GAY TIMES 108, September 1987

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

The trashy “Mills, the Angry Voice” column in THE STAR has attracted a £500 fine from the National Union of Journalists for its author, the crypto-fascist ranter Ray Mills. Mr Mills was censured by his Union for racism and incitement of hatred against homosexuals. He reacted with characteristic arrogance by saying that he will not pay the fine and would await his expulsion from the NUJ “sadly, but with his head held high”.

Even the ineffectual Press Council was moved to describe Mills’ remarks as “outrageously racist, crude, offensive and inflammatory.” No doubt Mr Mills will, in a future column, be parading this condemnation with pride.

The London listings magazine CITY LIMITS (6 Aug) reports Marc Wadsworth, who co-chairs the NUJ’s Ethics Council, as saying: “It is our view that Mills has been guilty of a sustained campaign against black people, lesbians and gays and we’re seeking to stop that”

Mr Wadsworth also says that he thought Mills’ reaction to the fine “must be a source of considerable concern for his NUJ colleagues on the paper’s staff.”

So, what is the likely out-come of this face-off between liberal intention and right-wing abuse? City Limits says that non-payment of the fine could cause “major industrial problems” at Express Newspapers and eventually lead to Ray Mills being booted out.

We will have to wait and see. But there can be no doubt that the man is a disgrace to the profession of journalism and his column is a disgrace to the ‘newspaper’ that publishes it. It is time for his colleagues on The Star to wake up to the fact that Mills is dragging their collective reputations into the gutter.

Protests about Ray Mills can be addressed to the editor of The Star, Lloyd Turner, at 121 Fleet Street, London EC4. (N.B. The circulation of The Star has dropped 9.3 per cent in the past year.)

The right-wing SPECTATOR (8 Aug) gave two pages to a man called Roy Kerridge for him to “denounce a kind of perversion which corrupts young people.” The ‘perversion’ in question is, of course, homosexuality.

The piece turned out to be nothing much more than a semi-pornographic fantasy masquerading as moral outrage. “Strange are the rules of homosexual ‘love and marriage’”, wrote Mr Kerridge, with all the authority of a complete ignoramus. “An older man, having persuaded a young boy to live with him, humiliates the boy by bringing ever-younger teenage boys back to his flat for tea and sympathy. Often the older man and his younger partner indulge voracious and voyeuristic sensations by going out together in pursuit of young boys.” (Ooer! My mother never told me about all this before she allowed me to become a homosexual!) “‘Gay clubs’ often have rooms attached to the dance floor where group sodomy can take place, sometimes with whips, chains and handcuffs as handy props. In a sense, many popular ‘gay clubs’ are brothels…”

At this point somebody should have chucked a bucket of cold water over Mr Kerridge to quell his agitation, but they didn’t and his hysteria goes on for column after column. Eventually the reader forms a mental picture of Roy Kerridge as a retired dirty-mac wearer, sitting in a rest-home somewhere, writing down his masturbation fantasies and passing them off as outrage.

The Spectator promises that “next week Adam Mars-Jones gives a contrary view.” And hopefully a sensible one.

What a mess the churches are getting themselves into over Aids. On the one hand we have those Christians who want to see an utter and complete condemnation of homosexuals and on the other we have the pragmatists who realise that condemnation does nothing to solve the problem and much to make it worse. THE INDEPENDENT carried a perfect example of this confusion (5 August) in an article about the Rev John Bowker, a member of the Church of England’s ‘Doctrine Commission’, who is trying to reconcile what the Bible says with what his conscience tells him on the Aids issue. Although he comes down on our side in the end, there is an awful lot of befuddlement in between. As the author of the article Andrew Brown says: “To talk to (the Rev Bowker) is to realise how rich and strange Christian dialectics can be and how far removed from the ordinary course of secular debate…”

I’ll accept the ‘strange’ but ‘rich’? The convoluted nonsense that seems to pass as ‘debate’ in religious circle is shot through with excuse making and wishful thinking No rational mind could make sense of statements like: “The liberal, or provisional wing of the Church of England, does not dominate the debate on sexual morality, yet it has the great advantage of a coherent theory of incoherence. Once you accept that interpretations of Christianity may legitimately vary, it is only a short step to conclude that this variation is desirable, and is itself an expression of God’s grace.”

In other words, you can think whatever you like just as long as you believe in God. This is a long way from what I was taught at Sunday school. In those days if you disagreed with God you’d likely get a short, sharp shock from a thunderbolt. But then, Aids wasn’t around in those simplistic times to let the religionists know that they’ve been wrong all along on so many issues.

Why do Christians torment themselves with this useless soul-searching when there is urgent humanitarian work to be done? It seems obvious (least to yours truly) that religious debate on the issue of sexual morality and Aids leads nowhere but to a cruel and perplexing dead-end.

The public service unions have generally responded well to the Aids issue. Most of them have gone to great lengths to try and reassure their members that it is safe to work with people with Aids, so long as ordinary precautions are taken.

