GAY TIMES January 1989

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

After three months travelling the world, I was not looking forward to returning to a daily diet of Britain’s dismal tabloid press. But what do I find? At last the scumbags are getting their come-uppance. They’re being hit where it hurts — right in the bank balance. The pay-outs in libel and damage claims have escalated right up to a record £1 million for Elton John, who also received a grovelling front-page apology from The Sun (12 Dec).

“We are sorry that we were lied to by a teenager living in a fantasy world” was their pathetic excuse for the malicious and prolonged campaign of vilification they conducted against Elton in 1987.

Elton joins a long list of other people, as diverse as Koo Stark, The Queen, Michael Cashman and Richard Harris who have had substantial pay-outs recently. But this list of aggrieved individuals has one thing in common —they could all afford to take the huge financial risk of court action against the lie merchants. And, as was pointed out in The Sunday Times (27 Nov), the current spate of tabloid-bashing is probably just a reflection of “the desire of the average jury to teach newspapers a lesson”. It follows that the libel laws are not the ordinary person’s antidote to newspaper poison.

It is unfair that only the rich and famous can strike back at these loathsome liars, there should be a statutory right to privacy or right of reply available to anyone who feels victimised. And, indeed, another attempt to introduce such legislation is to be made by Labour MP Tony Worthington.

The climate of opinion in this country has definitely turned against arrogant tabloid newspapers. A law to protect innocent people from their rampages is inevitable, although it might still be a couple of years away.

While I was making my way around the globe a new baby, The Post, was born to Eddie Shah — and a sickly child it is, too. Promoting itself as something different in the tabloid market — a pop paper without sleaze — it should be welcome. What the advertising failed to tell us was that the paper had nothing else of interest to fill the space vacated by the absent tits and scandal mongering.

The pre-publication razzmatazz promised that the paper’s editorial line would be independent and its opinions would not be forced down our throats. And yet within days the “NEW voice of Britain” was sounding —as far as gays are concerned — exactly like the old. They used letters from accredited nutcase Denis Nilsen to reveal “The sordid details of undercover homosexual lifestyle inside Britain’s top security prisons” (21 Nov). Then came “Lesbian shocker for BBC” (24 Nov) followed by “£18,000 Gay video storm” (2nd Dec) which could have come from any of the other scuzzy papers (“A storm of protest erupted yesterday over a left-wing council’s plan to recruit gays as foster parents.”)

The Tories were given the lion’s share of the space, of course: “Sick and perverted … Ideas like this undermine the principle of the family unit. Children could be put at risk. They could catch Aids and all sorts of things.” Oh, please!

Rumours abound that The Post is already in serious difficulties. One can only hope that they are true.

Gay public figures who have come out of the closet voluntarily rather than waiting to be dragged out, have a definite advantage. This month there have been several examples in the press of celebrity gays comporting themselves with dignity while at the same time being truthful about their sexuality. In all cases their careers are flourishing.

Ian McKellen leads the field. Having just opened in a new West End play to rave reviews, many of the papers were anxious to interview him. In all the interviews I saw, Ian ensured that everyone knew that gay rights had now assumed a large importance in his life. In The Guardian (22 Nov) he told Lynda Martin that his decision to come out could be compared to something “absolutely fundamental like changing your nationality … I feel wonderfully at peace with myself and energised”. He also said: “I think there was a time when I agreed with my acting colleagues who still won’t say they are gay that somehow my career would be damaged. I was blind and selfish and uncaring about other people’s position. The sort of people I am thinking about are all those lesbian and gay teachers whose jobs would be on the line if they let it be known they had a friend of the same sex, I am thinking about people in the Church who have to lie about their sexuality, I am thinking of anyone in a small community away from the metropolitan area…”

The Independent (29 Nov) told us that Britain’s only out MP, Chris Smith, had taken a career leap by being elected chairman of the Tribune Group of MPs.

In The Sunday Times Magazine (27 Nov) Miriam Margolyes was describing her frantically busy work schedule and, incidentally, told us about “Heather, with whom I have a close relationship and share a house in Italy.”

