GAY TIMES September 1991

The outing “hoax” started in The Sunday Times (28 July), but turned, during the following week, into a maniacal frenzy which sent the British press into overdrive.

FROCS had succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. [Note: FROCS – Faggots Rooting Out Closet Sexuality – was an ad hoc group that declared it intended to “out” a number of high profile public figures and called a press conference for this purpose. At the conference they said it was all a hoax, there would be no outings from them but asked the press to look at its own double standards on the issue.]

FROCS stated aim was to expose tabloid hypocrisy and homophobia, and all the papers — tabloid and broadsheet alike — performed right on cue. Every one of them editorialised in a most alarmingly self-righteous fashion. They said the supposed campaign was a “witch-hunt” (Daily Star 29 July); “spiteful” (Sun); “Bitchy and scabrous” (Daily Mirror); “downright nasty” (Independent); “McCarthyism” (Daily Telegraph); “despicable and vicious” (Daily Mail); “cruel” (Daily Express).

However, whatever the rights and wrongs of “outing” it gave the press a prime opportunity to dispense their homophobic poison in large measure. “This fascist gay army is doomed to failure,” said George Gordon, The Daily Mail’s disgraceful American correspondent. He started out talking about outing, but rapidly got on to his usual hobby horse — Aids. “The whole outing exercise was, in fact, the last desperate throw of angry gay activists who had failed to convince the world that Aids was as much a threat to the community at large as it was to homosexuals.” He maintains that Aids is a “lethal disease of choice”.

Mr Gordon says that the poster campaign was “as vicious and nasty as anything dreamed up by the Nazis in denouncing Jews a tool of psychological terrorism,” Yet in a phrase that could almost have been written by Dr Goebbels himself, Gordon says: “It was redefining the concept of suggesting that a gay community is genuine, inescapable minority into which one is born, from which one derives advantages and disadvantages and to which one owes inherent allegiance. It brands as immoral the attempt by prominent gays to escape the social penalties of homosexuality and advances a claim of moral kinship.”

Change the word gay to Jew in this passage and you will find classic fascist double-talk. Mr Gordon also says: “If any group needed an excuse to discriminate against gays, the Outing project has handed it to them on a plate.” Do journalists constitute such a group, by any chance?

But we needn’t worry — George Gordon’s powers of prophecy are somewhat flawed. A few years ago, he was writing in The Daily Mail that “The Gay Parades Are Over”, predicting that within a couple of years Aids would utterly destroy the gay community.

Since then the Gay Parades have become even larger and the gay community much stronger.

Lynette Burrows in The Sunday Telegraph (4 Aug) is no better. She states: “The aim of outing is to improve the civil liberties and general acceptability of homosexuality by demonstrating how many covert homosexuals there are doing a useful job in public life … It is as if a group who wanted hard drugs legalised were to publish a list of those pop stars who sniff cocaine, in the hope that their fame would commend their vice.” So, having a homosexual orientation is the equivalent of injecting drugs, is it? Such a thoughtful woman!

She says that the “common man” does not glean his concept of right and wrong from observing the activities of those who consider themselves to be “the best people”. “So are there any factors which might make the common man change his opinion that the Bible had it roughly right when it described homosexuality as wrong and dangerous; or is there even anything in the nature of ‘outing’ which might cause the common man to think that he had misjudged the homosexual lobby?”

Once again, the Nazis are invoked: “The instinctive repugnance which ordinary people feel for the practice of homosexuality has little to do with religion, as can be seen from rabidly anti-homosexual regimes like the Nazis’, which punished it with death, and from our own society which has become more openly and crudely anti-homosexual as our religious tolerance wanes.” So what exactly is Lynette Burrows’ point? That it’s OK to emulate the Nazis if that is what the ‘common man’ wants?

Burrows says that young men are “persuaded out of their role as husbands and fathers of the next generation by a practice that is the literal death of all that most parents have lived for and all the treasures of the temperament, intellect and talent that they have nurtured. This is not an idle fear to be merely dismissed as mere prejudice; it is the healthy response of families and of a society which know themselves to be threatened.”

