GAY TIMES June 1988

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

Marcel Berlins, ex-editor of Law Magazine was writing in The London Standard (6 May) about the implications of Section 28. “Only one thing is certain if Section 28 of the Local Government Act ever comes before the courts,” said Mr Berlins, “the lawyers are going to get even richer.”

This much we know, but Mr Berlins goes on to inform us that “Section 28 does not create a criminal offence. No one can be prosecuted if the local authority breaks the ban. And that means that there is no scope for a private prosecution by an enraged individual — like the successful one for blasphemy launched by Mary Whitehouse against Gay News.”

So how can the Section be used? “Any dissatisfied ratepayer — and there will be plenty of those waiting for the opportunity — will be entitled to ask the High Court to rule that a council’s action is contrary to Section 28. The district auditor could also start court proceedings … the difference being that the amount of money involved in promoting homosexuality is likely to be relatively small.” Even the London Borough of Haringey devoted less than one-tenth of one per cent to the cause.

The danger, of course, comes from leaving it to judges to decide the issue. As we know from bitter experience there are some horribly homophobic people sitting on the bench — remember the infamous comment of Lord Chief Justice Lane who publicly described the 1967 Sexual Offences Act as “a bugger’s charter”? Hardly what you’d call an objective opinion.

Now we must be ready to fight it every step of the way.

The renewed ferment in the Church of England over the presence of gays led to an article in The Times (7 May) by Edward Norman, Dean of Peterhouse College. A more moderate and considered line was taken than the usual hysterical “against God’s law” crap. The Dean said that instead of just rejecting gays out of hand, Christians should be “agnostic” on the issue. “The notion, as enunciated by the bishops, that individuals are put together by God, who fills them with sexual urges and then sends them indelibly celibate into a world in which their contemporaries — because of a shade of difference in their body chemistry or their early environment — achieve a kind of fulfilment which they are not allowed to, can hardly be compatible with Christianity.”

Dr Norman ends by saying: “the fact is that the lives of very many homosexual Christians down the centuries have disclosed spiritual gifts in astonishing abundance” and that if the Church kicks out its gay members, then it will be “the Church itself that is the loser.”

Meanwhile, The Star was gleefully reporting (12 May) the refusal of a bishop to ordain one of his clergymen who was openly gay: “The ban will bring shrieks of protest from the so-called ‘gay’ community. But the Bishop must be firm. He can count on the support of every decent British citizen.”

The ban will also bring cackles of delight from so-called ‘newspapers’ whose wilful mendacity make their pseudo-religious rantings sound like an evil joke.

One of the more alarming of the rentagob MPs is Geoffrey ‘the jerk’ Dickens. The fat fool’s philosophy is much-admired by The Sun and The Star who quote him frequently in their intellectually retarded columns. But if you’re an idiot (and this man indubitably is), you can’t hide the fact for very long. Interviewing Dickens for his ‘Notebook’ in the Sunday Times (24 App), Paul Pickering observed: “Geoffrey admits he often doesn’t think until after the words are out of his mouth.” The current spate of interest in Mr Dickens comes from his request that the House of Commons debate witchcraft, which he says is “sweeping the country.”

The 19-stone MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth, according to the article, is convinced that witchcraft and paedophilia are directly related. “Children are sacrificed sexually to the lust and gratification of the coven,” he says, “In the dark ages they used an animal. Now they use the body of a child… Bodies have been taken from the grave and their heads cut off. People have cut the heads off and sexually assaulted the skeleton.”

After contemplating the mechanics of sex with a skeleton, Mr Pickering notes on his way out of the Dickens abode that “workmen seem to be engaged in the very necessary task of padding the walls.”

Gratuitous Insults Department: “Gay rights activists threaten members of the House of Lords … It could have been worse for their Lordships. The poofters could have threatened to KISS them instead.” — Sun (4 May).

“Peers have received death threats over the controversial Clause 28 … Time was when we thought hell had no fury like a woman scorned. That’s nothing compared to a poofter peeved.” — John Smith People (8 May).