Julian Clary, aka The Joan Collins Fan Club, was given a four-page profile in The Mail on Sunday magazine (27 Nov). He said that his gayness didn’t give him problems, but his relationships often do. One of the reasons for wanting to be a “personality” in mainstream entertainment (he is about to be co-host on a TV quiz show) was so that he would then have some influence to “speak out about political things like Clause 28.”

Another up-front gay person making it big is Harvey Fierstein, author of Torch Song Trilogy, which has just been made into a film. Interviewed in The Independent (28 Nov) he explained why he had decided to go ahead with a gay project that didn’t mention Aids at a time when the two have become inseparable in the public mind. “I think the media have won an incredible battle against gay people at the moment, and it is important for us to see something about ourselves that is not disease-ridden.”

All these gay men and women have refused to bow to “the siege mentality” as Sheila Johnston called it in The Independent. They have decided to move forward and not retreat. They are an example to all of us.

An interesting insight into the workings of “sleaze newspapers” was provided by Terry Lovell, an ex-People reporter writing in The Observer magazine (13 Nov). Mr Lovell had become a practising Christian and couldn’t reconcile his religion with a career which cast him in the role of Pontius Pilate, crucifying people left, right and centre. “More and more I read (The People’s) stories with a sense of disgust and anger at its brutal treatment of people’s lives, the damage to society of its negative values and attitudes … It started with a series of investigations, all successful: the naming of Harvey Proctor for his rent-boy-beating activities, a high society drugs exposé, and the gay vicars scandal which The People tactically broke on the Sunday prior to the commencement of last year’s General Synod.”

Mr Lovell eventually could take no more and sacrificed his £32,000 a year salary for his conscience. But not to worry, there are plenty of others prepared to do the job. Like Graham Parker, who produced a double dose of turgid gay-orientated melodrama in the News of the World magazine (11th Dec). “I’m still branded a twisted gay blackmailer” was the leading story, about the present life of Norman Scott, who was involved in the Jeremy Thorpe scandal ten years ago. A few pages further on we are treated to “My Love for Gay Prison Officer Saved My Life” about the experiences of a lesbian woman in Holloway prison. Both stories were basically sympathetic to their subjects, but both portrayed the gay people involved as either pathetic inadequates, rampaging sex-abusers or sinister “vice queens”. Where the apparently insatiable appetite for all this depressing low-life comes from mystifies me. Perhaps it is the newspapers themselves that have created it.

I’ve been taken to task for being beastly to Boy George. I still think he shoots from the mouth occasionally, but the revelation in The People (4 Dec) that he has been beaten up and had his life threatened because of his record ‘No Clause 28’ made me angry. We’ve all got our faults, but if push comes to shove, I’m standing shoulder to shoulder with George.

Cliff Richard, who has been celebrating thirty years in show business, still refutes any suggestion that his live-in relationship with Bill Latham is anything but a purely business arrangement (Observer 4 Dec). I can understand his frustration that nobody seems to believe him. I expect these dratted journalists will just go on repeating the question until he gives them a different answer.

The scum who run The People and The News of the World were at it again on 4th and 11th December, with a spate of anti-gay stories. They make model examples of why a right-to-reply law is needed. Two of them were based on revenge —“kiss and tell” being the paper’s own twee expression for the sickening practice of paying rent boys and others to take revenge on clients and lovers.

The People encouraged a young man called Mark Tyler to rat about an affair he had had with former Sea Lord Admiral Sir Derek Empson. Sir Derek had treated Tyler with great kindness —despite a wife, children and reputation to think of. After his wife found out about the gay liaison, Sir Derek told Mark Tyler that the affair would have to end. Tyler’s response was to run to The People and do the dirty. Over three pages every detail of the affair was catalogued. In one of the photographs Tyler is shown confronting the Admiral in the street (for the benefit of People photographers). A truly disgusting image it makes, too.

