GAY TIMES May 1991

By the time you read this, the local council elections may well be over. Meanwhile, the Tories and their tabloid poodles are working hard to keep up the Loony Left image of Labour authorities and, of course, homosexuality figures large in their smear tactics.

The Daily Mail (9 Apr) told of “hard-up” Hackney Council in East London “offering special courses to black lesbians who have lost their lovers.” Enter Tory opposition leader on the Council, Joe Lobenstein: “I am not objecting to doing something for black people in need,” he says magnanimously, “I am against giving special privileges to lesbians who lead an unnatural life.”

The Sun (27 Mar) headlined: “Doh, a deer, a female queer” and told of “the lesbian version of The Sound of Music” which is to be staged at the Albany Empire, London, with the support of “two Loony Left councils, Lewisham and Greenwich”. Right on cue, here come the mandatory foaming-at-the-mouth Tory councillors: “What a load of utter rubbish!” Coun Ron Lee “exploded”. “Using community charge payers’ money for this sort of thing is totally wrong,” Alison McNair “added”.

Then The Sun came up with its own ideas for song titles and other gay musicals, including: “Idle-vice, Climb Every Mountain, Forge Every Dyke; Sex-queen going on Seventeen; My Favourite Shirtlifters; Oklahomo; My Queer Lady … etc.”

With the revelation that Mr Murdoch is sacking 1,000 of his staff at News International because of falling circulation, perhaps he’d like a few suggestions for songs to sing at the forthcoming plethora of farewell parties: “Red-necks in the Sunset”, perhaps, or “Follow the Yellow Bigot Road”.

***

A new biography of Nancy Reagan was reported in The Guardian (8 Apr). The book, by Kitty Kelley, reveals that the former President of The United States “loved anti-gay and racist humour, even jokes about Aids.”

It didn’t take long for the enormity of this remark to register. This man, who “loved jokes about Aids”, was probably the only man in the world who could, during the early years, have provided the resources and support to significantly hinder the progress of HIV in the western world. He chose to do nothing. He chose not even to utter the word until many years into his presidency. Instead he made jokes while tens of thousands of young Americans succumbed to this horrible condition.

Time will judge Ronald Reagan, and it would not surprise me if he were to be remembered by history chiefly as the man who laughed as Americans died.

On the same topic, it was interesting to see the contrasting approaches of two Scottish Sunday newspapers. The newest paper, The Sunday Scot (17 Mar) has all the hall-marks of a down-market tabloid: it is vulgar, sleazy, ill-informed, bigoted, cynical and full of cheap lies. It said: “Militant gays have learned nothing from the ravages of Aids. They are returning to the bath house antics of the 60s and 70s. The ‘play now, die later’ gays are mostly members of the militant homosexual groups such as Act-Up and Queer Nation. Many go out looking for HIV-positive drug users. One said: ‘This is part of the thrill.’ The gays said they love ‘flirting with death’ and get turned on by ‘living on the edge.’”

While it may be true that ‘safer sex’ campaigns appear to be becoming less and less effective, the sheer stupidity of suggesting that large numbers of well-informed gays are deliberately trying to infect themselves with HIV is little short of slanderous. I’d hoped that this sort of sensationalist approach to Aids reporting had gone out of fashion some years ago, but it still seems to have some mileage north of the border.

The broadsheet Scotland on Sunday, on the other hand, reported (17 Mar) in a straightforward manner the efforts being made in San Francisco to counter the crisis. Education about safer sex — difficult enough even in ideal circumstances — is still being thwarted by “conservatives”. A poster aimed specifically at gay men under 25, who are proving resistant to the safer sex message, depicted “two naked teenage boys draped in the Stars and Stripes and quoting from the American Constitution: ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’”

“It was taken to be unpatriotic by conservatives offended by the link between country, homosexuality and dis-ease,” says the paper.

It mystifies me that few outside the gay community ever seem to challenge these ‘conservatives’ who appear to imagine that they, and they alone, have a right to claim patriotism. Their callousness shows that they don’t seem to care if thousands of young Americans lose their lives to HIV, these bullying rednecks are indifferent to the terrible grief that HIV is bringing into the lives of millions of their fellow citizens.

