GAY TIMES June 1991

Princess Di proved her commitment to the fight against HIV with a fine speech — written entirely by herself—to a conference of Aids workers. The London Evening Standard (22 Apr) reported that the Princess launched “an attack on sections of the national tabloid press which labelled Aids the ‘gay plague.’”

However, this very same “section” — namely, The Daily Star —seemed not to have heard this part of the speech, and nowhere in its own report the following day did it mention Di’s criticisms of the reporters, commentators and editors who have behaved in a disgusting manner since the crisis began.

“She called for goodwill and humanity to replace discrimination and fear”, said a noble editorial in The Star, which then went on to say: “She was NOT endorsing rampant homosexuals and junkies who are just indulging their appetites for drugs and sex without a thought for the dangers to mankind.” Goodwill and humanity, eh?

“Diana is a wonderful, caring person”, fawned The Star. I agree, but what a shame she has to mix with the ghastly and repulsive people who seek to undermine everything she is seeking to put right.”

And what a shame her words go unheeded by the people who need to hear them most. For instance, she said: “As I see it, a proper knowledge of the facts, put across with love and sensible practical guidance, is just another aspect of being a parent, or a responsible, concerned teacher.” This was backed up by the Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Donald Acheson, who was reported in The New Scientist (6 Apr) as departing from a prepared speech to say that “efforts must be invested in schools to introduce issues of heterosexuality and homosexuality at an even earlier age.” He welcomed the “irreversible candour” in discussing sex that Aids had brought about.

All good stuff and, you might think, showing that we’re moving in the right direction. But then, The Daily Telegraph (7 May) was suddenly giving publicity to a stunt pulled by a right-wing group called Family and Youth Concern (previously the Responsible Society). This gang of religious maniacs, headed by the seriously demented Valerie Riches, wrote a spoof letter to the Terrence Higgins Trust, purporting to be from a seventeen-year old gay man, asking for “help in spreading awareness of homosexual issues in his youth club”. FYC say that in return they received “A pornographic package of leaflets and posters, some of them depicting naked men in bondage poses.”

“The Terrence Higgins Trust would do well to remember that homosexual intercourse below the age of 21 is illegal”, says Mrs Riches in a distorted and exaggerated pamphlet.

And vicious Val would do well to remember that statistics in Europe show that 50 per cent of those who have contracted the virus are between 25 and 35. Nick Partridge of THT says: “This means that people are becoming infected in their late teens and early 20s. People therefore need the information between 18 and 25.”

Family and Youth Concern are calling for the Government to “cease funding the Terrence Higgins Trust” because, in the words of Valerie Riches, “the material aimed at young people amounted to a proselytising of youth in the ways of homosexual activity.” What does this dirty-minded woman want? Would thousands of dead young people pacify that anti-sex bee she’s got buzzing in her bonnet?

The question I want to ask is: what on earth came over The Daily Telegraph to present such an obvious piece of pressure group propaganda as an unquestioning news item? And what caused them to allow William Oddie to use the “Personal View” column to expand on the disinformation provided by Family and Youth Concern? “It is very clearly no part of Family and Youth Concern’s purpose to elicit a hysterical anti-homosexual reaction by publishing these facts,” he says.

Pardon me, but it seems quite clear that such a reaction was precisely their purpose; FYC has been hysterically anti-gay since it was founded.

Oddie then goes on to say that Aids figures from the Department of Health reveal that only 5 per cent of the total cases are women, whilst 82 per cent are gay men. “Such facts cannot simply be abolished: but there has been a massive attempt to smother them under a blanket of obfuscation, for reasons which have little to do with public health”. Mr Oddie says that this all goes to prove that THT has a “hidden agenda” — it simply wants to protect gay people from losing their “newly won acceptability.”

This is an argument which has been put forward continuously by right-wing journalists and pressure groups (usually with “hidden agendas” of religious fundamentalism), but it ignores completely the fact that every epidemic starts from a small base.

