GAY TIMES January 1988

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

Parliament debated the state of the British press and a report in THE INDEPENDENT (26 Nov) made it quite clear that the Government has absolutely no intention of curbing the sensationalism, sexism, racism and homophobia of the newspapers. At the same time, alarm bells are ringing in thoughtful journalistic circles about the lengths to which the Government will go to gag criticism of itself — witness Spycatcher, the Zircon affair, the BBC’s IRA film amongst others.

And so, it is a dangerous and difficult argument. I, for one, certainly don’t want to interfere with the media’s duty to expose and bring to our attention the activities of corrupt politicians and businessmen.

Newspapers and TV must have the right to look into the affairs of those who hold power when there are suspicions that that power is being abused. But equally there must be restraints when this prying serves no public interest, but is undertaken merely for the purposes of prurience and titillation. What public good has been served, for instance, by the recent cruel stories about Elton John, Russel Harty, Martina Navratilova, Jeffrey Archer and many others? The sheer misery that must have been caused to these people is incalculable — and all in the name of increased circulation.

The Press Council has repeatedly shown itself to be useless as a tool of redress. In fact, it actually serves as a stumbling block to providing an effective challenge to newspaper excesses. The NUJ’s Ethics Council has proved similarly powerless; just look at Ray Mills who has received the ultimate sanction of being expelled from the union, but continues on his racist way in The Star.

There are two proposals coming up for consideration in Parliament later this year that could help. One is an “Unfair Reporting and Right of Reply Bill” sponsored by Ann Clwyd MP, which receives a second reading on 5th February, 1988. This proposed Bill would create a Media Commission which would have the power to decide — quickly — whether a right of reply was justified, and if it was to ensure that newspapers or TV gave it equal space and prominence as the original attack in the next available edition or programme. This system is already operating successfully in other European countries and Ms Clwyd asserts that it has not led, as many opponents would say, to a dreary press, full of boring replies. Instead it has encouraged journalists to be more careful, restrained and truthful in what they write.

Also coming up is a proposal to “introduce a measure of protection of privacy”. Both proposals are worthy of our consideration and support, and Ann Clwyd welcomes comments about her proposals at the House of Commons, London SW1 from any interested party.

The London Evening Standard magazine (4 Dec) gave a right of reply to Harvey Proctor, the ‘spanking’ MP hounded from office by the tabloids last year. He tells a sorry tale of the lengths to which the press went in order to nail him — agents provocateurs, bribery, treachery and just plain lying. In fact, all the familiar tricks of the journo’s trade.

However, although I sympathise with Mr Proctor’s assertion that he “would like to see a change in the law so that people, including those in public service, were entitled to some sort of privacy and couldn’t be pursued in such a manner by the press”, I cannot agree with his analysis of why he was chosen for the treatment. “I firmly believe,” says Proctor, “that certain journalists set out to bring me down because they didn’t like my opinions on immigration and race relations.”

I wonder how closely Mr Proctor reads the tabloid press? I wonder if he realises how often The Sun has been censured by The Press Council for overtly racist articles? Far from disagreeing with his rotten racist opinions, most of the tabloid papers promote them with gusto. A far more likely reason for the persecution was the fact that Mr Proctor’s private life had all the elements that the tabloids thrive on. In their terms it was “kinky”, “sordid,” “bizarre”. It involved “perversions” galore and, as we well know, the reader of popular newspapers simply adores sex — the filthier and more outrageous the better. Not for himself, of course — he simply wants to tut-tut and shake his head before returning to his wife and voluptuous daughter in Congleton.

The fact that Harvey Proctor was building a career on creating misery for other people would have been a noble reason for the press to destroy his parliamentary career. Unfortunately, it was not the case.

Headline of the Month: “Storm over gay sex books for 2-year-olds.” (LONDON STANDARD 25 Nov). Presumably these books are available in a school for infant prodigies who can read at the age of two?

Insult of the month: “I accepted an invitation to a friend’s house for drinks even though I knew she was a lesbian:1 had far too much to drink and ended up having sex with her . . . I now feel that people can tell by just looking at me what a filthy animal I have turned out to be.” — letter to Marje Proops (DAILY MIRROR 17 Nov).

Quote of the month: “Can anyone seriously wish to return to a time when homosexuality was criminal? And if one takes on the Chief Rabbi’s hating the sin but loving the sinner, is this really possible? The Inquisitors of old argued that they were burning Jews and heretics out of love, but the expression of that love was mighty strange.” — Rabbi Julia Neuberger (TIMES 17 Nov).

The two subjects on which James Baldwin wrote most passionately were racism and homosexuality. His obituary in THE INDEPENDENT (2 Dec) managed to fill three long columns without once mentioning the writer’s gayness.

Many gay public figures still cling to the idea that their sexuality is “the love that dare not speak its name”, but James Baldwin was not one of them. It is an affront to his memory (and to the dignity of the whole gay community) for The Independent to pretend that such a strong motivating force was unworthy of mention.

Of all the unlikely papers, it was THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (6 Dec) which carried an article by Brenda Maddox arguing that “laws and taboos forbidding homosexual marriages are illogical and unfair.” The reasoning of the case put by Ms Maddox was flawless. “The advance of Aids, a disease which in the United States has spread first and fastest amongst homosexuals, has increased the general public’s awareness and dislike of homosexual promiscuity. Homosexuals are being urged to stick to stable relationships. Is it not, therefore, hypocritical and even dangerous to castigate a large section of the population for undesirable behaviour, while withholding the remedy most likely to discourage such behaviour?”

And did you know: “The European Commission on Human Rights has ruled that members of the Council of Europe may not outlaw relations between people of the same sex”? I certainly didn’t. Perhaps someone should tell Dr Adrian Rodgers and Fatso Dickens that their “recriminalisation” campaigns appear to be at odds with European law.

We know that the papers are usually obsessed with homosexuality but the tabloids were curiously silent in the days in the run-up to the debate on the notorious amendment to the Local Government Bill. [Note: This was the genesis of Section 28]. Most of what was said hinged on the Labour Party’s decision to oppose the clause.

THE GUARDIAN editorialised: “The Government’s opponents must decide whether to be popular or to be principled. There is more at stake than a single clause in a single bill.”

Julie Birchill wrote (MAIL ON SUNDAY 13 Dec): “The Labour Party’s decision to back the proposal is not only cynical and dishonest but a bad tactic. Didn’t Labour keep telling us during the election that the idea of Loony Left councils was a politically motivated myth of the Murdoch press? Now it seems the tabloids were telling the truth all the time. The Party, in its electoral anxiety, is accepting a piece of legislation totally devoid of logic. The idea that you can ‘promote’ people into being homosexual is hysterically funny.”

Meanwhile, Chris Smith, the only ‘out’ MP in the country, was interviewed by THE INDEPENDENT (12 Dec). “I’ve always been very anxious to say yes I am prepared to stand up for and work for gay people,” he was quoted as saying, “but I don’t want that to be the sole or even principal part of my Parliamentary work.”

At a time of unprecedented threat, Chris, this was not what we wanted to hear.

The final outcome of the debate on this issue is reported elsewhere in Gay Times.

Peter (‘stop hounding Nazi war criminals, they’re retired now’) Simple wrote in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (20 Nov): “A new book produced by the ‘Gay Teacher’s Group’, intended for pupils, parents and homosexual teachers, states: ‘We don’t know why some people are homosexual. We don’t know why some people are heterosexual either.’ Perhaps not. But one thing we do know is why homosexual proselytisers make fatuous statements of this kind and hope to get away with them.”

It seems nowadays that any mention of homosexuality which is not either condemnatory or intended to degrade is presented as “proselytising”. Schoolchildren, Mr Simple would have us believe, are just empty vessels waiting passively to be filled up with other people’s ideas. I wonder how it is that the vast majority of queer bashing attacks are committed by adolescents and young people? If homosexuals really are proselytising (‘converting from one creed, party or opinion to another’ — OED), then we aren’t making a very good job of it.

THE NEWS OF THE WORLD is obsessed with Aids — week after week it brings its readers some new ‘human interest’ angle to the disease. Which would be fine if the aim were to relieve the extra burden placed on sufferers by society’s cruel reactions to the infection. But there is something distastefully prurient and sensationalist about the NoW approach. On 6th December the paper reported on the first heterosexual man in this country to be identified as having contracted Aids from straight sex. While I have every sympathy with this chap, I loathed the way the story was written. It was shot through with horrible sideswipes at gay PWAs. “I shall never forget my horror when I first realised I had Aids. I always thought it was something that poofters got, not ordinary blokes like me,” he is quoted as saying. “Now we must tell the truth. We must reveal that Aids can kill anyone — even a perfectly normal bloke like me.”

