GAY TIMES 100, January 1987

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

The “swirling cesspit”—which, if I’m not mistaken, is located somewhere in Greater Manchester Police Headquarters—has unleashed the backlash we’ve all been anticipating. Those of us who’ve been hoping that reason would prevail have seen our hopes vanishing down the plug-hole. Ayatollah Anderton has rained fire and brimstone upon us. [Note:James Anderton was Chief Constable of Greater Manchester from 1975 to 1991. He was also an evangelical Christian prone to making outrageously reactionary remarks. At a national police conference on how the police should deal with people with Aids, he said: “Everywhere I go I see evidence of people swirling around in the cesspool of their own making. Why do homosexuals freely engage in sodomy and other obnoxious sexual practices knowing the dangers involved?”]

His words were ludicrous, unrealistic, over-the-top and dangerous. They were the words of ignorance and fear and they were the very words which THE SUN and the denizens of another cesspit had been waiting for. “Perverts are to blame for the killer plague,” was THE SUN’s headline (12 Dec), one which they’ve had on ice for some time now, waiting for the right moment. “Why do homosexuals continue to share each other’s beds?” asked The Sun’s leader writer, “Their defiling the act of love is not only unnatural but in today’s Aids-hit world it is LETHAL … The Sun hopes Mr Anderton will treat these perverts with the contempt they deserve.”

You think it can’t get any worse than that? Look at the DAILY EXPRESS (13 Dec) “The homosexuals who have brought this plague upon us should be locked up,” said one of their readers. “Burning is too good for them. Bury them in a pit and pour on quick lime.”

“In leading a moral crusade against the decadent sexual attitude of a society that condones homosexuality and prostitution and thereby fosters the spread of Aids, Mr Anderton is articulating a deep-rooted feeling in Britain,” said an editorial in The LONDON STANDARD (12 Dec) and this seemed to be borne out by a telephone poll on LBC radio (12 Dec) which showed 74 percent in favour of Mr Anderton’s views. The Manchester police claimed 99 percent support for their chief from the “hundreds” of calls they said they had received.

And yet criticism for Mr Anderton’s speech came from unlikely sources. The Government being one of them. Minister’s involved in the Aids education campaign were quick to jump on the outrageous remarks. TODAY newspaper (13 Dec) opined that: “Policemen, it is said, have big feet, James Anderton has a big mouth, too … His outburst … will do nothing to stem the growing hysteria over this disease.” And even THE STAR managed to say: “When the deeply religious Mr Anderton attends church tomorrow, we suggest he reflects on two words of criticism from the Terrence Higgins Trust … unchristian and uncaring.”

But on Sunday (14 Dec) the right-wing press were once more on the bandwagon, causing it to roll even faster. “Mr Anderton’s remarks will strike an answering chord in the breasts of many men and women in the pew who cannot be described as stupid or intolerant.” wrote the Rev. William Oddie in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, “the tragedy that follows disobeying God’s instructions was not surprising.”

“James Anderton is right,” editorialised THE SUNDAY EXPRESS. “He talks more sense than all the Government propaganda we have had so far.”

“Aids should be made a notifiable disease and buggery, almost certainly the main way of transmitting it, should once more become a criminal offence,” was the predictable response of George Gale in THE SUNDAY MIRROR. And finally, THE SUNDAY TIMES warned: “Anderton has served notice. The Moral Majority is stirring.”

Anderton’s speech has certainly lit the sparks of intolerance, hatred and violence, and now the fascists of the press are anxious for those sparks to be fanned into a conflagration. For if this raw incitement to violence comes from the police, then who will gays turn to for protection from this ghastly threat? The “moral majority” have stirred before within living memory, in Germany. There “morality” was that of the murderer and the beast. They were equally convinced that what they were doing was right and “necessary” to protect their beloved country. Is the same mistake going to be made again?

The next General Election will, according to Joe Ashton MP (writing in THE STAR) be fought on the issue of “Aids, homos, lesbians, Loony Left, race and barmy councils.” The groundwork is already being laid by the Tory tabloids droning on endlessly about local authorities and gay rights. Aids has come along just at the right time to add fuel to this fire. And despite Norman Fowler’s plea that Aids not be used as a party-political weapon, we have sad spectacle of it becoming just that.

The Prime Minister has fired her first volley, so we know it is serious. According to THE STAR (3 Dec) “she said she hoped for a reversal of recent trends which have made homosexuality and drug taking socially accepted.” This allowed The Star to headline its report: “Maggie’s Rap for Gay Out-casts—Aids threat makes them unacceptable.” But is this what Mrs Thatcher really said or just the Star’s interpretation? For the answer to that we have to turn to THE GUARDIAN (3 Dec) to find out that she was answering questions from Tory MP John Townend who “asked her to agree that the spread of the disease could be greatly reduced if ‘there was a change in public attitudes, and in particular if indulging in homosexual activities and drug taking were once again to become morally unacceptable.’ The Prime Minister replied: ‘I’m sure that attitudes are changing in the light of information about Aids … and then I think that much of the behaviour that has been going on will be unacceptable for many and various reasons.” Ominous enough, I agree, but hardly The Star’s contention that she has called for gays to be made “outcasts.” Wishful thinking on their part, I suppose.

The Sun journalist with the highest hate-rating amongst “loony left” students is Professor John Vincent. He wrote in 3rd Dec issue of that rag: “This autumn’s Labour Conference voted … for a public campaign for gay rights … absurd though this is. For gay rights today are much the same as anyone else’s, and are not under any obvious threat.” (Where has this man been for the past three months?). “There is not much sign of a public campaign from Labour’s National Executive. Presumably being sensible men, they realise that there are few more uphill tasks than promoting gay rights in the middle of the Aids plague.”

Despite the glaring contradictions in this short piece, Prof. Vincent is probably right about the Labour Party. But I don’t see that the Tories really have any reasoned argument for going to the opposite extreme and trying to take rights away from gay people. Indeed, their bluff was called as THE DAILY EXPRESS (6 Dec) reported: “An allegation about Tory gays in ‘high places’ shocked the Commons yesterday during a Conservative attack on Labour council policies. Angered by Tory complaints about gay teachers in Labour authorities, the party’s front-bencher Mr Jack Straw claimed there are some in high places in the Conservative hierarchy who have homosexual tendencies … He said gays holding senior posts in the Conservative party deserve the same tolerance that Labour Councillors are trying to give in their own areas. He added: “Members better put up or shut up on this because if they are saying it is wrong for homosexuals to teach in schools, are they also saying it is also wrong to seek leadership of this country and to seek prominent position within the Tory party and in this House?”

It seems like a reasonable point at first sight, but THE SUN (6 Dec) wasn’t long in turning the whole thing on its head. “Power-hungry gays have infiltrated the top ranks of the Tory party”, and you see how easily the whole thing turns into a witch-hunt within the Tory party, and how this would add to the growing paranoia and hatred of gays in general.

Indeed, there are signs of it happening already. The SUNDAY MIRROR (7 Dec) revealed that “would-be Conservative candidates were sent on a weekend of intensive interviews by Tory Central Office.” They were told that if they wanted to get ahead, they must get a wife. “All the bachelors in this group were taken aside and told that they had ‘little chance’ unless they got married. The MIRROR says that when bachelor ex-PM Ted Heath was asked about the ban he retorted “It sounds like nonsense”. Another unmarried Tory, Charles Irving said: “It’s a typical Conservative attitude from the Victorian era.” But aren’t the Tories into Victorian values? Perhaps Mr Irving had better watch his seat (if you’ll pardon the expression), along with a lot of ambitious, but closeted, Tory politicians.

Faint hope comes in a quote from a spokesman for Norman Tebbit (THE SUN 6 Dec): “Mr Tebbit knows homosexuals” (not in the biblical sense one assumes) “and has a high regard for some of them.” But then, Norman Tebbit is lower than a snake’s belly, so who’d trust anything he said anyway?

More from the crazy world of Aids reporting. The good news is that some papers have tried to look at the issues sanely, rationally and calmly. Full marks to TODAY (Nov 19/20) for an informed four-page special. Much of the credit for the realistic tone of the piece must surely go to gay journalist Harry Coen. The DAILY TELEGRAPH (Dec 1/2) also tackled the issue satisfactorily with a two-day feature by Lesley Garner. The GUARDIAN continued to be sensible and restrained with several excellent features and letters.

Franklin’s cartoon

The low-life tabloids, however, persist in their campaign of wilful distortion, sensationalism and trivialisation. The SUN has been particularly nasty, as you’d expect. “Gay Santa Gets Sack—Fairy grotto bust up” said the front page of 6 Dec. They wallow and rejoice in the pain and humiliation being heaped on gay people because of Aids. They, and their sister paper, THE NEWS OF THE WORLD, have harassed and pursued Kenny Everett, almost willing Aids on the poor man. They published a cartoon by Franklin on 5 Dec which would disgust anyone with a grain of compassion.

THE LONDON STANDARD also hit rock bottom with a tasteless Jak cartoon (24 Nov). Aids is causing monumental suffering to a lot of people—and human misery and death are not the material that jokes are made from. These peddlers of hate should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Here’s a selection of other quotes from the past month to illustrate how serious the threat to our lives has become:

“The surest way to protect the public from Aids is to outlaw homosexuality and lock up offenders. —Desmond Swayne, prospective Conservative candidate for Pontypridd (WESTERN MAIL 22 Nov).

“Isn’t it time the Government either stopped pretending that the fairies who started this disease, and the even filthier fairies who keep spreading it, are the fairies at the bottom of the garden,” —John Junor (SUNDAY EXPRESS 30 Nov)

“It disturbs me that the growing ‘army’ of homosexuals is infiltrating the world of children’s television… We cannot allow this to continue. And more especially when studio audiences are invariably brought into contact with these persons,” (Roy Court, CHELTENHAM SOURCE 23 Oct)

“I have no sympathy with promiscuous young people and homosexuals with Aids. They’ve asked for it. If people lived as the good Lord provided, there would be no Aids,” – (Letter in DAILY MIRROR 8 Nov).

“If Saatchi and Saatchi were advising the Vatican, they could not avoid the point that the market needs a strong line on gays, not a gentler one. St Paul’s view on those who in unnatural lusts would be decidedly populist today,” – Mary Kenny (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 30 Nov).

“I regard homosexuality as a misfortunate,” – Archbishop of York (DAILY MAIL 21 Nov).

“Homosexuals should be viewed as handicapped people,” – Archbishop of Canterbury (DAILY MAIL 22 Nov)

“Chastity will become once more a virtue… and homosexual practices – which have brought this disease upon us – a moral, legal and social offence,” – George Gale (SUNDAY MIRROR, 30 Nov).

