GAY TIMES May 1994

The “Pink Pound” continues to fascinate pundits in our press. In the USA, the IKEA furniture store has now launched a TV advertising campaign featuring a gay couple. Commenting on this, Kate Muir in The Times (April 6th) noted that “American advertisers scent rich pickings in the gay market.” She says: “Directing advertising at gay men on the East Coast cities of America makes firm commercial sense. They are generally affluent and tend to have more disposable income than families with children… The power of the ‘pink pound’ is well-known in Britain, and Overlooked Opinions, a research company, claims there are 18 million gay Americans, who spend up to $500 billion (£338 billion) a year.”

She goes on to say that IKEA have chosen a gay couple because “there is a certain assumption that gay men will have good taste in design” and their presence in the ad is intended to give the shop “the Gay Housekeeping Seal of Approval”.

Meanwhile, Palm Springs, a traditional California tourist destination, is trying to revive its flagging economy by courting the gay traveller. In a report in The Daily Telegraph (March 12th) we are told that the local tourist office sends out a gay guide with its literature. “Statistics show that the gay traveller has money to spend and has been virtually untouched by the recession”, says Palm Springs’ head of tourism. “In the current economy we’re are all scraping for every piece of business we can get and we are delighted that gays and lesbians are coming here.”

Mmm. I’m a little suspicious of this sudden enthusiasm for gay money. When there’s no recession we can be excluded from the good things in life (forgotten all those “bannings” that CHE conference organisers had to put up with in the seventies?), but when business has to be “scraped for” we’re the bee’s knees.

***

Tom Hanks’ acceptance speech at the Oscar ceremony might well have been embarrassingly overblown and over-rehearsed, but I suppose it was made with the best of intentions. I don’t suppose the star of Philadelphia could have known that any sympathetic mention of homosexuality on television brings a compensating torrent of hate in the British press.

Leading the charge of the Right brigade was John Junor (Mail on Sunday, March 27th): “Should Hanks be congratulated for his acceptance speech in which he sought to glorify men who died from Aids?” he wrote. “I know many actors don’t have too much behind their ears and that Mr Hanks was in a state of euphoria. Even so I could hardly believe my ears when he described them as ‘angels walking in the streets of heaven’… Isn’t it a bit hot? I would agree with Mr Hanks if he were talking of innocent victims, haemophiliacs who had died because of being transfused with blood, but homosexuals who contracted the disease through their own promiscuity? If they’re in heaven just who the hell is in the other place?”

Barbara Amiel in The Sunday Times (March 27th) made the same point while talking about Hollywood’s desire to follow the “politically correct” trends of the day. “My understanding of Heaven is that admittance and celestial status are conditional on leading a good life or on God’s forgiveness. I do not think God is going to exalt the lifestyle of promiscuous homosexuals any more than I think he is keen on my serial monogamy.”

At least she had the guts to admit that she is hell-bound, too. Junor, on the other hand, must believe that Heaven is populated by poisonous worms such as himself. If he’s the best that Heaven allows, I’d be happier with the “other place”.

Phil Reeves saw the Oscar back-slapping on TV in a bar in Independence, Missouri and reported the reactions of the good Christian people at the “heart of America” as they watched Hollywood’s festival of self-congratulation (Independent on Sunday, March 27th).

 

“To be fair,” he wrote, “Aids and homosexuality are not subjects which many mid-Westerners find it easy to broach. When the Kansas City Star, Independence’s local paper, took the bold decision to run a three-part series on the metropolis’s gay community, there were 800 calls to its readers’ comment phone line, the bulk of which were critical, if not explicitly homophobic.”

The bar chosen by Mr Reeves is as far from “political correctness” (or “simple humanity” as those of us who haven’t fallen for the trick prefer to call it) as it can get. The bar’s proprietor, John Norton, gives his “analysis of the ethical question of homosexuality” by saying: “Ever seen a hippopotamus screw a giraffe? No, you haven’t. Why? Because it ain’t what God intended.”

Another man — a lawyer— explained to the reporter that homosexuals would not be welcome. In fact they would be beaten senseless. But then, that’s non-political correctness for you. In the same issue of the Independent on Sunday there was a photograph of a 1930s lynching. Two black men are swinging from a tree, hanged by a braying, laughing mob of “politically incorrect” whites. I expect some of these “decent folk” might have originated in Independence, Missouri.

Hanks had the good grace (London Evening Standard, March 29th) to admit that he “felt like a fraud” for winning an Oscar for Philadelphia. Indeed, he looked like a fraud with those actor’s tears and that over-the-top actor’s speech (why didn’t he get a decent script-writer to help him out if he wanted give a ‘performance’?). But he says mysteriously that “it’s pretty much guaranteed if you play a homosexual they start to give you trophies.”

The Standard comes to the conclusion that Hanks won the award on grounds of “political correctness” alone. I have to agree that the film was crap in its own right — dishonest, evasive and money-grubbing. Its inability to get to grips with the real issues was illustrated in an interview (Daily Star, March 25th) with “Spanish heart throb” Antonio Banderas, who also starred in the film as Hanks’s lover. He said: “The love scenes are done in just the right way. The romance between Tom and myself is very innocent. For instance, in the hospital scene, I kiss him when I come into the room, but it’s no big deal….” (In other words: “don’t worry folks, the queers won’t actually behave as though they love each other, so there’s no danger of you regurgitating your popcorn”.)

Political correctness was also invoked to describe the fundraising concert for Hackney headmistress Jane Brown.

