GAY TIMES February 1992

Was there anything Freudian in the Anglican Bishops’ decision to use the term “homophile’ instead of “homosexual” to describe gay priests in their recent report on sexuality? It seems they’ve not only taken sex out of the terminology, they’ve also tried to remove it from the lives of their “homophile” vicars.

The publication of the report rekindled the whole acrimonious gay debate in the Church press. The bishops themselves are far from being agreed. Writing in The Church Times (10 Jan), John Habgood, the Bishop of York seems confused about the whole thing. On the one hand he accepts that some homosexual relationships can be good and life-enhancing, although like so many others in the Church he has great problems in accepting “homosexual genital activity”. He asserts that “an understanding of ‘nature’ … does not, as some people claim, justify the belief that homosexual relationships are in all respects as natural as heterosexual relationships”. He also claims that if homosexual relationships were to be accepted on a par with heterosexual marriage, they would undermine that institution. “To accept permanent homosexual relationships as an alternative to this social institution would be to misconceive and undermine the character of marriage itself, which is more than just a personal relationship between two individuals.”

In the same issue of Church Times, Hugh Montefiore wrote that an ancient Anglican tradition had been breached by the bishops’ pronouncement that it was OK for lay people to … well, lay each other (so long as they are in a committed relationship) but not at all OK for gay vicars to get the leg over (whatever the depth of their feelings for their partner): “There is no higher or lower way. All must aim at perfection, but perfection must be achievable within the particular circumstances of an individual,” says Montefiore. “The idea is far more likely to be misrepresented or obscured by such a clergyman trying to lead the kind of life to which he has not been called by God”.

The Bishop of Durham was, predictably, critical of the report (CT, 13 Dec): “I urged on my fellow bishops that we should not put the burden of these admitted uncertainties upon a small number of homosexual clergy who are still living discreet and disciplined lives, without scandal, and with the exercise of an effective and valued priesthood. The House of Bishops collectively decided otherwise.”

The Bishop of Chester, on the other hand, made a swingeing attack on gays who displayed a “phobia” about other homosexuals “of holy living”. He claimed that some who lived holy lives were afraid to declare their orientation “because of fierce attacks” from people such as OutRage!

Another Bishop, this time of Ely, also threw the blame back at the gay community, saying that the debate had reached a pitch in which “the affirmation of the norms of Christian conduct will be slated as homophobia, while any acceptance of the existence of homosexuals will be labelled a sell-out.”

A clever ploy — blame the victim for the crime — but it won’t wash, your Graces. There is still a well of nasty homophobia in the minds of many “good Christians”, which springs from the same kind of self-righteousness which led the Church into persecuting others in the past. The correspondence columns of both The Church Times and The Church of England Newspaper have been filled with letters on the topic. Most have been critical of the report, and seem to indicate that the extremist Higtonite approach is out, and moderation and compassion are in. Sigrid Rutishauser in The C of E Newspaper (10 Jan) likened the plight of gay Christians to that of the injured man in the parable of the Good Samaritan. “Will the priest and Levite recognise their fault and be genuinely sorry they left the man at the roadside? Will they apologise and seek to make amends?” She wonders how Jesus would have “made the story unfold” and then asks pertinently: “How will we?”

An answer from the bishops would be interesting, but I don’t think it will be forthcoming. It seems they aren’t ready to be good Samaritans yet.

Stan Norich writes that he “feels great despair at the publication of the report” and although there are claims that the report “teaches acceptance of gay Christians” it is, in fact, riddled with “deprecatory remarks” such as “gay relationships cannot be commended as a fruitful reflection of God’s purpose in creation”.

The Rev Michael Lewis found another glaring contradiction in the report: “If procreation, hallowed by marriage, is the acceptable thrust of creation, how complete is celibacy and how does abstinence help?”

The Rev Donald Harris says: “Dr Carey tells us the Bible is very clearly against practising homosexuality. What, then, does he make of David’s lament over Jonathan — ‘I grieve for you, Jonathan, my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women (2 Samuel I: 25,26)?”

***

It seems that Lancashire police are trying to tone down their cottage trawls (the official line, as stated by John Bates, chief crown prosecutor for Lancashire and Cumbria, is that “the police had no wish to harass the homosexual community providing they were not causing distress or embarrassment to the public”). Why, therefore, is the Lancashire Evening Telegraph getting all hot under the headlines? In a full-page article, the paper does an expose of “Sleazy lairs where men look for men — sordid sex shock of ‘cottage’ toilets.” They tell of a “rent boy racket” which they say is being run from a public toilet in Blackburn, although the police “have been unable to substantiate the claims’. However, park rangers say that they are certain there are rent boys operating because wait for it — “they have received complaints from old women who have been subjected to obscene suggestions in Wilton Park”. Well, that follows, doesn’t it?

