The Sun (21 Apr) carried an article claiming that Shakespeare was gay (“Friends, Romans and Countrymen, lend me your rears.”) Its only purpose was to give the writer, George Pascoe-Watson, the opportunity to make some feeble, bad taste puns. Example: “Schoolkids everywhere know that the bard’s bawdy quotes do NOT include: Beware the Aids of March; Once more into the britches, dearie friends; To be or not to be one, that is the question.”
He makes other pathetic attempts at humour by saying Shakespeare did not title his plays “Macbent, A Mince-Summer Night’s Dream or King Queer”, proving that you don’t need a sense of humour to appreciate The Sun — you need to be brain dead.
Commenting on this in The Guardian, Bryony Coleman wrote: “No doubt champions of …Clause 28 will be greatly reassured by this sniggering new low in fourth form wit; yet another leg cocked against the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, yet mother thumbs up for homophobia. It’s the sort of everyday drivel that gays have had to learn to live with.”
Tired of ‘living with it’, I wrote to The Sun’s other unfunny joke, its ‘Ombudsman’, Mr Ken Donlan. I complained in reasonable terms about the cheap cracks about Aids and the nasty stereotyping of gay people in the article.
Mr Donlan’s reply was succinct: “The gay community invites the treatment which you rightly reject because of the antics of a minority.” A classic example of The Sun’s favourite tactic — blame the victim for the crime.
And if you want to see another example of the same trick, look at their front-page story of 12 May “Lesbian Warders Shocker”. It reported a court case in which a man was accused of causing actual bodily harm and damaging property. He “got drunk on beer and punched and kicked Mrs Wells on the legs until she fell to the floor. He is then said to have broken £1200 worth of ornaments.”
But the people who appeared to be on trial in The Sun’s story were the women staff at Holloway jail. According to The Sun the prison is “in the grip of dozens of lesbian warders … Many of the 250 officers at Britain’s biggest women’s prison are gay and attend drinking parties packed with lesbian couples.”
The man on trial is given only a passing mention, the women who have done nothing but act as punchbags for him are, on the other hand, vilified and made to sound sinister. “There was a wicked conspiracy against him by lesbians.”
No use complaining to the Ombudsman about this distortion. Kenneth Donlan is a front to deflect attention from The Sun’s disgusting tactics. But he ain’t fooling this punter.
For some reason The News of the World decided to splash the opinions of sex-obsessed harridan Victoria Gillick over double pages for a couple of weeks. On 14 May she “launched a vitriolic attack on gays for spreading the killer disease”: “Their practices are dangerous and unlawful. They play in open sewers. Somebody has got to say loudly and clearly that sodomy is dangerous … People with Aids are turned into martyrs … it’s nobody’s fault but theirs … Homosexuals will tell you that their way’s normal and natural. They claim it’s an alternative. But they’re the ones who ought to be named for what they’ve done … People were prudish about sex in the last century because it was a killer. Syphilis killed, having too many children killed.”
The mother-of-ten rambles on in similar fashion for two whole pages. Her uninformed, ignorant opinions will, no doubt, be cheered by News of the World readers (although a telephone poll revealed that 15,966 of them thought Gillick had ‘overdone it’ with her own rabbit-like reproductive habits).
At the bottom of the page a small quote is attributed to Maureen Oliver, co-ordinator of OLGA: “How can she say that lesbian or gay sex is unnatural — unnatural for whom? If someone’s gay, then that sort of sex is not unnatural for that person. There’s an increase in attacks on lesbians and gays whenever someone like Mrs Gillick gets publicity for her views.”
Given that this is an undeniable fact, what motive prompted NoW editor Patsy Chapman to give such prominence to Mrs Gillick’s worthless ranting? Come on, Ms ‘Chapman, we’re waiting for an answer.
An astonishing court case was reported in The Hampstead and Highgate Express (14 Apr) concerning two men who were kissing in a Kings Cross street.
Apparently, the two had been arrested by a police officer who “realised how offensive this can be to ordinary members of the public”.
The men were bound over for £100 each after charges of “gross indecency” against them were dropped. The judge Thomas Pigot, QC, told them they were lucky to escape a prison sentence: “This kind of thing is intolerable”, he said, “and you had better tell your friends that they risk a prison sentence if they do it … People are fed up of watching performances of this kind.”
And this person is fed up of hearing stupid, homophobic, ranting old twerps using their privileged position as a platform for their vile bigotry. Justice? It all seems to hang on the mood and prejudices of the bewigged berk you happen to come up before.
Michael De-la-Noy was writing in The Independent (15 Apr) about his desire to take a holiday in a guest house. But where to go? “I decided to take a furtive peep at Gay Times, and lo and behold,” he wrote, “a bevy of enticing advertisements beckoned.”