Perhaps Mr Oddie should take a look at a report from The World Health Organisation covered in The Independent (3 May), which forecasts that 40 million people will be infected with HIV by the end of the century, some 10 million higher than the previous estimate. What does Family and Youth Concern have to say about that?

I suppose I should be fair to The Daily Telegraph and say that on 3rd May it allowed Stephen Fry to use his regular Friday column to attack those who are trying to manipulate the Aids tragedy for their own political purposes.

“It’s held by many Christians here and abroad that Aids is a visitation from God, sent to punish those whose lifestyles the Almighty finds reprehensible. This is one of the most startling and disturbing ideas to have emerged from a species already renowned for its fatheadedness and unwillingness to listen to reason… What kind of Divine being could be so capricious and irrational? Where is the disease that only affected concentration camp guards? Where is the virus that strikes down the torturers of children, the corrupt, the murderous and the despotic?”

Mr Fry also touches upon the concept of “innocent” and “guilty” sufferers from Aids. “When we begin to divide the world into the deserving and the underserving, as the Victorians did with the poor, we ae turning our backs on every decent human impulse.”

This is something that might be borne in mind by Mr John de Waal who, in a letter to the editor of The Observer (5 May) reasoned that “those who engage in irresponsible and promiscuous sex” are suffering a punishment that is “self-inflicted”. “There should be a word of difference in our attitudes towards those who already have Aids and those likely to get it.”

What was that Stephen Fry was saying about decent human impulses?

***

Yes, the fundamentalists are everywhere, and they have declared all-out war on gays. The Isle of Man’s recent decision not to decriminalise homosexuality followed a campaign orchestrated by Christian activists. There is a strong possibility, though, that on this occasion they have shot themselves in the foot, because according to The Sunday Telegraph (5 May): “There is no doubt that the law will change. The British government will over-rule the Tynwald if necessary, then impose legislation to bring the island into line with the (European) Convention on Human Rights.”

Meanwhile, in the Irish Republic another group of barmy bigots (this time going under the name of Family Solidarity) are urging the Irish premier Charles Haughey to “drop plans to legalise homosexuality, after a nationwide opinion poll showed a majority against the move.” (Mail on Sunday 5 May)

The poll – organised, of course, by Family Solidarity – showed 49 per cent of the electorate “opposed to the reform” with 34 per cent in favour and 17 per cent unsure.

It’s not all bad news, though, and Scotland’s decision to effectively reduce the gay age of consent from 21 to 16 was greeted by relief by Scotland on Sunday (14 Apr) in an editorial headed: “An overdue reform”. The paper said: “The Lord Advocate’s decision to relax the enforcement of the law on homosexuality in Scotland is to be welcomed. Police must have better things to do than hang around public toilets waiting for infringements of an outdated law which does no harm to third parties… the step should rightly be seen as a step towards removing the stigma attached to homosexual se by bringing the law into line with that which applies to heterosexuals. To that end it is doubly welcome to see Scotland taking the sensible and reforming lead.”

We’ll raise a wee dram to that.

***

The Birmingham Evening Mail (22 Apr) said, on its front page, “Labour to woo teachers in gay mags”. This was, of course, their contribution to the “Loony Left” campaign waged just before the local elections. The story concerned the council’s equal opportunity policy. As is usual in such circumstances, positive efforts are made to recruit those who are deemed to be at a disadvantage in employment. The council document said: “We will advertise such posts in the relevant minority Press.”

So, what’s extraordinary about that? If disadvantaged minorities are under-represented then surely that’s the best way to reach them. “This is the trendy Left road, followed by Liverpool and the London boroughs, and it is sad and disturbing to see Birmingham going the same way,” said Tory group leader, Coun. Reg Hales.

Well, come on then, Mr Hales, what are Birmingham Tories in favour of – kicking gay people out of their jobs and denying opportunities to those not on the “approved” list? I think we should be told.

This all begs another question of course, namely: does Labour really deserve this “obsession with homosexuality” tag? Is the party of the red rose really a friend to the gay community? Well. The Sun very thoughtfully asked this very question of Neill Kinnock. “How will you control Loony Left councils that give out crazy grants to lesbians, homosexuals and fringe minorities – like laying on a course for bereaved black lesbians as one council did?”

