GAY TIMES November 1990

“Gays and deviants ‘undermine the family’” was a somewhat predictable headline in The Guardian’s reports from the Tory Party conference (10 Oct). It was relating to the ‘debate’ on The Family (The Family, by the way, is a registered trade mark of Tory Central Office, and is occasionally leased to Christian Fundamentalist Loonies plc). Dr Adrian Rogers from Exeter (where, coincidentally, the last British witch was burned) said that “the enemies of the Conservative party are the enemies of the family — socialists who have brought together and politicised every deviant minority opposed to family life.”

Dr Rogers, who is depressingly well-known to readers of Gay Times, has the capacity to believe the incredible. Not only is he a fundaMENTAList Christian, he is also a subscriber to the Disney version of family life, where all children are happy, and all parents are kind, where there is no poverty or disadvantage. In Rogersland daddies and uncles and boyfriends just don’t do that kind of thing to children, and mummy stays at home to cook the tea.

It’s a dangerous fantasy because it flies in the face of real, measurable social trends. Instead of adjusting society to accommodate people’s real needs and desires, the Tories continue to try and force us all into the fantasy mould. Women will give up careers, men will stop being bastards and everyone who refuses to fit in will be PUNISHED.

In order to give this foolish nonsense some kind of credibility a scapegoat had to be found. Someone had to be made an example of. Enter, unwillingly, a lesbian couple in Newcastle, together with a two-year-old handicapped boy who had been placed with them for adoption.

“Labour-controlled Newcastle Council … has taken him from his loving foster mother. And allowed him to be adopted by two LESBIANS,” screeched an almost certainly libellous Daily Star editorial (9 Oct). “Since six weeks old, the boy has been looked after by foster Mum Helen Grant … But for some incredible reason the council has now handed the poor little mite into the care of two sexually maladjusted deviants.”

Obediently The Sun (13 Oct) took up the story and called upon Lynette Burrows, the supposed “child expert” who said (under the heading “Lesbian parents will ruin tragic tot’s life”): “Well-adjusted people tend to come from families which have both a loving mum AND dad.” This totally-ignored the fact that the foster mother who is kicking up all the fuss can, herself, only offer a one-parent family — having been divorced for 12 years. Mrs Grant admits that she was “not in a position to adopt” the child when he was offered to the lesbian couple (Daily Mail 9 Oct) but then changed her mind after the arrangements had been made. There is a suggestion that her ex-husband was also exerting influence on her not to adopt. Undoubtedly there are many other issues which —quite rightly — are not for public scrutiny, but which are extremely relevant to the brave decision taken by Newcastle Social Services Committee. These complications have been totally disregarded by the press who have presented this case as one of preferential treatment for homosexuals over the wishes of a “normal” woman (“Foster mother loses her baby to lesbians” — Star, 9 Oct). It is a distortion and a disgrace. It has nothing to do with journalism, and everything to do with propaganda.

The disinformation continued in The Daily Mail (12 Oct), when Woman’s Editor, Diana Hutchinson wrote: “On one side is a lesbian couple whose need to give a child a home to normalise their relationship is greater than the child’s need of them. On the other side is the social services committee congratulating itself on being forward-thinking and liberal-minded.” And falsifying the whole thing is the Tory party and those such as Ms Hutchinson who serve their interests by demonising innocent people who simply want to do their best.

I don’t generally go in for conspiracy theories, but a pattern seems to be emerging. Before the Tory conference began, The Sunday Express (30 Sep) carried an investigation into local authority policies on adoption by gay couples: “Stop this Outrage” was their front page on what posed as a balanced investigation. The paper had contacted 133 local authorities in the UK and found that 91 said they would not rule out placing children with homosexual couples. Only eight admitted that they had already done so.

Inside the paper, there was “The case for” and “the case against”. There was also a “case history” attacking The Albert Kennedy Trust and, as usual, giving only one side of an obviously very complicated story.

And naturally a fuming Tory MP was produced to confirm The Sunday Express’s alarm. Jerry Hayes says that he is “outraged as well as disturbed” (‘disturbed’ is definitely the right word), “that so many social services departments would not rule out an application from a gay couple for fostering and adopting children”.

The Sun also picked up this story — omitting the “case for” and any other positive statements that might have appeared in the original. However, it did try to balance the matter by later publishing an interview with a woman who had actually been brought up by lesbian parents and survived into happy adulthood (“I’m Proud of My Gay Mum” — 4 Oct). The problem was that the case FOR lesbian mothers was almost as insulting as the case against. “I didn’t grow up learning to be a lesbian. I grew up a proper woman,” Linsey Berwick is quoted as saying. And her husband Martin “finds having two mothers-in-law HILARIOUS”.

I have a sinking feeling that this is only the start. In order to perpetuate their fantasies, the family fanatics are increasingly going to point to lesbians and gays as the source of all evil. We are a ready-made “unpopular minority” ripe for exploitation by the savages of the Right. This will let off the hook the real villains: the rapists, child-abusers and wife-beaters who conceal themselves under the veil of that much-abused institution The Family.

***

Writing in The Guardian (4th October) about the nature of Sun journalists, Duncan Campbell said that most of us see them as “big, bad and powerful”. The Wappingites, on the other hand, consider themselves “forever set upon by do-gooders, militant gays and the Establishment in general. Public contempt,” said Campbell, “has left them convinced that they are pariahs and outcasts — an image they tolerate in their sure conviction that they are the voice of the common people.”

