The London Evening Standard (Oct 6 & 7) carried eight pages of “investigative journalism” into alleged gross dereliction of duty by social workers and councillors in the London borough of Islington. It was a sorry tale of drug taking, sexual abuse, prostitution and pregnancy among the children in the council’s care. If only half of it is true, then it indicates that some areas of inner London are nothing short of a living hell for hundreds of young children.
The Standard reporters had uncovered many individual cases of abuse and lawbreaking, but it is difficult to know whether some of these children are in care because they are out of control or whether their degradation occurred after Islington took responsibility for them. However, one aspect of the case which is most disturbing is The Standard’s apparent blaming of Islington’s equal opportunities policy for some of the abuse.
In one of the case histories, headed “The gay care worker who tried to foster a boy he was banned from seeing” we are told that “an openly gay Islington social worker” became emotionally involved with a 15-year-old boy in his care. The social worker in question was subsequently put on trial but such was the weakness of the evidence against him that the judge ordered the jury to return a not-guilty verdict.
In an editorial, the Evening Standard accuses Islington council of “allowing itself to be distracted by ideology – its obsession with racism, gay rights and sexism…Indeed, Islington’s obsessions may well have contributed to the abuse. Its concern for homosexual rights has caused it positively to advertise for homosexual staff in children’s homes.”
Now just a minute. Most of the cases uncovered by the Standard’s reporters concerned the abuse of young girls. The Standard does not blame heterosexual men masse for this – it wouldn’t dare.
I am convinced that there are many excellent, dedicated social workers in Islington and some of them are homosexual. The fact that some homosexuals have abused the trust placed in them to care for and protect vulnerable children does not mean that no homosexual can be trusted. This is a matter of individual morality, not sexual orientation.
We should tiptoe around these issues carefully. The protection of these children must come first, but that does not mean that an hysterical witch hunt should be unleashed. It needs cooler heads than those on the shoulders of the average sensation-hungry journalist to reach a balanced conclusion over something like this.
As we await the result of the American presidential election, The Economist carried a fascinating report on “American Values” and concluded that our friends across the water tend to say one thing and do another. While they cheer the Republican Party’s maundering about “family values”, “barely a quarter of America’s households now contain that Rockwellian (and Republican) ideal, a married couple with a child or children under 18.” Still, that doesn’t stop the holy terrors from churning out more and more lies.
In The Guardian (3 Oct), Barbara Ehrenreich was writing a “Letter from Long Island” in which she explored the idea of America giving the impression of being the most “Christian” country in the world – while at the same time subscribing to beliefs that the average five year old wouldn’t entertain. “Once (American) Christians worried about getting through the eye of the needle with their fur coats on,” she writes. “Now they worry about serious things like being boiled alive by witches.”
She quotes from “a slim volume of Christian thought” written by “our great Christian leader and media mogul, Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and featured speaker at the Republican national convention. He says that feminism is ‘a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
But that is nothing compared to “the gay threat”. Here Ms Ehrenreich turns to Rev Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition. “Gays, he says, “support sex with animals and the rape of children as a form of political expression’.”
Barbara Ehrenreich blames us Europeans for America’s infestation with religious maniacs. After all, it was us who sent them over 200 years ago “Boat after boat full of ranters and ravers and flagellants and fundamentalists.”
She may think they are hilarious, but The Times reported (3 Oct) that “Portland, Oregon is the scene for the most vitriolic attack yet in America on homosexuality.” It is there that “citizens will vote on the most stringent anti-homosexual measure ever proposed in a state: if passed ‘Measure 9’ would classify homosexuals as ‘abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse’; it would nullify laws forbidding discrimination against homosexuals and require the government to discourage homosexuality (together with sadism, masochism and paedophilia).”
Once more the power behind this onslaught is a Christian fundamentalist alliance headed this time by Lou Mabon, Mr Mabon is having a fair share of success with his rallying call to defeat homosexuals and says: “Discrimination against gays is not the same as racial or sexual discrimination. Homosexuality is an immoral choice made by individuals and there is no reason why it should be supported by the state.”
The Times concludes that the right-wing realises that “the only issue able to galvanise the conservative vote more effectively than abortion is homosexuality” and The Spectator (5 Sep) agrees with it: “It is not hard to see how the Republicans stumbled upon their campaign pledge to increase sexual conformity and improve family values. The communists are gone, the liberals are in hiding, the Japanese are in recession, the black criminals are safely queued up outside the gas chambers. So the rulers panicked. And in their panic they fingered all those whose sexual behaviour fails to satisfy hoary notions of rectitude.”