The paper also provides a step-by-step guide to trolling etiquette in the local woods: apparently you flash your car headlights to indicate that you’re hot to trot. “Cars pulled into the clearing, parked up and sat waiting for a signal and response. When the correct contact was made two men would sheepishly wander down the path, to reappear separately about 10 minutes later and return to their cars.” The reporter stopped one man who obligingly told him that the best time was around 4pm.

A police officer says that it’s a matter of priorities, and if there are no complaints, they simply don’t bother. “Public attitudes have changed, and it no longer raises eyebrows,” one officer is quoted as saying.

Still, if I lived in Lancashire, I’d give the cottages in Todmorden Road, Burnley; Blackburn Road, Clayton-le-Moors and Hyndburn a miss for a few weeks until the attention has died down and the local gay-bashers have got fed up with hanging about waiting for victims.

***

The Independent (10 Jan) was the first to report the plans of Tim Luscombe and his London Gay Theatre Company to reinterpret the plays of Shakespeare from a gay point of view. This was too good for the tabloids to miss, and both The Sun and The Star did send-ups on the story the following day.

Their efforts were remarkably similar, both relying on feeble puns — the same feeble puns they used last time there was a “Shakespeare is gay” story. Both papers presented possible gay titles for the bard’s plays. The Sun comes up with Romeo and Julian; The Fairy Wives of Windsor; A Mince Summer Night’s Dream; Julius Teaser and so on. The Star’s efforts included Romeo and Julian; The Fairy Wives of Windsor; A Mince Summer Night’s Dream; Julius Teaser. It was all so hilariously funny that I’m afraid I fell asleep. And in this respect, I can do no better than to quote Hamlet: “How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable.”

That didn’t stop The Times risking an editorial on it (11 Jan) opining that Shakespeare was open to as many interpretations as anyone could think of. “To those who have eyes for them, there are hints of homosexuality to be found in most of the Shakespearean canon … Go for the words and find whatever you want there, with pleasure. The old fellow is a manifesto for all seasons.”

***

Just about every columnist had a go at nominating their “best of the year” awards in January, so I will nominate the best of the “best of the year” as Mark Steyn, television critic of the London Evening Standard, who nominated the Radio Times for the best condom slogan: “If it’s on, it’s in.”

***

There’s a queue of showbiz stars waiting to tell us about their sexuality this month, but first we’ll dispense with “Texan oilman” Steve Wyatt, the gentleman who has been causing such an argy-bargy in the tabloids after it was suspected he was having a “romance” with Her Royal Silliness, The Duchess of York. According to The News of the World (19 Jan) his step-father is “laughing off’ rumours that Steve is homosexual. Commenting on the “gay slurs” Oscar Wyatt says “This whole thing is ridiculous. Steve likes girls. He is a normal, red-blooded male, certainly not gay.”

Thank God for that – Steve Wyatt is one individual the gay community is better off without. And as for Fergie — why doesn’t she get herself a job she knows something about? Perhaps as presenter of The Holiday Programme.

Then came the ludicrous attempt last month by Sheridan Morley to cast doubt upon the homosexuality of Noel Coward. Mr Morley claimed that Noel had had an affair with Gertrude Lawrence. Honestly, the cheek of these heterosexuals and their pathetic attempts to rob us of our finest! The claim was so silly it was shot down within the week. The Independent on Sunday finally nailed the lie when it published a letter from Gertie’s own child Jon Wynne-Tyson who proclaimed: “He was 100 per cent, though not flauntingly, homosexual. I know this to be so not only from his personal admission, but from written and recorded evidence.”

So, yah, boo, sucks to Sheridan Morley.

Next, we have the case of “hunky” John Huntley who, according to The News of the World (5 Jan) “blew his top when he realised his rippling muscles were being used to turn on gay perverts.” Apparently, Mr Huntley — who regularly flashes his arse at readers of The Sun as a Page 7 Fella — discovered that pictures of him undoing his flies were being used in a phone-line advertisement in Gay Times. “I’m quite definitely not gay,” John is said to have “fumed”. “I don’t want people getting the wrong idea.”