I can’t imagine a more wretched way to end a love affair than to feed your ex-lover to the hyenas of Fleet Street. Not only has he done a disservice to the man he claims to have once loved, Mark Tyler has also given The People another opportunity to vilify the whole gay community. He should hang his head in shame.

Not to be outdone on the same day, “Royal hatmaker” David Shilling was given ‘the treatment’ by The News of the World who had received a story from Eric Jenkins, a hotel porter, who claimed Shilling had “lured him” into gay sex at a hotel. The whole episode is related in sordid detail by The NoW, including the position in which the supposed sex act took place. The only criticism I have of David Shilling is that —if the story is true — the sex he had wasn’t safe. Now that really is a crime.

Presumably the two squealers were paid by these “newspapers” for the juicy details. And two otherwise innocent men have been pilloried and probably ruined for the sake of a fit of pique and a few lousy quid.

It isn’t clear how The People found out about ”Rugged yachting tycoon David May, father of Prince Edward’s steady girlfriend Georgia”, but find out they did: “He and his gay lover, 18 years his junior, have set up home at a luxury London Dockland flat. Their saucy goings-on will rock the Palace and cast a shadow over any Royal marriage plans.”

Over three whole pages the “amazing double life” routine was trotted out again. Even though both men are quite open about the affair, (“Everyone here knows about Nick and David. We just treat them like a normal couple” says an unscandalised neighbour). The People carried on as though the two had committed some heinous crime instead of simply falling in love.

This whole spectacle of destroying innocent individuals as entertainment for a howling mob resembles the Roman arenas of old. It stinks, but it’s The News of the World and The People that produce the vilest smell.

National Aids Day was greeted, in the main, by yawns from the press. This is probably an accurate reflection of the public’s indifferent response to the disease.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph (4 Dec), Auberon Waugh even managed to turn World Aids Day into a platform for his pro-drinking and pro-smoking arguments. He wrote: “It looks to me as though the Aids industry is seriously worried. The pandemic has not materialised.” And commenting on the British Medical Association’s claim that “alcohol consumption, which ‘loosened sexual inhibitions’ would be responsible for speeding up the spread of Aids,” he said: “We must all wait until next year for the ‘experts’ to announce a possible link with smoking.”

One of the ‘experts’ Mr Waugh was alluding to might be Richard Ingrams — well-known for his rational opinions on homosexuality — who wrote in The Observer about the Government’s press adverts: “If the aim was to combat Aids, they might just as well have poured the money down the drain. There ought to be one major priority in the anti-Aids campaign, namely: identify carriers of the HIV virus both for their own benefit and the benefit of those with whom they might come into close physical contact.”

The information about who has the virus might also be useful to other people, whose motives; for wanting to know are less benign that Mr Ingrams’. But this is a point he seems to have overlooked.

GAY TIMES February 1989

At one-time Wendy Henry, ex-editor of The News of the World, vied with Divine as the queen of sleaze, trash and bad taste. But really, there was no competition — Ms Henry won hands down every time she brought out an edition of her filthy rag.

Now she has fallen foul of her one-time mentor, ruthless Rupert; first she was packed off to be deputy editor of the super salacious Sun, and now she’s out of the Wapping empire altogether —whether willingly or not isn’t clear.

It’s tempting to say that Mediawatch will miss the material provided by Ms Henry, but I can say with one hand on heart that it isn’t true. Good riddance is what this column thinks, and here’s hoping her career has gone where it always deserved to be — down the toilet. Under her editorship the NoW was packed week after week with anti-gay garbage — “the more bizarre the better” as The Independent said (19 Dec). “It is widely known that Mr Murdoch does not like homosexual stories,” said the same article. Oh really? It may be widely known to The Independent, but news doesn’t seem to have reached The Sun, where the gay-bashing continues as usual.