These kinds of specious arguments, based on premises that don’t stand up to rational examination, are becoming more common in the “posh” papers. Listen to Barbara Amiel in The Sunday Times: “The excuse they (FROCS) offer for this appalling business is the need for strong role models for their community. What community is this? A community defined by the object of sexual desire. Militants have actually convinced perfectly decent people who are afraid of being unenlightened that the morally superior thing to do is view homosexuals as a separate, distinct group with a specific lifestyle and different values from the rest of us.”

Perhaps if Ms Amiel occasionally thought before she wrote, she would realise that the gay community arose to shield its members from constant attacks from “decent” people such as herself and Lynette Burrows and George Gordon. It’s because of their attitudes that “militant” homosexuals need to exist in the first place. Such simple reasoning seems beyond their grasp,

Later on, The Daily Star (7 Aug) was telling us on its front page that Tom Selleck was “proud to be straight” while The London Evening Standard (6 Aug) said that “so hetero Selleck sinks the outers.”

This wasn’t quite correct. Selleck had, in fact, sued the disgusting American tabloid The Globe which just happens to be edited by our old friend Wendy (sewer-rat) Henry, Regular readers will remember Ms Henry was sacked from a couple of British tabloids after dragging their standards lower than anyone thought they could possibly go. Nice to see her getting stung again. Well done, Tom.

Meanwhile, The Sun carried a story about Prince Edward headlined “Eddie’s Big Secret” (7 Aug). Far from being what you thought, it reported that Eddie “got into trouble for having girlfriends in his room at university. But he always tried to keep his student flings secret to protect the girls from publicity.”

Later that week a commentator was crooning: “I’ll bet the champagne corks were popping at Buckingham Palace at the news that Eddie had girls in his room after midnight”.

I think maybe her Majesty is a little more knowing than that — and it could be that she managed to obtain a complete copy of the Paris-Match which had six pages ripped out by distributors before it reached British shops. I am not allowed to tell you what was on those pages — let’s just say that Liz and Philip are probably trying to force the corks back into the champagne bottles at this very moment.

In America the outing campaign continues apace, and a senior Pentagon official has been outed in order to protest at the army’s persecutory attitude towards gay servicemen and women. Commenting on this latest “scandalous” example (14 Aug), The London Evening Standard’s Washington correspondent, James Bowman, argued that this man was not personally responsible for the witch-hunts that go on in the armed services and therefore shouldn’t have been targeted. The outers claim that because he works in the defence department he is helping administer the injustices and is, therefore, a hypocrite. In support of his argument, Mr Bowman cites a new film Europa Europa, the plot of which concerns “a Jewish boy in wartime Poland who, by fantastic happenstance, finds himself a member of the Hitler Youth”. At one point his true identity is discovered by a German soldier – an ex-actor – who is gay. The boy asks him “is it hard to play someone else?” The soldier replies: “It’s easier than being yourself.” Mr Bowman is moved to ask: Perhaps Queer Nation would consider such ‘hypocrites’ for outing, too. [Note: Queer Nation was the American group that started the outing controversy by publishing posters naming closeted gay actors.]

The answer is that if they are persecuting other people like themselves who choose not to pass for Nazis, then yes, yes and thousand times yes.

***

The debate on Christianity and homosexuality rumbles on in the pages of the religious press.

The Catholic Herald (9 Aug) reported that “The Vatican has intervened to block a north Italian parish priest’s initiatives in favour of homosexuals who continue to practise their Catholic faith.” The priest in question was Fr Goffredo Crema of San Savino, near Milan.

The priest had been writing articles in a gay magazine and helping to run a telephone helpline for gays. But the Vatican’s attempt to stifle the good father’s ministrations to his homosexual flock have brought deserved resistance. “Homosexuals from all over Italy as well as non-gay university professors, leading writers, journalists and a few Members of Parliament have lodged an appeal with Fr Crema’s bishop to fight Rome’s ruling.”

Meanwhile, according to The Guardian (14 Aug), “US public television is to pull a short film about a church demonstration by Aids activists from a broadcast later this month. It blames the ban on the film ‘pervasive tone of ridicule’ of the Roman Catholic Church.”

