Gay Times, February 1991

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography “The Reluctant Gay Activist” is now available on Amazon

SHOULD Ian McKellen have taken a knighthood from the Wicked Witch of the West, or shouldn’t he? This has been the question exercising the minds of the gay community’s celebrities this month, as well as the nation’s Press. 

Derek Jarman is firmly of the opinion that he shouldn’t and said so in a strongly-worded article in The Guardian (4 Jan). The famous filmmaker chastised the celebrated actor thus: “As a queer artist I find it impossible to react with anything but dismay to his acceptance of this honour from a government which has stigmatised homosexuality through Section 28 … signalling that gay relationships are to be regarded as just pretence, and which is poised, by means of Clause 25 of the Criminal Justice Bill, to take important steps towards recriminalising homosexuality… Why did you accept this award, Ian? It diminishes you.” 

This was followed on January 9th by a letter in support of Sir Ian signed by 18 stage and screen luminaries. “As Gay and Lesbian artists” it began “we would like to respectfully distance ourselves from Derek Jarman’s article.” And front-page news was made. 

The debate was thrown open, and the papers had a field day Libby Purves in The Sunday Express (13 Jan) said: “It was strangely touching when a group of famous gay actors came out publicly in order to defend Sir Ian McKellen’s knighthood. It felt like a belated, sad tribute to all those past actors.,. who spent all their lives disguising their true nature by posing with fake girlfriends and even marrying … They did it so as not to ‘alienate their public’. Thank God that we, the public, have grown up now.” 

The public may have grown up, Libby dear, but journalists certainly haven’t. The tired old hacks are still, underneath it all, shocked and affronted by homosexuality. Having failed to deter us so far with their crude abuse, they’ve now fallen back on pretending that gay life is all irrelevant tosh. The Sun was quick off the mark, and in its early editions (10 Jan) it said:  Gay and lesbian show business stars applauded the knighthood for actor Ian McKellen. They see it as some kind of victory for homosexuals. This is nonsense. So long as he remains within the law, no-one objects to Ian McKellen receiving all kinds of recognition. He was knighted for his talent as an actor, not for his sexual preferences.” 

This sentiment was echoed by John Smith of The People (13 Jan): “The suggestion that homosexuality is some kind of handicap when it comes to being honoured is vet another example of the gay community seeking to prove prejudice where none exists … Sir Ian was honoured for being a brilliant actor. What the hell does homosexuality have to do with it?” 

Peter McKay, the London Evening Standard’s tiresome “star columnist”, took the argument a step further (10 Jan): “I wasn’t aware of the British Gay Movement. Most intelligent homosexuals shun organisations which seek to define them simply on the grounds of sexual preference. Stupid homosexuals, and sly ones who can make a career out of their sexual orientation, think differently.” 

Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the homosexual-obsessed Sunday Telegraph Comment Section wrote in similar terms about “the love that should not shriek its name”. Mr Wheatcroft says: “Is Out the right way to come? Is homosexuality an appropriate political issue? Does it make sense to speak of a Gay Movement and a gay community?”

Well, I suppose it doesn’t make much sense to speak of such things if you’re straight and not under threat from laws which are being introduced by stealth. And as for homosexuality being a political issue, Mr Wheatcroft says that he hopes “no one wants to go back to the days when men were imprisoned for the love that dare not speak its name”. Perhaps someone should appraise him of the Criminal Justice Bill and then he can put his question again, this time to Mr Major: is homosexuality an appropriate political issue, Prime Minister? 

Julie Burchill, bilious harpy of The Mail on Sunday, couldn’t resist the topic, and wrote (13 Jan): “Why doesn’t Dame Ian simply issue a press release explaining that he accepted the gong because, like most of us girls, he just loves flashy jewellery and being made a fuss of?” The daftness of Ms Burchill’s opinions and the hysterical manner in which they are expressed are advertised as “provocative” and “controversial”. In fact, they are just plain drivel. 

Chris Smith wrote an I’m-with-McKellen article in The Observer (I3 Jan) describing his own experiences of coming out in public life. George Melly, writing in the London Evening Standard (11 Jan), couldn’t make his mind up which side he’s on (he’s described as “married now for 30 years, was a bisexual into his early 30s” so indecision is nothing new to him). In the end, he concludes that although he thinks McKellen was right to accept the honour, he was glad that Jarman wrote his protest. “I’m glad it was over the top and I hope it frightens the horses.” 

McKellen has remained regally silent amidst all the hoo-ha but in a view he gave even before the knighthood was announced, and published in The Sunday Times he is quoted as saying of his access to the Establishment: “I must take advantage of it, I get to talk loudly to the media and to talk quietly to people in power. And that is where my use to society lies”.

You cannot pull down an actor whose work you admire because he is gay — but you can sack the teacher, or the nurse or the fireman. And that must change.” 


A SAD tale in the Bristol Evening Post (I I Dec) concern** two gay lovers who were desperate to escape a “hate campaign” which was being waged against them by their neighbours in a block ol flats. The paper says: “Their flat had been burgled and sprayed with obscene graffitti” and the two were insulted in the street. In their desperation to be rehoused, the pair hatched a plot to damage their flat. They planned a small fire in the entrance hall, but they misjudged and the whole thing got out of control. They were lucky to escape the resultant conflagration with their lives. 