In her final edition of the NoW on 18th December, Ms Henry managed to squeeze in two double page spreads on gay themes. One concerned “rampant homosexual” Cary Grant and several other deceased “pervert stars”. A gentleman by the name of Michael St John claims that he was “gang-raped” by the likes of Charles Laughton and Gig Young at a Hollywood party. Needless to say, all those named are now dead and beyond denying the allegations (and also, mercifully, being hurt by them). But it doesn’t stop there — apparently Mr Grant enjoyed other “perversions that made even gay sex look tame.” It’s all so prurient that I won’t sicken you with it. Ms Henry seems to have imagined that the gloating descriptions of necrophilia were great family entertainment. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that the instigator of these tawdry ‘revelations’ is about to bring out a book. Oh, how easy it is to make money if you don’t have a conscience.

Another sensational exposé concerned “Former First Division soccer hardman Tony Powell” who apparently has “run away with his gay young lover” to “San Francisco, the Aids capital of the world.”

This sorry tale was provided to the ever-slavering NoW by the victim’s deserted wife (no indication of how much she was paid for the dirt). It boils down to the classic case of a gay man marrying to fulfil other people’s expectations, and then finding out he can’t keep up the pretence. The article’s heading “Sordid truth . . . he now dolls up in frocks” was unsupported in the body of the feature. There was a picture of Mr Powell at a fancy-dress party in panto-style drag – hardly evidence of someone taking a serious interest in transvestism.

As a case of revenge, it was perfect. The wife’s—bitterness is understandable, she feels wronged and this is evident in the way she refers to her husband disparagingly as “a big fairy”. But this kind of vengeance is a mean-spirited business which is probably why The News of the World grabbed it with both hands.

However, in one of the first editions of the NoW under the editorship of Patsy Chapman (15 Jan), there appeared a double page spread devoted to the gay life of BBC presenter Bill Buckley. Lo and behold, it was friendly, positive and generally complimentary. Mr Buckley spoke of his five year relationship with James Thomas. He told how happy they were and how he and James would marry if the law permitted. Bill was not treated to the usual quota of disapproving            adjectives like “outrageous”, “sleazy”, “bizarre”, etc. that have become the norm in these kinds of stories. In fact, it was all rather sympathetic.

He also told how he received a “personal assurance from the BBC” that speculation about his relationship wouldn’t harm his career. The whole feature was seen from his point of view, and very cheering it was, too. “There are so many gay people in showbusiness who keep quiet and must worry every day of their lives about being found out,” he says. “If they let it be known publicly, as I’ve done, they’d find it a tremendous help to their peace of mind. We should be much more open and break down public ignorance.”

Indeed, the article ends with Bill declaring “Life just couldn’t be better.” Cheers, Bill — and thanks to Patsy Chapman. Let’s hope it’s the dawn of a new era.

The annual report of The Press Council (Press and the People. £8.50) chides editors for either ignoring its findings or publishing them “in an obscure place in the paper in minuscule type.” But what of the Press Council itself? It obviously doesn’t work, and despite the unconvincing defence by the outgoing chairman, Sir Zelman Cowan, the Council’s reputation as a “toothless watchdog” will persist.

A Gay Times reader made a complaint to the Press Council about the grotesque editorial which appeared in The Sun on 4th November, 1988, blaming the whole gay community for the murder by Victor Miller of newsboy Stuart Gough. A more blatantly prejudiced and dangerous piece of journalism would be difficult to imagine. The Press Council replied that the complaint had been ‘disallowed’ because the complainant had “not made a sufficiently substantial case to warrant adjudication”.

It’s been the same story with almost all gay complaints. It seems the Press Council defends the rights of editors in tabloid papers to “express their opinions forcefully” on gay topics — meaning they can publish whatever slanderous anti-gay rubbish they like. The Council will not accept that such attacks are likely to incite hatred and violence against innocent people.

The Victor Miller/ Stuart Gough case took the vilification of the gay community to new extremes, but I knew that the Press Council would not entertain complaints about it. Consequently, I decided to make a complaint on grounds of racism. The offending article appeared in The Daily Star on 9th February, 1988, and referred to Miller as a “black bastard”. Whatever contempt Miller deserves, his race and sexuality were not the issues on trial.

My complaint was accepted for adjudication on 22nd December, 1988 — eleven months later! God knows how long it will be before they reach a decision. And of what value will it be when it’s announced? Nobody will remember anything about the case.