If it continues to behave in such an inhumane and fascistic manner, ridicule is the least the Vatican deserves.

Meanwhile, The Church Times (26 July) reported that the Episcopal Church (the US equivalent of the Church of England) discussed yet again whether it could sanction the ordination of practising homosexuals or bless same-sex relationships. Once again it failed to come to a consensus on either question.

The Church Times said: “Neither of the main competing proposals on homosexuality that had been sent to the convention was adopted. Instead, the 1,050 bishops, priests and lay deputies opted for compromise and maintains an ambiguous status quo.”

The Church Times Diary (7 Jun) was writing about Bishop Spong of Newark, New Jersey, who has spoken out strongly in favour of acceptance for gays within the religious community. The diarist noted that in a recent visit to London, Bishop Spong gave a talk “Seeking to show how similar standards for heterosexuals and homosexuals might work, he suggested that certain pursuits were life-denying for both; and along with things like prostitution and pornography he listed promiscuity.”

Apparently, some gay people in the audience had objected to this, saying they found promiscuity life-enhancing. The diarist opines that “this is where the battle ground will one day lie. Even if homosexuals achieved acceptance of their argument that ‘It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves,’ those among them who went on to claim that they could be excused any attempt at the virtue of fidelity would find the going very difficult.”

I imagine that many Christians would say that if you want to join the club, you have to play by the rules. The problem is that nobody seems to know what the rules of this particular game are.

Indeed, Stephen Fry was writing in his column in The Daily Telegraph (12 July) about the dangers of being selective (as so many frenzied fundamentalists are) in laying down biblical law. “There are a couple of passages from Leviticus where it is explicitly stated that it is ‘an abomination’ for a man to lie with another as with a woman. These are eagerly seized upon by those who would wish to demonstrate the wickedness of homosexuality. Neighbouring passages which state, with equal fervour, that thou shalt not wear a garment made of two different kinds of stuff, nor round off thine hair at the temples, nor mar the edges of thy beard, nor make any tattoos upon thyself, nor breed one kind of cattle with another, the-se are cheerfully ignored. Yet Leviticus states that all statutes must be obeyed, from kosher food to the sacrifice of a lamb (or two turtle doves if you cannot afford a lamb) made by a woman who has purified herself after giving birth … One is not given the option of picking and choosing between these eccentric commands.”

I wonder what Rev Tony Higton has to say about that?

***

The Daily Star’s “Poofters on Parade” outrage drew more than 170 complaints from all over the country to the Press Complaints Commission, and will be adjudicated on at its September meeting. Despite what you may have read in The Pink Paper, the meeting will not be chaired by Brian Hitchen, the author of the offending pieces.

***

Welcome Out Department: Florence Nightingale. The Sunday Express produced a bit more evidence to add to that already available that the Lady with the Lamp was a Sapphic sister. Major General Frank Richardson, aged 94, says that a “distinguished lady forbear of his called Helen was almost certainly seduced, within a whisker” by Ms Nightingale. The tenor of the piece, as you’d expect from The Sunday Express, extremely unpleasant. But at least it adds another hero to our rapidly-expanding roll-call of honour.

***

The Daily Star told its readers that “a London council tried to push through an odious policy. And they tried to cover their tracks. They wanted to foster three sad little girls with a lesbian couple. They made the girls wards of court. They persuaded a High Court judge to rule that newspapers would not be able to breathe a word about the story. That no questions should be asked. That the name of Southwark Council should not be mentioned. They reckoned without The Daily Star.”

Yes, that brave Mr Hitchen has managed to ensure that these “sad little girls” will remain in care – because he doesn’t approve of the lifestyle of the two women who were prepared to offer them a home.

Through some perverted logic, Hitchen manages to present himself as a hero. But this squalid bullying of innocent people in a cause for shame, not self-congratulation.

The usual backbench storm troopers were wheeled out to back up Fuhrer Hitchen. Gerald (holier-than-thou) Howarth was quoted as saying: “It must be a matter of public policy everywhere that children are not fostered by lesbians and homosexuals. That’s the way the Almighty ordained it. Whatever gloss you put on it, homosexuality is a deviation.”

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