Not only is this outrageously offensive to the vast majority of PWAs, the article was also factually incorrect. The man in question had revealed that his wife has also been identified as HIV positive. She says (and nobody corrects her): “I know any illness — even a cold — could give me full-blown Aids like Andy.”

In the NoW magazine of the same day another article told of the grotesque reactions of a small American town when a young gay resident revealed he had Aids. True to the American Christian tradition, the young man was persecuted mercilessly by friends, family and neighbours. Such cruelty and irrationality are hard to believe, and I fear that the News of the World’s approach to the disease will do nothing to quell it.

GAY TIMES February 1988

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

Our magnificent defiance over the past month has been described as the British gay movement’s coming of age. Heartening as our protest has been it has, of course, given the Tory propagandists a gold-edged opportunity to display their considerable skills in making hay out of other people’s misery. Paul Johnson, the Dr. Goebbels of his day, labelled those brave MPs who spoke out in the Commons against the clause [Clause 28] as “Labour’s fascist Left” and the gay protesters became, in his terms, “squealing sodomites in the Gallery” (DAILY MAIL 21 Dec). THE SUN (16 Dec) labelled to “a screaming mob”. Mrs Thatcher was even using the protest as an argument for keeping TV cameras out of the Commons, describing the incident (SUNDAY EXPRESS 27 Dec) as “probably the worst she could recall in Parliament in the past 20 years”.

The big march through London managed to get more media coverage than all the Gay Pride parades put together. Ray Mills in THE STAR (12 Jan) said that we “minced on Downing Street” (a remark which made my chest swell with pride) to what THE NEWS OF THE WORLD (10 Jan) described as a “brawl”. THE SUNDAY TIMES (10 Jan) said that protesters had tried to “storm into Downing Street”. There was a large picture on the front page of the SUNDAY TELEGRAPH and coverage on ITN.

But the main inroads we made were in getting our case on to television. Only here were we given an equal chance to express the arguments against clause 28 without the benefit of unsympathetic tabloid journalists changing them to fit their idea of what the story should be.

People like David Wilshire appeared fatuous on the screen when matched against well-informed and eloquent opponents. Bigots who sound reasonable in the press looked on TV every bit as nasty as they are.

We have won the argument hands down, but it is clear that we are not being given points for being in the right.

Their Lordships now hold the key, but I have no intention of holding my breath for their verdict.

“One of the stranger creatures in this place,” wrote Mark Lawson in his ‘Commons Sketch’ (INDEPENDENT 12 Jan), “is Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster). A member for 18 years, she has been denied high office by the drawback of sounding like Minnie Mouse with laryngitis — the Labour juniors and jokers delightedly squeak impersonations when she rises. In an image culture, there is also the question of her passion for raucous floral patterns. On the worst days the overall effect is of a budgie trapped in curtains … There are broadly four categories of MP — the invisible, the listened-to, the hissed and the risible. Whatever she did and, in particular, whatever she said, Mrs Kellett-Bowman was elected by her fellows to that unfortunate fourth rank.”

Mrs Kellett-Bowman, who told the Commons that the arson attack on Capital Gay was “quite right”, was given a DBE for “services to politics”, which says something about the quality of Tory politicians.

Cant, humbug and hypocrisy have been thick in the air this month. Like just about every other gay person I know, I’ve been longing to confront the people who are trying to ruin our lives and scream at them LIARS, LIARS, LIARS, Recent days have illustrated more have demonstrated more clearly than ever just who controls the newspapers and how tightly they are kept closed to outsiders (honourable exceptions being The Guardian, Independent and Observer). As smug right-wingers write page after page about us we are denied any adequate right of reply. Bishops, rabbis, politicians, commentators – all with exactly the same anti-gay views – pop up day after day in the press interminably peddling the same lies and distortions while our side is relegated to the occasional couple of paragraphs in the correspondence columns or a brief and doctored quote tacked on to the end of a news story. The press, in the main, is controlled by those who mean us harm and they are not about to give us access.

The Church has been drawn into a gay bashing spree that I’m sure it never wanted. As THE INDEPENDENT (31 Dec) said: “The current debate, if that is the word for the succession of statements extracted by the press rather than offered to the nation, does not seem to be about human beings at all. Yet outside the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement the voices of homosexual ordinands are unheard.”

Indeed, the Bishop of Chichester has felt moved to speak out in his diocesan newsletter (INDEPENDENT 15 Jan) about the way the press reduced complex topics into headlines like “Pulpit poofs can stay”. He said that such stuff had come to represent “the brutish and malevolent ignorance of the press.”

While still on the subject of malevolent ignorance, we have A.N. Wilson writing in THE DAILY MAIL (31 Dec): “Nobody pretends to be perfect. But to begin a Christian ministry by saying that you intend to practice homosexuality and that you see nothing wrong with it seems to me totally extraordinary.” Mr Wilson takes no account of the context of the “practices” he so abhors; every expression of homosexual love, as far as he is concerned is “promiscuous”. He goes on to say: “No-one wants to see any sort of witch hunt or persecution of those whose sexual preferences do not conform to the norm.” A few sentences later he says: “We do not want such people teaching in our schools. We do not want them as ministers in our churches.” The man is either a muddle-headed idiot or, more likely, a rather crude right-wing propagandist. And if I hear another Holy Joe bleating that they “don’t want a witch hunt” while in the process of conducting one, I’ll scream.

“Ultimately lesbians and gay men possess a secret weapon which can outmanoeuvre both Government and press propaganda, if we choose to use it,” wrote Brian. Kennedy in the London listing magazine CITY LIMITS (31 Dec). Anxious to know what it is? “If every lesbian or gay man was open about their lives with a dozen or so heterosexuals we know, we could transform public debate on this issue. All the indications are that the public are widely ignorant rather than fundamentally bigoted, and an encounter with an openly gay person can change perspectives … There are far more gay people in this country than Sun readers. Unfortunately, the flip side to this tactic is that our closetry, the times we cover or hide our lifestyles, is probably the greatest asset available to our enemies. The personal choice we make now between openness and the closet may well determine the shape of gay life into the next century.”

Brian Kennedy is absolutely right, of course. The present challenge shouldn’t drive us back into the closet, it should bring us out in our millions.

Under the heading “The oppressive face of modern liberalism”, the editor of THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, Peregrine Worsthorne, was spouting (3 Jan) about The Guardian being “predictably concerned by rumblings recently heard, notably in The Sun, of anti-homosexual sentiment … The Guardian’s fear is that the latest statement of the Bishop of Ripon will add further fuel to the gay-bashing fire which is already in danger of getting out of control.” He admits that the Guardian “may well be right.” But he goes on to blame that same paper and The Observer for being the cause of the backlash “by trampling rudely, contemptuously and persistently on the popular sense of what is right and wrong.” He asserts that the two papers’ “liberalism” is the root of the current state of affairs. In a deeply unconvincing argument he makes the case for mob rule. He extolls the virtue of populism — totally forgetting that it is the same philosophy which keeps the Ku Klux Klan going and the National Front and the British Movement and all the other lynch-mob organisations.

He forgets to tell us, in trying to blame The Guardian and The Observer for the ills of society, that against these two small voices are ranged sixteen other national newspapers, mostly right-wing —sometimes alarmingly so. Is he really trying to tell us that the enormous power of the Murdoch and Maxwell empires, both of which espouse anti-gay propaganda, have played no part in creating the present climate of hate and fear?

If we are really to construct a society based on ignorance and misunderstanding or, as Mr Worsthorne would have put it, “popular opinion”, then we are sowing the seeds of destruction of that same society.

Polly Toynbee ruminated (GUARDIAN 14 Jan) on the direction in which gay politics are headed in the light of recent events. “Gay rights as a cause was dead once it had been purloined by the left from the liberal establishment,” she wrote. She then warned that OLGA (the Organisation for Lesbian and Gay Action) “seems to have learned little from what is happening out in the real world”. She considers its present campaign to get members to buy gay books for schools and libraries to be suicidal. “There can scarcely be anything better calculated to stir up the rage and hatred of parents, local councillors and the moral right …While activists may enjoy a good fight, it will rebound in the most dangerous way on the hundreds of thousands of homosexuals who are now facing very real threats.”

