GAY TIMES July 1989

Recent incidents have brought “rent boys” once more into the public eye. The tabloids’ reactions to news of these young men are often startlingly foolish. Look at this, for instance, from The Daily Star (23 May): “Jason Swift was what we have come to glibly call a “rent boy”. He was a lonely, unloved, unwanted, pathetic little boy who sold his body to homosexuals. How many child runaways who, for a variety of reasons, believe they cannot go home to face their parents … All of them are easy pickings for the warped bastards who have carefully conditioned us into believing that there is nothing really wrong with homosexuality and that rent boys are a fact of life. Isn’t it time for a massive police crackdown on these sewer-dwellers in our midst? And, if that doesn’t work, how about flame throwers?”

This piece of hysteria comes from The Star’s editor, Brian Hitchen. Mr Hitchen would have us believe that children are at risk mainly from homosexuals. But to utter blanket condemnations of homosexuals every time there is a case of male-male child abuse is wishful thinking. If Mr Hitchen believes that brutality towards children is confined to the gay/rent boy scene, he ought to open his eyes. As Julie Burchill pointed out in her column (Mail on Sunday 4 Jun): “Some children are being raped nightly by their brothers, fathers and grandfathers … We nag our children never to talk to strangers —despite the fact that the vast majority of attacks are carried out by family and friends. It is a sad fact that a child may well be safer going for a car ride with a strange woman than sleeping in its own bed at night when there are male relatives in the house.”

A correspondent in Community Care (25 May) tried to explain where rent boys come from: “It is our society’s prejudiced and blinkered views on homosexuality, and abject ignorance on this subject which has caused gay youngsters to be on the run in the first place. Many parents on learning their child is homosexual simply fail to cope with it … Educators are now prevented from teaching children about homosexuality, and from supporting those children who find themselves isolated, knowing they are different from their classmates. There will inevitably be, more runaways; more vulnerable, powerless young people desperately trying to survive on the, streets of our big cities, and more suicides.”

Mr Hitchen and his sympathisers don’t want to hear about this, of course. Nor do they seem interested in other evidence which emerged this month that many mothers, too, sexually abuse their children. Did he have anything to say about the case reported in The Independent (2 Jun) which began: “A three- year old boy was so violently shaken by his father that his spine was broken in 16 places and five of his ribs were fractured…” or the one in The Daily Mail (8 Jun): “Father of five Les Pingel chose victims from little girls learning to ride his ponies … He admitted 21 charges of indecent assault and five attempted rapes.”

Nobody ever mentions the sexuality of straight child abusers, but they almost always point out the gay ones. One honourable exception is Esther Rantzen, whose work on Childline is well known. She was exposing incidents of sex abuse at a boys’ school on “That’s Life!” and in The Daily Mirror (1 Jun). She managed to tell the whole story of male teachers and their assaults on boys without once referring to them being gay.

It’s very handy to be able to lay your guilt at the doorstep of an unpopular minority; gays make convenient whipping boys in this respect. But it just won’t do. As Ms Burchill says: “I think we are becoming incredibly smug about child abuse once more; it isn’t us — it’s the pods who come down and do it.”

Before he turns the flame thrower on the supposedly exotic meeting places of the gay community, the editor of The Star ought to open a few front doors in suburbia. It may be an uncomfortable experience for him to discover that the real villains are nearer to home than he thinks.

I have been criticised for not being polite to gay-bashers. In defence, I would point out that there are others who are far less restrained than I. City Limits (5 Jun), for instance, carried a letter from a lesbian born-again Christian deploring that magazine’s “Official ‘Fuck Off Billy Graham’ T-Shirt”. “I don’t think attacks on good men like Billy Graham help,” wrote our “lesbian and socialist” sister.

But then again, being a lesbian born-again Christian is something like being a Jewish Nazi. Nonetheless, I will try to moderate my language in future, particularly following the news (Daily Telegraph 10 Jun) that a Labour councillor in Finchley has been charged with “using abusive language during a visit by Mrs Thatcher to her North London constituency.”

But before I eschew abuse for good, may I have one last fling at Tory MP Terry Dicks? He was commenting in The London Evening Standard (7 Jun) on a Pride 89 event for Lesbian and Gay Parents: “Quite frankly the whole thing is twisted and perverted. Of perverts, by perverts, for perverts. What is this about gay parents? Two men can’t have a child.”

Mr Dicks is a facile, creepy, moronic, jumped-up dope. It is a disgrace that such a birdbrain should be allowed out of the Reichstag let alone to hold power over people’s lives.

There, having got that off my chest, I now faithfully resolve to stick to diplomatic language. (Regular readers should note that I am notoriously bad at keeping resolutions.)

Before we leave the wonderful Brian Hitchen (referred to as “bone-head” by Private Eye) and his fast-fading Star (circulation well below a million and falling), we must also look at his reactions to the news from San Francisco of “new licences granting all-men couples the same rights as other wedded folk”. “Poofters get right to wed” said the headline.

Commenting on this story (25 May), The Star’s editorial went: “San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. In some ways, it is also the ugliest…What is the reaction of the city of San Francisco to the plague launched on a sick wave of so-called free gay love (homosexual promiscuous sex)? Horror? Shame? Not for a moment. Yesterday the city’s lawmakers voted to recognise homosexual weddings — the first time in history that such a travesty of marriage vows has been legalised … Anyone who thinks that these ‘marriages’ are anything, but a grotesque mockery of a solemn occasion is living in FAIRY-LAND.”

