GAY TIMES April 2000

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography “The Reluctant Gay Activist” is now available on Amazon

The churches, the Tories and the right-wing press must think that all their birthdays have come at once. The filthy reactionaries that we’d hoped were gone for good have made the biggest comeback since Dracula rose from the grave.

It was viper-in-chief of this poisonous crew, Cardinal Winning, head of Scotland’s Catholics, who started the hatred rolling. As Christine Odone wrote in The Observer: “As Winning has shown, there are many among the forces of conservatism who are spoiling for a fight. They burn to re-establish old moral certainties – men and women differ in the roles they fill, not just in their biological makeup; marriage provides the only legitimate context for sex; the nuclear family is the only family structure we should recognise. The blueprint of this ancien regimehas been readily available in the pages of the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph for some time; Winning’s Section 28 campaign has ensured the momentum to turn the blueprint into reality. His unapologetic stance, and the widespread support it has won him north and south of the border, have forced the Tories to embrace his cause.”

Ms Odone says that Winning and his ilk realise that Tony Blair is an “ideological lightweight” who can be easily manipulated by their machinations. She suspects that the conniving Cardinal is now seeking out other issues to load onto his unsavoury bandwagon.

The clerical conspirators have, as Ms Odone says, plenty of influential supporters in the right-wing press. The Daily Mail – which could curdle the milk of human kindness at a hundred paces – must have spent a small fortune on its ongoing campaign against the repeal of Section 28. Not a day goes by that the paper doesn’t manage to come up with some new homophobic angle. On 5th February it was “The gay rights campaigner with an OBE and her links to a group of anarchist bombers that you won’t find on her CV”. This related to Stonewall’s Angela Mason. It said nothing about her past that hasn’t already been said and was deeply dishonest in its presentation.

On February 14th: The Mail gave us: “Why wrongs don’t make gay ‘rights’”. 19th February: “Gay sex laws must stay now”. 21st February: “Catholic chief backs gay propaganda ban”. 23rd Feb: “Labour peers still defiant in battle of Section 28”. 29th Feb: “Church grassroots fury at gay law ‘deal’”. 5th March: “This sad betrayal of the family”. March 6th: “Let gays ‘cruise for sex’ say Norris and Dobson”. March 7th: “Moslem threat to boycott schools if Section 28 goes”. March 9th: “Keep Clause 28 Premier is told by majority of his constituents” and on and on, a relentless catalogue of distortion, invention and slander. It seems The Daily Mail will stop at nothing in its campaign against homosexuals, and it is becoming increasingly malignant.

Not happy with suggesting that we threaten the safety of school children, it now suggests that we are all – particularly the ‘discreet’ ones – secretly conspiring to destroy family life completely. The idea of a “Velvet Mafia” was resurrected in an article about David Geffen, the man who, with Steven Spielberg, runs the DreamWorks movie studio in Hollywood. A new book about Geffen gave The Mail the opportunity to write: “This man is the leader of an all-powerful cabal of wealthy gay men who now run Hollywood… they have a secret agenda to undermine family life…”

According to The Mail: “The prime example of the power of Geffen and the Velvet Mafia is American Beauty, nominated for eight Oscars this year. Many US critics see the film, produced by Geffen’s DreamWorks as a caustic attack on heterosexual family life.” The paper also cites Ian McKellen’s film Gods and Monsters which, it says, “pushed the notion that gay soldiers are the truest heroes in battle.”

The report concludes: “Geffen recently paid $2million for a black marble swimming pool at his Fire Island house in time for this year’s gay debauch – while turning out films and music designed to undermine our most important values.”

Another Mail columnist, Peter McKay, wrote: “We’re being battered into submission by gay self-pity. First it was Aids and the claim that the heterosexual majority was letting gays die rather than seek a cure for the disease to which their sexual habits make them vulnerable. Since this is no longer tenable, we are harried about their status and right to have sex in public places… the drip-drip-drip Chinese torture of gay propaganda results in new laws and ‘rights’. Yesterday we were told that Culture Secretary Chris Smith, who is gay, phoned Education Secretary David Blunkett to say he and others were anxious that any Government promotion of marriage did not ‘implicitly denigrate homosexuality.’”

In an editorial, The Mail opined: “Now New Labour appear to be considering putting homosexual partners on the same footing as married couples over inheritance tax…. In effect, the people who will be paying for this latest extension of homosexual rights will be widows and widowers – and later, in many cases, their children. So much for a Government that repeatedly proclaims its support for marriage and family.”

The Mail omits to mention that for centuries gay people have been paying top-rate taxes for which they have received far less benefits than heterosexuals. But then, The Mail is ace at omitting what is not convenient.

