GAY TIMES September 1989

The two sides in the Church of England debate on homosexuality are donning their gear ready for the Big Fight. The liberal corner (supported by some of the broadsheet newspapers) wears kid gloves and jewelled slippers, while the fundamentalist corner (cheered on by the tabloid press) is dusting off the jackboots and knuckle-dusters. First round goes to The People (11 April), taking its turn to play Holy gestapo, and rooting out the vicar of Dulwich who they alleged had hosted “gay orgies” at his vicarage.

The information was supplied by a parasitic little Judas named Paul Gregory, who enjoyed himself at the parties and then betrayed his fellow gays by running to The People when he was short of a bob or two. I hope his ten pieces of tabloid silver choke him.

Meanwhile, Cannon Brian Brindley, who recently got the concealed tape recorder treatment from The News of the World (“Murdoch’s stinking rag” — Auberon Waugh, Sunday Telegraph 13 Aug), has now resigned from his job, hounded out not only by sanctimonious creeps posing as journalists (take another bow champion liar Chris Blythe) but also by his fellow Christians. Commenting on the nasty activities of two individuals who circulated The NoW revelations to all 574 members the General Synod in case they missed them, The Independent editorialised: “How was the attack on Canon Brindley supposed to help the Church? It has lent support to those who fear the Synod has become a playground for self-righteous, petty-minded activists ready to use any weapon, no matter low, in pursuit of their feuds. They may have convinced themselves that on balance they were doing good. But to do good by endorsing, or seeming to endorse, the persecution of homosexuals, the betrayal of confidences and the standards of the gutter press is an approach which finds no parallel in the gospels.” (Auberon Waugh in The Sunday Telegraph put it a little more directly on 13 Aug when he asked: “Why were they reading the newspaper in the first place, unless planning to masturbate or looking for prurient gossip?”).

Canon Brindley’s former bishop, Patrick Rodger, wrote in The Independent (12 Aug): “That he should have been driven to this (resignation) is a poor reward for his years of faithful ministry both to his parish and to the General Synod. Many members of the Synod (who were powerless to prevent the article being circulated to them at York) were as distressed by that squalid episode as you obviously were by the behaviour of The News of the World.”

No doubt Canon Brindley’s persecutors would say that it was his duty to practice what he preached. If he called for sexual restraint from the pulpit (and, apparently, he did), then he should live by the same tenet.

Some light was thrown on this dilemma by Rabbi Lionel Blue, who did the dignified thing and came out voluntarily in a rather depressing interview with The Independent (26 Jul). He said: “Some of the ministers I knew and respected said one sort of thing in the pulpit and another in their private counselling and advice. There was that gap between the theory and the practice. One said to me: Always give the general rules in the pulpit, but treat everyone who comes to you as an exception.”

Far better, surely, to be honest and up-front in the first place. If priests are allowed to accept homosexuals in private but are required to condemn them from the pulpit, doesn’t the double-standard risk making the Church look even more foolish?

One man trying to do something about that is the Anglican Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, the Rt Rev John Spong. He recently spoke in London about the need to recognise “homosexual and lesbian ‘marriages’” (Daily Telegraph 9 Aug). The People said Bishop Spong’s remarks were “another move in the pansy propaganda war” (13.Aug), while The Sun (10 Aug) enlisted the gay-hating Rev Tony Higton: “The bishop would be regarded as a lunatic by many in the church. His views are not Christian … he is not qualified to be a Bishop … it is blasphemous for him to call sex outside marriage holy.”

I would have thought Mr Higton was walking a tightrope in calling others “lunatic” — the sanity of his own views and activities might well be called into question by the less charitable among us (which includes me).

The intellectual bankruptcy of fundamentalist argument will hopefully ensure that it soon fades into oblivion, and then a debate that means something can begin.