“The inference that ‘gay’ is on a par with ‘straight’… is homosexual propaganda very cleverly done, riding on the back of public concerns about Aids,” – George Gale (DAILY MIRROR 26 Nov).

“The chief apparent object of last week’s full-page ads (‘Aids is not prejudiced’) appears to have been to protect homosexuals from ostracism… Ordinary people may be ill-informed on Aids but they are not fools. They note that councils pay full-time officials to proselytise on behalf of homosexuality… that books advocating homosexuality are circulated amongst children by local authorities, that clubs and facilities, often subsidised on the rates enable homosexuals to meet, pick up partners and so spread the disease,” – Paul Johnson (SPECTATOR 6 Dec).

“Christmas is coming and so is the Jew-baiting season,” wrote Martin Page in THE SUNDAY MIRROR (16 Nov)  “Does the New Testament teach us to hate Jesus’s people? If it does, should the offending scripture be purged of the offending passages? The Right Revered Austin Baker, Bishop of Salisbury and chairman of the Church of England’s doctrinal commission answers yes on both counts. He also says: “Unselective love is central to the spiritual wisdom of Jesus.”

I see. Well, while the Right Rev has got his blue pencil out, perhaps he’d like to have a look at one two passages I could point out to him. Or is his ‘unselective’ love not quite so unselective after all? Maybe the gay Christians would like to pursue the matter with him?

One glimmer of hope is that Gavin Strang, MP for Edinburgh East is introducing a Private Members Bill into the House of Commons which will be concerned with protecting the rights of people affected by Aids. According to THE GUARDIAN (10 Dec) this will include “making it illegal for employers to sack staff who are carrying the Aids virus.”

We must all help get this Bill through, and we can start by writing to our own MPs and demanding that they support the measures when they come before the House. If you live in a Conservative area, you could point out in your letter the damage that viewing Aids as a party-political issue could cause. I would be pleased to see any replies which Gay Times readers receive to any such lobbying?

Why not write the letter now?

GAY TIMES 101, February 1987

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

There can be little doubt that The Sun now has a settled and co-ordinated anti-gay campaign under way. Their coverage of gay issues is so relentless, so grindingly negative that no-one can avoid the conclusion that at some stage the reporters must have been briefed to dig as much gay dirt as they can. And if they can’t find any dirt, then they should soil the truth. Let’s look at some of this month’s offerings from the pages of that ghastly rag. To start with, I have mixed feelings about the question-and-answer interview with Jimmy Somerville which appeared in THE SUN (22 Dec). One half of me says it’s good that Jimmy should be asked questions which some of his fans must long to know the answers to. (“How bothered are you about Aids”, “Have you ever made love to a woman?” “Have you ever dressed up in women’s clothes?”). But the other half of me wonders what the purpose of these prurient questions were. Do they raise consciousness or do they just reinforce misunderstandings and misconceptions? I don’t know, but I couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable about it. Especially given some of the other stories that the Sun has carried over the past month.

For instance, Rock Hudson’s house was the star of another of another of the Sun’s Aids misinformation pieces. Apparently the dead actor’s house is still up for sale and no-one will by it. Hudson’s butler is quoted as saying: “They seem petrified of touching any of Rock’s belongings. They won’t even have a glass of water or a cup of tea because they have to drink from Rock’s glasses or crockery…” The whole tone of the story gives credence to the superstition that Aids somehow something more than just a disease that it has supernatural powers that allow it to linger in wait for the unwary. Some hope for the Government’s weedy education campaign in the face of such powerful misinformation.

29 December and THE SUN treated us to quotes from “tough guy” rock singer Gary Moore. “I don’t know how people can like the Communards. That guy Somerville has done for gays what Sam Fox did for feminism. He’s not exactly the acceptable face of gayness, is he? If anyone was undecided in their attitude to homosexuals, Jimmy Somerville would make your mind up for you – against them. He’s an ugly, no-talent creep.”

On 30 December, Jimmy was in THE SUN again, this time chiding The Pet Shop Boys for not coming out of the closet. “They have to be more upfront. It’s their duty to other gays. I don’t associate myself with the Pet Shop Boys because they still won’t publicly admit they’re gay. It really annoys me that they call their album Disco but don’t admit its relationship to gayness.”

On 6 January The Sun treated us to “What Fowler will see in Gay City where one in 15 has Aids”. The story by classic scab journo Neil Wallis began: “Health Secretary Norman Fowler is going on an Aids fact-finding mission to San Francisco later this month.” What Mr Fowler will see is a Sun reader’s nightmare come true. “Gays wear one of 14 different coloured handkerchiefs in the back pocket of their Levis. That signals to the world the particular perversion they prefer… It’s claimed that promiscuity among gays has stopped, but it’s only a claim! ,,, In Frisco today freak means old-fashioned, long-haired hippies advocating love between the sexes. It doesn’t mean out-of-the-ordinary. Well, it couldn’t, could it?”

And so it goes on. I’d just like Mr Wallis to know that if he goes to San Franciso and the powerful gay community gets to hear about it, he’s likely to leave more than his heart there.

On 12 Jan we were regaled with a silly (even by The Sun’s standards) non-story about a group of very minor TV stars going out for a “night on the town” in Manchester and ending up in Napoleon’s gay club. “Burley telly Sergeant Major Windsor Davies didn’t care much for the company of “the lovely boys” and did “a quick about turn”. The Sun tells us that the rest of them “brazened it out for a while. If The Sun is trying to tell us that these showbiz innocent had “accidentally” went to Napoleon’s with no previous knowledge of its style, they can go and tell it to the Marines.

More worrying though is the nasty twisting of a story about a gay group in Cambridge (18 Jan.)  advising its members not to be tested for HIV infection. Anyone who has heard the whole story will know that this is sound advice, but in the hands of The Sun leader writer gay groups become “an evil force in the land” and gay activists “deserve to be treated as pariahs. They deserve to be locked away where they can do no more harm.”

On another page in the same issue there was a story about a police swoop on a cottage in Victoria Station in which, according to THE SUN, “police have arrested 68 gays in a massive anti-vice swoop.” An un-named “commuter” was quoted as saying: “It was a degrading sight to see evil middle aged men preying on young boys.”

The Sun has also told us over the past month that nasty lesbians are tormenting poor, innocent drug-pusher Rosie Johnston in prison, they also called for the shooting of the Barlinnie jail protestors and asserted that the National Union of Journalists was trying to create a totalitarian state for daring to fine their wonderful reporters. Talk about seeing the world through a looking glass—it seems The Sun has this wonderful facility for turning everything inside out and making it into the opposite of what it really is.

But who are the people behind The Sun? I ask this question because I am genuinely curious to know what sort of men they are. Are they really as nasty, greedy, violent, treacherous and downright rotten as their writings suggest?

Over the past few months The Sun has pursued the gay community and gay individuals with the ferocity of a shark in a feeding frenzy. Their editorial condemnations of us become more and more extreme—whether it be exhortations to James Anderton to “treat the perverts with the contempt they deserve” or calling for the locking up of gay rights activists because they are an “evil threat to society.” Some of their news items wouldn’t disgrace the pages of the National Front’s organ Bulldog.

They are very fond of calling anyone in public life who is vaguely ‘liberal’ “enemies of the nation” and “fifth columnists”. Indeed, anyone to the left of Mussolini is considered a communist infiltrator. And although The Sun has become something of a music hall joke, it is far from funny for those who are its victims. It won’t do any more to write it off as a silly comic not to be taken seriously. Four million people in this country take it seriously enough to shell out good money day after day to read the filth that mad Murdoch’s running dogs churn out. The Sun is a serious threat not only to the quality of our lives but now to our very existence, because the Sun’s baleful influence extends far beyond its own pages. Its complete lack of ethical standards has ensured that the other papers have had to follow it down into the gutter in order to survive the vicious circulation war.

I am not alone in my fear of the uncheckable abuses perpetrated by The Sun and its imitators. Jeremy Seabrook wrote in THE GUARDIAN (22 Dec) of the sinister purposes behind The Sun’s apparently cheerful populism. “What we are living through is a sustained attempt to resurrect the mob. The newspapers and the junk videos portray people, in the language of The Sun, as dirty rats and filthy swine, as animals and beasts; a vast human bestiary has been reinvented which systematically represents people as corrupt, treacherous and venal in contrast to whom, in this simple Manichean world, the good is represented by money.”

Seabrook tells us that papers like The Sun are creating an atmosphere that will pave the way, after Thatcherism has failed, for something far worse. He says that as the country disintegrates financially and socially the door will be open for the fascists to take over. This is where the frightening picture of life in this country presented by the popular press comes in. If Joe Public can be convinced that the country they love has become a “cesspit” of degradation then the new Fuhrer will have an easy cruise to power. Aids is providing the terrible tool for this end to be achieved. “Britain which is increasingly unrecognisable as the familiar and loved home place has become more and more like the future site of the second coming of those brutalities which we went to war to defeat less than half a century ago,” wrote Seabrook.

We have to recognise that the real enemy of the people is The Sun newspaper and all the others that aspire to be its clones. And yet we are powerless to stop this wilful distortion. The freedom of the press was once sacred, but Rupert Murdoch and his evil crew have made the concept of a free press into a sick joke. Press freedom in the hands of the seekers after wealth has become an insidious 1icence to distort, persecute, incite hatred and generally brutalise readers. If any attempt is made to stop this undemocratic abuse of their enormous power the papers instantly cry “censorship. The ruthless and unscrupulous men behind The Sun are the real fifth columnists in our country, undermining all traditions of tolerance and debate. They must be curbed—for all our sakes.

Newspaper correspondence columns are fairly predictable, each paper having its own style. THE MAIL and THE EXPRESS voice the opinion of middle-England, the retired middle-classes and the aspiring working classes. The letters pages in these papers have an unhealthy preoccupation with the death penalty, with ‘dole scroungers’ and ‘teenage layabouts’. They write in endlessly about how disastrous Labour is and how utterly heavenly they consider Maggie to be. They have simple and painless answers to all the world’s most complex problems—painless for themselves, that is. For other people it usually involves death or imprisonment.

It was not surprising, then, to find the correspondence columns filled, day after day, with letters supporting James Anderton, the only chief constable with a hotline to God. And this particular crop of letters was even more bloodthirsty than usual. So much hatred poured from them that I eventually became too depressed to read any more. It began to seem that if Margaret Thatcher were to legalise lynching for homosexuals tomorrow, her opinion poll rating would race ahead.

Then, suddenly, cracks began to appear in what had seemed almost unanimous support for the Mancunian Prophet. Even old John Junor in The SUNDAY EXPRESS (21 Dec) was moved to write, during one of his weekly diatribes against gays: “There is about him (Anderton) an unctuous self-righteousness which makes me wince. Nor do I warm to his pronouncement that he said what he did because he had received guidance from God …In view of everything that has happened, would not Manchester be a better place from a police point of view if Mr Anderton were to receive further guidance from God to hand in his resignation, too?”

