GAY TIMES March 1989

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

The Observer was first to let the cat out of the bag by revealing (29 Jan) “A secret Church of England report advocating more tolerance for homosexual clergy is being kept under wraps because some bishops believe it is too liberal.”

That was enough to cause the “true believers” to don their jackboots and make a beeline for the General Synod where, I suppose they were seeking a repeat of the “Pulpit Poofs” debacle. Their motion to “condemn teachers who suggested that homosexual and lesbian relationships were acceptable” and to have the Gay and Lesbian Christian Movement removed from the Church of England Yearbook failed to capture the tabloid imagination.

Instead of giving the Rev Tony Higton and his self-righteous followers another chance to kick their gay brethren, Synod adopted a procedural device to curtail the debate. According to The Independent (3 Feb) the Rev Peter Broadbent proposed that the Synod should proceed to next business “because the motion was based on incoherent premises and ill-documented assertions.” At last, somebody noticed.

The Sun (30 Jan) told us “The Archbishop of Canterbury said it had not yet been decided whether (the report) should be published”. Not that it will change anybody’s mind, even if it is. With the usual hedging, the report (according to The Observer): “does not condone homosexual clergy, the working party suggests it is unreasonable to insist that homosexuals should never in any circumstances give physical expression to their love. It points out that some homosexuals feel they have a choice between expressing their deeply-felt sexual needs in a stable relationship or in more promiscuous contacts. In that situation, it says, “the Church has to decide which of the two evils is less immoral.” (My italics).

Meanwhile, in the same article, Richard Kirker of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement was saying: “Does the Church want to become a bigots’ paradise?” Those of us on the outside looking in might be tempted to reply that the Church has been a haven for bigots from the day it was invented.

And finally, we have Gerald Priestland, opining in The Sunday Times (5 Feb): “The gay cat is out of the bag, and it will not be stuffed in again simply because most of us do not like thinking about it. At the same time, gays have to realise that — for whatever tangled reasons — the majority cannot help reacting to them as though they were a new wave of immigrants, who need to settle down and show themselves good citizens.” And so the can’t-help-being-a-bigot brigade are now trying to reduce us to the status of ‘aliens’ or ‘incomers’, are they?

It’s clear that Mr Priestland and his cronies can’t control their irrational prejudices – that’s their sad problem. But trying to cover their shortcomings with attempts to make gay people into strangers in their own land just won’t wash.

It was with some satisfaction that I read of the long-overdue come-uppances visited upon two of the decade’s most repellent hypocrites. The Observer (29 Jan) informed us that “American political extremist Lyndon LaRouche has been jailed for 15 years for … a scheme to ‘borrow’ millions from his supporters without repaying them.” Mr LaRouche, you will remember, tried to manipulate the California political system in order to get people with Aids isolated from the rest of society.

Then, to some wry smiling from yours truly, I read in The Independent (31 Jan) that “Jimmy Swaggart, the Louisiana televangelist defrocked after admitting he hired a prostitute to perform sexual acts for him, is the subject of new allegations of perverse sexual conduct.”

Two down — about six hundred to go.

At last — Colin got a kiss from his boyfriend in East Enders. It was of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety, but a kiss nevertheless.

Straight off the mark the following day (26 Jan) was The Sun: “Furious MPs last night demanded a ban on EastEnders after the BBC soap showed two gay men kissing full on the lips. The homosexual love scene between yuppie poofs was screened in the early evening when millions of children were watching.” (And just in case any Sun-reading kiddie missed it, the shocking peck was photographically reproduced for their edification).

Back to these outraged MPs, who could they be? Well, surprise, surprise — it’s Terry Dicks and Geoffrey Dickens (is it mere coincidence that they both have Dick in their names?) But The Sun really wanted to know what “You the Jury” thought about it. “Do you think TV should show scenes of men kissing each other?” Ring this 0898 number (at 38p a minute gay-bashing is turning into a nice little earner for Murdoch).

The result, published the following day, revealed that 20,223 voted “against the scenes” while 6,313 voted in favour. (By the way, The News of the World asked its readers to vote on whether ‘Alo, Allo’ star Gorden Kaye should be sacked after revealing his “rent boy shame”. 11,000 wanted him to stay, whilst 1,532 “wanted him out”. Big-hearted aren’t they?)

But back to EastEnders. By the 2 February, readers had let The Sun know by post what they thought of the kiss. A brace of “mums-of-two” wrote in to say that their children accepted the kiss with equanimity. “We cannot wrap children in cotton wool,” said Mrs Metcalfe of Cheltenham, “Living, with the fact that everybody is different makes for well-balanced human beings.” Whereas Mrs Gaffney of Stanwell wrote: “For all I know gay people might find it offensive to see a man and a woman kissing on TV, but you never hear them kicking up a fuss.”

These two women sound far too sensible to be Sun readers. Perhaps they found their copy on the train.

The making of a molehill into a mountain department continues to be amazed at how much mileage can be squeezed from Julian Clary’s appearance on the quiz game ‘Trick or Treat’. He’s a soft target for publicity-seeking bigots, of course. Jimmy Greaves who, according to The Sun (17 Jan), is a “telly pundit”, apparently called Julian a “prancing poof” on TV-am. Next in line (Sun 21 Jan) came Bernard Manning, whose dreadful nightclub in Manchester was recently burned to the ground (surely an act of divine retribution for the god-awful jokes told there): “It’s disgusting, that poofter fella prancing around. Men should be men and women should be women.” And greasy fat-arsed berks should have their gobs sewn up.