She suggests a solution: “moderate, non-political people need to get back into these (gay) organisations and seize them from the extremists, remove them from the grip of the left wing authorities and start to campaign effectively. There is still a large and powerful well of liberal tolerance, a natural majority in the land who is not hell-bent on persecution. But it will stay a silent majority in a clash between the moral right and the extreme left-wing gay militancy.”

Ms Toynbee’s arguments may not be popular with our most vociferous supporters, but I suspect that a vast number of gay men and lesbians who don’t want to be part of the Socialist Workers Party revolution will be applauding. We’ve all been to gay conferences which have been dominated by dogmatic revolutionary communists who are completely sincere in their beliefs but who alienate many with their fanaticism. And we’ve all seen interminable letters in the gay press saying that the gay community ought to “do something”; that there should be a national organisation which could represent all our interests and into which our combined efforts could be channelled. There is every indication that is what we want to harness our full clout we have to stop letting political factions hijack our campaigns for their own use.

OLGA needs to think carefully about this issue or it could well be defeated before it gets off the ground.

According to THE DAILY MIRROR (23 Dec), Barry, one half of the EastEnders gay couple, is to turn into a heterosexual. Informed sources tell me that in later episodes Carmel the black social worker discovers that she is really white and that Angie recovers from her illness to discover that she is in love with fat Pat. I always said EastEnders was the most realistic soap of them all.

Last year Mrs Thatcher was trying to do away with the Citizens Advice Bureaux. However, there was such resistance to the idea that she backed off. Now the CAB has passed a resolution saying that they’ll make their services more relevant to gay men and lesbians. This is what La Thatch has been waiting for. According to the SUNDAY TIMES (17 Jan): “The move will prompt Tory local government leaders to urge the trade and industry secretary to abolish the association.”

Seems you only have to show even the slightest sympathy for gays and lesbians and the Government steps in to squash you. Who needs clause 28 when you already have a dictator who can do as she pleases anyway?

GAY TIMES March 1988

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

A new and evil twist has been added to the tabloids’ ceaseless war against homosexuals – they have tried to blame the whole gay community for the murder of a child.

The tragic case of Stuart Gough, the newsboy killed by Victor Miller, was played for all its worth by THE SUN and THE STAR with a heavy emphasis on the fact that the murderer was a gay man. For several days they dwelt on Miller’s gay background and tried to infer that the way he lived and behaved was typical of gay men.

Then THE SUN (6 Feb) picked up a story from Capital Gay alleging that Stuart Gough himself was gay. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Capital Gay using the story, The Sun once again grabbed the opportunity to display its miserable, sickening hypocrisy.

“The claims were made,” it says, “in the weekly freesheet which caters for London’s sordid homosexual scene.” But the claims were then inflated by The Sun into something so big that the pain caused to Stuart’s parents must have been magnified ten thousand time. But if The Sun, as it claimed, was really concerned about the dreadful agony of Stuart Gough’s family, why didn’t it leave the story alone as every other newspaper did?

But no, the following weekend, The Sun’s sister The News of the World said just about the same thing in an editorial.

Not content to leave it there, The Sun then “spoke its mind” in a full-page editorial (10 Feb). This editorial was a turning point in the growing campaign aimed at destroying everything that gay people have achieved over the past ten years. The 10 February editorial stepped over the bounds of reasonable comment, it broke all standards of journalistic decency and was an all-time low, even for The Sun. Despite the fact they made available a prominent right of reply (12 Feb) there is no doubt in my mind that The Sun’s editorial should never have been published in that form in the first place. Anti-gay comment is one thing, but this kind of insidious appeal to base ignorance is totally unacceptable.

The editor tried to infer that it was homosexuality itself and not just one homosexual man that was to blame for Stuart Gough’s death. The title “When the gays have to shut up” was incorporated with a picture of the dead boy. Despite the fact they said: “No-one in reason can blame the homosexual community for what happened” – this is precisely what The Sun sought to do.

Having worked its readers up into a frenzy of indignation about the murder by describing Stuart’s funeral in great detail, The Sun went on to insinuate that it was “homosexuals” who were responsible for the murder and not just an individual psychopath. There then followed a catalogue of complaints against us. Apparently, homosexuals now “regard themselves as superior” and “want preference for jobs” and “they believe it is THEY who are normal and the rest of society which is perverse.” A whole shopping list of reasons why any decent Sun reader should detest homosexuals and damage them if at all possible. The problem is that none of it was true. The Sun regurgitated all its self-created myths about the gay community. It is The Sun who make all these claims about wanting ‘preferential treatment,’ not us. They even had the bare-faced cheek to say: “The age of the witch-hunt is gone for ever”.

That might be so in the civilised world, but in the sordid and disgusting world of The Sun, witch-hunting and scapegoating are still an everyday currency.

Where its anti-gay campaign will progress from here is frightening to contemplate.

Sorry to have to bother you yet again with the unpleasant subject of Peregrine Worsthorne, but he has returned to homosexuality as the subject of his appalling SUNDAY TELEGRAPH ‘signed editorials’.

On 31 Jan he proposed the contention: “Closet or coffin: the dilemma posed by Aids” and went on to say, more or less, that homosexuals had better stop being homosexual or they will, inevitably, succumb to Aids. As far as Perry is concerned, the choice is stark: celibacy or death. He doesn’t seem to have heard of safe sex or monogamous gay relationships — which shows how deeply he’s thought about the subject. His whole drift was the usual muddle of inconsistency, fallaciousness and — I have to say it — downright incoherence. The following week he was at it again, using Clause 28 as a jumping off point for encouraging the Government (and everybody else) to be as reactionary as they possibly could. The piece rambled on in a most alarming fashion and it became evident before the end that Mr Worsthorne had either composed it whilst under the influence of Vimto or he just didn’t know where his argument was going.

I wonder if The Sunday Telegraph would publish Peregrine Worsthorne’s ramblings if he didn’t happen to be the editor?

The pattern is now well-established, it goes like this: a public figure makes an ignorant statement on homosexuality or Aids and the newspapers then queue up to repeat the sentiments endlessly. After Anderton, Archbishop and Rabbi we have the Princess Royal showing how crass and insensitive she can be and John Selwyn Gumboil demonstrating his own transparent politicking at the General Synod (the message beneath the high moral tone being: let’s smear the Thatcher-hating bishops by calling them queer-lovers).

Opening the International Aids Conference, the Princess Royal scrapped her prepared speech and substituted what seemed to be an editorial from The Sun. It was, needless to say, greeted with delirious cheers by the British Press. “Bravo, Princess Anne”, wrote THE DAILY EXPRESS (28 Jan), “Why on earth should homosexuals (the main carriers, whose sexual practices and promiscuity are tailor-made for transmitting the disease) regard themselves or be regarded by others, as victims? We do not talk of ‘syphilis victims’ or ‘gonorrhea victims’. We regard the majority of those who contract these diseases as suffering the consequences of their own voluntary acts. It is surely the same with Aids. To suggest that … Aids is ‘no-one’s fault’ because it is the ‘result of a virus’ is absurd.”

Just about all the other tabloids thought the Princess had been “right to speak out”. “At once a whining chorus of various vested interest pressure groups condemned what she had said on the grounds that all Aids victims are innocent. This is not true and the Princess was right to say so,” said THE LONDON EVENING STANDARD (27 Jan).

To complete the pattern we have the correspondence columns, written in the main by what seems a screaming mob of half-wits, unable to think about any issue beyond hanging, birching, deporting or persecuting. Just one example from THE NEWS OF THE WORLD (7 Feb) sums up the sentiments: “Britain must follow the example of Sweden and build an Aids Alcatraz. A remote island must be put aside … Surely the time is near for some kind of restriction on homosexuality.”

So, who’s next in the queue for a bit of easy front-page coverage? See this column next month for details.

Vying with The Sun for the title of most hysterically anti-gay newspaper in the country is, of course, The Star. Not noted for its restraint in matters of racial or sexual tolerance it carried a four-and-a-half inch headline on the front page of its February 5th issue saying simply “FILTH”, the sub-heading was “Get this garbage off TV.” It seems there was a “storm” over an upcoming episode of EastEnders, but as I saw or heard no other reference to the matter I assume the storm was taking place in the dirty mind of the journalist who created the ‘story’, Michael Burke (you can say that again!).

The offending storyline features Barry asking Colin for the loan of £200. Colin says something to the effect “I want you and need you, but I won’t pay for it with you. Besides, how many ‘favours’ does £200 buy me?”