Dennis Hackett, the new editor of TODAY wrote (23 Dec): “I have now begun to wonder whether it could be that Mr Anderton is not, after all, on a direct line to the Supreme Being, but is in fact talking to himself and mistaking his alter ego for the Almighty?”

Even THE NEWS OF THE WORLD (21 Dec) managed a critical editorial (although it was in unusually small print, and looked strangely out of place, as though it had wandered into the wrong paper). “The Aids and gays debate is a POLITICAL issue, not a CRIMINAL issue, except where the law of the land is broken,” said the NoW. “Parliament, in its wisdom, decides what those laws should be. If Anderton wants to talk about what offends the LAW, that is one thing. What offends HIM should be kept to himself. It is right to wonder whether the people of Greater Manchester … are best served by a chief whose behaviour is not so much eccentric as plain daft, Stalker is going, Anderton is staying. Perhaps it would be better if BOTH went.”

The Archbishop of York criticised Anderton for his unhelpfulness in the face of the crisis and even the right-wing Police Federation rebuked him for “pontificating on moral issues”. According to THE GUARDIAN (15 Jan), Tony Judge, editor of the federation’s magazine, accused Anderton of “dragging the police into a moral debate that should not concern them.”

And so, perhaps, the most cheering headline of the month was in THE INDEPENDENT (13 Jan) “Police Feeling Mounts that Anderton Must Go”.

The Bible tells us that God reserves his greatest wrath for false prophets, so if I were James Anderton, I’d be seriously thinking of fixing a lightning conductor to the roof of Greater Manchester police Headquarters.

Until now, most straight people have avoided thinking very much about gay lifestyles, preferring to consider them rather exotic and not really to do with the real world. Aids has changed all that and gays have taken centre stage. There is no way that the Government, the press or the public can remain indifferent to our presence any more.

Naturally the long-held and deep-rooted prejudices needed to be expressed – and they have been, mostly in intemperate, vulgar and abusive terms. The bigots were first on the scene with “didn’t we tell you this would happen?” Our old enemies in the press have had a field day too. But now more reasoned debate is beginning. Religious leaders and politicians have realised that the screaming hysteria doesn’t very far towards solving problems.

It was good, therefore, to see an opinion piece in THE INDEPENDENT (9 Jan) written by Christina Baron, president of the Liberal Women’s Federation. She made the point that criticising gay men for being ‘promiscuous’ was unfair given society’s disapproval of gay relationships. “It is often not easy for heterosexual couples, even when married to society’s approval, to stay together. How much harder, then, for a homosexual couple? Is a colleague’s gay or lesbian partner as welcome as a spouse at the firm’s Christmas dance, the office party or the staff room? The heterosexual community wants it both ways – promiscuity is not acceptable, stable partnerships are not acceptable. If much of our society still cannot accept a homosexual couple then we shouldn’t be surprised if it is harder for them to stay together.”

One male gay couple who managed to stay together for 27 years are Saxon Lucas and Rodney Madden. Their relationship was examined in NEW SOCIETY (2 Jan). These two men are Christians, they consider their partnership to be, to all intents and purposes, a “marriage”. What they had promised each other – total sexual fidelity – would have seemed ridiculous and unrealistic to most gay people a few short years ago. Now it seems to be something that a lot of gay couples are striving for.

The structure of their relationship (“Rod is the boss-man, what Rod says goes. And when he says ‘no’, no it is,” says Saxon) may seem questionable to many. Surely marriages – or any other ostensibly exclusive relationship – can work without these dubious power-structures. Indeed, much of what these two men espouse as essential components of a successful long-term relationship would be anathema to the majority of people, gay or straight. The two of them have, apparently, embraced all the worst aspects of “marriage” along with the good bits. Women in particular have been trying to shrug off these negative elements for years.

If gays are going to go in for marriage (and it seems like a good idea at the moment), surely we can start at an advantage by learning from the mistakes of all those thousands of straight couples who’ve failed in the past.

By the way, the Marriage Guidance Council welcomes gay people to its counselling sessions – and has done for years.

Prime hate figure Jean Rook turned up on the Terry Wogan Show (BBC1) and showed herself to be a prize arsehole. Not only did she talk a lot of snobbish, sexist twaddle, she looked like Tutankhamen’s mother with the bandages off. And this is the woman who has the cheek to criticise other people for being ‘ugly’ and gays for being ‘fanatical’.

Seeing Mrs Rook in the (rather shrivelled) flesh robs her of some of her power to annoy. I’ll never be able to take her Daily Express jibes seriously gain. Yuch! She’s enough to put you off your cocoa.

GAY TIMES 102, March 1987

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

You open our morning paper and are horrified by some outrageously anti-gay item. Surely, you think, they can’t get away with this? You don’t want to let it pass so what can you do? The first thing that most people would think of is the Press Council. This “newspaper watchdog is supposed to be our protection against the excesses of Fleet Street, isn’t it?

But what exactly can the Press Council do? And if you decide to take your grievance to them can you expect a fair deal? The first thing you have to bear in mind is that the Press Council is financed by the newspapers themselves and cynics would say that the newspapers are happy to have such a “self-regulating body because it discourages the government of the day introducing any more stringent and effective means of recourse when journalists overstep the mark.

Why bother with legislation to curb the newspapers’ bad behaviour when you already have the Press Council—or so the argument goes.

Membership of the Press Council is made up of people from the newspaper industry and members of the general public, in about equal measure. There is no representation from the National Union of Journalists, however—they decided in 1980 that the Press Council was “wholly ineffective” and boycotted it.

To see what kind of reception complaints from gay people get, we can take a look at a few instances from the past month.

You might remember the outrageous’ front page story in THE SUN last May about the children’s book Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. “Vile Book in Schools” screamed the headline. David Northmore of North London decided to complain and on February 3rd, nine months after the event, the Press Council upheld his complaint saying that The Sun’s story was “exaggerated and misleading”.

But you would never have guessed that the judgment had gone against them from reading The Sun’s own version of the report, which began: “The Press Council has upheld The Sun’s right to report criticism of a shocking children’s book showing a little girl in bed with her homosexual father and his naked male lover.”

As is usual with Press Council reports, it was featured at the very bottom of the final news page in extremely small print. The Sun, as usual, laughs at its critics and flaunts its lies with impunity.

Then the same Mr Northmore complained about The Sunday Mirror which had carried a story about a holiday being organised by the Lesbian and Gay Youth Movement. The Sunday Mirror alleged that “children and young people were being lured into a sinister web of gay sex” by the proposed holiday. Mr Northmore maintained that the Lesbian and Gay Youth Movement was a “credible and respectable” organisation. The complaint was rejected.

Next, our old friend “Mills” of The Star attracted a complaint from T P Murphy of the Wimbledon Area Gay Society. This followed a particularly vicious attack on gays which “Mills” had couched in extreme and violent language. The Press Council agreed that the article was “crude and abusive” but accepted the paper’s explanation that the “opinions expressed in the Mills column were those of a fictitious man whose thoughts resembled those of many readers based on thousands of letters received each week.” The Council rejected the complaint saying that the article had not been “irresponsible”.

Interestingly, in its report the Press Council chose to put inverted commas around the term ‘gay community’ but left the word ‘woofter’ undecorated. This might reveal something of the thinking of the people who reached the ridiculous conclusion that Mills’ article was not meant to incite violence and hatred against gays.

So, we have to accept that, in the main, gay complaints are unlikely to get a sympathetic hearing and are only likely to be upheld if there is a factual inaccuracy in the story being complained about. If you decide to make a complaint to the Press Council on a gay-related issue, not only will you be involved in a long and time-consuming investigation (one complaint that I made took nine months to adjudicate and involved me in writing over twenty-five letters) but, in the end, there is no guarantee that the offending paper will do anything at all about it.

Permission seems to have been granted by the Press Council for Fleet Street and Wapping to abuse gay people and the gay community in whatever ways it pleases, however offensive. Dehumanising terms like “poofter”, “queer” and “lezzie” are common currency in tabloid newspapers these days.

There is also the danger of finding yourself on the receiving end of the fury and spite of papers like The Sun. This is what happened to a man called Terry McCabe who dared to complain to the Press Council about the way that paper had done a very nasty hatchet job on him after he had refused to cross the Wapping picket line.

The Press Council found that The Sun had “cobbled the story together” on very flimsy evidence in order to revenge itself on Mr McCabe. On the day that the Council’s judgment was published (9 Feb) The Sun did a further full-page character assassination on Mr McCabe, not only repeating the original allegations but elaborating on them. So, as you can see, there are definite dangers in upsetting the editor of The Sun.

So, is there anything at all we can do about it? The answer is: not much. You can try a letter to the editor or a phone call to the paper, but most people who’ve tried this approach have found it a waste of time. One other possibility is the National Union of Journalists “ethics council” which looks into breaches of journalistic ethics. They will consider complaints from members of the public. In serious cases they have the power to discipline or even expel offenders. I have a complaint pending against Ray (Biffo) Mills of The Star, which will be heard later this month. I’ll let you know how it goes, and whether this avenue will be of any more use than the Press Council.

Last month in Gay Times, the Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality were anxious for us to know that Mrs Thatcher had been appalled by the infamous “gas the queers” remarks of the equally infamous Councillor Brownhill of South Staffordshire District Council. This month, however, the press wanted us to know that Mrs Thatcher supported the ‘swirling cesspit’ views of James Anderton.

The Daily Express (24 Jan) said: “Standing up for the silent moral majority, Mrs Thatcher applauded the Manchester chief constable and others who have publicised their views on the issue.” So, who are we to believe? For surely Councillor Brownhill was one of those “publicising their views on the issue.”

Harder to pin down are the opinions of Neil Kinnock. Yes, he’s sent messages of support to Gay Pride demos, but he’s hardly been in the forefront of his party’s support for gay rights. However, a glimmer of hope shone briefly in The Independent (13 Feb), when it published extracts from a private letter which had been written by the Labour leader to a party member living in his own home borough of Ealing, West London. In the letter, Mr Kinnock “vigorously defended his local council” (including its pro-gay policies) against attacks made on it by Tory MPs and the press. He said that the sex education policy (which encourages “respect” for gay relationships) had been “hideously misrepresented” so as to alarm parents. He said that there had been a lot of “prejudice-mongering”.

Can we take it from this that Neil really does believe in what his radical party colleagues are doing to help gays, but doesn’t want to play into the hands of Fleet Street by being too up-front about it in an election year?

I think I could forgive him for that, if it means we get rid of that woman and all her dubious supporters. Speaking of which, we had a taste of the Tory party of the future when the blood-curdling Young Conservatives at their conference debated whether homosexuality should be recriminalized.