Ms Brown, you will recall, refused tickets for the ballet Romeo and Juliet on the grounds of its heterosexism. Her support group organised an event at the Hackney Empire which was attended by the Independent’s Sandra Barwick. “In the world of PC — or equal opportunities, as Ms Brown’s supporters prefer to call it — skirt wearers are a minority group, and lipstick is a label,” she wrote.

Well, poor old dykes don’t seem to be able to do anything right as far as journalists are concerned. It seems no event can possibly be genuine and free from the taint of PC unless it has been organised by white, heterosexual men (preferably a brain-dead Education Minister). To qualify as “real” it must, presumably, exclude all mention of minorities who consider they have a grievance.

Having said that, Ms Brown received some support from a most surprising quarter when The Sunday Express (April 3rd) sent an undercover reporter to the Kingsmead Estate, where her school is situated, to find out why the parents were supporting her so determinedly. They discovered that, in fact, Kingsmead School is “a beacon of hope for the rest of the estate”. Ms Brown is making a difference to the lives of the children who live in circumstances that would have shocked Charles Dickens. Victorian values certainly rule in Hackney.

The Sunday Express was big enough to admit that Jane Brown’s decision about the ballet was “far from being about petty political correctness” and much more concerned with the play’s portrayal of violence and gang warfare, which is rife on the Kingsmead.

Mike Hornby, writing in The Independent on Sunday (March 13th) has seen through the manipulative harping on “political correctness” by bigots who want an excuse for their bigotry. “I don’t want to be accused of political correctness myself,” he says, “but.. No, sod it. Actually I don’t give two hoots. We have reached the stage where one only has to say, politely, that one disapproves of, for example, the charming contemporary custom of pushing excreta through the letterboxes of Asian families, and otherwise humane people start to sneer about social workers and Guardian readers.”

He recalls his childhood in the late sixties and early seventies when Asians were “pakis”; Afro-Caribbeans “coons”; girls “scrubbers” and we told “Irish jokes and Biafran jokes and queer jokes”. He thinks things have improved since then. “Love Thy Neighbour and The Black and White Minstrel Show are hardly likely to be revived, and Bernard Manning is now confined to the Northern club circuit; but I cannot… find it in my heart to grieve for their absence, and if that makes me sound like a bleeding heart, drippy, pinko pansy, well, I’m sorry.”

He continues, “Elsewhere it looks like business as usual. Local councillors with Nazi sympathies, drunken Tory MPs interrupting important debates with moronic homophobic abuse, terrifying assaults on Asians in the East End of London.”

We’ve reached a pretty pass in Tory Britain when common human sympathy and concern for the suffering of others have become the objects of scorn. The fake moralising of the Government (“a gang of narrow-minded fanatics” as Neil Ascherson called them in The Observer) has reached sickening proportions. Hopefully when the furniture van arrives to collect Mr Major from Number Ten, he’ll pack his cretinous Cabinet in the back.

***

The Daily Star, under the noxious editorship of Brian (Bonehead) Hitchen has been responsible for some of the most filthy and unfair attacks on gay people we’ve ever seen. That policy continues unabated.

“Radio Five is devoting a weekly programme to homosexuals and lesbians,” said an editorial on March 15th. “Why should this minority get so much special attention? What about programmes for other interest groups such as anglers, pigeon-fanciers, bird watchers, or even ferret-down-the-trouser enthusiasts. But, of course they aren’t as vocal and politically fashionable as the gay lobby.”

In the same issue, in his own column, Bonehead wrote: “Florida’s homosexuals are jumping for joy over a Supreme Court ‘decision to block a move to strip them of their special rights. The American Family Association had been running a state-wide drive to collect 429,000 signatures needed to put the amendment on the Florida ballot in the autumn. Fed up with homosexuals and lesbians demanding special treatment for everything from employment to medical benefits, the American Family Association, which has recruited massive membership, said it was time to fight back for normality.”

I’m not surprised that the AFA has managed to recruit such numbers if they’ve told as many lies about gays as the foul-mouthed Hitchen and his mendacious crew. He says gays are demanding “special rights” and “special treatment”. The truth is that we are asking for NO special treatment (Special treatment in this instance means not being sacked or kicked out of your flat just because of your sexual orientation) The rights that gays want are the same rights that heterosexuals take for granted. And as for Radio Five — Mr Hitchen obviously doesn’t listen to radio or he would hear every one of the minorities he has mentioned having programmes devoted to them.

The Daily Star, along with the rest of the tabloid trash, may be straight as a die as far as their sexuality is concerned, but they’re as bent as corkscrews when it comes to honesty and fair play.

***

Alison Pearson, a columnist in The London Evening Standard, was writing of her concern about the rise of militant Moslems (April 5th). She cites several cases of Moslem women being “spat on and called slags” in East End schools because they refused to adhere to the strict dress code demanded by Islam. “Lurking behind the extremism,” she says, “is the increasingly influential Moslem Society, which organises lectures for young people. At one of these uplifting events, it was apparently suggested that homosexuals should be put to death.”

I have some experience of this myself. I was recently invited to talk about gay rights to students at Brunel University, and during the question and answer session which followed I received a stream of questions from a group of youths who were obviously coming from some extremist religious position. Fortunately, I had the microphone and they were unable to shout me down. Later I was told that they were members of the campus’s Moslem Society and that they regularly disrupted meetings on progressive topics with displays of intolerance.

Allison Pearson says that they are attracting supporters because of the rise of fanatics in our own political system. “After fascists won the Tower Hamlets bye-election in September, Bangladeshis and Bengalis said they were afraid to walk down their own street. Losing faith in the British system they were more vulnerable to the mirthless hardmen of their own faith.”

This is a situation that it will pay us to monitor carefully.

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