All right, calm down John, lovey, we don’t mind you being straight, but try not to be narrow about it as well.

Next in line is Dirk Bogarde, knighted in the New Year’s Honours List and asserting once more that his long-term live-in relationship with his manager the late Antony Forwood, was “platonic”. In a profile in The Observer (5 Jan), Sir Dirk is quoted as saying: “Ours was a totally platonic relationship; Tony was a rather puritanical figure who also happened to hate the idea of homosexuality, but that doesn’t make it any easier to live without him.”

He recalls how on an edition of Desert Island Discs Sue Lawley asked, “So is there nothing? Is there no love in you to give?” He regarded the question as “treacherous”, but as one who seems inordinately fond of public self-examination, Sir Dirk should have welcomed it.

Next in line with a denial is Whitney Houston. In an interview with The People Magazine (5 Jan), the singer says that rumours about her being lesbian are “hurtful and untrue”. “Some sections of the media have gone to town on this angle,” she says. “It’s been very upsetting. The fact is I love men.”

Someone else who loves men is Marvel Comic’s superhero Northstar. According to The Guardian (18 Jan), the muscle-bound member of Alpha Flight Team (his adventures appear in Alpha Flight Comic), “bursts out of the closet” by declaring his sexual identity as he wages a fistfight. “Do not presume to lecture me on the hardships homosexuals must bear,” he thunders, “No one knows better than I. For while I am not inclined to discuss my sexuality with people for it is none of their business … I am gay.”

I wonder who they’ll get to play Northstar in the film version? Certainly not John Inman, the ancient bete noir of the gay community, who has made a comeback as the mincing Mr Humphries in a dire new TV sitcom Grace and Favour. In an interview with The People, the man who has made a living from. chanting “I’m Free” revealed: “Remaining single is a major decision I made some time ago. I’ve put my work before marriage and children because I love being Mr Humphries more than I would a husband and father. I’m married to my career.”

Oh well, at least his fiance wasn’t killed in the war.

Over to Maurice Chevalier who, according to Today (10 Jan) had a series of “surprising relationships” with gentlemen — one of whom was alleged to have been a British soldier. The claim is made in a new biography of the star by David Bret, to be published in March. Mr Bret is quoted as saying: “The first relationship with a man took place when Chevalier was 20. It was an English soldier called Martin Kenny, whom he rescued from drowning.”

***

Nurture or nature — the argument continues. Are gays born or are we created? Having had the hypothalamus theory in August, we now have the twins factor.

According to a report in The Guardian (18 Dec) research carried out in America “found the genes men inherit may account for as much as 70 per cent of the probability that a man will be gay”. This conclusion was reached after a study of 167 men and their brothers at Tufts University, Massachusetts.

The report says that three groups were studied: “56 pairs of identical twins, who develop from the same egg in the womb and thus share the same genes; 54 pairs of fraternal twins, born simultaneously from separate eggs and as genetically similar as any siblings; and 57 pairs of adoptive brothers, who had’ nothing in common genetically.”

The scientists discovered that the more genetically similar each subject was to his brother, the more likely he was to be gay himself. 52 per cent of the identical twin brothers of gay subjects were also gay, compared with 22 per cent of fraternal twins and only 11 per cent of adoptive brothers, So, that settles it, we are mainly the product of our genes.

But wait. Another study of twins carried out by Thomas Bouchard at the University of Minnesota, and reported in The Observer Magazine (15 Dec) appeared to have reached a different conclusion. “There are traits,” says the article, “that have been found to be purely influenced by the environment, such as homosexuality. In the case of female twins in which one of the pair grew up to be lesbian, the other was always found to be heterosexual. In male twins, however, a few pairs were found in which both were homosexual. This could be coincidence or it could imply that homosexuality in men has a more complex causation.”

Well, back to the drawing board troops.

***

Garry Bushell is a member of Mensa — an organisation for people who declare themselves to have above-average IQs. In Mensa’s latest journal he says that homosexuality is a “sad, dead-end perversion” and that people working in TV are promoted “solely because of their sexual preference”.

Which all goes some way to proving that you can be brainy and barmy at the same time. Mr Bushell has now slithered back to The Sun after a brief sojourn on The Star, which took Bushell to court in an effort to make him work his full three months’ notice. They failed and now Mr Bushell is regaling Sun readers once more with his fetid opinions. He probably thinks of it as two media giants fighting to secure a glittering prize. In fact, it is more like two dung beetles fighting over a turd.

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