Anyone who knows the characters will realise that Barry has been sponging off Colin for some time now and that Colin has behaved honourably throughout. However, as far as Mr Burke is concerned Barry now qualifies as a “rent-boy”. Surely overstated even by The Star’s hysterical standards.

However, having suitably misled its readers, The Star then set up another of its foregone-conclusion phone-ins (at 38p a minute on those notorious 0898 numbers it’s quite a nice little earner if you’ve got thousands of imbeciles willing to be duped). Surprise, surprise: 83 per cent said they thought the scene should not be shown, with 17 per cent in favour.

Hopefully the BBC will stick to its guns and refuse to be bullied into accepting The Star’s disgusting double-standards.

Acres of newsprint have been devoted to the discussion of Clause 28. The papers came down as you’d have expected: the tabloids unanimously in favour, with The Independent, Guardian and Observer strongly against. The Times was editorially with the clause, but gave space for opposing points of view, as did its Sunday sister. The Torygraph, as you’d expect, backed the clause with only the mildest reservation.

The usual Thatcherite apologists sprang to 28’s defence to the man. Paul Johnson, George Gale and all the other pompous propagandists who pass themselves off as independent commentators on the state of the nation. They are, in fact, as hide bound by Tory party dogma as any back-bench lobby-fodder.

Then came the smug middle-aged, middle-class men of the I’m-alright-Jack persuasion using their access to the press to excuse the inexcusable and make a case for the unforgivable. Like Keith Waterhouse in THE DAILY MAIL (28 Jan): “The Gay Rights movement … is a sham and a fraud in that since 1967 gays have had rights coming out of their ears. Show me a gay who claims to be persecuted and I will show you a gay who is trying to screw a grant out of the local council.”

Or try this one from John Akass in THE DAILY EXPRESS (1 Feb): “What is lacking in the piercing protests of the Clause 28 agitators is any evidence that homosexuals are being persecuted … The British public seem to find homosexuality oddly amusing. This might be irritating but it is not the stuff of a pogrom.” And then there was Ferdinand Mount in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (29 Jan): “Clause 28 or no Clause 28, there is no witch-hunt on against homosexuals or against anyone else. And if there is one thing which is almost as bad as a witch-hunt, it is a witch-hunt for a witch-hunt.”

With this kind of complacency you can almost be certain that at this very moment there is some crackpot Tory backbencher formulating a similar clause to slip into the Broadcasting Bill when it comes before parliament later this year.

The increasingly repellent behaviour of the tabloid press in this country has itself been headline news this month. Ann Clwyd’s Right of Reply Bill died before it even got discussed in the House of Commons, and I fear that Bill Cash’s Right to Privacy Bill will go the same way. But at least they have given notice that it is more than just the gay community who’ve had their fill of the rampaging spite and inaccuracy of newspapers.

There are, it is thought, rumblings from within the Government that legislation will be formulated in this area, given that self-restraint does not seem possible for the trash end of the press.

I still have grave reservations about legislation controlling what newspapers may print, but after the outrageous case of Martin Bowley, the judge whose career was destroyed last month by The Sun and The People simply because he was homosexual, statutory restraint does not seem unreasonable.

Ray Mills, THE STAR’s “Angry Voice”, says that he has received an anonymous letter from a “warrior of the Woofter Resistance” (9 Feb). The letter said: “This is just to say that I am of the belief that you should have been shot at birth, yours sincerely, one of the many homosexuals pissed off with you.”

Mr Mills seems to be quite upset by this rather mildly expressed opinion (shared, I am sure, by many readers of this paper). Given that elsewhere in his column he refers to other people as being “disgusting sodomites”, “deformed creatures of the night” and “black bastards” he can hardly claim to be the epitome of politeness, can he?

As they say in the trade: if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

GAY TIMES May 1988

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

Reviewing a BBC TV “Open Space” programme about the press treatment (and, indeed, creation) of the “Loony Left”, Peter Tory wrote in The Daily Express (15 Mar): “The trouble with the Left—loony or otherwise—is that it doesn’t have much sense of fun.” It seems that Mr Tory thinks it’s hilarious that newspapers blatantly lie and invent stories. He must think it’s a hoot that the democratic process is ruthlessly undermined by papers such as his own. I don’t think he would be so amused if he found the tables turned and the newspapers doing the dirty on him.

And meanwhile John Birt, the deputy director-general of the BBC, made some pithy and apposite comments about the state of the British media in his speech to the Royal Television Society. “Some of our popular papers regularly contain stories which invade the privacy of individuals for no reason of public interest; which shows insufficient concern for standards of good taste and decency, which indulge in occasion in outright invention … Increasingly common is the sound of grinding axes, from proprietors, editors and individual correspondents, shifting the balance away from journalism where the fruits of inquiry allow the readers to form his or her own opinion, towards journalism conducted in support of previously held opinion.”

The sound of grinding axes in newspapers is, indeed, familiar to gay people. The sheer volume of hatred that is directed at us day after day shows no sign of abating. To hold anti-gay opinions is an individual’s right, but as Mr Birt says, such opinions should be kept for the comment pages.

Nowadays it’s almost impossible to distinguish news from comment, both have been distorted to fit into a very narrow political view of the world, and if a story can’t be slanted it is ignored. Mr Birt said: “British journalism is not in a healthy condition and is neither capable nor allowed to serve society as it should.”

The lecture was reported by all the broadsheets and, indeed, The Times carried a long extract from it (7 Apr). The tabloid newspapers, however, omitted all mention of the lecture.

Which illustrates precisely the point Mr Birt was making.

Have the sordid Sunday scandal-sheets run out of gay celebrities to drag out of the closet? Nowadays they seem to be reduced to ‘exposing’ the children of the famous. After Francis Rossi’s son was given the treatment last month we now have the daughter of film star Stewart Granger being identified as a lesbian by The News of the World (10 Apr). But best of all must be one the NoW provided us with on 20thMarch. I can imagine the delight of gay people all over the country as they went to buy their paper that day and saw the headline of the front page of The News of the World: “God’s cop girl is gay”.

Anti-gay policeman James Anderton has himself fathered a cess-pit swirler! Oh, what exquisite irony! His only progeny one of the monsters he so deplores! But, of course, his tune has changed somewhat. In his daughter’s case it’s all “God’s will” (not God swill, as some would have it).

The other papers were strangely uninterested in this revelation and the only reference I saw to it was a letter in The Sun from “a parent with a gay child” who had been “deeply hurt” by Mr Anderton’s pronouncements on homosexuality and wanted an apology from the prophet. The writer was a certain Mrs Doreen Potts and the letter was published on 1 April.

Or, as The Sun might say: “Gotcha!”

[Note: Doreen Potts was a character invented by Terry Sanderson whose comic misadventures in the gay world were a regular feature in Gay Times.]

The intensely tiresome idea of homosexuals having “stolen” the word gay was given another airing by the equally tiresome Sun (23/24 Mar). The paper had dug up a couple of men with the name Gay, one of whom decided to change it by deed poll to Straight after being subjected to what the paper called “poof jibes”. The silly chap at the centre of the story went on and on about how he was a “red-blooded man” and how he wasn’t “gay by nature”. A friend was quoted as saying: “Women wouldn’t go near him because of his name.” Oh really? Women are that stupid, are they? A more likely reason for his lack of success with women is that he is an idiot.

Next day another Mr Gay was at it: “Didn’t those woofters think of the misery they would cause when they hijacked our name?” he said. A reader sympathised with his plight: “It’s not his fault homosexuals stole the word from the English language and made it mean something different.”

I know exactly what he means. We used to have a pouffe at home, but had to replace it with a foot stool because of the shame it brought on the family—don’t these furniture manufacturers realise what misery they’ve brought into innocent people’s lives by naming a piece of furniture in such a way?

The Sun invited readers to think of a “more appropriate word to mean homosexual—an original one for a change?” And I’m inviting Gay Times readers to think of an appropriate word to describe Sun readers. Answers on a postcard please. Or if it’s not fit for mixed company, in an envelope.

As readers of The Times vie with each other to be the first to report hearing a cuckoo, I regret to advise you that the first “poofter” has been spotted in The Daily Telegraph. Admittedly, the word was contained in a letter to the editor (9 Apr), but the fact that it was without quotation marks was ominous.

It’s bad enough that such abusive language is common currency in the smelly end of the press, we certainly don’t need it creeping into the broadsheets. How long, I wonder, before the word becomes an acceptable part of the Telegraph’s house style?