Charges of arson followed, and in their defence their barristers said: “He wanted to live in peace with his partner. That was his right: that right was abused by others… Things got so bad they were afraid to go out singly.” Victims of homophobia, you might think, with extenuating circumstances. The judge didn’t agree, and the pair were sent to jail for three years.

* *Iteems fairly obvious that McGregor of Durris does not share my view that dehumanising and violent language in newspapers is dangerous. However, I shall continue to pursue the matter. The Press Complaints Commission was, of course, set up by the newspapers themselves as a last-ditch attempt to fend off legislation. Anyone with a grain of sense can see it is no more than a front and doesn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of making the Press clean up its act. 

Places on the Commission are taken by members of the Press fraternity and include the editors of The News of the World and The Daily Star. In an interview (Sunday Times, 6 Jan), Lord McGregor said that: “Many of the press felt, given the very posh people running the (Press) Council that it operated de haut en basand they were subject to an external set of rules that they didn’t understand.” He said that the inclusion of tabloid editors on the Commission would ensure that it was seen as fair. The question is, will the tabloid editors — who repeatedly instigate these gross intrusions into privacy — uphold complaints against themselves? The Labour Party has addressed the matter in its proposed Charter of Rights. “On being elected,” the document says, “we will assess the success of the new and enhanced system of voluntary regulation (the PCC). If we consider it has failed — measuring its success against the stringent criteria set out in the Calcutt report — we will.. introduce statutory protection through a Press Complaints Tribunal made up of men and women from all sections of the community.” The proposed Tribunal will be empowered to make the newspapers publish a full apology or award a right of reply and enforce a code of practice which sets “minimum standards on the representation of women, and of ethnic and other minorities”. They also promise legal aid for libel. However, that is all dependent on an election victory for Labour. In the meantime, we have to let Lord McGregor know what we think of The Press Complaints Commission and to draw his attention to instances of offensive and insulting reports in newspapers. The address is: I Salisbury Square. London EC4Y 8AE. 


BESIDES James Anderton. there was another gruesome character who shared the honours with Ian McKellen: Brian (bullet head) Hitchen, editor of The Daily Star, If anything discredits the honours system it is the lauding of this creep. The Dally Star, under Hitchen’s leadership, has carried some of the most disgusting and degrading copy ever to appear in a national newspaper. And that’s saying something. 

Look at this from the December 18th issue “Supporters of an Aids centre in Bournemouth are miffed because Cliff Richard turned down a plea for help , . . Cliff is quite right Why should anyone be obliged to help people who. mostly, have only themselves to blame for their predicament? Despite all the homosexual propaganda, Aids is still almost entirely a disease passed on by poofters and junkies. Only their promiscuity and stupjdity has spread it like wildfire. Thank goodness that someone of Cliff’s stature has stood out against the Aids industry. Let’s hope that other showbiz stars follow his example “ You can see why Mrs Thatcher was such an admirer. 


IT has been fashionable in the gay press to suggest that The Independent is anti-gay because it has investigated the management problems which are undoubtedly besetting Aids charities. 

I do not share this view. Aids charities are not beyond criticism, and if anything is amiss we should know about it. I agree that if the reporting is sensationalist, then more damage than good can be done. But I do not believe that The Independent is drawing attention to the difficulties in organisations like THT and Lighthouse because it wishes them harm. I’m sure the motivation is constructive. 

And as for being anti-gay, I should point out that The Independent has carried many stories about the state of gay rights in this country, and all of them sympathetic. In the past month we have seen it sensitively exploring several issues: the police and the gay community; the implications of the Criminal Justice Bill for gays, the new rules being proposed for adoption laws; the McKellen furore. It has carried two supportive editorials. Let’s save our criticism for those who really hate us and want to do us down The Independent is much more of a friend than a foe.


Dreams can come true department. 

1. “Tebbit makes a decision to step down” — Independent17 Jan) 

2. “Murdoch faces new debt crisis” — Evening Standard(16 Jan) 

3. “Homosexual protestors win £30,000 from police” — Independent(15 Jan)


THE Northern gay magazine Scene Out carried an article celebrating Coronation Street’s 30th anniversary and lamenting the fact that The Street has never had any gay characters. 

The Sun reported it as: “Gay soap fans are urging TV bosses to change Coronation Street to Queer Street.” That prompted a Granada TV spokesperson to say: “Coronation Street is a family show and we have no plans to feature gays or lesbians.” 

Commenting on the story, John Smith in The People (6 Jan) said it was a “duckie idea.’” But after his usual careful consideration he concluded that, in fact, it made him want to “puke”. But is it such a bad idea? After all, the cast and crew who actually produce the programme would be able to bring a whole range of personal experiences into a gay story line. For instance, Coronation Street’s creator, Tony Warren, whose name appears on the credits of every episode, is prominent in the Manchester gay community. Two of the actors who play the show’s best-loved characters Bet and Alec Gilroy (Julie Goodyear and Roy Barraclough) have both been outed by the tabloids. 

Ivy Tilsley’s first husband, Bert (the late Peter Dudley) was persecuted by the tabloids after being convicted of cottaging. Lynne Perrie who plays Ivy is, in real life, supportive of her gay son who is HIV positive, and she and her best pal Vera Duckworth (Liz Dawn) have a lucrative second careers as cabaret entertainers in gay clubs. Rumours about other “well-loved” and veteran stars of the show also abound. If the lesbian quotient of Coronation Street were ever to be completely exposed, the true nature of this “family show” would probably send the nation into a mass swoon. 

So, come on Granada — get real.

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