The newly appointed Chairman of the Press Council is Louis Blom-Cooper. He promises that there will be fundamental changes in the way the Council operates in order to make it more convincing. Perhaps now would be a good time for a gay pressure group (OLGA, perhaps?) to make an approach to him and ask him to investigate and correct the blatant anti-gay bias in his organisation.

Deserved contempt department: “The Sun, a newspaper which some would argue does little for communication at any level, except the most basic of propagating prejudice and stereotypes of the grossest kind” — The Guardian, (29 Dec)

“Murdoch is a ruthless tycoon who has pioneered new lows in popular journalism, thereby degrading the whole of the popular Press. In certain instances, he has used his papers to support Mrs Thatcher’s Government in the most craven way.” — The Observer, (8 Jan)

Back in November the annual survey into British Social Attitudes “revealed” that 74 per cent of the population thought that homosexual relationships were “always or mostly wrong”. Now a survey by The Sunday Times (8 Jan) says that 44 per cent thought homosexual relationships between consenting adults to be “morally wrong.” That’s a swing in our favour of 30 per cent in three months!

So, what does this tell us? That we are far less unpopular than the Government would have us believe? Or maybe that these surveys are just a load of bollocks that are good for nothing but filling the pages of crappy newspapers?

The choice of Julian Clary or The Joan Collins Fan Club as co-host for an early-evening TV quiz show was surprising. One would have thought that anyone as blatantly gay as Julian and as disgracefully camp as Fanny the Wonderdog would have been totally unacceptable to a family audience. That is certainly the somewhat predictable opinion of the tabloids, reporting that “TV bosses wash out gay Julian’s foul mouth” (Daily Star, 22 Dec). The Sun said on the same day that “Gay gags by gender-bender Julian Clary have been AXED from TV star Mike Smith’s new games show.”

As usual, the po-faced papers had missed the joke. “Trick or Treat” is a send-up of quiz shows with prizes given out by bare-chested men instead of scantily-clad women and Julian providing a counterpoint to the blandness of Mike Smith. (Ruby Wax reviewed the programme for Today [12 Jan] and said that Julian’s ensemble looked like something he had ripped from the corpse of Carmen Miranda.) So shocked was The Daily Star by Julian’s jokes (or perhaps even his existence) that they went into their screeching moral outrage mode: “Shocked TV chiefs dramatically censored Mike Smith’s new games show after his outrageous gay co-host blurted out a stream of crude sexual innuendo. Self-confessed homosexual Julian Clary stunned LWT bosses with his evil-tongued outbursts — to be screened for family audiences … now the makers are bracing themselves for a backlash.” With this level of hysteria over something which isn’t really very important, one begins to fear for the sanity of the people who write it day after day. Perhaps a bucket of cold water or a slap across the face would calm them down. If The Daily Star thinks I can be helpful in this department, please let me know.

The Ealing Gazette —slightly less prone to the screaming hab-dabs — previewed the programme with this comment (6 Jan): “It must be the oddest partnership ever … Mike said his mum was a bit worried about him working with Julian and Fanny the Wonderdog, although Julian hasn’t said what his mum thinks about him working with Mike Smith.”

Here’s hoping that “Trick or Treat” lives up to expectations and provides a bit of real entertainment for the much-neglected pretend family audiences. After all, we pay our licence fee, too.

Although Peregrine Worsthorne was on holiday for the 15th January issue of The Sunday Telegraph, his defence of Section 28 is upheld by someone else writing the editorial that week. The argument goes that critics of Mrs Thatcher should not always be dismissed because they are “well-off sillies”, but because they often overstate their case. The campaign against Section 28 was cited as an example. “This was a measure which was supposed to enable local authorities to ban from municipally subsidised theatres and libraries any works by or about homosexuals,” says the editorial. “In fact it was introduced to stop teachers proselytising in the classroom on behalf of homosexuality, and local authorities from subsidising ‘Gay’ events on the rates.”