Not that The Daily Mail is alone in its propaganda war against gay people – it’s just that none of the other papers are quite as obsessive about it, or prepared to devote quite so many resources to pursuing the vendetta.

The Daily Telegraph is obviously following the religiously correct line, although not quite so skilfully. One of its own columnists, Tom Utley (who was a respected journalist before he took up propaganda), produced one of the most ridiculous, stupid and ultimately sad pieces I can remember for a long time. “A Christian Church must come out for Section 28” was the headline, and at first it seemed like the standard anti-gay rant. He was making the point that the Church of England had a duty to oppose repeal because homosexuality is condemned in the gospels. “If the Scriptures and Christian tradition are clear about anything, it is that homosexual acts are wrong. This is extremely tough on people who, through no fault of their own or anybody else’s, are attracted to members of their own sex. But there it is… to be a Christian means to believe that sodomy is wrong.”

Any Christian worth his salt must obey these rules, he argued, which include fighting to retain Section 28. Bishops have no business scheming with the Government to broker a deal that would allow the Section to be junked. “We have long grown used to the worldliness of the CofE,” he wrote, “but this is taking worldliness to the point of seediness: ‘Psst! It’ll be fine by us if you let local authorities teach that sodomy is a good thing, so long as you suggest that marriage is fine, too.’”

This seems standard right-wing fare. But Mr Utley has not finished yet: “I write this as no great champion of Section 28. It strikes me as a silly law – not only because it is badly drafted, but because I do not seriously believe that children can be taught to become homosexual if they are not that way inclined. It also gives unnecessary offence to some of my homosexual friends, and for that reason alone I will not much mind if it is repealed.”

So, Mr Utley despises Section 28, thinks it foolishly drafted and feels sorry for the damage it does to his friends. Yet he also wants the Church of England to “stand on the rock on which it was founded” and crusade for its retention. Can you make sense of it?

Much more sinister than Tom Utley’s confused rambling was something written by Richard Ingrams in The Observer, a supposedly liberal paper. He was commenting on the latest sex scandal that had been uncovered at a children’s home in Wales. “In all the thousands of words that have been written about it, one word has never been mentioned. That word is ‘gay’. This omission ought to strike us as odd, to say the least, considering that nearly all the people convicted or accused of gross indecency with boys over many years were homosexual men. It is even odder when you consider that nowadays the daily bulletins invariably contain an item of ‘gay news’… However, it seems that when gays are shown to have engaged in acts of dreadful cruelty and depravity, they are invariably described as paedophiles, a term which denotes those (male or female) who are sexually attracted to children (also male or female) and therefore have no specifically gay or even male connotations.”

Ingrams say that the use of this “euphemism” lets gay men off the hook and allows us to continue demanding that the age of consent be lowered. He suggests those men in Wales acted in the way they did because they were homosexual, but that political correctness precludes anyone pointing it out. This is a straightforward restatement of the idea that all gay men are paedophiles.

The trouble with this logic is that thousands of little girls are raped and tortured each year. It may be an uncomfortable fact for Mr Ingrams to accept, but the perpetrators of these crimes are heterosexual men. Their sexuality, too, is never mentioned in news reports.

I’m sure Richard Ingrams doesn’t feel that he is in any way responsible for these abuses simply because he shares the same sexual orientation as the monsters who carried them out. Yet it seems Ingrams holds all gay men responsible for what happened in Wales.

So where is all this leading? Has society reached the limits of toleration as far as homosexuality is concerned? Richard Littlejohn certainly thinks so.

Writing about the Soho bomber’s court case in his Sun column, Littlejohn says: “Hysterical politicians and left-wing columnists tried to pretend that there was a vast network of neo-Nazis deeply embedded in British society. They seized on the bombing as a golden opportunity to advance their own agenda. They were demanding new laws and tougher powers for the police… It was a drive to paint this country as racist and intolerant of minorities… I know from my postbag that most people are sick and tired of being labelled bigots, racists or homophobes, whatever the hell that means. This is a decent country. But decent people are being cornered. There will be a backlash. Unless we are very careful, the smear-mongers will one day get the society they like to pretend already exists. David Copeland [the Soho bomber] should be seen as a warning, not an opportunity.”

Richard Littlejohn might just like to ponder the topic of toleration a little. As a citizen born in this country – who happens to be gay – I am not here under sufferance. I will resist being subjected to laws that do not apply equally to all my fellow citizens. Do you understand this, Richard Littlejohn?

Maybe the great American orator Robert Ingersoll can make it clearer: “For one man to say to another ‘I tolerate you’ is an assumption of superiority, and it is not a disclaimer but a waiver of the right to persecute.”

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