If you thought the Tories under Thatcher were frightening, you should tremble at the prospect of what is to come if this bunch of young proto-fascists is the face of Toryism in the future.

The Sun had it in for Jimmy Somerville last month (and apologies to Jimmy if I gave the impression that he had granted an interview to that paper. I accept that he didn’t—they just made it look that way). This month they’ve gone to town on The Housemartins. Not satisfied with “exposing” the fact that the group doesn’t all originate from Hull as they had claimed, it then (31 Jan) went on to reveal that “the top pop stars are hiding a sad sex secret—three of the group are gay.” What the adjective “sad” is doing there is a secret known only to the journalist who wrote it. Indeed, the whole piece is peppered with similar weasel words, suggesting that the group’s gay members consider their sexuality to be some kind of tragedy, which I’m sure is not true.

Then on Feb 14, The Sun returned to the attack, criticising the group for having used a photograph of an old man on a record cover without first seeking his permission. But given The Sun’s own reputation for snoop photography and some of the despicable stunts it has pulled in that line, the burst of self-righteous anger seems laughable—or perhaps pathetic would be a better word.

Back to the execrable Mills in The Star. He continues to dispense his weekly dose of anti-gay bile. On February 27 he chided “woofter apologists” for suggesting he might be gay himself. “If Mills is such a ferocious critic of their sexual habits then he must per se and QED practice them himself. Or if he doesn’t practise them, then these tendencies must be lying dormant and his, in fact, a latent woofter himself… but the repugnant mechanics of sodomite sex fill Mills with disgust.”

Yes, yes, yes, Biffo, we’ve heard all this before. But can I remind you of the case of Roy Cohn, who was right-hand man to the ghastly Senator McCarthy in America during the fifties. You will remember that these two gents were responsible for hounding hundreds of homosexuals out of their jobs in the US Government maintaining that homosexuality was a “threat to the nation’s security” and so on. Mr Cohn was a fanatical persecutor of gays. Last year, he died of Aids contracted from one of his male lovers.

Indeed, as many gays have found to their cost, the most vicious opponents of homosexuals have come from within our own ranks. Mr Mills should bear that in mind.

There seems to be a widespread opinion in the press that churchmen have something useful and relevant to contribute to the Aids debate. There is a constant cry for the churches to “take a moral lead”, which seems to mean in journalese to get everybody back into chastity belts.

The Daily Mail tells us that an “anti-Aids leaflet for Roman Catholics, warning that it is wrong to use condoms, is being distributed in Scotland.” It seems these priests put their senseless dogma before the safety of their flock – or, perhaps as Mrs Currie would have it, “good Christians” have some kind of magic immunity to HIV,

Meanwhile, in Harringey, north London, where the council has the most advanced gay rights commitment in the country (and also the most virulent aggro from opponents), the extremist churches are really going to town. Not only have we got the sad spectacle of a vicar who is prepared to starve himself to death before he’ll allow other people to have a dignified life, we now have the Moonies moving in. City Limits magazine (29 Jan) reported a Moonie-front organisation called The New Patriotic Movement setting itself up. A creepier development would be hard to imagine. When asked if they thought their activities (which includes displaying banners reading “Gays = Aids = Death”) bred intolerance and intimidation of homosexuals, a spokesman for NPM said: “That is not our intention, but if it happens it is an unfortunate consequence.”

I hoped the local gay organisations in Harringey are exploiting this development for all it’s worth. “Concerned parents” should know just what sort of people are speaking on their behalf, then they might have something to genuinely worry about.

A round-up of the opinions of the mainstream religionists was reported in The Guardian (29 Jan). Responding to James Anderton’s disgusting vision of “morality”, the Bishops said their piece.

Dr John Habgood, said that “While the Church had always been clear in condemning promiscuity it had spoken with a divided voice on homosexuals in stable relationships. As a Christian I will always value stable relationships; when they are homosexual many church people not now condemn it. We shall have to work our attitudes out.”

Dr Hugh Montefiore, Bishop of Birmingham, contributed his opinion that “Mr Anderton sometimes give the impression of seeing just a wicked homosexual scene whereas the moral issue is much more complicated.”

The Bishop of Stepney, the Right Reverend James Thompson, urged: “a better understanding of the problems of homosexuals. They get pushed into cheap relationships because they have to act in secret.”

Personally, I couldn’t give a monkey’s about what the prattling prelates think of me or my style of life – their approval or disapproval is of little consequence to most gay people. But as they do seem to carry some influence in society.Perhaps they ought to use this power to make these points more widely known. If they give a stronger lead in promoting better understanding of homosexual men and women, then they might be able to avert some of the disasters which are surely coming our way. At that point I might be able to consider that they had some relevance to our lives.

The Mail on Sunday magazine sailed close to the wind with a profile of President Reagan’s son, Ron. On the cover of that edition was a photo of the man, in full theatrical make-up, embracing his mother with the headline: “Nancy’s Boy.” Of course, there have been rumours about Ron Jnr being gay for some time now – they started after he joined a ballet company. He denies the rumours and also maintains that his father is not anti-gay. But if that is so, says The Mail on Sunday, “how does one explain his alliance with fundamentalist preachers who see homosexuality as an abomination?”

“It’s a political alliance, clearly, and it’s pandering to an extent to the far right,” explains Ron Jnr.

“Scandalmongers,” says the article, “were silenced when Ron married Doria Palmieri in 1981.”

As we know, there aren’t any married homosexuals, so that’s all right. You can rest easy in your bed, Mr President.

Finally, a few quickies. An excellent article with the sub-heading “James Anderton should thank God for the gays” appeared in The New Scientist (29 Jan) and explained the invaluable service gays have done the world by being almost totally responsible for the discovery of a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B, and how we’ll probably play a similar role in the eradication of Aids.

A poll of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 published in The Sunday Mirror (15 Feb) showed that 24 per cent agreed with the statement “Gays deserve Aids” while 60 per cent disagreed. The paper concludes that young people aren’t anti-homosexual.

John Smith wrote in The People “Recently released statistics make it plain that it is the homosexual community which is almost entirely to blame for the spread of the deadly disease. It is about time the Government faced up to this fact … instead of wrongly insinuating that Aids is something which threatens every respectable family in the land.”

Does Mr Smith know that in 1981 there were only 4 known cases of Aids among gay men? And look at the situation now. There are some 20 known cases of Aids having been caught from heterosexual sex at present – but who knows what the situation will be in four or five years if people like Mr Smith continue to encourage such dangerous complacency? The man ought to be drummed out of his job as a danger to society.

Princess Diana is reported in The People (8 Feb) to be worried at the prospect of visiting a hospital ward where people with Aids are being cared for. Whether she actually expressed these fears or whether they were an invention of the press doesn’t really matter, the damage is already done.

GAY TIMES 103, April 1987

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

“Look out, look out, wherever you are – Rupert’s coming to find you.”

That’s the message to gays who think they’re safe in the closet—and you don’t have to be a celebrity to find yourself on the end of the tabloid exposé machine. This month’s list runs from Elton John through Harvey Proctor, Russell Harty and even a vicar from Peterborough. Rentboys, agents provocateurs and sneaking, slimy journos have been colluding this month to ruin the lives of honest citizens.

There have been a record number of front pages over the past few weeks in THE SUN, THE STAR and DAILY MIRROR, devoted to “Naked Arab Boys”, “Gay Mag Boys”, “Rent Boy Riddles” and “Elton’s Mock Wedding to a Man”. The grotesque thing about the sickos who run these rags is that if they miss the story themselves, they moralise about the other papers who beat them to it. “Even if the stories are true,” says Alix Palmer in The Star (4 March) about Russell Harty, “why should they alter our judgement of someone who, from time to time, occupies our television screen? Either he entertains us or he doesn’t.”

Fine words—except that I haven’t the slightest doubt that if The Star had been offered the dirt by the greedy little git who went to the News of the World first, they’d have snapped it up.

The Daily Mirror (4 March) said: “He [Harty] sticks in my mind as the most charming, wonderfully amusing and genuinely interesting star I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.” Once again it’s good to see the Maxwell mob decrying the News of the World’s penchant for paying rent boy sneaks for the sordid details. But wasn’t it only one day later that THE MIRROR carried the front-page headline: “Naked Arab under MPs Bed”, exposing Harvey Proctor’s holiday fling with a Moroccan youth?”

Peter MacKay explored the whole phenomenon of these latest revelations in The London Evening Standard (2 March). “The rotten little creeps who have been parading through newspaper offices are unfit for any kind of work that does not involve self-absorbed acting out of tedious fantasies about themselves. An appallingly hypocritical theme has been developed which is designed to cast sympathy on the rent boy and greater odium on his alleged client. This is the old ‘fallen woman’ gambit. Having spouted the details (no doubt for gain) the rent boy suggests that male prostitution was his only way of making ends meet (so to speak) in the cruel Thatcher economic climate. The News of the World said of their latest squealing, pig-tailed rent boy: ‘Dean is now unemployed and has given up his life of vice.’”

The Star (March 5) offered, a different explanation: “If you have been wondering why these verminous rent boys have been emerging from their lairs to tell their stories, it is because business is at a standstill. Aids has deprived them of a living, so they have been making a buck by selling their sordid kiss-and-tell memoirs—or should that read spank-and-tell?”

Perhaps the whole thing was best summed up by Derek Jameson in Today (7 March): “The shame falls not on the head of those betrayed but rather on those who open their purses to these scavengers. I feel more guilty than most. I once edited the News of the World.”

Less understandable was The Guardian’s decision to run a court report (4 March) about a cottaging incident: “A vicar tried to solicit a plain clothes police officer for immoral purposes in a public lavatory.” The unfortunate clergyman’s full name and address was published. The Guardian is supposed to be the champion of liberal values, and yet it acted in concert with the police to make the victim of this entrapment suffer even more. What The Guardian failed to ask was what a plainclothes policeman was doing, hanging around in a public lavatory, if he wasn’t acting as an agent provocateur. Nor did they ask whether setting out to destroy the lives of good citizens is the best use of police resources at a time when there is an explosion of violent and murderous crime.

It was Francis Williams who said: “Newspapers indicate more plainly than anything else the climate of the societies to which they belong.”

Which is bad news for gay men, because if what appears in newspapers is genuinely a reflection of society’s attitudes to us, we are in for a very rough time indeed. The News of the World invited its oh-so well-informed readers to say what they thought about Aids, and apparently half those that replied thought that “homosexuality should be made an illegal offence” (sic). But the majority also said that carriers should be sterilised and given treatment to curb their sexual appetite, and pregnant women who have the virus should be compelled to have abortions.”

