GAY TIMES September 1992

The Guardian (18 Jul) carried a feature – culled from The Irish Times – about Reach, a Dublin-based group for gay Christians. It told several tales of men who had been cruelly humiliated by the Catholic Church when it was discovered that they were gay. Many of them have been tormented for years with the idea that they are “intrinsically disordered” simply because some bigot in the church says so. Others, like Paul Hutchinson, have come to the conclusion that “The Catholic Church is completely hypocritical. It’s all bullshit really.”

Little did they realise that a week later the Vatican would issue a document described in The Church Times (31 Jul) as “a licence for ecclesiastical queer bashing and homophobia” stating that it is perfectly OK to discriminate against lesbians and gays in some circumstances. In a similarly-worded document – rich in the euphemistic language favoured by dictators – the Vatican said that gays were contrary to family life, that it is legitimate to keep us out of jobs in schools, as “athletic coaches” and in the military. We are not automatically entitled to housing, especially when “families” are homeless. Most unforgivable was the suggestion that gay people invite violence and it is therefore understandable, if not condoned.

The poisonous and wicked nature of this document – a real piece of toxic waste if ever there was one -was quickly recognised and condemned. An anonymous letter in The Guardian revealed that priests had refused the last rites to a man dying of Aids, even though he had once been a priest himself.

Patricia Redlich in Ireland’s Sunday Independent (26 Jul) says that the Church has gone “too far”. She says: “We may be hazy on homosexuality, but we have no doubts about human rights. Sexual orientation should not be used to discriminate against any brother, sister, daughter, friend or unhappy husband, who married in order to hide.” She suggests that those sick individuals who are responsible for the document should go on a long retreat and think carefully about their actions

Decal Lynch, in the same paper wrote: “The Church’s risible, indeed twisted attitude to women, homosexuals and other wayward species is not only written down with utmost clarity in black and white, it is practically emblazoned in mile-high neon lettering across the sky. ‘C’est la vie’ said the old folks, and nothing more was heard about it. Younger folk, because they have read a book or two other than the Catechism, seek to reform this amazing monolith in accordance with the romantic ideas of Christianity, despite the ceaseless insistence from Rome that they should go and take a running jump.”

Even the Catholic journal The Tablet (1 Aug) said: “The homosexual is not only a person to whom the Church must minister, but someone who has a ministry to offer the Church. The harshness of the Vatican’s pastoral position is hindering that reciprocal relationship, and driving some Catholic homosexuals out to seek an affirmation of their self-worth elsewhere.”

This was followed up by a letter from Anthony Redmond, who asked: “Is the Church of Jesus Christ not the fountain-head of compassion, concern and love? What do you think Christ would say to the homosexual man or woman? Would Jesus encourage discrimination and persecution? Reading the latest outpourings on the subject from the Vatican, I have to say that I am ashamed to be a Catholic.”

None of this helped the gay Italian writer Giovanni Testori who says he has “suffered his homosexuality rather than lived it”. He gave an interview to La Stampa which was reproduced in The Guardian (3 I Jul). Sgr Testori is of the old guilt-is-good school of Catholicism and gives a maundering, miserable account of himself in relation to Catholic orthodoxy: “I’m full of anguish and pain. Life has always been agony for me, as if it were always the last day, the last night, the last kiss, the last curse.” Oh please – pass the hair shirt and barbed flail!

The latest condemnation of homosexuality has, says Testori, “hit me very hard indeed. But I have faith that the Church will still be charitable enough to take in even this poor despairing creature. I think it is wrong to force the hand of the Church for the sake of keeping up with the times, for these times are full of violence and thoughtlessness. The Church has a sacrosanct duty to try and reimpose strict morality.”

It could be argued, of course, that the Vatican document is itself “violent and thoughtless” but this does not occur to this apologist for persecution. Asked if it is right for the Church to ask the state to back up its condemnation, the invertebrate Sgr Testori says: “Woe betide us if they didn’t! Even if it means that condemnation comes down on my head and I end up with even less peace of mind.”

I have to admit that this kind of self-torture, so common in Catholic gay men, is totally incomprehensible to me. But I certainly worry about the hidden effects of the Vatican’s pronouncement. How are we to know whether a given piece of discrimination is as a result of it? How many Catholic bosses and landlords are at present wondering whether it is their “duty” to carry out the Pope’s wishes against their gay employees and tenants?

There’s only one word for it. Evil.

***

The “Queer Nation” idea seems to, be rapidly running out of steam, mostly because only a handful of over-excited activists thought it had any value or relevance in the first place. But Peter Tatchell is still plugging away and wrote an article headed “Do us a favour – call us queer” in The Independent on Sunday (26 Jul). He rehearsed all the now-familiar arguments about Queer becoming “a proud symbol of the angry and assertive New Queer Politics of the 1990s”. Wishful thinking, I’m afraid, Peter. Queer Politics is a phenomenon of the early I 990s, and by the mid- 1990s it will be history.