It’s about time the rotten “sensibilities” of these traditionalists and fundamentalists were recognised for what they are — evil.

***

Amid the hoo-ha over gay parenting, The News of the World (31 Mar) carried a feature on “gay telly actor Jim McManus” who “revealed how for 18 years he led a bizarre double life — as a secret DAD.”

Reading on, you come to realise that there was nothing at all “bizarre” about Jim’s home life. He simply helped raise boyfriend Terry’s child, who came to live with the couple when he was three years old.

“Terry split up from his wife not long after his son’s birth, but later she asked us to take care of the boy … we were by no means well off, but he had a happy life. And I can assure everyone that he has grown up as a perfectly ‘straight’ heterosexual young man.”

You might think this is just the sort of example of successful gay parenting that needs bringing to light to counteract The Big Lie that homosexuals cannot, under any circumstances, bring up well-adjusted children. News of the World readers might be puzzled by this contradiction of received wisdom, but they need not worry because the story goes on to give them just what they want to hear — it claims that Jim McManus is “AGAINST gay and lesbian couples being allowed to adopt children”.

I spoke to Jim McManus about the apparently contradictory sting in the tail of this story. He assures me that this isn’t what he said and it isn’t what he meant. He wanted to reassure Gay Times readers that he is certainly not against gay parenting and is seeking a correction with the NoW’s editor.

He learned the hard way that tabloid reporters hear what they want to hear and tell their readers what they think they want to know.

***

Pop singer Vanilla Ice made a “shock” confession to The Sun (13 Mar) that he was once a gay basher. “Ice, 23, admits he used to roam the streets looking for homosexuals to attack. He only stopped when he was arrested for assaulting an 18-year-old youth in Dallas. The rapper was fined £1250 in 1988 for spraying the teenager in the eyes with mace gas and beating him over the head in a car park.”

Apparently Vanilla (oh, please!), now regrets his thuggish behaviour. “‘What I did was very terrible. I beat up people because …’ he imitated a limp wrist … ‘they were gay.’” He ends by saying that “I just feel so ashamed.”

Well, surely it’s better to be a reformed gay basher than a gay basher. And perhaps he could make up for the wrongs he’s done gay people by donating a large amount of cash to a gay organisation.

***

The disgusting developments in the Isle of Man beggar belief. It’s necessary to ask: are these people living in the same universe as the rest of us? Take this letter from an unnamed “concerned Manxman” in The Isle of Man Examiner (9 Apr): “There is more than enough crime, disorder, cruelty and sickness in the world today without these types of people advocating to permit their type of crime and corruption and no one will convince me that these filthy creatures are not largely responsible for the spread of Aids. They are very sick people, even sick animals are put down … these abnormal people should be … shipped to a desert Island where they can carry out their filthy and disgusting habits to their hearts’ content, leaving we normal beings to live a cleaner, moral and Christian existence.”

Normal? This Neanderthal considers himself normal? In that case, colour me queer!

***

What is it about Cliff Richard that makes it so difficult for people to believe what he says? I mean, how many times has he been asked “Are you gay?” and how many times has he denied it? Yet still the question hangs in the air. The Sun reported (13 Mar) that the ageing pop singer was “besieged by a gang of gay actors and actresses demanding that he ‘come out of the closet.’ “This all happened at a studio where Derek Jarman’s new film about Edward II was being filmed. According to The Sun “the gays … tried to break down the rehearsal room door and chanted: ‘Come out of the closet Cliff and declare yourself a full-blown homosexual’”

This seems rather a clumsy slogan — try chanting it with a group of friends and you’ll see what I mean.

Cliff insists, says the paper, that “he is celibate and has NO sex life.” That doesn’t answer the question, of course, but it does give Spitting Image a good joke for its next series. According to The Sun (11 Apr) a sketch will show two of Cliff’s sperm “complaining about their lack of exercise.”