Anyone who took even two minutes to think about these questions would realise how stupid and dangerous they are. What on earth do these polls of pathetically ignorant people, compiled by alarmingly unenlightened journalists signify? All they tell us is that the British population is grotesquely ill-informed and their lack of knowledge is being encouraged by these mischievous newspapers

Where it all may lead was explored in a feature in Today (24 Feb) headed “Big Brother Aids”. This article faced up to the prospect that I imagine has played a part in the nightmares of many gay people, of enforced isolation for those carrying the virus and, eventually, others in the “high risk groups”. Today says that the social consequences of such action would be “colossal”. “Huge numbers of people from every level of society would simply vanish from their jobs. Those who refused to be isolated would be criminals, hunted by specially formed Aids squads, and a fugitive underground would develop. The material cost of implementing this plan is incalculable, but the social cost is quite clear. It would mean, quite simply, that Britain would become a police state.”

An unexpected and consistently enlightened source of information on the Aids situation is The Financial Times. In its issue of 13 March it carried a guardedly optimistic piece which seemed to suggest that perhaps the dreadful predictions aren’t all going to come true. Statistics from America show that the rate of spread of the disease is slowing. In January 1982 it took five months for the number of cases to double. In December 1986 it was taking 13 months for the cases to double. This still represents tens of thousands of people, though, and the carnage will continue, so there is certainly no cause for complacency.

Another difference between the American experience of Aids and the British one is the attitude of agony aunts. In this country the advice-givers are by far the most liberal aspect of the press. They are well-informed and sympathetic to the problems of gay people. Contrast this with a woman called “Dear Dotti” who wrote in America’s Weekly World News (20 Jan). “Dear Dotti: I am a gay man and I’ve just learned that I have Aids … I’m so depressed I’ve seriously thought about blowing my brains out. I don’t care whether I live or die.”—Dotti replies: “Neither do I.” Yuch!

Now, it seems that even scummy, crummy, lowlife magazines like Titbit (Feb issue) feel that they are in a position to slag off the gay community. In a two-page lead article headed “Poofter’s Paradise” this outdated, smelly pile of garbage trotted out all the myths, distortions and political manipulations that we’ve grown tired of hearing over the past few years. Written by some money-grabbing creep called Jill Bedford, the article consisted of column after column of Mills-type abuse which we’ve become inured to and which I refuse to reproduce here. The author cites one lying newspaper article after another as justification for her rant but, in the end, says nothing that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before.

The editor of Titbits stands accused of allowing this kind of unjustifiable language into his columns without granting a right of reply to those who have been attacked. He should be ashamed of jumping on the sordid bandwagon that is inexorably leading to violence and prejudice against innocent gay people.

How on earth do sensible people remain loyal to certifiably insane churches? What is it that makes ordinarily intelligent individuals give credence to the ravings of crackpots? In The Sunday Express(1 March) we have The Rev. John Banner of Tunbridge Wells opining that “homosexuality and rising crime are due to women’s lack of control over children.” The raving Rev claims that women belong “at the kitchen sink” and says: “Children used to women refuse to would not react to men and this could lead to homosexuality.” Can you make sense of such bilge?

Then we have Cardinal Basil Hume, spouting off to an “audience of parents” in Greenford, Middlesex. According to The Ealing Gazette (20 Feb): “When parents asked him to take a strong stand against the teaching of homosexuality in Ealing schools he replied: ‘The Catholic stand on this is clear. Sexual relationships are only permitted in marriage. Tolerance is not the accepting of what we know to be wrong but showing sympathy and understanding for those who live differently.’” In other words, the silly old duffer doesn’t know what the devil he thinks.

At the same meeting, the waffling of the Cardinal was put into deep shade by Professor Anthony Pinching, an Aids specialist who condemned anti-gay prejudice in no uncertain terms, calling it “a most un-Christian way of encouraging the belief the killer virus was always someone else’s problem.” That will have ruffled the cosy complacency of the intolerant “parents” who had obviously gone along to the meeting for a spot of genteel gay-bashing, and whose depth of selfishness is sometimes quite breath-taking.

Catholic reactions to the Aids crisis in America have been brought to a head by the revelation that as many as “20 percent of Catholic priests are gay and half of them sexually active”. The Sunday Times (22 Feb) told of how the Catholic Church puts its much-vaunted ‘compassion’ into practice. “In Houston, a doctor who has treated eight priests with the disease says that ‘three of them were ejected, just told to leave’ when they informed their superiors of their illness. Four others had decided to leave the Church quietly … Increasingly the Roman Catholic church appears to be closing its doors on Dignity, an organisation which attempts to keep homosexuals within the church, although there is still room for another organisation, Courage, which attempts to counsel homosexuals either to lead a chaste life (in the case of priests) or become heterosexual.”

It was Charles Moore, writing in The Daily Express (6 March) who said: “Labour is the pro-homosexual party. Until recently its preoccupation with ‘gay rights’ was considered a bit of a joke. Now it’s beginning to stir up real rage.”

But is it really gay rights that is stirring up the rage or is it the relentless newspaper campaign of disinformation?

Let’s face it, there have been an unprecedented number of anti-gay headlines over the past couple of years and it is difficult to know who has the real preoccupation—the Labour Party or the newspapers. There is irrefutable evidence that most of the coverage of Labour’s support for gay rights has been either wild exaggeration or simple lies. The Association of Labour Authorities even went so far as to issue a list of examples, from national newspapers, of “loony left” stories showing each one of them to be outright invention.

Strange, isn’t it, how this report hasn’t been mentioned in any of the tabloid newspapers?

Now Labour—and many of its staunchest supporters—are left in a dilemma. Is the party, as some would have us believe, really distancing itself from its commitment to helping gay people, or is it just another Tory plot to cause in-fighting and bitterness within the ranks? The right-wing press are laughing up their sleeves at all this soul-searching, happy in the knowledge that they are almost entirely responsible for it.

GAY TIMES 104, May 1987

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

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?

GAY TIMES 105, June 1987

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

It was Chapman Pincher who opened the can of worms about Maurice Oldfield, the former chief of MI6. THE MAIL ON SUNDAY (19 April) ran an extract from Pincher’s new book making the revelation that Oldfield was gay. This—much to the delight of the tabloids—was subsequently confirmed by Mrs Thatcher.

Mr Pincher’s original article was a classic piece of money-inspired humbug. It was riddled with innuendo and assumption and shot through with the kind of hypocritical moralising that newspapers revel in. He claimed that he had known of “Oldfield’s staggering duplicity for several years” yet had been “diffident about revealing it because he was a friend.”

Yes, it seems Mr Pincher is all heart and nothing if not loyal to his ‘friends’. Nobly keeping his mouth shut—until, of course, publicity was needed for the new book and then the ‘friendship’ could go to hell—and the ‘friend’ can be slandered up hill and down dale because he isn’t around anymore to contradict.

In the article Pincher has to admit that Oldfield’s sexual exploits (and we’re all entitled to those, surely?) had “led to no harm” and that “there was no evidence he was compromised”. Yet he still manages to say, “this case highlights the dangers of having homosexuals in such sensitive  positions.”

Dangers? What dangers? Nothing happened, for God’s sake!

Mr Pincher makes rather large assumptions about Maurice Oldfield’s character and motivations, which not even a ‘friend’ is entitled to do. He speaks of Oldfield’s “charity” towards others who were in trouble. “Such magnanimity, which came naturally to Oldfield, may well have been intensified by the delicate appreciation of his own secret weakness. And the knowledge that there but for the Grace of God, went he.”

What does all this boil down to, then? Yes, Maurice Oldfield was gay. No, it did not interfere with this work in any way. So, what was Chapman Pincher’s motivation in betraying his ‘old friend’ in such a squalid way?

One possible explanation was offered in THE OBSERVER (10 May). “When he retired from the Express in 1979, Mr Pincher says, he did not expect to have anything more to do with spies. But he was short of money. Now, presumably thanks to the spy books, Mr Pincher’s circumstances seem perfectly attuned to his requirements. He lives in a cul-de-sac in a Georgian house next to the church in the charming village of Kintbury, adjacent to Sir Terence Conran, Lord Howard de Walden, and other nobs. Excellent fishing and shooting is available nearby.”

Amazing what kind of a lifestyle can be had if you’re prepared to sell your ‘friends’ down the river.

But once Mr Pincher had given the green light, the other papers went crazy. For days the tabloids were filled with lurid tales of Oldfield’s supposed exploits. If you took it all at face value, there wasn’t a single “sordid sexual encounter” that Sir Maurice hadn’t had. Everything from child sex to ‘rough trade’ to transvestism were reported to have been his forte. Vikki de Lambray was disinterred and given the kind of publicity he would have adored when he was alive. It also gave THE SUN the opportunity to use dehumanising terms like “poof” “pervert” “poofter” and so on over and over again in ever more censorious headlines.

What with this supposed ‘scandal’ and the attempted crucifixions of Elton John and Freddie Mercury, the newspapers’ unhealthy obsession with homosexuality reached such a pitch that week that THE LONDON DAILY NEWS carried a cartoon showing a man at a paper shop having to buy ‘Gay News’ in order to find out what is happening in the non-gay world.

But come the weekend the angle changed. Suddenly it dawned on the commentators that perhaps Sir Maurice hadn’t been such a bad old duffer after all. “Why living a lie is the biggest crime” was the lead feature in TODAY (25 April). It asked whether Roy Jenkins (who guided the 1967 Sexual Offences Act through Parliament) would be dismayed to see “his SDP colleague, Dr David Owen … declaring unequivocally that no practising homosexual should have been allowed to reach a position such as the head of MI6.”

“Why not?” asked TODAY, not unreasonably, and then answered: “Many homosexuals lead perfectly respectable lives, in stable relationships, and if they are frank about their sexuality there is no reason why they should be any more susceptible to blackmail or any more of a security risk than anybody else. There is, after all, no shortage of heterosexuals who have found themselves either susceptible to blackmail or compromised into resignation.”

A fair enough point, and one that was made repeatedly. “The terms ‘homosexual’ and ‘security risk’ are not synonymous,” editorialised THE TIMES, “and there is too much of a tendency to treat them as such.” Tim Foskett in a letter to THE GUARDIAN (28 April) said: “There is something wrong in a society that sets up conditions such that someone who is gay is not protected against blackmail or wrongful dismissal. There is further, something quite immoral about a society that then seeks to negate the lives and work of prominent lesbians and gay men on the grounds that they might have been a ‘security risk’.”

There then followed a spate of articles, mainly, I would guess, written by heterosexuals, trying to make sense of the hoo-ha over Oldfield. Although they were trying to be fair, some of the background pieces were laughable. Paul Barker in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (26 April) told its readers that they should “keep the revelation of Maurice Oldfield’s sexual inclinations in proportion” and then there followed an article by Norman Stone which “shows that many homosexuals are predisposed to be servants of the state.”