Another Sun correspondent, Mr MP of Bournemouth, wrote (27 Jan): “Like Julian Clary I am also gay but none of my mates at work suspect it. He is the exception and has chosen to be outrageous. Ninety per cent of gays appear as normal as the next bloke. Julian wanted fame — good for him — but he puts all gays in a bad light.” And here’s me thinking that gay people at last had the confidence to accept themselves in all their rich variety.

By the 11 Feb The Sun was threatening “We’ll make a man of gay Clary!” To which I’ve only one response: Get your bleeding hands off our Jules or we’ll get Fanny to go for your throats!

One last look at tabloid hysteria over gay things on telly. The News of the World (29 Jan) carried a feature about Gary Hailes the “actor” who once played the gay barrow boy in EastEnders. “I never fancied having a man in my life,” he is quoted as saying, “And I never want to play a gay man again.”

I don’t think Mr Hailes need worry. If jobs are offered on the strength of his performance in East- Enders, I think he’s likely to be out of work until they need a broom handle or a plank — anything made of wood, really.

The other gay character in EastEnders “Queenie” is played by John Labanowski hitherto “an unknown” according to The Sunday Mirror (29 Jan). Mr Labanowski wishes it to be known that “I have a wife and two kids and live a rather rural life.”

So that explains why Queenie is such an unbelievable, unconvincing character.

The two attempts in Parliament to make the Press clean up its act (to respect privacy and give the right of reply) did bring overdue discussion to the topic, and serve as a warning to the Wapping weirdos.

Over the past month, the tabloids have been given the kind of drubbing which they so often mete out to others. “Sordid”, “seedy”, “repellent”, “disgusting”, “vile”, “grotesque”, “stinking”, were just a few of the adjectives used to conjure up the “gutter” (or “sewer” or “yellow”) press.

In an attempt to deflect the Armageddon heading its way, The Sun appointed an “ombudsman” (“Most Sun readers probably think an ombudsman is a Swedish bus driver,” wrote Peter MacKay in The Evening Standard 25 Jan). The ombudsman’s “independent credentials” were faultless: he is Mr Ken Donlan, The Sun’s managing editor.

Meanwhile, The Independent ran a long, detailed background feature on The Sun’s hounding of Elton John (11 Feb). It made eye-popping reading. The sheer scale of corruption and depravity at The Sun whilst concocting the “case against” Elton was breathtaking. The editor, Kelvin MacKenzie (“a sewer-mouthed yobbo”) is said to have known from the start that the story wouldn’t stand up, but he started a war of attrition against Elton, escalating the vilification in the hope that the pop star would back down.

A man called John Boyce (“Scottish con-man, homosexual pimp and ex-rent-boy”) was employed by The Sun as a contact between male prostitutes on the London scene and the Wapping scumbags. Boyce admitted that he produced “witnesses” to events that never took place and was paid £1,750 for each affidavit he got signed. He was in it purely for the money, and The Sun was a remarkably easy touch. The truth, as ever, was nowhere to be seen.

Mr Murdoch apparently refers to his money-spinning editor as “My Little Hitler” and The Independent asks what the future holds for MacKenzie “the most powerful journalist in the country.” They say he “may well end up the same way as his predecessor did. He was knighted for services to journalism.”

The Times (7 Feb) informed us that The Professional Association of Teachers has issued a report about “declining standards amongst teachers in the past few years”. Mr Peter Dawson, secretary of the union, wants to see gay teachers who come out of the closet sacked. He said: “We are not being judgemental about homosexuality, but many parents would find it morally questionable. It is something that we believe a teacher should keep private; it is not something he should shout or promote. There are things which parents would not want their children to know about.”

Presumably some of the things which these parents wouldn’t want their children to know about are tolerance, diversity and alternatives. Heaven forfend that a teacher should tell children about what is going on in the world. Much better to feed them tales of the Tory dream world.

And I wonder how Mr Dawson squares his union’s stance with a report in The Guardian (Feb) which revealed that: “The number of young homosexual men contracting Aids soon after becoming sexually active, is increasing. The increase appeared to be among 17 and 18-year olds who haven’t yet ‘got the message’.”

And they never will get the message while the likes of Peter Dawson rule the world.

In last month’s Mediawatch I expressed the hope that the career of Wendy Henry, ex-editor of The News of the World had “gone down the toilet”. I’m pleased to report that she has indeed reached the sewer — she has been appointed editor of The People. The People is so utterly loathsome that I would be surprised if even Ms Henry could make it any more depraved.

One interesting little snippet: the three Sunday scandal sheets, The People, News of the World and Sunday Mirror, between them boasting 40 million readers, are all edited by women. There used to be a belief that if women took power in this country it would be a less brutal, more compassionate place. If the quartet is made up with Mrs Thatcher, I begin to wonder what went wrong.

A correction published in The Dunoon Observer: “Fire. The old pouffe which started the fire at 7 Douglas Cottages, as reported last week, referred to an item of furniture and not the owner, Mr Donnie McArthur” (as reported in The Guardian 8 Feb).

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