Gay Times, October 1987

Name someone who is in the news and you can be sure that theSUNor the NEWS OF THE WORLDwill find a gay angle lo approach them from. Last month’s Madonna hype led the NoW(16 Aug) to headline “My gay affair with the Queen of rock.” They had unearthed an ex-manager called Camille Barbon who claimed she’d had a “torrid” affair with That Girl. 

More dangerously, THE SUN(27 Aug) carried a ‘confession’ from soldier Andrew Preston claiming he’d had sex with mass-murderer Michael Ryan. “Manic Rambo was my gay lover” was the front-page lead. 

The following day the DAILY MIRRORwas insisting that Preston was lying. They quoted a friend of his as saying: “It’s a lot of nonsense. He made it all up in a pub. He said he was going to ring a newspaper with the story just to get some money out of them.” And a senior police officer was quoted as saying: “We checked Ryan’s background thoroughly. There were no homosexual affairs.” 

However, it was too late by then—the Sunhad planted the idea in their readers’ minds that homosexuality was at the root of the tragedy. ‘Normal’ readers could rest assured that the slaughter had nothing to do with the selfishness and callous machismo promoted daily by the Sunas acceptable values. 

Julie Burchill explored similar ground in her MAIL ON SUNDAY column (23 Aug) in which she questioned the definition of what is ‘normal’ these days. “It is ‘normal’ and legal to collect in Berkshire weapons that are standard issue of war in Beirut—it is abnormal to smoke marijuana and get a bit giggly.” she wrote. “It is normal and legal to gloat over huge collections of pornography—it is abnormal and illegal under the age of 21 to be a homosexual, no matter how unpright and monogamously inclined. In fact, normal has come to mean ‘whatever white, nominally heterosexual men who live in the Home Counties do’—no matter how ugly or morally bankrupt those things are.” 

Of course, The Sunand The Starand all the other crappy tabloids are produced for just such a ‘normal’ audience. They relentlessly promote the idea that those who will not tow the ‘normal’ line are worthy of contempt and, indeed, violence. 

This was illustrated in a SUNDAY MIRRORstory (30 Aug) headed “Holiday Brit killed a sex pest.” It told of how a young man called Michael Kennedy had murdered a Spanish taxi driver who had made sexual advances towards him. “He touched me up and I must have gone spare,” says Kennedy after admitting he had been on a 24-hour drinking binge. The paper quotes Kennedy as saying he feels he has let his country down. And when he saw his wife and child “I broke up. Judith and I have been sweethearts since our teens. It’s a nightmare.” 

We are not told what the family of the murdered man felt about it all. We aren’t even told his name. But I’d like to bet that Michael Kennedy is a consumer of tabloid newspapers. 

***

You thought THE STAR couldn’t sink any lower without emerging in Australia? Think again, for now it has been joined in unholv matrimony to the detestable SUNDAY SPORT.

Michael Gabbert – the man who made “newspaper” into a dirty word – is the new editor. Within days of his takeover there was a fifteen-year-old girl, topless on the front page. While the other tabloids work themselves to screaming pitch over the question of “child abuse”, The Startells its salivating readers how “sexy” under-age girls are. 

                  Can you imagine the brouhaha that would have erupted if Gay Times had the audacity to feature a semi-nude fifteen-year-old boy and describe him as “sexy”? There would be questions asked in the House and several MPs would have made a career out of denouncing us. 

Under the new regime, our old friend Mills can really feel at home. If you thought that it was impossible for this dreadful man to get any more offensive, cheap and nasty, then you haven’t seen anything yet. He wears his snarling hatred like a badge of honour. His constant despicable harping on gay issues is like a green light to gay-bashers. The language he uses (“woofters”, “liezzies”. “perverts”, “degenerates”), dehumanises us to the extent that we are made to appear legitimate targets by those with a grudge. 

I’m not alone in finding this new-style Star alarming Robin Corbett, opposition spokesman on broadcasting, and a former executive member of the NUJ, said: “Mr Gabbert is plumbing even deeper depths of pornography and filth. The paper is a disgrace to British journalism and it deserves to fail.” Members of the National Union of Journalists chapel on the Starunanimously passed a resolution expressing “dismay and disgust” at the direction the paper had taken and wanted to “secure adequate severance pay” for those journalists who couldn’t stand it any longer. 