The editorial then goes on to say that the campaign which followed the clause’s introduction was “hysterical” and subsequent history has shown that the protests from the “arts lobby” were over the top as “there have been no prosecutions under the clause, and any successful ones will be rare and have little to do with ‘the arts’.”

What this writer fails to say is that the clause was so badly worded and so illogically constructed that there is little wonder that its intention was misunderstood. The Sunday Telegraph also omitted any analysis of the philosophy behind Section 28, and the necessity to challenge it strongly as a message to anyone with a desire to take the legislative gay-bashing any further.

I am unconvinced by The Sunday Telegraph’s arguments that criticism of Section 28 was misplaced; the section is a salutary example of Thatcher-ism’s increasingly sinister face.

GAY TIMES March 1989

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

The Observer was first to let the cat out of the bag by revealing (29 Jan) “A secret Church of England report advocating more tolerance for homosexual clergy is being kept under wraps because some bishops believe it is too liberal.”

That was enough to cause the “true believers” to don their jackboots and make a beeline for the General Synod where, I suppose they were seeking a repeat of the “Pulpit Poofs” debacle. Their motion to “condemn teachers who suggested that homosexual and lesbian relationships were acceptable” and to have the Gay and Lesbian Christian Movement removed from the Church of England Yearbook failed to capture the tabloid imagination.

Instead of giving the Rev Tony Higton and his self-righteous followers another chance to kick their gay brethren, Synod adopted a procedural device to curtail the debate. According to The Independent (3 Feb) the Rev Peter Broadbent proposed that the Synod should proceed to next business “because the motion was based on incoherent premises and ill-documented assertions.” At last, somebody noticed.

The Sun (30 Jan) told us “The Archbishop of Canterbury said it had not yet been decided whether (the report) should be published”. Not that it will change anybody’s mind, even if it is. With the usual hedging, the report (according to The Observer): “does not condone homosexual clergy, the working party suggests it is unreasonable to insist that homosexuals should never in any circumstances give physical expression to their love. It points out that some homosexuals feel they have a choice between expressing their deeply-felt sexual needs in a stable relationship or in more promiscuous contacts. In that situation, it says, “the Church has to decide which of the two evils is less immoral.” (My italics).

Meanwhile, in the same article, Richard Kirker of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement was saying: “Does the Church want to become a bigots’ paradise?” Those of us on the outside looking in might be tempted to reply that the Church has been a haven for bigots from the day it was invented.

And finally, we have Gerald Priestland, opining in The Sunday Times (5 Feb): “The gay cat is out of the bag, and it will not be stuffed in again simply because most of us do not like thinking about it. At the same time, gays have to realise that — for whatever tangled reasons — the majority cannot help reacting to them as though they were a new wave of immigrants, who need to settle down and show themselves good citizens.” And so the can’t-help-being-a-bigot brigade are now trying to reduce us to the status of ‘aliens’ or ‘incomers’, are they?

It’s clear that Mr Priestland and his cronies can’t control their irrational prejudices – that’s their sad problem. But trying to cover their shortcomings with attempts to make gay people into strangers in their own land just won’t wash.

It was with some satisfaction that I read of the long-overdue come-uppances visited upon two of the decade’s most repellent hypocrites. The Observer (29 Jan) informed us that “American political extremist Lyndon LaRouche has been jailed for 15 years for … a scheme to ‘borrow’ millions from his supporters without repaying them.” Mr LaRouche, you will remember, tried to manipulate the California political system in order to get people with Aids isolated from the rest of society.

Then, to some wry smiling from yours truly, I read in The Independent (31 Jan) that “Jimmy Swaggart, the Louisiana televangelist defrocked after admitting he hired a prostitute to perform sexual acts for him, is the subject of new allegations of perverse sexual conduct.”

Two down — about six hundred to go.

At last — Colin got a kiss from his boyfriend in East Enders. It was of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety, but a kiss nevertheless.

Straight off the mark the following day (26 Jan) was The Sun: “Furious MPs last night demanded a ban on EastEnders after the BBC soap showed two gay men kissing full on the lips. The homosexual love scene between yuppie poofs was screened in the early evening when millions of children were watching.” (And just in case any Sun-reading kiddie missed it, the shocking peck was photographically reproduced for their edification).