Most newspapers employ columnists to comment on current affairs and interpret events for their readers. The tabloids employ a special breed of such commentators who are advertised as “provocative” and “controversial” — which generally translates as insufferably racist, sexist and homophobic. There is little to choose between them—all are unquestioning Thatcherites and, like their heroine, supremely smug and self-satisfied.

Their knee-jerk predictability makes their columns sorry reading. The worst offender is Ray Mills of The Star, the man whose column the Press Council calls “outrageously racist, abusive and inflammatory.” The man who has been expelled from the National Union of Journalists for persistent breaches of journalistic ethics. The man who makes a living using violent language against defenceless people.

Last month I was invited by the BBC to take, part in a pilot TV programme about the press and its standards. I had been asked to challenge Mr Mills on his outpourings and ask him for an explanation of his relentless promotion of hatred against gays. Being a pilot programme, it will not, unfortunately, be broadcast. Mr Mills made it clear that he would not take part if it were to go on the air. This is understandable. To express repellent opinions under the cloak of print with no-one to challenge is one thing, but to face one of the victims of his evil campaign and try to justify his actions is quite another. The TV camera has a happy knack of magnifying bigotry and without the hollow cheering of his newspaper to egg him on, there would be nowhere for Mr Mills to hide.

In the flesh, Ray Mills seems inoffensive. Shy even. But it was he who made words like “woofter”, “lezzie”    and “queer” once more acceptable in newspapers.

There was an audible gasp in the studio when Mills defended writing that he was sorry that a gay man’s attempt to kill himself had failed. “A completely useless member of society” he concluded. He said he did not approve of “queer-bashing” but denied that it could ever be proved that his comments provided encouragement for thugs who carry out the attacks. He justified his opinions by claiming that they were shared by the vast majority of the British public. It does not seem to have occurred to Mr Mills that if all the British public’s baser prejudices were allowed to run unchecked, the country would rapidly decline into anarchy.

In short he was unrepentant. He was also something of a disappointment, his voice almost inaudible (hopefully an indication of the shame he feels about the words he utters). The ogre I had expected was, in fact, something of a mouse. Another reason, no doubt, that Mr Mills is a reluctant TV star. What would his readers think if they knew the sad truth about their ranting hero?

A classic example of how evil the tabloid press can be was the case of Henry Tennant, a gay member of “an aristocratic family” who is also HIV positive. After The Sun discovered Mr Tennant’s HIV status and revealed it on the front page (29 Mar), the poor man was pursued around the world by reporters who seem to find some strange fascination in linking royalty to Aids.

After Mr Tennant’s father, Lord Glenconner, complained about the hounding of his son by the press and said that it would not happen if he had terminal cancer. The Sun then produced one of its sickeningly pious editorials to try to excuse its filthy behaviour: “First, it is not ‘hounding’ to report the news. Second, people contract cancer totally by chance. Aids usually occurs through a sexual choice.” To say such thinking is wicked seems insufficient. To justify the intolerable harassment of a man who is already under such enormous strain is almost unbelievable. And to say that dragging the details of his medical condition on to the front page is “news” is contemptible.

The Tennant affair also gave The Sun another chance to demonstrate its nasty and insidious campaign of misinformation about Aids and HIV infection. In a story (31 Mar) the paper said that Henry Tennant had hired a house for a holiday with his boyfriend on the Caribbean island of Bequia. After the paper revealed to the owner of the house that his guest was HIV positive the man had allegedly said that he intended to “burn all the mattresses” and “throw away all the plates, cutlery and glasses.”

The man’s foolish hysteria was left unquestioned by The Sun which said nothing to contradict it. Presumably its readers will imagine that such reactions are perfectly reasonable and rational. Education groups who try so hard to counter such ignorance must despair when they see their work undermined so gratuitously by journalists.

It’s not good enough anymore for reporters to claim that they are ignorant of the subject or that they are working under pressure. If they don’t know the basics about Aids and HIV infection they shouldn’t be writing about it.

We can only assume that there is an element of malevolence in the actions of irresponsible papers such as The Sun.

The Murdoch campaign to name doctors who have Aids (and presumably the ones who are HIV+) gained new impetus last month after the death of Dr David Collings. All of the Murdoch papers (and most of the others) joined in the chorus demanding “tests” for all doctors (and, in some cases, their patients) and (Sun 1 Apr) to “boot out” the ones who are found to be infected.

There may well be grounds for public debate on this issue and naturally there is genuine concern. But the debate must be raised beyond the level of this, which appeared in The Daily Express (16 Mar): “I am fed up with being continually bombarded with the Aids problem. The majority of victims have only themselves to blame because of their sexual activity. I abhor the amount of money being spent on them and feel no sympathy whatsoever for them.”

The tabloids already dictate too much of the political agenda in this country, we must not let their renewed Aids hysteria stampede those in power into regrettable actions on Aids.

The British Medical Association must stand firm against the pressure being applied by the press when it meets in July for its annual conference. Journalists are, in the main, ignorant and unsympathetic to the plight of those with Aids. They must not be allowed to impose this ignorance and prejudice on those who are already suffering enough.

Gratuitous insult department: “My Beautiful Laundrette: Funny, perceptive study of a Pakistani man marred by a homosexual element that seems irrelevant to the story”—TV review in Daily Express (9 Apr).

“I do not mind what homosexuals do with each other. But I do mind the contempt for life that is implicit in their sexual proclivities and the humbug that being homosexual is in no way inferior to being heterosexual” — George Gale, Daily Mail (8 Apr).

Commenting on the National Union of Teachers decision to “defend members who are discriminated against because of their homosexuality”, The Star (7 Apr) conceded that “At first sight that sounds not unreasonable” but then, rather predictably, went on to say that “Parents have the right to expect fit and proper teachers … The teachers at their annual conference devoted an entire session to ‘gay rights’ (i.e. homosexual wrongs) … If teachers flaunt their perversions in public, the public has a right to demand that they change professions. If that be discrimination, The Star says: Discriminate for our children’s sake!”

Of course, rather like the word “promote” in another context, The Star’s argument rests very much on what they mean by “flaunt”. Does it mean, for instance, that if a child asks a gay teacher about homosexuality and the teacher answers, he is “flaunting”? Does it mean that a school is “flaunting” if it employs an openly homosexual member of staff? Perhaps the intellectual giants who run The Star would like to explain.

Nicholas de Jongh of The Guardian confirmed (8 Apr) what many of us have suspected for some time: that Mrs Thatcher was personally responsible for pushing Clause 28 through Parliament.

“One senior minister,” wrote Mr de Jongh, “believes there is no need for the clause and says that it is wrongly believed that pressure for the clause came mainly from some right-wing Conservative backbenchers.”

Aided and abetted by what The Guardian calls “penny-in-the-slot-politicians” (you put a penny in the slot and they say whatever Mrs Thatcher wants them to say) the Prime Minister “made sure that the clause was not dropped” and that non-government amendments were not accepted.

But opposition continues all the same. On 3rd April The Sunday Times carried an anti-clause letter signed by over a hundred art-world heavyweights including Sir Hugh Casson, Francis Bacon, the Duke of Beaufort and Derek Jarman. Not that this would impress Mrs T, after all she has her reputation as the country’s leading philistine to think of.

The London Standard carried an article about the clause by Paul Bailey (30 Mar). After pondering the meaning of ‘promotion’ he said: “The tabloid that coined the felicitous phrase ‘pulpit poofs’ and uses the abusive ‘screaming queens’ when gay people inform the public, in reasonable terms that they have rights, clearly does not favour such promotion. No clause has been drafted for its removal from reading rooms and I hope none ever will be.”

The fight continues.

GAY TIMES June 1988

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

Marcel Berlins, ex-editor of Law Magazine was writing in The London Standard (6 May) about the implications of Section 28. “Only one thing is certain if Section 28 of the Local Government Act ever comes before the courts,” said Mr Berlins, “the lawyers are going to get even richer.”

This much we know, but Mr Berlins goes on to inform us that “Section 28 does not create a criminal offence. No one can be prosecuted if the local authority breaks the ban. And that means that there is no scope for a private prosecution by an enraged individual — like the successful one for blasphemy launched by Mary Whitehouse against Gay News.”

So how can the Section be used? “Any dissatisfied ratepayer — and there will be plenty of those waiting for the opportunity — will be entitled to ask the High Court to rule that a council’s action is contrary to Section 28. The district auditor could also start court proceedings … the difference being that the amount of money involved in promoting homosexuality is likely to be relatively small.” Even the London Borough of Haringey devoted less than one-tenth of one per cent to the cause.