We already know this, of course, but Mr Stone gave us a half-baked “psychological” explanation calling on Freud and Jung as justification. (It couldn’t have anything to do with having to make a living, could it, or am I being simplistic?) Never mind, the feature told us all about famous gays from history who were (in Mr Stone’s terms, anyway) heroes. Lord Kitchener, Cecil Rhodes, General Trotha, Napoleon, Mountbatten, Richard the Lionheart, Frederick the Great and maybe even Beethoven! The following week, John Montgomery used the correspondence column to add to the list: Gordon of Khartoum (who apparently “liked to give baths to poor boys he picked up”), Kaiser William II, Krupp the munitions king, Alexandra the Great, Petronius, Plutarch, Horace, Virgil, Julius Caesar, Tchaikovsky, E M Forster, Lawrence of Arabia, W Somerset Maugham, Ronald Firbank, John van Druten, who “all faithfully served the public”.

Matthew Parris, who has a more intimate knowledge of the subject, wrote in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: “Why persecute homosexuals willing to serve the state?” He put the whole hyped-up foolishness into perspective: “The small voice which whispers: ‘Gosh! The head of our intelligence for all those years was a homosexual, and did a splendid job!’ is scarcely heard beneath the calls for more vetting, stricter tests, clear guidelines. Why? ‘He could have been blackmailed’ people will say. Well, there is a simple way of ensuring that he could not have been blackmailed, and it lies within the hands of the superiors who fear he might have been. They could have told him that homosexuality was no disqualification from office.”

The Government reacted to this oft-repeated and totally uncontestable argument by suspending a young man from his job at GCHQ because he is a homosexual (OBSERVER 26 April). It seems that to the security services being gay is roughly the equivalent to being a member of the politburo. On this issue the Establishment has a real problem: common sense tells them that their policy is crazy, but homophobia dictates their actions.

PROTEST can work. Along with many other readers of THE DAILY MIRROR, I wrote to complain about the reactionary rantings of George Gale. Lo and behold—the nasty old git has been sacked! Editor Richard Stott explained: “The idea of providing an ‘alternative voice’ was not one that worked and certainly not one that you and many other readers appreciated. Let me assure you that the Daily Mirror will continue its aggressive and virulent attacks on the Thatcher Government …”

Which proves that those letters to the editor aren’t always the waste of time they seem to us. Mark one up for our side.

Elton John and Freddie Mercury have both been given ‘the treatment’ by The Sun and The Star over the past month. Full details of their private lives were paraded for all to see.

There is a school of thought which says that ‘public figures must be prepared to have their foibles exposed to the world’ and there is another that contends that when we close our bedroom door, the world should keep out. Of the latter persuasion is Norman Tebbit, the gruesome chairman of the Conservative party, who told YOU magazine (10 May): “I think people in public life both deserve and ought to have a private life as well. Of course, if you don’t talk about your private life, people make it up.”

Disagreeing with this view is arch-scandal-monger Nigel Dempster (who is well-versed in the art of apology for lies told in print). THE MAIL ON SUNDAY (19 April) carried a piece by him about: “the healthy, human, simple wish for ordinary people to be informed when extraordinary people misbehave. What we are talking about is democracy itself.”

I would agree with this argument in the case of a crooked politician, a corrupt businessman or a dangerous criminal. We need to be protected from such people. But who needs to be protected from Elton John? What crime has he committed that will either bring down society or which involved an unwilling victim?

THE STAR (20 April) justified its hounding of Elton by saying that its readers are “interested in the truth.” (Why they are reading the Star, then, is anybody’s guess). They say that: “It is nonsense for people in public life to think they should be immune from publicity in their private lives.”

Excuse me, Mr Leader-writer, if you could get off your high horse for a moment, I’d like to know exactly why it is nonsense. If Elton John had chopped up a journalist and flushed him down the toilet for sexual kicks there might (and I say might) be grounds for investigation. But surely a few consensual sexual encounters are nobody’s business but Elton’s? I would think that even paragons of virtue like the editors of the Sun and the Star must have sex lives of some kind. Would they consider them to be of legitimate interest to their readers?

I, for one, would be fascinated to know what such perfect specimens get up to. If they live as they write, though, then I’m afraid it wouldn’t be very much.

Good News Corner: THE LONDON DAILY NEWS reported (8 May) that “Our Aids survey shows clearly that it is the doctors and not the priests who have won the debate about how we will deal with the disease … Our poll makes it clear that the public, in London at least, have reacted with coolness and calm and a surprising lack of moralising.”

In THE LONDON STANDARD (16 April): “A dramatic drop in the number of new Aids cases has been reported in San Francisco because more people are practising safe sex. A report … showed last year that only one per cent of those studied had the deadly disease, compared with 12.4 in 1982.”

Coming Out Corner: Welcome out of the closet disc jockey Paul Gambaccini who described himself in THE STAR (6 May) as “predominantly, but not exclusively homosexual.”

Loony Corner: From THE DAILY MAIL (9 May): “The ‘gay’ revolution encouraged in classrooms by ‘loony’ left councils could threaten the future of human life … if the promotion of homosexuality is allowed to flourish in schools it could mean the end of civilisation, Local Government Minister Rhodes Boyson told MPs.”

From DAILY EXPRESS (27 April): “I am considering setting up a fighting organisation of people of the same name as myself to explore all legal possibilities of hitting back at those people who have popularised the word ‘gay’ for homosexual.” This was in a letter from a Mr A W Gaye. My reply to Mr Gaye (for some reason unpublished by The Express) suggested that he change his name by deed poll to Mr Bent or Mr Poofter or Pansy or Queer or Fairy. We’ve finished with such terms so please help yourself.

An article in the science magazine OMNI (April issue) concerned the research of a scientist called Gunter Dorner, who is convinced that homosexuals are “born, not made”. He asserts that there are certain hormonal factors which can be pinpointed during pregnancy which can indicate whether a child will be born homosexual or not. He also has a theory about how that can be corrected. It’s too complicated to go into here, but very few people in the scientific world seem impressed by Mr Dorner’s ideas.

Inspiration for his work came in quite a bizarre way. Apparently, he was watching ballet on television and thought that the male dancers (who were mostly homosexual, he asserts) were “behaving more like females than heterosexual men” and performing “gestures that couldn’t be performed by heterosexual males.” Seems they were all far too graceful to be straight.

A very alluring theory for those with little knowledge of what they are talking about, but unfortunately there are a lot of gay men who are clumsy, cack-handed and elephantine in their movements. They’d never make ballet dancers in a thousand years. So where does that leave Mr Dorner’s theories?

But much more important, why is he pursuing this line of enquiry in the first place? The German Society for Sex Research has no doubt about his motivation: “It becomes particularly evident how closely all Dorner’s experiments on the subject of homosexuality collude with the social prejudice that demands the restriction and control of homosexuality.” The Society accuses Dorner of advocating “endocrinological euthanasia of homosexuality” and indeed, Mr Dorner seems to be advocating some sort of “final solution” for the gay problem. And there are a lot of people who’d be only too pleased to help him out with that.

“The Sun has never been hostile to the gay community,” said an editorial in THE SUN (6 May). (I’ll give you a moment to pick yourself up off the floor before I remind you that this is not such a surprising statement when you consider that The Sun seems literally incapable of telling the truth.)

They were blathering on about the publicity stunt organised to promote a gay conference in London. Protestors went to the Norwegian Embassy to make a symbolic request for asylum. The Sun said they would pay for a one-way ticket for any gay person who wanted to leave the country.

Day in day out The Sun does its best to whip up hostility against us. Its hateful persecution of gay public figures and its cynical distortion of our lives to promote its political ideals continues unabated. Its slanted ‘news’ stories blame us for everything from child abuse to ‘spreading Aids to innocent’ people.

But no, The Sun isn’t hostile to the gay community. And what’s more the moon is made of green cheese.

On the same story we have Julie Burchill (MAIL ON SUNDAY 10 May) writing in her classic Glenda Slag style (“But to go because of persecution under British law? Come off it!” and so on.) Ms Burchill says that gay people should be pleased to be arrested because we would find ourselves handcuffed to “a hefty brute in uniform—a frisson in anyone’s parley.”

I’m not sure whether Ms Burchill has genuinely gone round the twist or whether she’s having a convoluted laugh at the expense of her nodding readers. Or perhaps she’s really George Gale in drag.

GAY TIMES, July 1987

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

Having carefully created The Great Gay Scare over the past couple of years, the tabloid press made full use of it during the election campaign. “Red Ken to defy Neil and speak out for Gays” said THE SUN’S front page (19 May) while its sister paper The NEWS OF THE WORLD (17 May) ran “My Love for Gay Labour Boss” over two pages. “The Left’s plan for gay charter” announced the front page of THE DAILY MAIL (6 June). “Ken displays gay abandon” was on the front page of THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (24 May) and The SUN gave the whole of page one to the headline (28 May) “Labour picks rent boy as school boss.” “Lesbian plots to pervert nursery tots,” was another classic.

But it was not only Labour who were tarred with the gay brush. The SUN also went for David Steel using the same cudgel (June 5): “Lower gays’ age of consent, says Steel—Liberal leader’s radio gaffe is set to split the Alliance.”

These despicable smears had obviously been trawled for far and wide. Some of them had been held back until the moment was right to inflict maximum damage. The tactics didn’t go unnoticed by other papers. Ken Livingstone, who knows more than most about newspaper smear techniques, quoted in THE LONDON DAILY NEWS (4 June) from an autobiography written in 1914 by Patrick Macgill and recalling an editor’s advice: “The public is a crowd of asses and you must interest it. You are paid to interest it with plausible lies or unsavoury truths. Our readers gloat over scandal, revel in scandal and pay us for writing it. Learn what the public requires and give it that. Think one thing in the morning and another at night, preach what is suitable to the mob and study the principle of the paper for which you write. Fleet Street is the home of chicanery, of fraud, of versatile vices and unnumbered sins. Only its falseness is consistent.”

Ian Aitken in THE GUARDIAN (8 May) said: “One can shake one’s head sadly over this sort of thing and turn gratefully to one’s more tasteful choice in newspapers. But the fact is things are getting worse rather than better; a substantial section of the press is now plumbing depths never before experienced in this country… yet I confess I have no idea what can be done about it in a free society. Perhaps Rupert Murdoch really is the price we have to pay for liberty. If so, it is a shamefully heavy one.”

It is sobering to see how effective a weapon homophobia has been for the Tories, and it is one they will not relinquish easily. Over the next few years we are going to become scapegoats on a grand scale.

