“Vile book in school!” screamed the front-page headline in THE SUN “Pupils see pictures of gay lovers,” was the sub-heading on this so-called “Exclusive” story. It concerned a book called ‘Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin’ published by Gay Men’s Press. It has been available for three years but The Sun managed to discover it the day before the elections for the Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority, who have made the book available to their teachers.
The Sun described the book as “a shocking schoolbook showing a little girl in bed with her homosexual father and his naked lover.” A more outrageous piece of distortion would be hard to imagine. It is, in fact, a friendly and reassuring attempt to help the children of gay parents understand their situation better. The Sun typically makes it sound like a sordid piece of porn all wrapped up in incest and child exploitation.
And as for “exclusive” —the book was ‘exposed’ by THE NEWS OF THE WORLD several years ago, and the week before The Sun’s story, THE ISLINGTON GAZETTE was using it to get at the Labour-controlled council there. And only the weekend before that wheezing old windbag George Gale (who has moved from the EXPRESS to the SUNDAY MIRROR) was on about the same book: “I don’t mind what homosexuals get up to so long as they don’t frighten the horses or spread Aids,” he says magnanimously, “But like the great majority of people who lead normal and natural sex lives rather than abnormal and unnatural ones, I get fed up with the gay lobby. The idea that homosexuals form an oppressed minority is nonsense. The notion that they are entitled to propagate their peculiar practises at the public’s expense is preposterous.”
Can you believe the arrogance of this man? Not only does he pat himself on the back for his “normality” he’s got the almighty conceit to suggest that anyone who isn’t exactly like him is “unnatural”.
Not wanting to be left out of this free-for-all gay bashing, that tiresome old toss-pot John Junor in THE SUNDAY EXPRESS put his size twelve in. “Which porn shop is peddling this filth?” he demands. (He’s talking about the book, by the way, not his newspaper.) “No porn shop … the Inner London Education Authority.” You’ll be pleased to know that Sir John’s long-overdue retirement is imminent, thank gawd.
The opinion polls had forewarned the Tory press that Thatcher was going to take a pasting, so they pulled out all the stops in their dirty tricks campaign prior to the recent elections. “Row over call for gay education in schools,” lied THE MAIL, whipping up a “storm” over a leaflet distributed by the Campaign for Homosexual equality to all candidates in the ILEA elections. All the leaflet said was that candidates should try to remember that not everyone is heterosexual. That simple message somehow became “children should be taught that relationships between men and women are not necessarily normal” in the hands of the Mail’s Home Affairs Correspondent Anthony Doran.
Meanwhile, Mr Shah’s tatty excuse for a newspaper, TODAY, proved that despite all its claims to be ‘different’ it is really just more of the same. It went on about a feminist group in Haringey, North London who were campaigning against racism and sexism. With the deftness of a practised liar, the Today hack transformed it into: “A feminist group in a left wing borough has been attacked for trying to turn people into homosexuals.” It’s so ludicrous it’s laughable.
And THE MAIL couldn’t let this story pass, either. They said the group was “urging Haringey council to publicise lesbians as loving, caring, perfectly normal women with special teaching on the subject in the borough’s schools plus the promotion of books like The Joy of Lesbian Sex in local libraries.” The DAILY TELEGRAPH told us of Islington Council’s “Job priority plan for homosexuals.”
Local papers, too, went to town on the “gays-under-the-Labour-bed” routine. THE EALING GAZETTE created a non-story about a local Labour candidate (who also happens to be a priest) after he vaguely spoke in favour of gay rights in a private letter. It didn’t work. The Tories lost control of Ealing along with many other councils.
But has this taught the newspapers the lesson that the more lies you tell, the less notice people take of you? I doubt it. In the run-up to the general election we can expect to see our lives used as a political weapon more and more. I just hope the Labour Party and the Alliance won’t allow this tactic to scare them away from their commitment to gay rights.
Television event of the month was the screening of ‘An Early Frost’, a TV movie about Aids and the effect on a middle-class American family when they discover their Son has the disease. The subject was sensitively handled, although it was constrained by the conventions of the TV movie genre. It is reported that the script had to be rewritten thirteen times before production was authorised by the network censors.