The danger, of course, comes from leaving it to judges to decide the issue. As we know from bitter experience there are some horribly homophobic people sitting on the bench — remember the infamous comment of Lord Chief Justice Lane who publicly described the 1967 Sexual Offences Act as “a bugger’s charter”? Hardly what you’d call an objective opinion.

Now we must be ready to fight it every step of the way.

The renewed ferment in the Church of England over the presence of gays led to an article in The Times (7 May) by Edward Norman, Dean of Peterhouse College. A more moderate and considered line was taken than the usual hysterical “against God’s law” crap. The Dean said that instead of just rejecting gays out of hand, Christians should be “agnostic” on the issue. “The notion, as enunciated by the bishops, that individuals are put together by God, who fills them with sexual urges and then sends them indelibly celibate into a world in which their contemporaries — because of a shade of difference in their body chemistry or their early environment — achieve a kind of fulfilment which they are not allowed to, can hardly be compatible with Christianity.”

Dr Norman ends by saying: “the fact is that the lives of very many homosexual Christians down the centuries have disclosed spiritual gifts in astonishing abundance” and that if the Church kicks out its gay members, then it will be “the Church itself that is the loser.”

Meanwhile, The Star was gleefully reporting (12 May) the refusal of a bishop to ordain one of his clergymen who was openly gay: “The ban will bring shrieks of protest from the so-called ‘gay’ community. But the Bishop must be firm. He can count on the support of every decent British citizen.”

The ban will also bring cackles of delight from so-called ‘newspapers’ whose wilful mendacity make their pseudo-religious rantings sound like an evil joke.

One of the more alarming of the rentagob MPs is Geoffrey ‘the jerk’ Dickens. The fat fool’s philosophy is much-admired by The Sun and The Star who quote him frequently in their intellectually retarded columns. But if you’re an idiot (and this man indubitably is), you can’t hide the fact for very long. Interviewing Dickens for his ‘Notebook’ in the Sunday Times (24 App), Paul Pickering observed: “Geoffrey admits he often doesn’t think until after the words are out of his mouth.” The current spate of interest in Mr Dickens comes from his request that the House of Commons debate witchcraft, which he says is “sweeping the country.”

The 19-stone MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth, according to the article, is convinced that witchcraft and paedophilia are directly related. “Children are sacrificed sexually to the lust and gratification of the coven,” he says, “In the dark ages they used an animal. Now they use the body of a child… Bodies have been taken from the grave and their heads cut off. People have cut the heads off and sexually assaulted the skeleton.”

After contemplating the mechanics of sex with a skeleton, Mr Pickering notes on his way out of the Dickens abode that “workmen seem to be engaged in the very necessary task of padding the walls.”

Gratuitous Insults Department: “Gay rights activists threaten members of the House of Lords … It could have been worse for their Lordships. The poofters could have threatened to KISS them instead.” — Sun (4 May).

“Peers have received death threats over the controversial Clause 28 … Time was when we thought hell had no fury like a woman scorned. That’s nothing compared to a poofter peeved.” — John Smith People (8 May).

Deserved Insult Department: “Reading the Sun is like putting your hand down the toilet,” — Erasure’s Andy Bell — Sun (3 May).

The April issue of Family Circle (the women’s magazine you always see at the supermarket checkout) contained a woeful tale of a young man’s coming out to his unsympathetic parents. The photograph accompanying the article gave some idea of the tone — a weeping youth, head-bowed is comforted by his equally distressed mother.

What a terrible time this particular family had, although it has to be said that most of the misery seemed self-inflicted. I usually feel great sympathy for parents who are first coming to terms with their child’s homosexuality, but it was difficult to maintain much care for this pair. Their son, Chris, was, by their own admission, a good lad. He didn’t take drugs, vandalise the neighbourhood or rape girls. What he did do was show a preference for flamboyant clothes and the occasional touch of mascara. This, to his father, was worse than murder. “There was nothing else I could do,” says the mother, “I agonised for weeks, but I knew I had to tell Chris to go.”

As it turned out, giving Chris his marching orders was the biggest favour his parents could have done him. After all, who wants to live with relatives who say: “What he’s doing is horrible. I don’t know how you can put up with it”? Or a mother who tortures herself by blaming her son’s sexual orientation on her potty-training technique?

He moved to London, set up home with an older, but very responsible, gay man called Stephen. From the mother’s description it sounds as though his life has improved about a trillion times since he left the family behind. He now has a successful career in theatrical design and a house overlooking the river — a life that most people would envy. But not his parents. Even though he has escaped their stifling grasp (and a brother who walks out of the room when Chris walks in), Mum still manages to say at the end: “I am sad that Chris will not have children, and I shall always worry about his future. Stephen is a lot older than Chris. He may get tired of him, or Chris might find someone younger and then go from partner to partner. I don’t know what the future holds.”

None of these dire things could possibly have happened to Chris if he’d been straight of course! It seems Mum and Dad are trapped in a fantasy world where everything gay is bad and everything straight is good. Even when the evidence of their own experience tells them different.

A particularly ugly report about Russell Harty appeared in The News of the World (8 May). It said that “A desperate manhunt was under way last night for handsome Jamie Wilson —TV star Russell Harty’s live-in toy boy lover. Doctors fear dark-haired Wilson, 23, could be under sentence of death because of their gay affair.”

And here’s me imagining that the threat was from hepatitis. Still, as far as the NoW is concerned, homosexuality is a far more dangerous disease.

A similarly loaded statement came from a group called ‘Family and Youth Concern’, reported in The London Standard (9 May): “The Government’s advice on the use of condoms to protect against Aids was unreliable and influenced by fears of upsetting homosexuals.”

Oh really? The Government has shown little sensitivity for the feelings of homosexuals in other areas. The introduction of Section 28 hardly indicates an anxiety to spare our feelings, now does it?

What The Standard didn’t reveal, however, is that ‘Family and Youth Concern’ is none other than The Responsible Society in another of their crafty disguises. I don’t mind the Bible-bashers spouting their clap-trap, but why are they so reluctant to be up-front about who they are? Why do they always have to invent names like ‘Parents Action Group’ and ‘Viewers and Listeners Association’?

Could it be that if people knew the truth they’d run a mile from the message?

For satire to be successful, two ingredients are essential: wit and truth. An effort to send up gay rights in the London Standard (28 Apr), contained neither of these elements. What it did contain was a sorry collection of cringingly embarrassing stereotypes.

Just to give the flavour, here’s the first paragraph: “Don’t you just lahhhhhve the idea of teaching children Gay History? Isn’t it so cute you could just scream? Some stuffy old party poopers will get all stuffy and upset, of course. Mrs Thatcher will hate it. But we all adore it, don’t we?”

Michael Bywater, author of the piece, is the sort of humourist who doesn’t have a sense of humour. He’s the lazy sort of writer who reaches for ready-made and dishonest clichés rather than taking the trouble to come up with something original. If the London Standard is going to make a habit of carrying this kind of spoof, I recommend that they get someone who can do it properly.

GAY TIMES August 1988

The “homosexual conspiracy” theory, which seems to be all the rage in the “serious” papers at the moment, popped up again in a major feature in The Mail on Sunday (“Scandal of the Gay Clergy” 10 Jul). This time it was written by Iain Walker who said, in effect, that the man who conducted the persecution of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, George Cassidy, the Archdeacon of London, is himself being persecuted as a result.

Apparently, according to Mr Walker, one in four of inner London’s clergy are gay and “they are supported inside the wider church establishment by homosexuals in positions of the highest responsibility” – no names, no pack drill, of course, but hearsay and anecdotes abound in this diatribe. It appears on the news pages but is merely opinion – rather poorly presented with each point more dubious than the last.

Like last month’s effort in The Sunday Telegraph, this disgraceful piece of propaganda brings shame on the British press. It has no balance, although it is presented as “analysis”, it has no substance, although “investigative journalists” are invoked to give it credence. It talks of LGCM selling “obscenity… the kind of thing you would expect to find in a San Francisco bath house.” The only evidence cited as proof of this was a safer sex leaflet which was very cunningly only reproduced in part, with no mention of its purpose. The leaflet was not produced by LGCM and its inclusion in the feature is to confuse readers of the article by not revealing the whole truth about the leaflet. No mention is made of its purpose – the prevention of the spread of Aids.

If the upper end of the British press is going to continue with this wilful campaign of disinformation about the gay community, then who could complain if there really is a conspiracy afoot?