All this is not to say that gays in America aren’t fighting back. The Economist (3 Oct) told of several very active gay groups that are raising vast amounts of money for Bill Clinton. An informal group in California called ANGLE (Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality) raised $125,000 for the presidential contender in May and hopes that the final total will be $1.5 million. Then in Washington the Human Rights Campaign Fund distributed $158,000 to congressional candidates in 1990 and expects to distribute $1m this year. The article reveals that homosexuals in America are proportionately more politically active than the population at large. One survey showed that 85 per cent of American gays voted in the 1988 election, and gay households had an average income of $50,800. David Mixner of ANGLE says that the aim is to “become an organised, money-giving, block-voting community like the Jews, only bigger.”
But, you say, it couldn’t happen here, and I think you might be right. All efforts to mobilise gays into a political force in this country have failed, just as Bible-bashers have been unsuccessful in whipping the British public into paroxysms of righteousness.
Take the lamentable case of the Conservative Family Campaign (prop. and only known member Stephen Green). Mr Green has recently published a book entitled The Sexual Dead-End in which, according to The Guardian Diary (30 Sep), he “probes homosexuality” and “names nine Tory MPs who are members of the gay rights cabal” and 38 other MPs who are in favour of promoting homosexuality or gay rights.
In The People (4 Oct) he is found criticising Princess Diana “for being misguided in supporting Aids charities – because he says, this promotes sympathy for homosexuals.”
In America Mr Green would be running for President, here he’s rightly regarded as a rather pathetic laughing stock. A laughing stock with a screw loose.
The Daily Mail (23 Sep) reported a “major revision of Roman Catholic guidelines” in the form of the Universal Catechism, a document in which the Pope tells his followers what is a sin and what is not. This ludicrous throwback to the Middle Ages informs Catholics that they risk eternal damnation if they dodge their taxes, pass false cheques or read horoscopes.
It seems strange that a man like John Paul II, who has such a reputation for kindness and gentleness, should be so willing to condemn so many of his fellows to roast in agony for all eternity in the burning, fiery furnace. Is that to be the fate of homosexuals?
The Mail tells us that the Pope says: “homosexuals, often chastised by the Church, should be treated with ‘compassion and delicacy’ and spared ‘unjust discrimination’.”
This seems to contradict the contents of the recent Vatican letter issued to American bishops urging them to encourage discrimination. Has the Pope changed his mind or is it just a PR job?
I wouldn’t trust the perfidious pontiff as far as I could spit, and if I were going to spit, it would be in the direction of his face. A man who has to whip his followers into line by threatening never-ending torture has got to be the worst kind of sadist.
The Sun reported (21 Sep) that an American forensic psychiatrist, David Abrahamsen, had put forward the theory that “The Jack the Ripper murders were carried out by two gay lovers.” Dr Abrahamsen comes to this conclusion because he says, “the men were expressing a pathological hatred of women.”
As a psychiatrist, Dr Abrahamsen would make quite a good bar room philosopher. Gay men don’t have a “pathological hatred of women” and any psychiatrist who was worthy of the name would know that. The most he could claim is that some gay men are indifferent to women. It’s only straight men who hate women enough to murder and mutilate them. I’m not a forensic scientist, but even I know that most, if not all, murders of women are carried out by heterosexual men — husbands, lovers, rapists. Such is the ignorance about homosexuality that even a supposed “expert” can fall for such a transparent myth.
Eddie-baiting: This new feature is designed to bring you the pre-shocks before the Big One strikes. The tabloids are circling round Prince Edward, and it is almost inevitable that there will soon be another “royal scandal”.
In the meantime, the baiters are jabbing at their quarry. The Sun managed to keep the Tories’ woes off the front page by featuring instead the riveting news that Prince Edward’s bath had overflowed! Yes, His Highness’s valet (nudge, nudge) had left the darned thing running and flooded a room at Buckingham Palace. “Edward, 28, appeared in his dressing gown at the bathroom door to find his valet on his hands and knees.” (Ooer, Your Majesty, are you ready for this?) A picture of Edward, looking like Mr Potato Head, graces this “story”.
Meanwhile over in The People, the unpleasant Sean Smith (whose column apparently “looks at who is doing what to whom”) tells us that “It is transparently clear that there’s more than one queen at the Palace.”
But rest easy, no names are mentioned here, he’s referring to “a footman who, when on duty at banquets or dinner parties, was fond of making suggestive gestures and eyes at the guests. Young barons and school friends of Prince Edward were his particular favourites, although older knights were also fair game.”
Poor Eddie, he must wake every morning wondering whether today’s the day his skeleton’s going to get rattled.