There’s been a bit of a hoo-ha in Exeter over remarks made by Tory councillor Dr Adrian (born-again) Rogers. Commenting on a book-shop window display celebrating Lesbian and Gay Pride, the rabid Rogers raved: “I believe any public display of homosexuality should be made illegal. To glorify immoral relationships which have cost so many lives with Aids is absolutely sick” (Exeter Leader, 13 Jul), and “I continue to consider homosexuality as a God-condemned, sterile and disease-ridden occupation.”

Now all this might seem like a routine bit of gay-bashing from an attention-seeking politician who recognises a sure-fire way to get himself onto the front page of the local rag. Dr Rogers is the standard tin-pot local councillor with delusions of grandeur, but his relentless homophobia seems more like an unhealthy obsession than a genuine concern.

Lining up with Dr Rogers was the Leader’s “controversial” columnist Alan (happy ignoramus) Butt, a sort of cut-price Ray Mills, who wrote: “Toleration of gays – or sads as I prefer to call them – is one thing. Proclaiming their tarnished sexual appetites (and their sexual deviation) is another.”

The letters column over the following few weeks provided a lively platform for people to state their entrenched positions. The gay community rallied after a slow start and the paper seemed, after a while, to be under some kind of siege. Eloquent dismissals of the homophobes’ arguments appeared. Particular credit goes to Beth Lambdon (the manager of Fagin’s Bookshop) for a couple of robust letters. The bigots’ contingent included the following anonymous contribution: “I am a retired magistrate. I sat on the bench when homosexual acts were illegal, during the ‘Sexy Sixties’ and let me tell you that when any homosexual had the misfortune to come before me he was treated with the full might of the law — six months imprisonment. I quickly acquired the reputation as a ‘hanging judge’ among many of my more liberal colleagues, but my methods often had the desired effect.”

As I suspected, all men are equal before the law — unless they’re gay. Also appearing in the correspondence column, along with about twenty-five Holy-rollers (an obviously orchestrated write-in by one of Exeter’s wilder churches), was Mrs Edna Welthorpe, celebrated alter-ego of the late Joe Orton, presumably communicating through a medium. Quite appropriate really, as by the time her letter appeared the whole thing had become the kind of hysterical farce that Orton would have loved.

The God-shouters were rolling their eyes to heaven and praying for the sinners. They were thanking their God that they were ‘normal’ and that the homosexuals would get their just desserts in the sweet by and by.

It was an example of the British at their best, cheerfully parading their ignorance and sexual hang-ups (not to mention their illiteracy), and seemingly unaware of how ridiculous it all was. Just the ticket for the silly season.

The Daily Mail’s resident bigot George Gale has incurred the wrath of ACT-UP, the militant Aids organisation. (Their raid on The Mail’s offices was reported in the communist Morning Star, 8 Aug, with a background piece in The Observer 13 Aug). One of the many grossly offensive remarks Gale made in the now notorious Mail column of 21 July was: “The message to be learned — that the Department of Health should now be urgently propagating — is that active homosexuals are potentially murderers and that the act of buggery kills.”

George Gale

The dreadful irony is that the charge of murder might well boomerang back on George Gale one day. What happens when those heterosexuals, lulled into a false sense of security by ill-informed comments, find that they aren’t after all immune to HIV? Will Mr Gale (and The Sun’s “medical expert” Dr Vernon Coleman who pushes the same line) accept any of the blame? Who will be the murderers then?

One can’t help thinking that George Gale’s homophobia is so ingrained that he’s incapable of seeing past the prejudiced chip on his shoulder. He seems even to abandon logic in order to make the “facts” fit his hatred of gay people. I ask him — and Sir David English, editor of The Daily Mail — to consider this letter, written to The Independent (4 Aug) by Annabel Kanabus of Aids Education and Research Trust: “Many studies have shown that vaginal intercourse may indeed transmit the virus. However, although anal intercourse may indeed transmit the virus more efficiently, it should be remembered that it is not only homosexuals who enjoy this activity. The most important factor with HIV is not who you are but what you do … Of millions infected, the vast majority are heterosexual. It is only in a few Western countries that the virus, unfortunately for them, became established among homosexuals. There seems no good reason why the high level of heterosexual infection seen in other countries will not, in due course, happen here, and it will happen more quickly if people deny what is happening before their very eyes.”

