GAY TIMES April 1991

It seems The Sun and The Star had been looking forward to the gay holiday camp weekend almost as much as the people for whom it was meant, and everyone knew our boys from the scandal-sheets would be there incognito. Despite a “Hunt the Sun reporter” contest, the tabloids’ top-flight investigators somehow avoided detection and managed to file their reports from this dangerous front.

The Sun’s Gordon Stott told his readers (4 Mar) “The campers really camped it up at Butlin’s … More than 1,200 homosexuals, lesbians and transvestites had a gay old time when they converged on Skegness for a hi-de-hi holiday.”

The Sun of course, couldn’t actually allow its readers to imagine that the weirdos were having a good time, and had to spoil the whole thing by becoming its usual unpleasant self …“When the sun went down the ‘fun and games’ took on a seedier nature … Skin tight jeans or Lycra cycle shorts and leather jackets over bare chests were favoured by the majority of them.” There was a “lesbian WEDDING where a butch woman named Trigger kissed and fondled her shaven-headed partner… men openly KISSING other men … gays MASSAGING each other as they sat at the poolside bar … transvestites PARADING … two MASKED men indulging in mock oral sex on a dance floor.”

The bizarre capitalisation is entirely the work of The Sun.

With the full-page article was a picture of Sun-man Stott receiving his prize for coming fourth in the handbag-throwing contest. He is a fat, smirking creature and need not have worried about being sexually molested: no gay man with an iota of taste would have gone within a hundred feet of him.

The Star’s intrepid undercover operator was Frank Curran and his story (another full page — 4 Mar) was littered with words like “woofter”, “fag”, “queer” and “pansies”. Mr Curran claimed third place in the handbag throwing contest.

These third and fourth placings were derided however in The Sport by Kiss-Me-Quick Nkwocha who claimed he’d won first prize. He’d been “stunned”, he said, by what the “nancy boys” were doing, so stunned that despite his “come on” pseudonym he’d “barricaded” himself in his chalet to hide from the “wolf-whistles” and from a man called Julian who’d put “a groping hand on my bot”.

Despite their best efforts, these three reports could not hide the fact that everyone — even the moralising miseries from the papers — had a great time. No violence, no rape, no pillage, not so much as a broken glass. Can the wonderful, heterosexual tabloid-readers taking their holidays in Majorca claim the same?

***

Whose face is that, grinning maniacally from the cover of the February issue of Searchlight “the international anti-fascist monthly”? Why, it’s none other than our old friend Garry Bushell, The Sun’s resident “TV critic” and supposed “scourge of the gay community”.

What on earth could such a wonderful person be doing or the cover of a magazine devoted to exposing crypto-Nazis? Well, investigators at Searchlight allege that our dear Gazza has close links with the National Front. He is also said to have attended the somewhat suspect 80th birthday party of Lady Mosley, wife of war-time fascist Sir Oswald.

Private Eye, which has been conducting a gratifyingly spiteful vendetta against Bushell, approached Gazza for confirmation or otherwise of these allegations. Mr Bushell eventually admitted that, yes, he had attended a Mosley gathering — but only in his capacity as a Sun reporter. The rest he denied.

Searchlight also included a Sun photo which appears to show Gazza speaking to a young NF street activist and trying to pass him off as a homeless person forced to sleep on the streets This must be sheer coincidence —Gazza would surely not keep company with such a well-known racist and thug — let alone fabricate stories for The Sun. Would he?

As regular readers know, Mr Bushell’s loyalties have changed over the years. At one time his allegiance was to the extremely loony Left; now, if Searchlight is to be believed, he subscribes to the utterly barmy Right.

Of course, his views, as expressed in The Sun, bear no resemblance whatsoever to the racist, homophobic, jingoistic and violent filth espoused by the National Front. Just look at this example from March 6th issue of The Sun, when he was writing about Channel Four’s “Free For All” public access programme: “It started with creepy Peter Tatchell showing sick scenes of men snogging — the real voice of Joe Public that! — and has gone on to plug more lost or loony causes. You won’t find anyone arguing for the return of capital punishment or defending the Isle of Man’s stand on perversion here. Everyday views are kept off TV.”

So, is Garry Bushell a sinister and dangerous extremist or is he just a ridiculous little man who can’t make his mind up which immature political creed to support next?

***

Columnist Jaci Stephen was contemplating in The Daily Mail (28 Feb), why it is that straight women are so fond of the company of gay men. “Most heterosexual men only have to look at their own behaviour, or the behaviour of their friends, to find the answer,” she says. “Even the briefest observation of their activities is enough to convince a woman that they are a species quite unlike anything else on the planet.”

Ms Stephen opines that women and gay men share “the better parts of their personalities” with each other: “They are the qualities that women admire, and usually find, amongst their own sex — gentleness, sensitivity, emotional openness.”

I’ll go this far with Ms Stephen, but then the rationale becomes a little suspect: “One of the reasons that women and gay men delight in each other’s company is because each is obsessed with just one subject: men … The great comfort for women, is the discovery that gay men always have a worse time with men than they do.”

My observation of marriage indicates the contrary, I’m afraid: a woman is far more likely to be beaten up by her husband than a gay man by his male partner. Putting the “always” in italics is a bit rich, really.

Jaci Stephen obviously has real affection for her gay friends and it’s good to see such stuff in The Daily Mail, but unfortunately she spoils it all by ending with this: “If all men displayed the same qualities that women admire in gay men, women would stop pursuing them. Because the truth is, at the end of the day, that there’s one thing a heterosexual man can do for a girl that a gay man can’t.”