This might explain how one Sun hack — Caroline Graham — can live with herself after she lied, tricked and cheated a bunch of innocent women in order to deliver a distorted travesty of a story to The Sun on 3rd October.

“My Dodgy Day with the Dykes” was the result of Ms Graham’s “infiltration” of the Women’s Therapy Centre in Islington. Her purpose was to expose how “a loony left-wing council is giving poll tax payers’ money to an organisation that is running a bizarre range of women’s workshops including one to ‘excite lesbians’.”

The way Caroline told it, you’d have thought she’d penetrated Saddam’s bunker in Baghdad instead of a help centre for women with problems. Our courageous spy felt it necessary to assume a disguise in order to pass herself off as one of these aliens, these LESBIANS.

To add much-needed spice to the story, Caroline made everything seem sinister: “Everyone was wearing trousers, most had short, cropped hair and the woman opposite me had legs that were covered in black hairs.” (Let’s hope poor Caroline was paid danger money for this!)

Naturally the lesbians could do nothing right, everything was “bizarre”, “weird” or shocking to fearless — but thankfully normal — Caroline. (“Amanda touched my leg, I think it was accidental but I felt sick.”)

Two pages of this stupid, childish nonsense later, and The Sun wheels on Islington’s own rentagob, Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Pryce, to say: “Poll tax payers should not be forced to subsidise this sort of wicked nonsense. Money is being wantonly chucked away.”

You will be pleased to know that Caroline escaped her ordeal without a scratch, having narrowly avoided being “turned into a lesbian” herself.

However, there are one or two little facts that our lion-hearted hackette forgot to mention. This is unfortunate because other, less scrupulous, journalists gloatingly and repeatedly drew attention to them over the following days — somewhat taking the gilt off dear Caroline’s gingerbread.

First they noted that the Women’s Therapy centre also receives a grant from loony right News Corporation (prop. R Murdoch and publishers of The Sun). Then they discovered that the patron of the Centre’s accommodation is that other hairy-legged woman, the Queen Mother. The Centre’s main function is to help women who are suffering from post-natal depression, eating disorders and beatings from husbands. Its lesbian-interest output is minimal.

Oh Caroline! You weren’t by any chance telling less than the truth, were you? Or betraying “all bounds of basic human decency” as one of the women you shat on said in a letter to The Guardian (8 Oct)?

Still, I’m sure you’ll dine well with Mr Murdoch’s fat pay cheque, although I have to say that a lot of people out here will be hoping that you choke on it

***

The Press Council’s rejection of complaints about the use of the word `poof’ in The People has left most people confused about whether their original adjudication meant anything. Is it permissible once more to use abusive language against gays? The News of the World certainly thinks so (“Our Probe Shuts Posh Poof Club” — Oct). But what does Mr Louis Blom-Cooper, the chairman of the Press Council have to say on the matter? “I can assure you that there is no question of any resiling from the decision against The Sun which the council made earlier this year declaring the use of the words ‘poof’ and `poofter’ which were calculated to be insulting as breach of journalistic ethics,” says Mr Blom-Cooper in a letter, “For what it is worth, in view of the likely disbandment of the Press Council, that ruling established a clear precedent. I know not whether it will be so regarded by a successor body.”

But what is the use of such a precedent when breaches of it go unpunished?

***

Sunday Times reporter Michael Graham accompanied a group of gay “vigilantes” called the Pink Panthers through the night streets of New York (30 Sep) to see how they functioned. Not very well, was the answer. But then, the idea of gay “vigilantes” is half-baked, anyway, and maybe even dangerous for those concerned. Martial arts skills are no match for bullets, I’m afraid. Neither should we be relieving the cops of their duties; instead of patrolling the streets, the Pink Panthers would be better advised to use their energies insisting that the police give us protection on the same terms as everyone else.

However, it’s a legitimate topic for debate and raises the whole subject of police prejudice. Naturally The Sun felt the need to contribute its two-pennorth of twaddle (25 Sep) and informed its apparently cretinous readers that the Pink Panthers “use judo, not handbags”.

Oh God, is there no relief from this tiresome stereotyping? Not in The Sun, no siree. “Drag queens, transsexuals in leather, macho bikers and shaven headed lesbians see the Panthers as liberators.”

The Panthers’ uniform’ was described as “high black lace up boots and lavender berets — a sort of cross between Rambo and Dame Edna Everage”.

The story keeps the laughs going with tales of gay men having I4-inch knife scars and being attacked with baseball bats. The attitude seems to be: They’re only fags so what does it matter?

Even our agony seems good for a giggle in The Sun.

***

Quote of the Month: “The whole country owes him a great debt of gratitude.” – John Junor on crumbling empire-builder Rupert Murdoch (Mail on Sunday, 14 Oct)

***

The Press Council’s code of practice says: “Publishing materials or making inquiries about the private lives of individuals without their consent is unacceptable unless these are in the public interest over-riding the right of privacy.”

The News of the World (14 Oct) told its readers: “Telly star Matthew Kelly has set up home by the seaside — with a drag queen. Matthew spends all his spare time with gay cabaret artist Dave Lynn.” Mr Kelly is quoted as saying: “It is not anybody else’s business. People can think what they like … It’s not important to anybody but me and Dave.”

One can’t help but agree. So what is the over-riding public interest, beside sheer salaciousness? The Press Council will, no doubt, remain as silent as the grave. Roll on Calcutt.

***

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