I implore The Daily Mail, and the rest of the British press to stop their commentators creating this dangerous complacency amongst heterosexuals. It may never happen to them — but who will be responsible if it does?

The Independent reported: “A series of sex scandals involving altar boys and, so far, 23 priests, brothers and officials across the country is causing turmoil in the hierarchy of Canada’s Roman Catholic Church”. The blame seems to lie with the Church’s ridiculous insistence on celibacy, which few of the priests and monks seem to be able to sustain. It was refreshing, though, to find that the debate was not the shallow “Gay priests molest choirboys” nonsense that tends to prevent sensible discussion of the topic in this country. In fact, one report into the scandal makes a comment which should be engraved in stone and beaten over the head of British tabloid journalists until they understand it: “There was no one profile of a child molester; the link between abusers was not sexual preference but opportunity.”

Editors of The Sun and The Star please note: child abusers don’t do it because they’re gay or straight, they do it because they’re tempted and they don’t resist. The sex of the child seems often to be irrelevant.

An illustration of how important it is for gay couples to make wills if they want to be sure their partner inherits their money was contained in The Sun (26 July). “Roly-poly comic Jimmy Edwards, who died last July, left his £250,000 fortune to a young man friend — cutting his brother out of the will. Star Jimmy … bequeathed the cash to Philip Aylemore who shared his farmhouse. Brother Alan got nothing. Jimmy divorced his wife Valerie ten years after telling her on honeymoon that he was a homosexual.”

The Sun shows how easily it is assumed that gay relationships are “not real” and that the family have some kind of “right” to the money. If Mr Edwards hadn’t made a proper will, that’s probably how a court would have seen it, too.

So, if you want your lover to get your cash rather than a family who might have made life difficult for you, get a solicitor to draw up a will.

The South Wales Evening Post (5 Jul) carried a report about a police crackdown on a beach frequented by gay men near Jersey Marine. It gave the local police, in the person of Constable Richard Thomas, the opportunity to carry on alarmingly about the alien nature of homosexuals. Apparently gay men are coming from all over Europe to cruise on the beach. “Let’s hope we can drive them out of our area,” says PC Plod, explaining the persecutory nature of his clean up: “Local residents have had a bellyful — they are very concerned about it.”

Of course, by kidding themselves that the arrested gays are coming from “somewhere else” the people of Coedffranc can claim that “abnormality” has to be imported and that there are no gay people living in their midst.

Self-delusion? Hypocrisy? Take your pick.

The Guardian printed a letter (10 Aug) from Peter Dawson, General Secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers (the PAT is one of those ‘conservative’ unions which seems to work actively against members interests). Mr Dawson was defending his opinion that EastEnders “presented deviant behaviour as perfectly normal”. He cited the homosexual story-line as particularly “evil”. The letter was held up for admiration by John Smith. The Man of The People who wrote (13 Aug): “It’s about time someone put the poofters in their place.”

Needless to say, Guardian readers were unable to let such illiberal yammerings go unanswered, and within days the letters column was awash with people giving Mr Dawson the long overdue slagging he deserved.

“I am a newly qualified teacher. I am also ‘normal’, by which I presume Mr Dawson means heterosexual,” wrote Josh Parker (12 Aug), “However the use of such labels would seem to be a pointless exercise, because who can say what would happen if I should meet a man with whom I fell in love? I’ve been wondering which union to join since gaining my B. Ed. and with the intolerant nature that Peter Dawson expresses, it most certainly won’t be the PAT.”

Peter Knight in the same issue suggested that members of the PAT wave bye-bye to Mr Dawson and his anti-gay Association: “Unless, of course, like him they are proud to come out and proclaim that they are afflicted with the unpleasant disease, homophobia. 1 do understand that it is very difficult for such people because they are firmly convinced that their sickness is normal.”

What more is there to say?

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