SUNDAY TODAY was closed down half way through its series about “Gay Life in Britain” so only the first two parts made it to the news-stands (24th and 31st May). The whole thing was introduced in a fairly downbeat way by agony aunt Denise Robertson and the first double page spread was … well, I hate to carp when people are trying to be helpful … but it was old-fashioned. It wouldn’t have looked out of place in a magazine in the early seventies when positive images of gay people were something of a novelty. A lot of space was given over to an explanation of supposed gay slang “polari”, which I’ve never heard anyone use, except Jules and Sandy all those years ago on the radio. But according to this article: “Many older gays speak polari and even young boys understand a word or two.” They do?

The second part was better, probably because it was mainly written by gay people themselves. Mark Finch of the Gays and Broadcasting Group did a hatchet job on the failure of TV to represent gays accurately, Brian Kennedy wrote about his Coming Out. There was a bit about police nastiness, Jackie Forster was interviewed about lesbians and Peter Morey-Weale about self-defence courses.

We were promised the following week “The Shocking pink scene”. If it was as bad as it sounded, perhaps it’s as well that it never made it into print.

Even when all the objective evidence says otherwise, the Tories continue to insist that parents know best about their children’s sex education. THE GUARDIAN (6 May) reported that the headmaster of St Augustine of Canterbury School in had sent a questionnaire to all 700 sets of parents to ask: “How should sex be taught.” What should be said about Aids and homosexuality? The response was a resounding silence—not a single reply. The headmaster, Alan Shepherd said: “We are given the impression from newspapers that parents are desperately concerned about what their children are taught. But when we held a meeting about it, only 40 out of 1400 parents turned up.”

There is evidence, however, that children understand the issues much more clearly than their parents do. In the HACKNEY GAZETTE (5 June), there was a report that pupils at a school in the area had organised a petition addressed to their local Tory candidate protesting about the notorious propaganda poster which had suggested that three books—one of which was “Young, Gay and Proud”—were a sinister threat to young minds. The Tory candidate himself refused to believe that the children had organised the protest themselves and said (rather predictably) that they had been “manipulated by left-wing teachers”.

THE LONDON DAILY NEWS carried a heartfelt letter from another pupil (10 June) who was upset by a mock election held in his school. “One of the Conservative posters shows a group of supposedly gay protesters holding banners which say ‘Gay Rights’ and ‘Ban the Bomb’ and the words underneath ‘This is the Labour camp … do you want to live in it?’ I feel that the poster is quite offensive to some school friends of mine who are gay.”

Perhaps there’s hope for us yet with the next generation!

It seems the knives are out for Colin and Barry in EastEnders. THE SUN led the charge by reporting that widespread outrage had been caused by a scene in the programme which showed the gay lovers ‘being affectionate’ to one another. Colin apparently reassured Barry “with a cuddle—and a kiss on the hand”. The Sun said that “Dozens of viewers—many with children—were sickened by the scene. Retired milkman Bert Fulker, 64, said his four-year-old daughter watched the episode which started at 7.30. ‘It’s scandalous to show it at that time of night,’ said Mr Fulker of Croydon, Surrey.”

Meanwhile. THE NEWS OF THE WORLD said: “protests engulfed the BBC following the scene.” I checked with the BBC about exactly how many calls they had received from outraged viewers. A spokeswoman for EastEnders told me that they had, in fact, received fewer calls than usual that night.

Only a couple of dozen were about the gay scene and not all of them critical. “The Sun worded their story very cleverly,” she said. “They overstated the position wildly. When you consider we have 20 million viewers it’s hardly a significant protest.”

The NoW also revealed (14 June) that Michael Cashman who plays Colin is, in real life, gay himself. (Hi, Michael—we love you even more now!). Why it was necessary for the paper to say this in the first place isn’t clear, but it was surely quite gratuitously spiteful of them to publish Michael’s address and reveal which pub is his local. This is a particularly nasty trick when the same article goes on to reveal that the actor who plays the other half of the gay couple, Barry (who is “anything but gay”) has been beaten up a couple of times by queerbashers.

Then THE DAILY EXPRESS (10 June) carried a typically selfish letter from one of its readers, Mrs Val Ogier. “I am an avid fan of EastEnders but I am getting a bit fed up with out gay couple. The last few episodes have proved a bit too much to suffer at such an early viewing time. I’m broadminded but if the BBC isn’t careful it will spoil the programme’s family atmosphere.”

Mrs Ogier is about as ‘broad-minded’ as an amoeba, but I have a nasty feeling that such carping will, eventually, carry the day. My bitter prediction is that Colin and Barry will disappear from our screens in the near future, and we may never see their likes again.

Jim and Tammy Bakker were once famous coast-to-coast in America as TV evangelists. They ranted and railed against the evils of the modern world—against drugs, disrespect for marriage, greed and homosexuality. And as they ranted at their red-neck viewers they implored them to send ever more money so that “the good work” could be continued. But then (according to YOU magazine 7 June) it all fell apart. “Oh the wailing and gnashing of teeth when a former church secretary Jessica Hahn admitted that seven years ago she had a night of dalliance with Jim in a Florida hotel suite and had been paid £160,000 in hush money.”

Tammy was admitted to a drug rehabilitation centre and now, according to TODAY (29 May) Jim is accused of having had more than one homosexual experience. “That’s a lie,” he protested. “It’s worse than if I’d been assassinated.” But the evidence of the dastardly deeds has been produced by none other than founder of the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell who has now assumed responsibility for the PTL Television Ministry. (PTL means Praise the Lord or, perhaps, People that Lie).

You would think that after this the whole deception would come tumbling down. But no—the money continues to flow in and the apparently limitless gullibility of middle-America remains undented. And meanwhile one of the other TV evangelists is running for president and being taken seriously.

Where is it all leading?

And so, we wave a not very fond farewell to our old friend Peter (Ratface) Bruinvels. He failed to retain his seat in Leicester East—indicating that sanity still prevails in isolated pockets of this country. But before we let the little twerp pass into well-deserved obscurity, we ought to look at a story about him in the INDEPENDENT (9 June). It told of Mr Bruinvels going walkabout in search of votes. “He was accosted by one Rosie Silver,” says the paper, “a ‘practising Christian and mother of four’ as she describes herself.” Ms Silver expressed the opinion that Bruinvels should be ashamed of himself for offering to act as hangman should capital punishment to reintroduced. She told him that such a thing was “decidedly anti-Christian.” Mr Bruinvels would have none of it. “He looked me squarely in the face,” she claims, “and said ‘Piss Off!’”

It is that same sentiment that I am sure Gay Times readers will join me in sending now to Mr Bruinvels himself.

I AM glad that I am not alone in believing that the newspapers in this country (as influenced by Rupert Murdoch) are a distinct threat to democracy. Ron Todd, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union gave a lecture to the London School of Economics in which he said (INDEPENDENT 2 June): “Over the past decade there has been a measurable and dramatic decline in the standards of the popular Press. I believe their standards have become so corrupt as to create a cultural imbalance, which is a threat to the health of democracy itself.”

He said that the tabloids fostered racial prejudice and were responsible for “a persistent and perverse degradation of women and for trivialising human intimacy.” The fabrication of stories was almost “commonplace.” THE GUARDIAN (2 June) reported the same speech and added that Mr Todd had told journalists “that they had to take responsibility for the work they did. ‘We have to say frankly to journalists that the Nuremberg defence no longer cuts ice; the predictable trail of disappearing responsibility which starts with the reporter and goes through the subs will no longer prove absolution.’”

These are not new thoughts for gay people who see their lives distorted, lied about and manipulated for political ends every day of the week. But what can be done? Mr Murdoch isn’t interested in what his opponents have to say, and anyone who speaks out against this outrageous use of power will find no sympathy in the present political climate. All we can do is stand firm together and shout as loudly as we can that the tabloid press is lying, lying, lying.

Francis Wheen in the INDEPENDENT (2 June) revealed the depth of shame of Wapping journalists: “I hear that Kelvin McKenzie, the editor of The Sun, has been alarmed to discover that his staff can no longer bear to read their own paper. But he has an idea which will force them back: make the brutes take a weekly test in which they will be comprehensively quizzed on the paper’s contents.”

Leonard Bernstein, the composer of West Side Story, is the latest victim of an unscrupulous biographer in search of publicity for a book. This time it is Joan Peyser who has dished the dirt on what THE DAILY EXPRESS (27 May) called “one of world’s greatest living musical talents.” Ms Peyser is quoted in The Express as saying that behind the glittering success, Bernstein led a “sordid double life. He revelled in being a rampant homosexual and slumming it in gay bars… he was really a promiscuous homosexual who jumped into bed with boys on three continents.”

In the end, the pygmies who produce The Express have the barefaced gall to “excuse” the great man his “excesses” because of his overwhelming talent. Very big of them, I’m sure. It’s rather like a pig excusing a swan for being beautiful.

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.

GAY TIMES 107, August 1987

The trial of mass-murderer Michel Lupo gave the papers the opportunity to once more parade their ignorant fantasies about what gay life is about in London. The case itself was tailor-made for the tabloids – hey couldn’t have invented anything as satisfactory: Aids, murder and ‘the seedy underworld of homosexuals’ were all trotted out at length. There was even talk of the police getting their idea of what gay life is like from watching the Al Pacino film Cruising which is set in New York in the seventies. But best of all, from the media’s point of view, was the connection – however tenuous – with the rich and famous and even royalty.


As usual ‘the gay community’ (or at least their idea of it) was portrayed as ‘sinister’, ‘sleazy’, ‘kinky, a world occupied by perverts and inadequates, where the only pursuit is sexual gratification. Even Gay Switchboard was portrayed as irresponsible for allegedly advising one of the survivors of Lupo’s attacks not to go to the police. Exactly the same angle was adopted in the Dennis Nilsen case.


If you compare these two cases with that of the “Yorkshire Ripper”, you will see that although there was equal sensationalism involved, there was no question that the red light areas that Sutcliffe frequented, being presented as representative of heterosexual life. So, will the papers ever show the other side of gay life, the one that is stable, creative, vigorous and fun? Not on your nelly, they won’t.


It seems that straights are beginning to latch on to the idea that what governments are saying about Aids and what the statistics are showing aren’t necessarily the same thing. THE LONDON STANDARD’S Washington Correspondent, Jeremy Campbell, filed a report (1 July) which was headed: “Whatever happened to the Aids doomsday?” in which he reports that American heterosexuals are waking up to the fact that Aids does not seem to be spreading outside the ‘high risk’ groups in the way they were led to believe it would. For three years there have been predictions that Aids would spread into the general population through the medium of bisexuals and the partners of drug users.


“But the second wave has yet to break. And a handful of epidemiologists are starting to wonder if they might be misreading the story,” says Mr Campbell. “Conceivably, they surmise, there is something about American heterosexuals, or their way of life, that makes them seem less likely to become infected than high-risk people.”