Smash her face in, perhaps?

***

More-offensive-than-thou department: On hearing that Sussex University was offering students “a degree course in gay and lesbian studies” (London Standard 27 Feb), loony Tory MP Terry Dicks said: “The place should be shut down and disinfected. If there was such a thing as financial carpet bombing, Sussex University should be the target.”

The following day Richard Littlejohn asked in The Sun: “What’s with the ‘financial’ Tel?”

***

Given that defections from Britain’s churches are running at 1,000 a week, I wonder whether there are enough people to bother about Christian attitudes to homosexuality any more. However, just for the record, here are a few of the developments and comments from the past month:

  1. “Two of the largest mainline Protestant bodies in the US are considering recommendations that they abandon their opposition to homosexual practice … the Presbyterian Church and the United Methodist Church.” — Church Times (1 Mar)
  2. “When he was asked about his attitudes towards homosexual clergy and ordinands, Dr Hope (the next Bishop of London) made it plain … there would be no discrimination against anyone on grounds of sexuality.”
  3. “Half the time that’s the truth of the homo and lesbian societies, that they are in total rebellion to God … And what did God say to Sodom and Gomorrah? And what did he do? He rained down fire from heaven and consumed them, the city and all the filth…” — Rev Paul Lister, in the parish magazine of St George’s, Tufnell Park, London.
  4. “The homosexuality of clergy will continue to be a problem as long as sexuality is a human problem” — George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury (Readers Digest — March issue).

***

The Morning Star (28 Feb) reported the deplorable findings of an Isle of Man parliamentary select committee which recommends that the island’s anti-gay laws should remain intact. The report said: “Maintaining such a criminal offence is likely to serve to reduce significantly the incidence of the HIV virus and Aids.”

This line of thinking was neatly demolished by a spokesman for the Campaign for Homosexual Equality who is quoted as saying: “The natural conclusion to this argument should be that heterosexual sex should now be banned as it is within this sphere that the incidence of Aids is now rising fastest.”

I fear this logic will not have wide circulation in Mad Manx circles.

***

With the local Government elections coming up in May it is, of course, time to dust down the loony left and give it another outing. Although there is little money being spent on gay and lesbian issues these days, there are other angles the papers can use to make the connection between homosexuality and extreme socialism. The Daily Star (“Queer Street” — 8 Mar) told the tale of “loony” Newham Council in East London which is considering naming some streets after “gay heroes” as nominated by the council’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Group. “Vidyapati Drive, Tseko Simon Nkoli Road and Audre Lord Avenue could soon be appearing on the local map” it told its apparently credulous readers.

Just a week earlier the Newham Reporter had reported, quite straight-forwardly, that these possible new street names “were suggested in order to provide positive images of black people, women, the disabled and homosexuals”. And why not indeed?

Vidyapati was a 15th century gay Bengali poet, Nkoli is a respected black gay South African activist and African American lesbian Audre Lord is another poet highly praised on both sides of the Atlantic.

But following age old tabloid tradition, The Daily Star wheeled out the local Tory bigot to “storm”: “Whatever will they think of next?”

I don’t know, but whatever it is I expect the mean-spirited, mini-minded Star will keep us informed.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Express (10 Mar), returned to the subject of how wonderful (Tory) Ealing Council in West London had managed to reduce its Poll Tax by £80 by simply reversing Labour’s policy of “squandering money on services for lesbians and gays”. The trouble with this story, which is becoming self-perpetuating, is that it is untrue. The previous Labour council spent almost nothing on lesbians and gays, and Ealing’s poll tax has been reduced by £40 not £80. What The Sunday Express, and all the other papers which are retailing this story, failed to explain was that the council in Ealing have increased rents by an incredible 100 per cent in the past year and has reduced essential services scandalously.

Still, if you’re an habitual liar, which the right-wing press is, you might as well make a good job of it.

***

The large-scale anti-Clause 25 protest march through London brought little news coverage in the straight press (a photo in The Observer, a news paragraph and comment feature in The Sunday Times) but it did produce the predictable whingeing letters to the London Evening Standard (20 Feb): “As a housewife with two young children I was furious the way central London was hijacked last week by so called ‘gay activists’ … I would like to know if the streets of London are the right place for children to witness two women kissing passionately or to see groups of young men walking down the road holding hands.”

This selfish woman — who imagines that the world belongs exclusively to her and those like her and who seems totally incapable of understanding the threat that prompted the march —met her match when a lesbian mother wrote in reply (27 Feb): “Mrs Richardson requests that we should keep what we do in the bedroom out of sight, ‘where it belongs’. I wish that straight couples would pay us the same courtesy. Walk through any park on a summer day and there are straight couples everywhere keeping it far from private. Almost the only thing they don’t do is indulge in the sex act itself. Yet when my lover and I faced a long separation we couldn’t even say goodbye in the same way other lovers would.”

***

Welcome Out department: This month’s public figures outed by newspapers are Jane Fonda and Shelley Winters who, according to The Sun (8 Mar) “had a steamy lesbian affair”.

***

So-now-we-know-the-truth department: “For seven years Martina Navratilova and Judy Nelson were inseparable … but now the affair is over. And the couple are set to shock the world again with one of the most bitter public ‘divorces’ in American history” — Sunday Mirror (10 Mar)

“The long-time companion of bisexual tennis ace Martina Navratilova last night DENIED they had split. She said: ‘We’re together, and expect to be for a long time.’” — News of the World (10 Mar)

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