Is the Government trying to get revenge on us for its humiliation over Section 28? Why are so many articles with a similar, and quite blatant, anti-homosexual purpose, suddenly appearing in sensible as well as loony papers?

Call it paranoia if you like, but let’s not be complacent.

The front-page lead in The People of 2ndJuly was about a man who is HIV positive and working as a hospital porter. He was referred to in the story as “a menace” even though the body of the article showed such a description to be totally unfair and unjustifiable. The man was behaving responsibly in every way.

The People’s decision to persecute him for no other reason than that he is trying to get on with his life is despicable. The journalists who tried to destroy him are detestable. How they got the confidential information about this man isn’t clear, but it isn’t he who should be vilified but those who betrayed his trust.

The newspaper that carried this story is owned by Robert Maxwell, a man who gains much publicity for his supposed concern about Aids.

What I’d like to call him isn’t printable.

Christopher Monckton writes regularly for the London Evening Standard about Aids. He is a nasty, manipulative schemer, who is seeking to use Aids as a political weapon.

His whole approach is based on the idea that people who are affected by the disease must be penalised in order to “protect the uninfected majority”. In short, Mr Monckton is a right-wing loony of the most dangerous sort.

On 16 June he was writing about “testing everyone” for the virus. He made it sound so easy with his talk of a “simple 30 second test”, Does Mr Monckton know something that the rest of us don’t?


He says the whole population could be screened for £30 million, but gives no indication where such a wildly optimistic estimate comes from. There are 56 million people in this country and each would have to be tested regularly to ensure that antibodies haven’t appeared since their last test. And what about false positives and false negatives? Monckton does not consider how a Health Service which is already falling apart would cope with such a task. He does not address the problem of those who would actively avoid the test and how they would be forced to undergo it. A police state? At the very least…

And even if the impossible happened and every man, woman and child in the country had been tested, then what? What would happen to those who were antibody positive? You won’t need three guesses to find Mr Monckton’s answer to that, I fear.

As Larry Gostin, Executive Director of the American Society of Law and Medicine, said in The Guardian (22nd June): “Irrational fears, political pressures, and prejudice against gays and intravenous drug users, which have no scientific validity, have confounded our ability to respond rationally. American debate on Aids focuses more on theoretical possibilities and highly remote risks than on the accumulated public health data.”

If the likes of Monckton have their way, this country’s debate will go in exactly the same direction.

As its contribution to Gay Pride Week, The Sun ran a grotesquely offensive two-page feature on gay life in Brighton (23rd June).

Peppered with weasel words intended to create alienating feelings in the minds of their readers (“bizarre blessing services”, “odd couples”, “gay mafia”), the piece was gratuitously insulting on many levels. “Places you’ll hate if you’re straight”—was a subheading, listing all the gay pubs and clubs in the town and more or less inviting gay-bashers to pay a call. “If you prefer steak and kidney pud to Ducky a l’Orange avoid (these restaurants)… Prefer pints to Pink Fairy cocktails? Then avoid (these pubs)…” And so on.

Another section resurrected “the gay plague” and allowed a local Tory councillor John Blackman to rant in a most disgusting fashion: “The poofs …have made Brighton a place for sick voyeurs and encouraged perverts to come here from all over the country. I think they are giving the town a filthy, dirty image that will damage trade. We don’t want to know about these people who indulge in disgusting acts which are harmful and offensive to the majority of people who live here…I think Brighton would be well rid of them.” The apoplectic Mr Blackman says that “aggressive gays” are “ramming their ideas down everyone’s throat.” Unlike himself, of course, who wouldn’t dream of forcing his bigotry on to an unwilling audience.

The Sun and Mr Blackman infer that gay people have no place in Brighton, that they have, somehow, arrived from another planet to hijack the town from ‘real’ people.

The truth is that the gay community contributes far more to Brighton’s economy and cultural life than Mr Blackman and his crackpot cronies ever will, and the gays will still be there when this silly burgher has been long-forgotten.

The News of the World dragged two more celebrities from the closet this month. One was Pam St Clements (“Pat” off Eastenders) and the other was Andrew Logan (Dr Evadne Hinge).

The latter was treated to the “Celebrity in gay rent boy shame shock-horror disgrace” treatment. The usual routine was followed: some dim-witted rent boy who cares for nothing and no-one—including himself—realises that if he can hook a celebrity client he can make a nice little bit on the side from the ever-open wallet of Mr Murdoch. This time the slimy little Judas came in the form of someone called Ray Morrison, who met Logan at the Apollo Club, “a notorious gay haunt in trendy Wardour Street.”

All this is par for the course, and the NoW’s condemnatory tone totally ignores the fact that Murdoch pays far more to rent boys than their regular customers do.

I hope very much that this grotesque piece of spite will not rob the world of Hinge and Bracket. The BBC stood by Kenny Everett when he got the Murdoch treatment, and they didn’t allow the Russel Harty revelations to stop him working for the Corporation. I think Andrew Logan will find that the Beeb will not hold his private life against him, even if rotten Rupert does.

Boy George might be a pleasant chap, but he’s as thick as his own foundation cream. In an interview in Record Mirror recently he was spouting in his usual half-baked fashion about Section 28.

Take this as an example: “I don’t want kids to be educated about homosexuality. I wasn’t taught about heterosexuality, I couldn’t have given a shit. I’m completely OK, do you see what I mean?” To be frank, George, no.

But worst of all was his rounding on his fellow gays: “What really upsets me about the whole issue is that 10 per cent of the voting public is gay and none of them have the guts to come out and say anything. It makes me sick, it makes me angry, and it really annoys me.”

Mr O’Dowd seems to have overlooked the tens of thousands of people who turned out for the marches in London and Manchester. Or the contributions of many courageous individuals at great personal cost. As someone who was denying his own gayness a few short years ago, George seems to imagine that he’s the only one who feels concerned.

Even given that the quotes have been reprocessed by a journalist, George has a reputation for mouthing off first and thinking later. Rather like a Tory backbencher. Perhaps he should stand for Parliament.

Congratulations Ian McKellen on a well-presented reply (26 Jun) to the Sunday Telegraph’s sinister feature “Is there a gay conspiracy”. It was a most cogent and eloquent article; just the sort of thing we’ve come to expect from our famous champion (who also managed to get Section 28 on to the Wogan Show).

GAY TIMES September 1988

The Glasgow University Media Group’s guide to the nation’s press awarded first prize for the Most Inaccurate Daily Newspaper in Britain to The Sun. Runner-up was, predictably, The Star. Greg Philo of the Media Group said The Sun was “well ahead of the rest of the pack for clear prima facie untruths”. Well, I am surprised!

And here, right on cue is another chapter from The Sun’s barefaced lies department. Reporting on the departure of EastEnders’ gay character Colin (“Ender Bender in Aids Rumpus”) The Sun said (6 Aug): “Eastenders executives are under political pressure to give gay screen characters like Colin a lower profile. Once Colin’s gay love affair with barrow boy Barry was one of the dominant plot lines in the series. But angry viewers jammed the switchboards last year after the two men were seen kissing on screen.”

Now just a minute — to start with the characters have never been seen kissing on screen. The most that ever happened between them was when (more sensitive readers might want to turn away at this point) Colin once squeezed Barry’s arm. I checked with the BBC myself following The Sun’s claim that there had been a mass protest at the arm-squeeze, and they denied categorically that there had been any more calls than usual. It was simply another of The Sun’s fabrications, which they continue to perpetuate even to this day.

Now an illustration of how the papers like nothing better than to perpetuate each other’s lies. On 24th July, John Junor (my nomination for Top Twat of this — and every — month) was screeching in his scumbag Sunday Express column: “Once again the London Borough of Ealing is advertising for a child care officer . . . saying Ealing’s new council will welcome applications from ‘lesbians and gay men’ … Isn’t that akin to setting alcoholics free in a liquor shop?”

Unable to let a choice insinuation about the “loony Left” pass without repeating and embellishing it, the following day’s Sun carried a story headed “Lefties Seek Gay for Boy’s Home Job”.

In fact, Ealing Council’s Equal Opportunities statement is carried in all recruitment advertising. This ad was no exception. Far from “seeking a gay” for the job in question, the ad simply said that gays would not be barred from applying.

Still, when there’s a propaganda war to fight, truth is expendable.

No sooner has Parliament gone on holiday (please, please stay there!) than the media’s “silly season” begins. First off the mark was, of course, The News of the World, where the silly season has no beginning and no end. “Gay Cell Shocker for Lester” was the front-page lead on 31st July. It told a rather pathetic tale, sold to the Murdoch merchants by “burglar David O’Halloran”, of an alleged incident in High Point Prison where Lester Piggott is incarcerated.