The Observer’s Andrew Billen was ruminating on “Aids: the ghost at the feast of British show business” (11 Oct). He wrote: “The death of fruity-voiced character actor Denholm Elliott, the lurid press speculation a few days later over Rudolf Nureyev’s deteriorating health and the admission last week by Olympic skating star John Currie, 43, that he was dying of the condition has brought the Aids epidemic back to centre stage within the arts and entertainment industry.”
He lists 30 people prominent in British theatre and artistic circles whose lives have been claimed by HIV and says that there are probably many more who preferred to hide the truth. He, says that there are sometimes “sound professional reasons” for keeping quiet and cites the case of the late Brad Davis, star of Midnight Express and Querelle, who tested HIV positive in 1985. It is now revealed that Mr Davis told no-one but his wife and a handful of friends about his status. “If I had,” he wrote, “I’d be one more pariah in Hollywood who could never get a job.” By keeping quiet, he stayed in work for six more years.
And even leaving the announcement of HIV infection until after death can cause disquiet, too. The article quotes Oscar Moore, author of A Matter of Life and Sex as saying: “The whole thing is a double-edged sword. When people get outed by their deaths, it is a bitter blow to the gay rights movement, for it perpetuates the myth that there is no homosexuality without Aids.”
This seemed to be confirmed the day after Denholm Elliott died when the familiar tabloid pattern emerged “Gay secret of Aids star Denholm” (Sun, 7 Oct); “Secret double life of Denholm Elliott” (Daily Mail, 7 Oct); and The Daily Telegraph’s alarming: “Denholm paid the price for a life of fun” (8 Oct).
The Elliott story gave the papers the opportunity to look at bisexuality again. The Daily Mail (9 Oct) carried an article by Charlotte Powers telling of her life married to a man who was basically gay. At first he had been charming and she naive (remember, this story is told entirely from her point of view) and she was thrilled when he asked her to wed. “But the real reason he wanted to marry me was something I could not guess. There was a secret he didn’t want to tell. The one convention he didn’t want to flout. He was homosexual and he wanted to hide the fact behind marriage to a rather ignorant young girl.”
It does not seem to have occurred to her that her husband might have been under enormous pressure from his family and society at large to “do the right thing”. The article ignores entirely the factors that drive gay men to marriage in the first place — including the fearful stigmatisation of people who dare to be honest about their preferences. In the end, the man she married was not bisexual at all. She admits that they never had sex. Denholm Elliott, on the other hand, was an enthusiastic family man as well as an inveterate lover of other men.
The reception given to Julian Clary’s TV show Terry and Julian has been amazing. Described by The Mail on Sunday as “the most camp show ever seen on TV” it garnered a mixed reception from the critics. I thought that Garry Bushell in The Sun was working himself up to having a stroke during his ranting review —.and surely that’s as good a reason as any to give Julian another series. Jonathan Margolis in The Mail on Sunday (1 I Oct) thinks “Clary is a genius. He spits out even the most bland line with a pink hot venom that 2.77 million people, including me, find extremely funny.” Jim White in The Independent (26 Sep) didn’t like it at all: “Julian Clary … is a hopeless actor. What you see is not a queen at sea in an alien environment but Julian Clary telling a series of jokes in a series of frocks. And he doesn’t even do that particularly well.”
Jeanette Kupferman in The Daily Mail (12 Sep) wrote: “Whether one likes or loathes Julian Clary, this first episode about the camp Julian moving in with the straight Terry, involving a ‘marriage’ between two men defies description both because this is a family newspaper and most of the jokes, nasty as they are smutty, are unprintable.”
Lucy Hughes-Hallett in The Daily Telegraph (19 Sep) thinks Julian is “shaping up to be one of the brightest of his generation of television personalities. He may not be a star but he is a very twinkly sparkle.”
And the features writers seem more than willing to go along with Julian’s unapologetic indifference to their opinions of his sexuality. The Sun (26 Sep) carried a long and most sympathetic article about Julian’s loss of his boyfriend, Christopher, to Aids. In an uncharacteristic bout of self-revelation, Julian Clary reveals that he has been receiving bereavement counselling from The Red Admiral Project, of which he has now become a patron.
Then, Mr/Mrs or Ms Clary gets The People magazine (27 Sep) to go along with his cheeky mocking of their values. He is seen in glorious colour primping and pouting in full slap and wearing a clinging leopard skin dress. Over the page, he reclines in sequinned bondage gear and feather boa. There is nothing but affection in the accompanying article. Can anyone make sense of the contradiction? The People is happy to hate gays most of the time, but is prepared to make an exception for one who embodies everything they claim to despise. Julian Clary is one of our most potent secret weapons.