger dislike of political parties - the Tories in particular. Details of the whole sordid affair are currently scattered over at his old site under "The Davenport Saga". Plans to migrate this content over are underway.

Leaving uni cut off Alex's access to political soul mates, and everything combined left him depressed. He pulled himself out of this though by starting to volunteer at the CAB. This enabled him to maintain a link to political organisations and pursue the other side of his university role - helping people. The degree semi-failure helped Alex realise that although he loved programming, he hated doing other people's work. A change of future was required...

I get a much better sense of fufilment with the CAB work. I am looking ultimately to get a job in that sort of sector. A university welfare adviser, a LGBT support worker. Something like that.

We decide to stop Alex there and direct him back at his past. He hinted earlier about the joy of coming out, and we decided to ask for his coming out story...

Well, it's not as if I have one coming out story. It's not like the movies where the young guy stands up in front of the school and says "fuck you, I'm gay". It's a process. But there are some points which, as I look back on them, I can laugh at.

My parents always knew (something about the websites I was visiting...). I remember before I came out my Mum would ask "So Alex, do you have a boyfriend... or girlfriend yet?" To which my response was always "No" followed by a quick escape.

My friends though were another matter. I suppose I was lucky in that there was Nick to draw suspicion away from me. I told two of my friends on Oct 12th 2000. That date is significant to me as it's the date Matthew Shepard lost his fight for life. I then forwarded on an email of jokes, removing headers etc, but forgetting the subject tag of "[gay-youth-uk]". After a stressful day at school, where one person hadn't checked his email, another was off and I didn't see the third, I eventually spoke to the absent friend on ICQ. I was really quite scared as he always seemed the most homophobic. He turned out fine and really supportive though. It's good when you have friends like that. The one who hadn't checked his emails I told a few days later; after him moving the conversation away from where I wanted it to be about 8 times.

Got to save the best for last though. Nick. Nick found out I'd seen Steps. I told him I'd seen them at Mardi Gras. Whoosh. I told him I'd been out twice, at night on Canal Street - something he wanted to do. Whoosh. I told him I was gay. He told me I wasn't.

And what of the present for Alex? Well, he works as a Student Adviser at The Student Advice Centre of Manchester Metropolitan Students' Union ("a mouthful of entirely the wrong variety", he tells us). He buys The Big Issue when he can get it. He goes to a pub quiz regularly where he a member of The Irregulars. And he spends far too much time arsing around on MSN, IRC and the web in general. Oh, and he's painfully single.