Mr Kinnock’s reply made everything crystal clear: “All councils will have to reach quality standards. If any council – Labour or Conservative – doesn’t deliver, our customer contracts schemes, already working in many Labour areas, will give you rights to improvement and compensation. And Labour will let you pass your verdicts in ANNUAL council elections.”

Well, that’s as clear as mud, isn’t it?

***

Welcome Out Department: This month we say hello to Christopher Ciccone, “outed”, in an interview with American gay magazine The Advocate, by his sister, Madonna.

The story was subsequently picked up — and elaborated — by The News of the World (19 Apr), which told us that Christopher’s “ultra-religious father” had “banished” his gay son from the family home. An unnamed friend of Christopher’s is quoted as saying: “In some circles he is proud to be gay, but he did not want the whole world to know … He feels betrayed by his sister.”

So, is Chris so pissed off by Madonna that he’ll never talk to her again? Seems like it. But wait — what’s this in The London Evening Standard (7 May)? A large photograph of Madonna and Christopher arriving together for the Hollywood premiere of her new film — all smiles, all happy, not a hint of bitterness. Perhaps outing him was the best thing she could have done. Far from splitting the family into fragments, the “outing” seems to have done them all a power of good. Sorry, News of the World — you seem to have got it wrong again.

Before we leave the wonderful world of “outing”, I thought you’d be interested to know that Mary Poppins… er, that’s Julie Andrews, “denied rumours” that she and her husband, film director Blake Edwards, are both gay. This was also in The News of the World (5 May) and was, again, lifted from The Advocate. She is quoted thus: “One does think about (relationships with other women). But would I want it? Well, I don’t know.”

Imagine if the rumours had been true — what a coup for the gay community! It would, overnight, have killed stone dead a thousand of those aggravating stereotypes. And it would also explain why those dratted nuns can’t solve a problem like Maria.

***

So that I am not accused of giving an unbalanced view of Christian opinion, I suppose I should report the utterances of the Bishop of Durham, as reported in The Daily Star (2 May). “The Rt Rev David Jenkins says he knows many homosexual clergymen. He said: ‘I value the friendship of such men, their caring qualities are obvious to anyone,’”

Enter that wonderful example of Christian love and compassion, Mr, Terry Dicks MP (Tory): “The Bishop is a disgrace to the church … they idea of gay priests is depraved and unnatural.”

Heaven forfend that the Bishop of Durham should ever be allowed the last word on ANYTHING.

***

The Daily Mirror informed us (3 Apr) that “God’s cop Sir James Anderton was off work yesterday with a broken arm after falling off a ladder.”

I can state categorically that, as God does not like bigots, it is His vengeance for Anderton’s past misdemeanours. In fact, I have it on good authority that God also abhors liars, so I would strongly advise Mrs Valerie Riches not to climb any ladders in the near future.

***

It’s good news that the Metropolitan Police intends to actively recruit gay people into its ranks. However, Peter McKay — the wearily unoriginal star columnist of the London Evening Standard (29 Apr) thought it hilarious. “Something will have to be done about that uniform,” he said, rather predictably. “Gay friends of mine are notoriously fastidious about clothes. That domed hat will have to go. Perhaps a colonial-style cocked hat with egret feathers would sit well on top of an ‘unstructured’ tunic; how about baggy blue trousers and special ‘run fast’ trainers? The truncheon certainly needs looking at.”

This “joke” was so obvious it occurred to other columnists, too. Take this from John Pool of The Hartlepool Mail: “Now I’m sure the boys in blue won’t be sporting a pink uniform … but I dare say they could have one or two choice comments to deal with from the public … your average villain may have some reaction to the prospect of being searched by a man with a limp wrist. I’m sure the boys and girls over at the local nick will be having a good chuckle at the story but it certainly adds a whole new meaning to what makes a bent copper.”

God, this stuff is annoying; don’t the idiots who write it have anything in their heads but boring stereotypes?

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