The following week Gavin Hart was given right of reply in which he stated what surely must be the majority gay opinion – that the toilsome, harder route to gay freedom is going to be the more effective one. However angry we are, we should have realised by now that it’s not possible to bludgeon or harangue people into agreeing with us. We also know that it’s a fantasy to imagine we don’t need “acceptance” and that gays can somehow function-independently of the rest of the population.

Jason Mitchell explained in a letter to the editor of The IoS that he did not want to live in the Queer Nation because he does not see the world primarily through “the prism of sexual desire” and wants to have “the whole web of experience and emotions that are the essence of life, whether gay or straight.”

The week after that, Derek Jarman was on the defensive saying that the noisy, confrontational tactics of OutRage were essential, and that they carried on the tradition of the Gay Liberation Front, which had opened the way for all the benefits we, as a community, enjoy today.

That’s true, of course, and I’d be the first to acknowledge OutRage’s marvellous work in bringing gay issues and injustices to the attention of a wide public. Much of that success has to be put down to Peter Tatchell’s amazing public relations skills. But demos and zaps are not enough in themselves, there has to be a pincer movement of lobbying and persuasion too.

This is all very different from the other face of “Queer Politics” – with groups such as Manchester’s nihilistic and homophobic Homocult trying to bully us into a separatism that few of us want. It’s the same old story. Whenever someone tries to impose a system of beliefs on others – political correctness in this instance – there is resistance. The gay community is too diverse to share one opinion, and it is a foolish waste of our precious energies to spend time fighting over something which is patently a flash in the pan.

***

Here we go again, are we born or are we made? The Guardian told (3 Aug) of new research in California which seems to suggest that “a cluster of nerves, one which connects the right and left-hand sides of the brain, the anterior commissure, is larger in homosexual men than in heterosexuals.” This follows Michael LeVay’s study which suggested that the interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus was smaller in gay men than in heterosexuals.

From this, Reggie Nadelson in The Independent (6Aug) concluded: “If biology is destiny, homosexuality could not be considered a matter of choice; gay rights would be automatically protected. It would be harder for ‘born-again’ crackpots to condemn homosexuality as ‘immoral’.”

 

But the convenient idea that gays somehow “choose” their orientation in order to be perverse will not die so easily. “‘Born to be gay’ claim is scorned by scientists” announced The Daily Mail (4 Aug), while Dr Thomas Stuttaford in The Times (7 Aug) said: “The anatomists have used the brains of homosexuals who have died of Aids, and Aids is known I to affect 90 per cent of brains with, on average, a 40 per cent loss of neurones of the frontal cortex before death. They imply that to draw firm conclusions from a disease-ravaged brain would be akin to judging how a telephone network operates by studying one in a heavily bombarded town.”

Still, it gave the “what-if” merchants a chance to let rip. Peter (Mr Ubiquitous) Tatchell was quoted in the London Evening Standard as saying that the research could lead to “sinister genetic manipulation”. He says that unscrupulous doctors could be “persuaded to abort foetuses carrying homosexual traits”, which seems feasible, but then he is purported to have said “gay evangelists could use the knowledge to swell their ranks by creating thousands of extra homosexuals.”

I can’t believe Peter would have said such a strange thing, so we’ll put it down to the over-enthusiasm of the reporter.

***

Standing back now from the David Mellor affair, it’s difficult not to reach the conclusion that it was the tabloid press’s intention to “get” the Minister because he had the temerity to instigate a review of their pathetic “self-regulation” procedures. But, as usual, it was a gross misjudgement and has simply resulted in a new clamour for some kind of statutory restraint on the press and its arrogant trampling over people’s lives.

The Mellor exposé was a sleazy tale of half-truth, deceit, greed and revenge. The editor of The People, the paper that broke the story, maintained that his reporters had not bugged the flat Mr Mellor was using for his assignations.

Eventually it came out that although no-one from the paper had directly set up the telephone taps, their reporter had supervised the man who was doing the surveillance to ensure he did the job properly. Of course, he would not have bothered with this elaborate procedure if he had not known that some scum-bag newspaper would pay him a small fortune for his troubles.

And the same can be said about Simon Berkowitz, the man who was alleged to have burgled Paddy Ashdown’s solicitor and stolen the document which confirmed that Mr Ashdown had been having an affair. Would anyone have stolen it if there had been no market for the document?

 

What do we discern from this? That newspapers encourage crime by providing a market for stolen property? That they encourage immorality by paying “insiders” to betray their friends?

The papers have all been claiming this month that any legislation will interfere with their duty to expose criminal activity or corrupt politicians or hypocritical public figures. I agree that it is a dangerous possibility, but who is responsible for it? The press has only itself to blame after years of cruel and repellent behaviour that has turned the public against it: a Gallup poll published in Europa Times indicated that 87 per cent of those questioned favoured a privacy law.