It seems The News of the World’s ever-open wallet encourages people with rather dubious morals to come forward for the easy pickings. Indeed, I would imagine the journalists who write this kind of bilge feel at home with these deadbeats they support so avidly.

The alleged “gay sex scenes” were described with the usual adjectives: “sordid”, “stomach-churning” and so on. But the really sordid player in this little affair is the disgusting editor of The News of the World, Wendy Henry. If the Press Council wants credibility it ought to make her explain what she thinks she’s doing paying rent boys and criminals for their “stories” — what kind of morality is it that allows this kind of dubious journalism to flourish? They must be queuing up to get into High Point — going to jail has never been so lucrative!

The Independent carried an interview with Bishop John Spong of Newark, New Jersey (20th July), who was at the Lambeth Conference. The Bishop is of the liberal persuasion and is “unimpressed” by the British church’s ludicrous debates on such topics as women priests and homosexuality.

On homosexuality, the paper says he has been impressed with research at a New York hospital which appears to show that male homosexuality is the result of neuro-chemical influences on the foetus. “If this is substantiated,” says the Bishop, “it means that the attitude of the Christian church has been evil and not just wrong.” He also says he honours some of his avowedly homosexual priests as well as some of his secret ones. He argued that the Church should support monogamous and long-lasting homosexual partnerships, although he denies vigorously that he is talking about ‘homosexual marriage’.

I wouldn’t go along with all the Bishop’s opinions, but at least they have some kind of reason to them. Not so The Star, which picked up the story the following day and headlined it “Chemicals to blame for poofs — says bishop”. The bishop became “whacky” because he wanted “the church to give its blessing to woofter relationships”. He was also quoted as saying: “If the Church of England can bless the British Armada before it sails to kill Argentinians it should be able to bless two human beings who are in love with each other.”

The Star says Bishop Spong allows his priests to bless “queers”. Although the story was credited to “Star Reporter”, it had the fingerprints of Ray Mills all over it.

The Lambeth Conference did try to come to grips with homosexuality in relation to Aids. “African Bishops yesterday led a fierce and triumphant attack on liberal understandings of human sexuality,” reported Andrew Brown in The Independent (5 Aug). He said, “An official motion on Aids, and a private members motion on human rights for homosexuals were savagely amended.”

The Primate of Kenya, the “Most Rev” Mannasses Kuria is reported as saying that Aids “is a disease from that sin of homosexuality.”

Oh really? What about lesbians — they are homosexuals and Aids is almost unknown amongst them. And isn’t it true that the majority of those infected in Africa are heterosexual? The Primate of Kenya is going to have a lot to answer for on judgement day if he continues to cling to his Biblical fantasies at the expense of common sense and compassion.

Although it is convenient for the religious fools to believe otherwise, Aids is not a homosexual disease, it is everyone’s disease and the sooner we recognise this the better.

If they want to know about sin these foolish men should step outside of themselves and start to question their own wicked attitudes.

Undeniable truth department coupled with hypocrite of the month award: “The Times and the Sunday Times tell up-market lies and The Sun and the News of the World trawl the gutter for their fantasies” —Editorial in Daily Mirror (25 July).

The Sunday Telegraph (24thJuly) announced that its crank columnist (Holy) Mary Kenny was in hospital. At last, I thought, some good news.

But there was even better to come — her place had been taken by Celia Haddon who had the following to say: “Almost all the middle-aged heterosexual men I know seem to have become unhealthily obsessed with and prejudiced against homosexuality. They are intemperate, bigoted and hypocritical. Clearly, their tolerance a few years back was only skin deep. Aids has given them the chance to come out in their true colours. What really enrages me is the way they pretend sodomy (and therefore higher risk of passing on Aids) is confined only to gay men. As many women know, it is something that quite a few completely heterosexual men like doing. I am also infuriated by the Russian roulette idea that conventional intercourse is safe because so few women in Britain are infected yet. This claim is usually made by the same middle-aged men … You would think straight men ought to be grateful that the Aids epidemic started among gay men. Gay men are literally dying for all of us. The two or three people I have come across who carry the virus are an inspiration to me for their courage and humour.”

That’s telling ’em, girl. I wonder if it was a coincidence that the editor, Peregrine Worsthorne was on holiday that week?

Tom Robinson spoke to The Sunday Times (31 July) about his career and his private life. In passing he mentioned that at the moment he was having a relationship with a woman. “He dismisses the idea of any betrayal. ‘I’ve had plenty of affairs with men who consider themselves heterosexual. Why can’t I have an affair with a woman and still consider myself homosexual?’”

A fair enough question — after all, most of us accept that human sexuality isn’t a cut and dried business. But not so the tabloids, for whom everything must be in black and white, even if it makes no sense. For the following week The People took up the story, and expanded it into a double-page spread, with pictures of the lady involved (defined as a lesbian because she wears leathers and rides a motorcycle).

An editorial in the same issue, though, betrays The People’s true (save our children from positive images of homosexuality) motivation: “Rock star Tom Robinson has shocked his homosexual friends by falling in love with a GIRL. Which just goes to show we misunderstood when he sang Glad to be Gay. He was just demonstrating how happy he was!”

There’s only one word for The People: pathetic. Truly pathetic.

It was intensely pleasing to see Mrs Thatcher getting a rough ride from Australian gays during her recent trip down under. One thing that emerged from her narrow escape from the angry “homos” was that La Thatch seems to be genuinely puzzled when it is made clear to her that not everyone worships at her shrine.

Her infuriating voice and her presumptuous use of the royal we (“we take our decisions to our parliament” — who does this woman think she is?) are enough to drive anyone insane. Alan Rusbridger noted in The Guardian (6 Aug) that Mrs Thatcher was interviewed on Australian television in a way that would be simply unthinkable here (that is to say, someone has the temerity to ask tough questions and insist that she answer them). “Mrs Thatcher stared at (the interviewer) with the evil eye. But by now something had cracked. The Reece grooming, the bouffanted voice, the Meltis soft-centred manner: midnight had struck and they had all vanished. We were transported back to a Mrs Thatcher we’d not glimpsed on telly since 1978: eyes flaring, strident, corncrake voiced.”

Speaking about the gay protestors (London Standard 5 Aug) she is quoted as saying: “One is very glad that they are not on your side”.

It sounded somehow pathetic, as though she were deeply hurt that people could possibly disagree with her — about anything.

The unfortunate truth is that millions of people hate and detest her with a ferocity that is quite alarming to behold. She should spend a few days in the North of England and she’d soon discover what most of her “subjects” think about her. I have never known a Prime Minister generate such feelings of antipathy amongst normally well-balanced people. Indeed, I spoke to one man in Sheffield recently who told me that he was saving up for a street party to be held on the day Mrs Thatcher dies. All the places are booked.

However, her press corps (“our lapdogs”, as she probably calls them) will have none of it. They tried to make the Melbourne protesters sound like some kind of aliens brought from another planet to utter anti-Thatcher blasphemies (“she was mobbed by poofs and provos” — Sun 6 Aug). The Daily Mail (5 Aug) enlisted Senator John Stone, Leader of the National Party in the Senate and one of Australia’s most outspoken politicians (i.e. a loony right winger) to write about “The shame of Australia”. In the Senator’s view the “shame” seems to be that dissent of any kind was permitted. “I don’t know who makes up the mob” he said. “In Melbourne … there were homosexuals who are certainly not representative of Australia and are likely to be even less so in the future.” The article was so extreme and anti-democratic that The Sun simply couldn’t resist it and also carried it the following day.

But these efforts by the press lackeys to rescue the PM’s image from the debacle were undermined by the fact that we could all see the truth of what was happening on television.

Mrs Thatcher has now made plain (in case anyone was in any doubt) that she holds gay people in the utmost contempt. I am pleased to say that, for the most part, the feeling is quite mutual.

THE British Medical Journal (30 July) carried an editorial by John Bancroft which posed the question “Is living a homosexual lifestyle bad for your health?” After much rumination, he came to the conclusion that not only was homosexuality “compatible with full health” but that if the Government “fostered sexual equality” and came to regard sex as “a binding force in loving intimate relations” rather than “a means of asserting gender or gaining status” it might “improve the heterosexual rather than reduce the homosexual aspects of our society.”

Let’s have more of this kind of thought, please.

Finally, I’m taking a rest from the Mediawatch column for the next few months but I hope to be back in the New Year. Bye for now.