Although this new interpretation might seem hopeful to the majority, Mr Campbell sees it as decidedly bad news for gays. “It cannot help but make it easier for the political right to portray Aids as a disease of an immoral, insatiably promiscuous, unnatural and disgraceful minority. Already conservatives are stressing the ‘difficulty’ of catching Aids if one’s lifestyle is reasonably normal … It is only one short step from there to the conclusion that monstrous practices bring their own punishment that the non-monstrous are largely spared, and governments can find more deserving causes on which to spend taxpayers’ billions.”


It seems certain that this type of argument will gather strength in the coming months—with worrying implications for the gay community. But it’s also worth noting that Aids organisations in Britain are already insisting that the new interpretations being placed on American figures are premature, foolish and misguided.


Nick Partridge of the Terrence Higgins Trust points out (in TODAY) that 50 per-cent of all people with Aids in New York are now heterosexual. And it has also been reported that Aids replaced cancer as the leading cause of death for women between 25 and 34 in New York City last year.


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a beached whale? No, it’s just Geoffrey (Moby) Dickens MP, shooting his overworked mouth off again. This time he turned up in THE SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE, which devoted the whole of its 21 June issue to the subject of Aids. Mr Dickens seemed to have changed his mind a mite: “The homosexual fraternity have sharpened up their act a bit,” he says, “and they’re either taking more precautions or they’re not exchanging partners so readily, and they’ve brought more discipline into their affairs, which is good and to their credit and may well take any pressure off for the repeal of the 1967 Act. Many people, including myself, have probably been a bit heavy-handed with the gay fraternity, but if one is fair-minded about it they have readjusted their lifestyles because they are terrified of Aids.”


Before you get the idea that Mr Dickhead—I mean Dickens—is laying off his hate campaign against us, we must turn to THE PEOPLE (June 28), to see him “storming” in yet another of that paper’s interminable gay non-scandals. Apparently, someone saw a British hotel advertising holidays in the American gay magazine The Advocate. “I think it highly irresponsible to aim to attract homosexuals to somewhere where they may swap partners over the course of a weekend,” said the representative for Littleborough and Saddleworth.


What The People and its permanently apoplectic rentagob MP seem to forget is that the people who read The Advocate are probably better informed about Aids than anyone else in the world. Or are they really saying that gays are so irresponsible that they shouldn’t be allowed to have holidays at all?


The tabloids have turned their penchant for dragging celebrities out of the closet into something of a blood sport. As you’d guess, the hounds at THE NEWS OF THE WORLD are particularly good at it. In their 12 July issue they carried an account of how they had pursued some minor TV luminary over a period of weeks to try to get his account of being gay. The poor man, like some persecuted fox, had employed all kinds of tactics to avoid the snooping reporters. That did not deter them, however, and the ‘story’ was still carried over two pages—it consisted of nothing much more than a simple statement that he is gay. There were no rent boys, no juicy details of illegal activities: the mere fact of his gayness seemed sufficient to constitute a ‘scandal’. Such persecution of individuals by the press makes badger-baiting look almost humane in comparison.


On the 21st June the same paper carried a similar non-story (“Was Cary Grant a secret gay?”). The whole thing served no purpose but to upset the late star’s family and friends—and, of course, to make more money for Mr Murdoch. THE SUN (14 July) managed to get the word ‘gay’ onto the front page in three-inch letters yet again when it reported that Sylvester Stallone was divorcing his wife because she was discovered in bed with another woman.


Meanwhile, the annual Martina Navratilova season came and went. As far as the tabloids are concerned, Ms Navratilova is far more famous for being a lesbian than for being the best woman tennis player in the world. THE PEOPLE (21 June) carried a highly dubious account of how Martina planned to ‘marry’ her girlfriend, Judy Nelson, at the post-Wimbledon Ball. Leaving aside the fantasy element, the article itself was almost affectionate in its approach to the two women, leaving out entirely all the nasty weasel-words we are so used to seeing in such coverage (kinky, bizarre, sordid etc). Strange isn’t it, how they can tolerate, or even cheer, Martina, but they bully, malign and vilify any male gay they can unearth. A definite illustration of the journalists’ innate sexism, I would say.


Like most straight men, the macho males of Wapping find it impossible to believe that any lesbian relationship could be ‘real’. It would be too much of a blow to their fragile facade to admit that women might be able to get through life without them.


Am I imagining it or are there more nutcases around than there used to be? Or is it just that the papers are more willing to give them space these days? Two absolute head-bangers got local coverage over the past couple of months.


The first provided THE CHESTER MAIL (4 June) with what must rank as probably the year’s most restrained and moderate headline. “EXECUTE GAYS—PASTOR” it screamed. The paper reported (for some reason) the rantings of one Pastor David Carson, who represents something called The

Protestant Reformation Party. I won’t detail the bilge which emanates from Pastor Carson’s disturbed mind—you’ve heard it all before. But just for the record this would-be fuhrer contested the seat

for Ellesmere Port and Neston in the General Election on the death-penalty-for-gays ticket and scored 185 votes.


The second worried voice was that of a Mrs Dianne Partridge of Ferndown, Dorset. She was worried about the ‘immorality’ on television and her views were reported at length in THE WESTERN GAZETTE. She was concerned about EastEnders, of course, but reserved her harshest words for The Paul Daniels Magic Show. “They had an act of levitation which we were very concerned about,” flapped Mrs Partridge. “It seemed that the Lord was speaking directly to me, that the levitation was not good, clever or magic. That there is an evil force that makes the body float.”


If Mrs Partridge is thinking of starting a campaign to have Paul Daniels burned at the stake then I won’t stand in her way. But I think it was wrong of the Western Gazette to exploit this poor woman’s suffering for cheap laughs. Don’t they know it’s wrong to mock the afflicted?


Having secured a victory in the General Election for the Tories, the tabloids (and particularly the Murdoch ones) are now gunning for the left-wing local authorities. Their campaign—as before—rests heavily on the exploitation of homophobia. To keep the pot boiling until the next round of local elections, the papers harp on endlessly about “ratepayers’ money” being squandered on gays.


Look at a few of the headlines over the past month (and they really are only the tip of the iceberg): “A gay a day (or two) away … on the rates” (LONDON STANDARD 25 June); “Rates pay for gays to combat ‘sexism’” TODAY (26 June); “Fury over Lesbian lessons at school” (STAR 1 July); “Gay group’s sick letter shocks Town Hall girls” (SUN 18 June); “Cash crisis council backs gay festival” (LONDON STANDARD 11 June);  “Lesbian Teacher resigns” (SUN 3 July); “School governor’s gay pride protest” (LONDON STANDARD 25 June); “Parents tear down school’s gay posters” (LONDON STANDARD 23 June).


THE SUN also carried a wickedly offensive cartoon (19 June) by Franklin, probably the most reactionary cartoonist in the country. Ray Mills, THE STAR’s so-called “Angry Voice” commented (30 June) on Camden Council’s Lesbian and Gay Unit (“They employ four full-time woofter apologists”): “Mills has a positive view to offer: These filthy degenerates should be kicked up their much-abused backsides and locked up in their closets.”


I (along with many other people) made a complaint about Ray Mills and his trashy opinions to the National Union of Journalists ‘Ethics Council’, but in the end nothing came of it: the machinations of the Union allowed the complaint to run out of time. However, Mills has been censured on grounds

of racialism. His reply was to compose an abusive tirade against the NUJ which was published on June 30th. His contemptuous attitude towards the Union makes it obvious that they have no power to stop his disgraceful and dangerous antics. And the STAR will continue to collude with this crypto-fascist attempt to stir up racial and sexual discord around the country.


Bad news for democracy, but especially bad news for gays, was the purchase of TODAY by Rupert Murdoch. Such an obvious piece of political patronage would be difficult to imagine. And for all the new editor’s assertion that Today would remain impartial, it wasn’t long before the baleful Murdoch influence began to push through. Within days of the takeover Today had launched an attack on the BBC (6 July). Now this just happens to be one of Murdoch’s long-term projects—to get TV deregulated so that he can step in and start a new and even more powerful media empire. His other British newspapers, The Times, Sunday Times, Sun and News of the World, wage a constant war upon the BBC. The Times has run an inordinate number of anti-BBC editorials over the past two years, more than on any other single subject.


One good thing to have come out of the whole affair is that the other papers have openly set their face against Murdoch, recognising him a not just a competitor but as ruthless enemy out for their blood. Indeed, John Junor it THE SUNDAY EXPRESS (l July) was moved to ask: “Is Mr Murdoch being given Today as his reward for having supported Mrs Thatcher during the election?” (This is rich coming from Junor whose own knighthood was a personal thank you from Maggie for propaganda services rendered.)


The following day Today shouted back: “Sir John Junor is famous for taking a once great newspaper, The Sunday Express, and single-handedly turning it into the boring, trivial paper it is today … When the owners of The Express finally manage to get rid of him as editor … they made the mistake of letting him keep his column. No other regular feature it British journalism is so full of inaccuracy and ignorance.”


It is a shame to see serious and thoughtful newspaper like Today transformed overnight into being just another Murdoch mouthpiece. However, one can take some pleasure in watching these paper tiger tearing at each other’s throats. Hopefully there will be some fatalities in the forthcoming circulation war.


THE SUN, as we all know, is very fond of gay stories. It just loves to let its readers know just how dreadful we “poofters” are and what a wicked threat we are to family life etc. etc. You’d think a gathering of 15,000 of us in the centre of London would have their headline writers going wild, but for some reason they seemed to overlook the Pride Festival again. And so did every other newspaper in the land except the communist MORNING STAR (29 June) which gave its usual thoughtful coverage.


Could this sudden indifference to our existence have anything to do with the fact that the Pride Carnival is probably one of the most joyous, exuberant, colourful and positive festivals in the London calendar? We wouldn’t want the great British public to know that lesbians and gay men are still capable of having a ripping good time despite you-know-what. If they did know they might begin to suspect that all the other stuff they read about us in the tabloids is perhaps a teensy-weensy bit exaggerated. They might even suspect that these morally superior beings we call journalists might just be naughty old fibbers on the quiet.


The British Medical Association’s decision to “secretly test patients for Aids” prompted Robert Maxwell to tell an Aids seminar in Canada (LONDON DAILY NEWS 8 July): “Aids hysteria, added to public ignorance, self-serving politicians and tunnel-visioned guardians of law and order will affect not only those likely to be infected with the virus but its erosion of civil liberties will touch us all.”


Noble word, but they wouldn’t carry such heavy irony if Mr Maxwell’s papers (in particular THE PEOPLE) hadn’t done their fair share of creating panic and ignorance. However, if he is sincere in what he says there is a simple answer: he should employ someone who knows what they are talking about to check all Aids stories in his papers for factual accuracy and foolish panic-mongering.


What about it, Cap’n Bob?

Gay Times, October 1987

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

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.