The National Union of Public Employees is on the front line: among its members are nurses, hospital ancillary workers and home helps. Its policy is to educate and encourage the compassionate treatment of people with Aids. But now, according to COMMUNITY CARE (21 May), NUPE members are being “assured,,, there is no possibility of disciplinary action even if members still refuse to work with such people after they had received training about the disease.”

The statement from NUPE divisional organiser Roger Poole excuses “people who are naturally homophobic” from working with Aids cases.

Naturally homophobic? What on earth is that supposed to mean? If workers refuse to carry out their duties, even after being reassured that they are in no extra danger, then surely they are making a mockery of their professional ethics. Is NUPE saying that if foolish hysteria persists, even in the face of the facts, then it is acceptable if a member is “naturally homophobic”? What happens if a racist home help decides he or she doesn’t want to work with black people, or an anti-Semitic nurse refuses to care for a Jew? Would the union let it pass on the grounds of “natural racism”? I doubt it. So does the fact that they are making exceptions for homophobes indicate the Union’s own homophobia?

NUPE has done some sterling work in educating its members. But this policy statement needs an urgent rethink.

John Junor is a constant critic of gays. In a democratic society that is his privilege, I suppose. But you would think that he would at least attempt to make his comments a little more logical than the idiotic drivel that they are. On August 2nd he was writing in THE SUNDAY EXPRESS about the Terrence Higgins Trust and one of its safe sex leaflets. “It is probably the most filthy and crudely worded publication I have ever seen. Instead of preaching abstinence it gives illustrated advice to homosexuals about how to have perverted sex but with less risk.” Sir John even quotes one of the offending passages: “WANKING…GO FOR IT! Share the pleasure with a friend.”

“Isn’t it damnable,” fumes the frantic old fool, “that such a pamphlet should be available where children can pick it up?”

One could explain this topsy-turvy logic as simple eccentricity, but one finds it difficult to forgive his attempts to dissuade people from donating money to the Terrence Higgins Trust. What kind of morality is it that prompts cranks like Junor to try to damage the undoubted success of the Trust in promoting safe sex simply so his own strange sensitivities won’t be offended? Or does he think children won’t discover masturbation is THT leaflets are banned?

Name someone who is in the news and you can be sure that THE SUN or THE NEWS OF THE WORLD will find a gay angle from which to approach them. Last month’s Madonna hype led the NoW to headline “My Gay Affair with the Queen of Rock”. They had unearthed an ex-manager called Camille Barbon who claimed she had a “torrid affair” with That Girl.

More dangerously THE SUN (27 August) carried a “confession” from an ex-soldier Andrew Preston claiming he’d had sex with mass-murderer Michael Ryan [Note: Ryan committed what was to become known as the Hungerford massacre in which he shot to death 16 people before turning the gun on himself]. “Manic Rambo was my gay lover” as the front-page lead. The following day THE STAR and THE DAILY MIRROR were 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 have checked Ryan’s background thoroughly. There were no homosexual affairs.”

However, it was too late by then—The Sun had planted the idea in its 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 Sun as 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 unprurient and monogamously inclined. In fact normal has come to mean ‘whatever white, nominally heterosexual men who live in the Home Counties do’ – not matter how ugly and morally bankrupt those things are.”

Of course, The Sun and the Star and 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 MIRROR story (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.

Gratuitous insults department: “I read with interest the letter in The Sun from the 17-year-old lad whose mother is against him becoming a male nurse. She said it was a sissy job fit only for gays”—Reader’s letter in SUN (7 Sep).

“It is quite unbelievable that Sir Robert Armstrong should be putting the safety of our realm in the hands of men who have so often in the past sold us out. It does not take an historian to remember gay double agents like Anthony Blunt and Guy Burgess”—Terry Dicks, MP for Hayes and Harlington, commenting in the DAILY EXPRESS on the Civil Service instruction that homosexuals should not be denied access to sensitive security information.

You thought THE STAR couldn’t sink any lower without emerging in Australia? Think again, for now it has been joined in unholy 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 Star tells 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”, “lezzies”, “perverts”, “degenerates”), dehumanises us to the extent that we are made to appear legitimate targets for 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 Star unanimously 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 Star into the seemingly bottomless cesspit.

Last month I reported an article entitled Predator Homosexuals by Roy Kerridge that appeared in THE SPECTATOR. I’m pleased to say that the readers of that magazine were quick to let its editor know what they thought of Mr Kerridge’s over-the-top fantasy. “Ignorant” “silly” “ugly” and “a perversion of the 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.

And Mars-Jones was allowed equal space to put out point of view (15 August) 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 concern for Aids.”

Mr Higton has assiduously collected 168 signatures from members of the Synod for 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 conclude that the rooting out of ‘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 ludicrous 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” while 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 of attitudes about Aids was carried in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (13 Sep) and revealed that “one in five (respondents) said they were taking more care to avoid homosexuals or those they thought were homosexual or avoid places where homosexuals met.”

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

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