But taunting Cliff Richard is rather like kicking your granny — a terrible thing to do to an old lady. And it gave John Smith of The People the opportunity to return to his favourite topic (17 Mar): “The ugly Face of the Gay Gestapo.” “Who the hell do these gays think they are, acting like some liberation lynch mob? I don’t know if Cliff Richard is homosexual and frankly I couldn’t care less if he is in the closet, out of the closet or on top of the wardrobe. That’s his business. It is certainly NOT the business of a bunch of braying bully boys carrying the banner for gay rights. What about Cliff’s right to privacy?”

Unfortunately, Mr Smith forgets once again about his own paper’s record on the question of invasions of privacy. The list of individuals involuntarily ‘outed’ by The People is long indeed. The paper has, in the past, acted brutally and mercilessly in its pursuit of gay individuals. If Mr Smith would like a list of the men and women whose privacy his paper has so cruelly traduced, I’ll be pleased to provide it. It will be long as his arm.

And whilst we’re at it, will Mr Smith be able to extract a promise from his editor that if evidence of Cliff Richard’s homosexuality (or heterosexuality) ever becomes available, it will not be splashed across the front page? And can he get blood from a stone?

The dire consequences of criticising Cliff became apparent to loud-mouth columnist Julie Burchill when she commented (Mail on Sunday 17 Mar) on the great star’s stated desire to play Heathcliff in a musical version of Wuthering Heights. “The chairperson of the Bronte Society … seems to think he’s not rough, tough or nasty enough. I tend to agree, may I suggest another role? Cathy.”

This caused Ms Burchill to be inundated by filthy and threatening letters from the good Christian folk who make up Cliff’s fan club. “Apparently there are hundreds of seriously sick people out there… who have somehow got it into their skulls that I was suggesting that the Great One is a poove, a pederast and an all-round perve.” She wasn’t, of course, and finishes by saying: “For the last time, Cliff Richard is all man. Got it?”

It’s very naughty of Julie Burchill to encourage the inadequates who inhabit the fantasy world of Cliff-worship to believe that their hero could not, under any circumstances, be gay. One of these days they are going to get a very nasty shock when real life creeps up behind them and says “Boo”.

***

The controversy raging within the gay community over whether it is acceptable for us to refer to ourselves — and each other — as “queers” has now leaked out into the tabloids. “Young homosexuals don’t want to be GAY anymore,” The Star (9 Apr) informed us, “they want to be QUEER.” They say that being called gay makes them seem like white, middle-class softies. Queers, we’re told, are tougher.

The paper goes on to tell us that “the queer goings-on have angered older homosexuals” — one of whom is quoted as saying “We fought for 20 years to get the word gay accepted and now the younger homosexuals want to get rid of it.”

I am aware of the theory that poisonous words can be detoxified if they are defiantly adopted by those they are intended to insult. Lesbians have been calling themselves dykes for some time now, and many seem happy with the word. But hearing an up-front lesbian calling herself a dyke is a different thing altogether from hearing a hostile heterosexual male calling her the same thing.

I tried for many years to persuade newspapers to stop using words like “poof and “poofter”; my main purpose in doing this was to draw attention not so much to the words themselves, but to the aggressive contexts in which they were being used. No-one in the straight world seemed to have noticed that homosexuals were being vilified and abused on a daily basis by scummy but powerful newspapers. By making a fuss about the insulting words, I was also drawing attention to the almost unbelievable persecution of which the words were only a part.

People, of course, are entitled to call themselves whatever they like, but if our community does decide to consign the word ‘gay’ to the scrapheap, I feel we will be throwing away one of our finest achievements. Whatever the members of OutRage! or Queer Nation might say, ‘gay’ has attained a wonderful universality — the terms black gay man, or disabled gay man or working class gay man all have the ring of authenticity. Gay is a word that belongs to us all.

Just because some tyro activist says gay is middle-class doesn’t make it so. I think whoever is responsible for such a preposterous idea is fighting a different cause to the rest of us. The more-politically-pure-than-thou brigade should not be allowed to demean our accomplishments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s