Elton John didn’t cross my palm with silver three years ago when he got married, but all the same I made a prediction in this very column (Gay Times 68) saying: “When … the marriage ends, Elton is going to reap a nasty harvest from the sick publicity machine he is courting.” Well, lo and behold, the marriage is ended and right on cue the frighteningly vindictive SUN moves in for the kill. “Elton Ends Sham Marriage” was the front page on 27th March, while inside a two-page spread (“Marriage Built on Lies”) dragged up the dirt from a “dossier” that the brave hacks of Wapping had cobbled together “going back to the early seventies”. Even multi-millionaires are helpless in the face of Murdoch’s unstoppable spite machine.
The Star (27 March) was a little less vicious, but the tone of its story was in equally bad taste—and it managed to score a double. Not only did it repeatedly point out Elton’s gayness, but also suggested that his wife Renate was having a lesbian relationship, too. “Many said it was the perfect marriage of convenience,” said The Star. “HE preferred the company of men. SHE preferred the company of women.”
Meanwhile the same paper was carrying excerpts from Lee Everett Alkin’s book Kinds of Loving (March 24-27), describing her marriage to Kenny Everett. It chronicled a classic case of a gay man trying to run away from the truth of his sexuality, only to find it eventually catching up with him again. Kenny Everett was lucky to have chosen Lee as his partner for she was more accommodating than many women would have been in that situation, and even though their marriage is ended she obviously still loves her “Ev”.
And now we extend a warm welcome to Tina Turner as the latest addition to Murdoch’s ever-growing list of dragged-out public figures. It was the rock star’s turn for The Sun treatment on 31st March, when the front page was taken up with the headline: “Gay Loves of Tina Turner.”
Meanwhile that other diseased Murdoch organ, The News of the World (22 March) was tittle-tattling to its readers about Matthew Parris, TV presenter and ex Tory MP, being gay. This is no great news to regular readers of Gay Times, but seems to be of abiding interest to NoW readers. “I am an active homosexual and I do have a lover,” is the bald quote from Mr Parris, and three cheers for it. It seems Mr Parris has found the answer to the salacious exposés practised by the tabloids—honesty. When asked about the problems his gayness caused in parliament he says: “MPs told me I’d do well to keep quiet,” but to his credit he didn’t and “revealed that the work he was most proud of as an MP was his involvement with homosexual law reform and gay rights.” He also says: “Before I left parliament I raised the matter of homosexual equality with Mrs Thatcher, but she was” (surprise! surprise!) “non-committal”.
It would be very difficult for even the News of the World to make a ‘scandal’ out of such disarming truth-telling.
The Mail on Sunday (29 March) and Daily Express (31 March) both carried features on the subject of “curing” homosexuality. “Forget the dolls, it’s better to be macho” said the headline in The Express over an unconvincing piece of wishful thinking. I almost expected them to conclude that it would be better to be The Yorkshire Ripper than gay—at least he was ‘normal’ right?
The Mail on Sunday was more worrying with its “Masters and Johnson ‘cure for gays’ shock.” In it the “sex gurus” claim that they have perfected a “therapy” which has “cured” 70 percent of their homosexual clients who were “highly motivated” to become heterosexual. This is not new, of course. Masters and Johnson have always alleged that homosexuals who wanted it badly enough could become heterosexual—it’s the 70 percent claim that has set up the shock waves.
What the feature didn’t tell us was how long this “cure” was supposed to last. Most of us know “highly motivated” homosexuals who have tried their hardest to be straight. They’ve married and had children, but the truth can always run faster than lies and it has always caught up with them in the end.
Kenny Everett, Elton John, Tina Turner … the list of those who’ve tried to please other people by pretending to be something they weren’t is endless. The only result is misery and shattered lives—not only for the gay person but for those who have become caught in the sham—the wives, husbands and children. I understand why gays do it—pressure from peers, family and society in general is almost irresistible—but the result is almost always the same.
Psychiatrists have always moved with the tide. In the fifties when homosexuality was heavily persecuted they invented cruel “aversion therapies” and psychoanalysed people in the hope of “curing” them. Then when the climate changed in the sixties and seventies to a more tolerant stance, the behaviourists started saying that the best answer was to let gay people express themselves in the manner that was natural for them. Now we’ve gone back to an anti-sex era and the psychologists obligingly start the old “cure” business again. The problem is that Masters and Johnson are so influential in their field that their findings will be taken seriously all over the world.
Malevolent politicos will embrace them as “proof” that “now there is a cure” no-one need be homosexual any more, and anybody who persists in the practice (and therefore ‘wilfully spreads Aids’) will be persecuted unmercifully. In many ways these “gurus” could be much more dangerous to our safety than any of the crazy Tory back-benchers or their fanatical religious supporters. In the end it is their intolerance that will have to be cured—not homosexuality.
Hold onto your hats, I’ve got some astounding news! There has been a spate of sympathetic newspaper coverage of gay matters in the past month. Congratulations to The Deptford and Peckham Mercury for devoting two recent front pages to supporting gay people in the area. The local religious loonies, The Ichthus Christian Fellowship, had distributed a nasty anti-gay leaflet and the paper ran a strong front-page editorial condemning the church and calling for equal treatment for gay men and lesbians.
Then on 2nd April the front page was taken up with a statement from ten local clergymen who also supported the rights of gay people. “Bless ’em all” was the headline. I had a lump in my throat as I read it.