Deserved Insult Department: “Reading the Sun is like putting your hand down the toilet,” — Erasure’s Andy Bell — Sun (3 May).

The April issue of Family Circle (the women’s magazine you always see at the supermarket checkout) contained a woeful tale of a young man’s coming out to his unsympathetic parents. The photograph accompanying the article gave some idea of the tone — a weeping youth, head-bowed is comforted by his equally distressed mother.

What a terrible time this particular family had, although it has to be said that most of the misery seemed self-inflicted. I usually feel great sympathy for parents who are first coming to terms with their child’s homosexuality, but it was difficult to maintain much care for this pair. Their son, Chris, was, by their own admission, a good lad. He didn’t take drugs, vandalise the neighbourhood or rape girls. What he did do was show a preference for flamboyant clothes and the occasional touch of mascara. This, to his father, was worse than murder. “There was nothing else I could do,” says the mother, “I agonised for weeks, but I knew I had to tell Chris to go.”

As it turned out, giving Chris his marching orders was the biggest favour his parents could have done him. After all, who wants to live with relatives who say: “What he’s doing is horrible. I don’t know how you can put up with it”? Or a mother who tortures herself by blaming her son’s sexual orientation on her potty-training technique?

He moved to London, set up home with an older, but very responsible, gay man called Stephen. From the mother’s description it sounds as though his life has improved about a trillion times since he left the family behind. He now has a successful career in theatrical design and a house overlooking the river — a life that most people would envy. But not his parents. Even though he has escaped their stifling grasp (and a brother who walks out of the room when Chris walks in), Mum still manages to say at the end: “I am sad that Chris will not have children, and I shall always worry about his future. Stephen is a lot older than Chris. He may get tired of him, or Chris might find someone younger and then go from partner to partner. I don’t know what the future holds.”

None of these dire things could possibly have happened to Chris if he’d been straight of course! It seems Mum and Dad are trapped in a fantasy world where everything gay is bad and everything straight is good. Even when the evidence of their own experience tells them different.

A particularly ugly report about Russell Harty appeared in The News of the World (8 May). It said that “A desperate manhunt was under way last night for handsome Jamie Wilson —TV star Russell Harty’s live-in toy boy lover. Doctors fear dark-haired Wilson, 23, could be under sentence of death because of their gay affair.”

And here’s me imagining that the threat was from hepatitis. Still, as far as the NoW is concerned, homosexuality is a far more dangerous disease.

A similarly loaded statement came from a group called ‘Family and Youth Concern’, reported in The London Standard (9 May): “The Government’s advice on the use of condoms to protect against Aids was unreliable and influenced by fears of upsetting homosexuals.”

Oh really? The Government has shown little sensitivity for the feelings of homosexuals in other areas. The introduction of Section 28 hardly indicates an anxiety to spare our feelings, now does it?

What The Standard didn’t reveal, however, is that ‘Family and Youth Concern’ is none other than The Responsible Society in another of their crafty disguises. I don’t mind the Bible-bashers spouting their clap-trap, but why are they so reluctant to be up-front about who they are? Why do they always have to invent names like ‘Parents Action Group’ and ‘Viewers and Listeners Association’?

Could it be that if people knew the truth they’d run a mile from the message?

For satire to be successful, two ingredients are essential: wit and truth. An effort to send up gay rights in the London Standard (28 Apr), contained neither of these elements. What it did contain was a sorry collection of cringingly embarrassing stereotypes.

Just to give the flavour, here’s the first paragraph: “Don’t you just lahhhhhve the idea of teaching children Gay History? Isn’t it so cute you could just scream? Some stuffy old party poopers will get all stuffy and upset, of course. Mrs Thatcher will hate it. But we all adore it, don’t we?”

Michael Bywater, author of the piece, is the sort of humourist who doesn’t have a sense of humour. He’s the lazy sort of writer who reaches for ready-made and dishonest clichés rather than taking the trouble to come up with something original. If the London Standard is going to make a habit of carrying this kind of spoof, I recommend that they get someone who can do it properly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s