We were spared Mr Hitchen’s informed and thoughtful comments on the news carried in The Daily Telegraph (27 May) that the Danish parliament had gone one step further voting to “allow homosexuals to marry and have equal rights with heterosexual couples in all but adoption.”

A spokesman for Denmark’s 1948 Association of Gays and Lesbians said: “We hope Denmark’s example will influence the work for human rights for gays and lesbians in many other parts of the world.” A noble sentiment. Can we expect some movement in Thatcher’s Britain?

Well, not according to The Sun (26 May) which gleefully informed us that: “A bid to lower the age of consent for gay sex was rejected last night by the Government”. Tory MP Nicholas Winterton has just returned from San Francisco and was unimpressed by what he saw there. He is quoted as saying: “In view of the shocking situation in San Francisco, Aids continues to pose a massive threat. Anything which increases that is out of the question.”

Yes, Britain leads the world, as usual. Its record of homophobia, gaybashing and head-in-the-sand stupidity remains completely intact. Well done, Maggie!

That’s-one-way-of-looking-at-it department: “Private Eye has always stank of a strident homophobia to the extent that my one regret if it now goes under is that this country’s six million lesbians and gay men will be unable to sue it for collective gross defamation of character.” Letter in Guardian (8 Jun)

Let’s-blame-the-gays-for-EVERYTHING-department: “The Rottweiler is the gay community’s favourite pet” — The Star

For the last five years of his life, Russell Harty had a lover called Jamie O’Neill. Last month Mr O’Neill appeared on Channel Four’s anti-newspaper programme “Hard News” telling how the tabloid press had hounded Russell Harty into the grave.

Now The Sunday Mirror has come to get Mr O’Neill, too. In an article (11 Jun) Jamie is alleged to have had “a sordid past” working in “sleazy Soho clubs” and “parading around naked in sexually explicit poses” in Mister magazine. Mr O’Neill is portrayed by the article as greedy, grasping and ruthless.

Is this another example of the vengeance tabloids exact on their critics or is it mere coincidence?

With such a compassionate and sensible leader, is there any wonder that the Roman Catholic Church is such a humane institution? Especially where its followers are most ardent —Latin America.

The Independent (3 Jun) told us how Mexico’s “much needed Aids education campaign” had been scuppered by the Church and other “conservative” forces. It all ended with a call from the loonies who run the asylum “for a roundup of homosexuals and compulsory euthanasia for victims of the virus.”

In a report which was quite staggering in its implications, reporter Chris McGreal revealed: “The head of Mexico’s Aids prevention programme, Dr James Sepulveda, met Church and ‘pro-life’ groups in an effort to end their blanket ban on any mention of the word `condom’ … The Church described the government’s education campaign as ‘criminal’ and forced the cancellation of a television advert because a popular soap opera star warned ‘if you are going to have a relationship use a condom’ … Conservatives pressure television and radio stations by threatening advertisers with boycotts and by playing on public prejudice with violent attacks on homosexuals.”

At least 100,000 Mexicans are infected with HIV, but because of the Catholic Church’s dogmatic interference there is hardly any public knowledge about it.

Which leads me to ask: are Mexican Catholics pro-life or are they pro-genocide?

Just when you thought the tabloids had given up Aids hysteria, back they come with a bit of old-fashioned pig-ignorant Aids madness.

“The House that Died of Shame” was the headline in the Paper that Knows No Shame (News of the World 28 May). It concerned the residence of the late Rock Hudson over which hung “the taint of his diseased death.” Now, according to the NoW, it “is being gutted until every memory of Hudson is obliterated.”

Naturally the new owner, film director John Landis, will want to rearrange the house to his own taste, but The News of the World says: “Workmen wearing protective clothing have stripped the house to a skeleton … Demolition men are careful not to cut themselves. No one wants to chance the remotest possibility that the disease can linger on, even in the wood, stone, porcelain and fabric of the house … An estate agent explained: ‘People didn’t want to sleep in the bedroom where Rock breathed his last breath. Similarly, they didn’t want to use the bathroom facilities or swim in the pool where he and his buddies played.”

Rock Hudson died more than two years ago. The tabloids continue to pile indignities upon his memory, but even worse than that is the continued encouragement of such sad ignorance. No-one in the article contradicts the foolish idea that the virus can linger in a house for years on end; nobody makes the slightest effort to challenge the superstitious nonsense being peddled.

I had imagined my contempt for The News of the World could not intensify any further. Just shows how wrong you can be.

The News of the World (4 Jun) carried an extraordinary article headed “Evil Fantasies of Kinky Canon” in which a senior church man had, apparently, revealed to a NoW reporter his most intimate fantasies about “ogling youngsters on the beach” and “gay orgies”. What came over most strongly in the feature was the uninhibited terms in which the “confession” was couched. One began to wonder why on earth the Canon had chosen to talk in this way to a reporter from such a notorious rag. And then you began to think: did he actually know he was talking to a reporter, and had he any idea that the conversation was being taped?

It is unclear from the article when or where the interview took place, or how it was obtained. I have made a complaint to the Press Council in the hope of finding out just what is going on here. If it turns out that the interview was obtained by deception, then I consider it to be a gross abuse of journalistic ethics. To destroy someone simply because they let their fantasies run away with them is a terrible use of the power of the press.

I’ll keep you informed, but in the meantime: if you are in a public position and you get into conversation with a sympathetic stranger, make sure you know whether he’s got a tape recorder up his sleeve and a pay packet from Mr Murdoch in his pocket.

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