On the whole it was well-intentioned and had moments of real emotion and compassion but, strangely, the gay lovers never touched each other, not even in the privacy of their own home. When they were eventually reunited after a long and painful separation they didn’t even shake hands.
By the end, all the homophobes had seen the error of their ways and the whole family was hugging each other and crying, which seems to be the mandatory conclusion to all American TV movies.
However, given the present right-wing mood, we should be grateful to see that American TV can still find time for thoughtful, liberal drama. ‘An Early Frost’ will have helped a lot of people understand something that is still being deliberately misrepresented by other sections of the media.
Much further down the telly scale comes ‘Trapper John’ (Thames TV), an American series which is a sort of cross between ‘Dr Kildare’ and `Starsky and Hutch’. It is shown very late at night for, I suspect, those who need an aid to sleep. A recent episode concerned itself with the attempted assassination of a gay policeman in the San Francisco force. As the injured rookie recovered in the hospital where the series is set, his bigoted father turned up and went bananas when he discovered that his son was a “fag”. Before the programme was over, of course, they were hugging each other, crying and saying, “I love you, pop” and “I love you, too, son”. Zzzzzzz.
Bernard Levin, scab journalist at THE TIMES, wrote an interesting piece headlined “Why gays must not create a new ghetto”. His thoughts had been prompted by a visit to Larry Kramer’s play ‘The Normal Heart’ (Albery Theatre). Mr Levin told us that he fully sympathises with our plight and can see the impatience we feel over the lack of political interest in Aids because it is perceived as ‘the gay plague’. “After decades of brutal incomprehension and indeed persecution, the homosexuals’ desire to assert their nature positively rather than defensively is fully understandable. But to assert it in terms of an entirely separate nature is to risk exchanging one kind of ghetto for another,” So what does Levin see as the answer? “Perhaps we should not think in terms of ‘homosexuals’ at all, much less of a ‘homosexual community’ …But impatience and anger will be wasted (as well as resisted) if they lead to claims for a separate status, let alone a special one.”
There may be some truth in what Levin says. In the end we can’t all live lives apart from the majority, and few of us would want to. But in the face of tyrants like his own paymaster and an establishment that doesn’t just drag its feet over change but actively tries to push us back into the closet, can it be wrong to want to unite and fight? The ‘gay community’ is a political rather than a social or religious grouping. We are so diverse in our opinions, backgrounds and priorities that we could never form a discernible ‘community’ In the same way as the Jews or the ethnic minorities do. Dennis Altman got nearest to it in his book ‘Aids and the New Puritanism’ (Pluto Press) when he used the term ‘gay constituency’.
But whatever we choose to call ourselves, we won’t be pushed back into the bad old days, not by AIDS or Murdoch or Tebbit. We’re here and we’re staying here.
‘La Cage Aux Folles’ opened at the London Palladium to predictably ecstatic reviews. A couple of the ‘liberal’ papers tried some political analysis of the first Broadway musical with a gay theme. Michael Billington in THE GUARDIAN though it “about as daring as a Sunday school outing”. He makes the point that the gay ‘marriage’ at the centre of the show is too bland and placid to be real. “The show’s trick is to pander to an audience’s liberalism without ever testing it,” he says. Michael Ratcliff in The OBSERVER quotes one line from the show: “In the minds of the masses a lush is more acceptable than a fruit” and then says, “the audience titters because it is true and most of them agree.”
The only thing that offended me about ‘La Cage’ was the hype that preceded it. The male ‘chorus girls’ couldn’t wait to tell TODAY that they weren’t gay. “I’m married,” said one, “And I’ve got a steady girlfriend, let’s get it straight,” says another. THE MAIL said the star of the show, George Hearn, “would like it to be known that he is a three-times married heterosexual father of one, who likes pretty dresses but likes them best on women.”
Eventually Dennis Quilley, the co-star, told THE STANDARD “I am tired of having to answer questions about how a straight man could play the role of a gay club owner in France.” Just so long as we all know—nobody, but nobody who has anything to do with ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ is gay. OK?
A POLL in the DAILY EXPRESS conducted amongst single women between the ages of 16-30 showed that “29% thought homosexual relations between consenting adults were morally wrong”.
Does that mean that 71% thought they were perfectly OK?