The great shame is that any blanket restriction will affect all newspapers, and the serious press — which undertakes genuine investigative journalism which is truly in the public interest — will also suffer. But private individuals must be protected from press intrusion into their most intimate lives. If their sexual activities are not illegal, they should not be paraded in scandal-sheets. It is not the business of newspapers to judge what is “moral”; they need to put their own house in order before they point the finger at anyone else.

Sir David Calcutt is now accepting evidence and opinions from the public on the issue of press invasions of privacy. If you would like to contribute, either with your personal experience or with other evidence, you can write to: Sir David Calcutt QC, Room 601, Department of National Heritage, 50 Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW I H 9AY.

***

Another individual affected by HIV has been “outed” by the press, this time it is John Currie, the skater (“Ice Star Currie’s Aids Agony” — News of the World, 2 August).

It would have been better, and more helpful, if John had decided to make his condition known voluntarily, but his decision was to remain quiet about it. Surely that choice should have been his own?

The public has no more “right” to know the state of a person’s health than they have to know the details of their sex life.

***

The tabloids love conspiracies, and The Sun was presented with paranoia par excellence last month in a story headlined “Di in Secret Deal with Gays at Palace”. It was based on the rantings of “Privy Councillor and advisor to the Queen” Sir Alan Clark, who is also a former defence minister. He says that Buckingham Palace is “dominated by homosexuals who plotted to win Princess Di’s Royal seal of approval”. Proceeding from this unlikely premise, Sir Alan concludes that Princess Di realised that “she couldn’t operate without a coterie for events like day-to-day briefings. The price they extracted from her was the up-front crusading thing about Aids.”

Sir Alan goes on to say that the gays’ “plan” was to “get prominent women like Diana and Elizabeth Taylor, the queen regent of fag hags, involved.”

It’s like the Stepford Wives all over again. Liz Taylor and Princess Diana are but mere puppets dancing to our tune!

Sir Alan is not, despite my advice, seeking treatment, although there are many who believe he is seriously in need of it.

***

The Observer (9Aug) told us that “Parents across the religious and political spectrum are threatening to withdraw children from lessons in protest at Government plans to make teaching about Aids a compulsory school subject.’”

However, it then goes on to tell us that “Evangelical Christians have agreed to link up with Muslims and Conservative right-wingers in a bid to subvert the law.” I would hardly say Valerie Riches of the Family Education Trust (how many organisations with the, word “Family” in the title does this woman run?) together with The Plymouth Brethren and a handful of ayatollahs represent “the political and religious spectrum”, I would think they represent a very small, but very powerful fundamentalist lobby. It’s the same names every time: Baroness Cox, the Earl of Liverpool… Who the hell do these people think they are, trying to inflict their hate-filled religious dogma on to a whole generation of children? I had thought that when Major came to power some of these dirty-minded cranks would have lost their influence at Number Ten But they don’t give up so easily.

There ought to be another Section 28, this time banning the promotion of bigotry in schools, particularly when it masquerades as righteousness.

***

And if evidence is needed about where ignorance on the topic of homosexuality leads, then you need only look as far as Mizz magazine (18 Aug). In an “it happened to me…” feature, a young lesbian, Karen, tells how she was forced out of the closet at the age of 14. “It was through school that my mum found out … One day I was called into the headmaster’s office. I had been helping the first-years in the remedial class with their reading and there was a rumour that I was molesting the children. This was because I had put my arm around a first former. Her mother had died recently and she was crying. Anyone with an ounce of compassion would have done the same, but they looked on that as evidence against me.”

From that crass bit of conclusion-jumping flowed a tale of misery, violence, emotional torment and homelessness which has been going on for several years now. Karen’s step-father beat her and her mother kicked her out of their home. She was forced to come to London where she survived on the streets by stealing bread from shops. Somehow she has managed to educate herself, and she sounds like a very intelligent and sensitive woman. That she should have been driven to sleeping in cardboard boxes simply because of other people’s wicked ignorance is a scandal. And the next generation is likely to behave in exactly the same manner if Riches, Cox and all the other perverters of piety have their way.

***

I’m surprised that it has taken so long for the press to get round to “The Secret Gay Life of Star Frankie” (Sunday Mirror, 9 Aug). I don’t know who is supposed to be surprised by the knowledge that Frankie Howerd was gay, but apparently the papers find it “shocking”.

Of course, as they tell it, the comedian’s gay nature was part of his “dark side” (which also included alcoholism, professional jealousy and drug-taking). Being gay can never, to these grisly newspapers, be a simple fact of life, it has to be “sordid”, and so Frankie Howerd wasn’t just gay, full stop, he was “promiscuous” and “even propositioned strangers”.

When are the British ever going to grow up about sex?

***

Boorish Paul Johnson, the right wing “intellectual”, wrote in The Spectator that homosexuals should not be invited as “house guests,” because other guests might not like the idea of sharing a house with someone who might have Aids.

 

They might also not like sharing a house with a bigoted pig who makes Christianity sound like a branch of the Nazi party. But then, he’s a Catholic, so I suppose he’s only following orders.

 

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