Then Today’s TV critic, Sally Vincent, laid into the insidiously dishonest Larry Grayson (1 April): “Real, larky, outrageous camp parodies, stale institutions and rigid gender role observances. I don’t care how effeminate a master of camp dares to be, as long as the heart of his humour is in the right place and there is vitality to his mockery …Grayson’s chosen stance is to shelter behind the acceptable face of good, old honest camp, in order to put across what I can only describe as a one-man homophobe’s cheer-leading stunt … Should we become addicted to the Grayson touch, we might as well bring back the Black and White Minstrel Show, so we can remember what funny, jumping-up-and-down, palm-shimmering, sub-humans black people used to be. Well, it would make a change from playing gays, wouldn’t it?”
Pretty sophisticated thinking for a tabloid journo.
The Independent constructively explored the Labour party’s confusion over gay rights (9 April) and then allowed Peter Campbell of the Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality space to put his case. If only more Tories were as sensible as Peter Campbell I’d rest easier!
The new London Daily News (blessed relief from the insufferable Evening Standard) published an article (10 April) by Bryan Derbyshire, editor of National Gay, explaining “why London’s gay community will not retreat despite Aids and increased violence.”
Does this indicate cracks in the until-now united anti-gay stance of the British pop press?
Last month it was the massively inflated Geoffrey Dickens who was acting the part of bogeyman for gay people with his pompous talk of “recriminalising” homosexuality. I found his performance strangely reassuring, for he came over not so much as a statesman, more of a rather objectionable nut case.
And so it is with Peter Bruinvels, the other inadequate rentagob Tory who is one of the prime movers behind the Conservative Family Campaign and their efforts to get gay sex outlawed again. Polly Toynbee did a wonderfully sharp hatchet job on this mindless jerk in The Guardian (30 March). “Who is this ogre, this populist Titan, self-styled leader the moral majority?” she asks. “He is a tiny chubby fellow with damp hands and pouchy cheeks that have earned him the soubriquet ‘The Talking Hamster’. When he gets up in the House to speak, Labour back-benchers shout ‘Stand up!’ as he is if shortest MP … He is affable, chattery and as dim a one-watt bulb. He runs away at the mouth, words spilling out in a pool of contradictory nonsense … If he is the worst the ‘moral majoritarians’ can come up with, there is little to fear.”
The explanation for Mr Bruinvels’ rather sad attention-seeking is the fact that his majority at last election was only 933. If the voters of Leicester East have any sense they’ll ditch the squirt at the first opportunity and get themselves a real politician.
It seems that liberalism and tolerance are dirty words these days. Anyone espousing anything but the authoritarian philosophy of the Tories is seen as a “threat to society”. The gay couple in EastEnders were the final straw for those who favour only one kind sex for everyone (within marriage and preferably the missionary position with the lights off.)
Mary Kenny in The Daily Mail (9 April) is a classic example of this tight-arsed new morality which seeks to impose old-time religion on an unwilling population. Attacking EastEnders (as her part in the propaganda campaign to get television brought under the control of the Obscene Publications Act) she wrote of the programme: “Recently an underage homosexual man… was bemoaning the fact that he had to wait until his 21st birthday to have anal intercourse legally.” I saw the scene she was referring to and nobody mentioned anal intercourse or sodomy – but truth is not the issue with Ms Kenny when there is “moral” legislation to get through.
Kenny says that television is imposing a morality of “health-conscious secular materialism”. What she’d prefer, of course, is the “morality” of the religious fanatic – a morality that refuses to face up to life as it is and which is wickedly repressive and dictatorial.
What her article demonstrates most clearly, though, is that if the legislation gets through (and there is every likelihood if parliamentary time can be found for it), the mention of homosexuality on television in anything but critical terms will be out of the question.
However, despite the Whitehouse/Kenny axis, The Times (11 April) was able to report a Mori poll which indicated that “tolerance of homosexuality” had risen from 45 per cent in January to 50 per cent in February.
The Church of England certainly has no problem in producing gasbags. This was amply demonstrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury (Times 30 March) when he repeated his assertion that homosexuals are “handicapped” and blathered on interminably about “erotic homosexual genital processes”. This was after he had admitted: “I have seen homosexual couples in a stable relationship and actually providing in terms of simple human generosity, hospitality, artistic achievement and flair, what I can’t gainsay as human good.” Perhaps it would be better for the Archbishop to keep his peace until he knew what he really wanted to say.
And the same goes for the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev John Baker, who was reported in The Independent (2 April) as “condemning” gay sex. “He suggests that one can properly deduce a morality from the design of the world, which God intended. Thus, the homosexually inclined could find physical expression of their feelings ‘only in ways for which our nature is intended.’ They should not indulge in what the Bishop calls “pseudo-intercourse”, nor in actions that lead up to it …”
We know that God moves in mysterious ways, but do his representatives have to speak in similar fashion? Reassuring to know, though, that such men as these make up the very foundations of our society.
What you might call Pillocks of the Establishment
Last month’s Aids statistics prompted one of THE SUN’s filthier editorials (11 April): “They [people with Aids] have only themselves to blame for their terrible plight. But now gay campaigners are trying to turn the argument the other way round and make the whole community bear some of the guilt. This is nonsense. The term Gay Plague upsets some people but that, effectively, is exactly what it is.”
And so it goes on, citing the “innocent victims” and the “guilty” ones. It ends with a “stark message to every gay in the land”: “Homosexual intercourse spreads a killer disease. Lay off before it is too late.”
There is no mention in The Sun of the dramatic evidence that gay men have changed their sexual habits in a big way. There is no acknowledgment of the fact that the majority of Aids cases that are showing themselves now were contracted years ago before anyone even knew that HIV existed. The Sun isn’t interested in this, its only concern is scapegoating and persecution.
So, here’s a “stark message” to The Sun: why don’t you idiots learn some facts before you start shooting your mouths off?