Mr De-la-Noy chose an establishment in Dartmoor National Park, where he was greeted with inordinate generosity. Free drinks, free afternoon tea, tiny prices for an excellent meal and accommodation in exquisite surroundings.
Having snapped himself up a bargain courtesy of the gay community is he grateful? “No, I could not have stood the cosy intimacy and chi-chi conversation in the sitting-room for very long, but I assume that most patrons for whom ‘gay guest houses’ are primarily run would have appreciated the overtly hand-holding atmosphere. (Those who were staying at the same time as myself had not, I think, been in a stable relationship very long, and honeymooners en masse can be very trying).”
Charming. He intrudes himself into the small space that gay holidaymakers can call their own and then has the gall to complain when we relax in our own way. ‘Chi-chi conversations’ are far preferable to sour-faced whinging.
“I may well continue to take pot luck via the pages of Gay Times,” writes Mr De-la-Noy. If he does, I must make sure that I check any registration book before I take a room at a gay guest house. He’s one person I wouldn’t want to share a holiday with:
Paul Foot, The Daily Mirror’s exposer of abuses in some of our most powerful institutions, took up the cudgels for the gay community on 27 April. He was commenting on the disgraceful police raid on the Vauxhall Tavern in South London, when 35 officers wearing plastic gloves suddenly burst into the pub and started arresting people. “I asked the police if this was a crude exercise in gay-bashing since many gay people drink in the pub,” wrote Mr Foot. “A spokesman replied: ‘The reason the raid took place was in connection with alleged breaches of the licensing laws but also allegations that there was drug dealing going on inside the public house’ … The spokesperson confirmed that there were no arrests for drugs or anything else.”
Nice to see the occasional acknowledgement of the injustice that is routinely meted out to gays, so we should give thanks for small (very small) mercies.
Lord Rees-Mogg, chairman of the dubious Broadcasting Standards Council, has been touring the country finding out for himself what the British public’s standards are. His Lordship, who wrote about his experience in The Independent (18 Apr), still clings to the idea of the “tolerant, liberal British”. He found “that one hears much more antipathy to homosexuals than might be expected in a tolerant society. Scenes of men kissing do not seem to promote tolerance; they were invariably commented on unfavourably, sometimes with sharp hostility.”
What can all this mean for the representation of homosexuality on television? How will Lord Moggy translate his findings into policy? Is he telling us that because the British are homophobic there must be no positive mention of the subject on TV? Or does he think that attitudes need changing?
Maybe he won’t have to do anything, for it seems the self-censorship has begun already. “Lesbian act cut from Royal Gala” reported The London Evening Standard (8 May): “ITV has ordered a controversial lesbian act to be cut from a variety show recorded in front of the Prince and Princess of Wales.” The “controversial” item in question was by “American comedienne Sandra Bernhardt who performed a lesbian version of Billy Paul’s paen to adultery, Me and Mrs Jones.”
As regular readers know, the British press are obsessed with Cliff Richard’s sexuality (or lack of it). Is he gay or isn’t he? The man himself sort of denies it “What does it matter?” is his typical response.
Appearing for the ‘defence’ (Daily Express 18 Apr) is guitarist Hank Marvin. He apparently “hit out at gossips” by saying about his old pal Cliff: “If he is, he’s fooled me for 30 years … I think it is pathetic that everyone is hung up on this question. Because of his beliefs, Cliff leads a very moral life.”
He goes on to say: “Unfortunately, because of this day we live in, people tend to think if you’re not leaping in and out of bed with everybody — or at least seen at every public occasion with a different girl on your arm — there must be something wrong with you.”
Well, that’s true. Wasn’t it tennis player Sue Barker who always seemed to be on the arm of Mr Richard at one time?
Finishing off with a final stab at closet cases, Marvin says: “I know a lot of guys who appear at places with different girls but are as bent as two-bob watches.”
This latest conjecture has had an effect on at least one person, namely plain John Smith “man of The People” who commented (23 Apr): “It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference if he goes to bed with men, women, teddy bears or cups of cocoa.”
Very generous, I’m sure, but can this be the same Mr Smith who wrote in October, 1987: “The responsibility for Aids rests firmly with the gay community and the homosexual sluts who couldn’t care less who they infect.”? Slightly inconsistent, wouldn’t you say?
A survey of 10,000 European teenagers showed that while tolerance of homosexuality seems to be taking a nosedive in Britain, it is increasing in other European countries. Only 15 per cent of our own rising generation thought a gay relationship was “right”, whilst 44 per cent of Spanish young people thought gay was OK.
The other questions asked seemed to indicate that British youth is greedy, selfish, racist and just plain nasty. Reporting the survey (11 May) Today’s headline was “Sad to be gay”. I think the only sad thing is the way young people seem to have been so thoroughly corrupted by Mrs Thatcher’s grasping, self-seeking, intolerant attitudes.
Being disapproved of by such a bunch of bigots feels almost like a privilege.