NUJ representative Barbara Gurnell spoke at the Trades Union Congress of “the sheer awfulness of the press which is spreading into the broadcasting media”. The Sunday Times called it “debased”. It seems that in the Tory ‘free market’ even common human decency can be dispensed with if it stands in the way of a fat profit. And if big money is involved, you can be sure that it won’t be long before the other tabloids follow The Starinto the seemingly bottomless cesspit. 

• • • 

LAST month I reported an article entitled “Predatory Homosexuals” by Roy Kerridge which appeared in the SPECTATOR. I am pleased to say that the readers of that magazine were quick to let the editor know what they thought of Mr Kerridge’s over-the-top fantasy. “Ignorant” “silly” “ugly” and “a perversion of truth” said Francis King in the correspondence column. “Sad and curiously repellent,” was what Ronnie Mutch thought of the article. “Hysterical rantings and grotesque generalisations… a sad discredit to your publication,” said M Gourley. 

Adam Mars-Jones was allowed equal space to put our point of view (15 Aug) and very eloquently he did it too: “Homosexuals are the softest of soft targets,” he. wrote. “They – I suspect I have left it too late to modulate gracefully into the first person plural—are poorly placed to rebut even the most preposterous description of homosexuality. This isn’t true of me, many gay people may think, but perhaps it is true of the majority of my minority. How can I know?” 

If you missed it, this is an article worth looking out in the back numbers department of your local library. 

• • • 

WHEN the history of the gay struggle is written the names of our persecutors will be many and varied. According to THE GUARDIAN (4 Sep), another is about to emerge—the Rev Tony Higton of Hawkswell, Essex. He’s the man who is trying to make Aids into a “moral issue” with the General Synod of the Church of England. “Moral issue”, when translated from religious gobbledygook, is a simple euphemism for “get the gays”. Or as Richard Kirker of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said: “We’re afraid of homophobia in the guise of concerns for Aids.” Mr Higton has assiduously collected 168 signatures from members of the Synod to a “three-point motion against promiscuity—’that sexual intercourse should take place only between a man and a woman who are married to each other; that fornication, adultery and homosexual acts are sinful in all circumstances; and that Christian leaders are called to be exemplary in all spheres of morality, including sexual morality as a condition of being appointed or remaining in office.”‘ 

Hopefully the Synod will realise that the business of rooting out ‘heretics’ belongs to the Church’s shameful and bloody past. Mr Higton’s bid to resurrect a sort of personal Inquisition with himself as witchfinder general needs to be nipped in the bud—and quick. Otherwise history has a nasty habit of repeating itself.

***

WE all know that high summer is the silly season in newspapers (although it could be argued that most British tabloids extend the season throughout the year), but surely the most ludicruous  story so far was carried in THE NEWS OF THE WORLD(30 Aug). It concerned a French man by the name of Rene Le Grange who has received a heart transplant from a female donor. He claims he has been ‘taken over’ by the personality of the woman whose heart now beats in his breast. 

“Rene says the heart swap saved his life—but doomed him to a fate WORSE than death. He complains: ‘Now I fancy other men. It’s terrible.'” Le Grange says that since his op. his marriage “is in ruins” and “now the former stud spends his nights cruising Paris’s seedy gay bars” whilst his “wife weeps alone in their marriage bed.”

I’ve heard some pretty feeble excuses from closet cases trying to explain their gayness, but Monsieur Le Grange must surely take the biscuit. 

***

A Gallup poll about attitudes to Aids was carried in the Sunday Telegraph (13 September) and found that “one in five respondents were “taking more care to avoid homosexuals or those they thought were homosexuals or avoiding places where homosexuals meet”.

I have to say again, it is the British and their malevolent refusal to treat Aids seriously that has led to this appalling situation. The survey shows that ignorance is still widespread and the tabloids are doing nothing to relieve their readers of this lack of knowledge.

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