Back to these outraged MPs, who could they be? Well, surprise, surprise — it’s Terry Dicks and Geoffrey Dickens (is it mere coincidence that they both have Dick in their names?) But The Sun really wanted to know what “You the Jury” thought about it. “Do you think TV should show scenes of men kissing each other?” Ring this 0898 number (at 38p a minute gay-bashing is turning into a nice little earner for Murdoch).

The result, published the following day, revealed that 20,223 voted “against the scenes” while 6,313 voted in favour. (By the way, The News of the World asked its readers to vote on whether ‘Alo, Allo’ star Gorden Kaye should be sacked after revealing his “rent boy shame”. 11,000 wanted him to stay, whilst 1,532 “wanted him out”. Big-hearted aren’t they?)

But back to EastEnders. By the 2 February, readers had let The Sun know by post what they thought of the kiss. A brace of “mums-of-two” wrote in to say that their children accepted the kiss with equanimity. “We cannot wrap children in cotton wool,” said Mrs Metcalfe of Cheltenham, “Living, with the fact that everybody is different makes for well-balanced human beings.” Whereas Mrs Gaffney of Stanwell wrote: “For all I know gay people might find it offensive to see a man and a woman kissing on TV, but you never hear them kicking up a fuss.”

These two women sound far too sensible to be Sun readers. Perhaps they found their copy on the train.

The making of a molehill into a mountain department continues to be amazed at how much mileage can be squeezed from Julian Clary’s appearance on the quiz game ‘Trick or Treat’. He’s a soft target for publicity-seeking bigots, of course. Jimmy Greaves who, according to The Sun (17 Jan), is a “telly pundit”, apparently called Julian a “prancing poof” on TV-am. Next in line (Sun 21 Jan) came Bernard Manning, whose dreadful nightclub in Manchester was recently burned to the ground (surely an act of divine retribution for the god-awful jokes told there): “It’s disgusting, that poofter fella prancing around. Men should be men and women should be women.” And greasy fat-arsed berks should have their gobs sewn up.

Another Sun correspondent, Mr MP of Bournemouth, wrote (27 Jan): “Like Julian Clary I am also gay but none of my mates at work suspect it. He is the exception and has chosen to be outrageous. Ninety per cent of gays appear as normal as the next bloke. Julian wanted fame — good for him — but he puts all gays in a bad light.” And here’s me thinking that gay people at last had the confidence to accept themselves in all their rich variety.

By the 11 Feb The Sun was threatening “We’ll make a man of gay Clary!” To which I’ve only one response: Get your bleeding hands off our Jules or we’ll get Fanny to go for your throats!

One last look at tabloid hysteria over gay things on telly. The News of the World (29 Jan) carried a feature about Gary Hailes the “actor” who once played the gay barrow boy in EastEnders. “I never fancied having a man in my life,” he is quoted as saying, “And I never want to play a gay man again.”

I don’t think Mr Hailes need worry. If jobs are offered on the strength of his performance in East- Enders, I think he’s likely to be out of work until they need a broom handle or a plank — anything made of wood, really.

The other gay character in EastEnders “Queenie” is played by John Labanowski hitherto “an unknown” according to The Sunday Mirror (29 Jan). Mr Labanowski wishes it to be known that “I have a wife and two kids and live a rather rural life.”

So that explains why Queenie is such an unbelievable, unconvincing character.

The two attempts in Parliament to make the Press clean up its act (to respect privacy and give the right of reply) did bring overdue discussion to the topic, and serve as a warning to the Wapping weirdos.

Over the past month, the tabloids have been given the kind of drubbing which they so often mete out to others. “Sordid”, “seedy”, “repellent”, “disgusting”, “vile”, “grotesque”, “stinking”, were just a few of the adjectives used to conjure up the “gutter” (or “sewer” or “yellow”) press.

In an attempt to deflect the Armageddon heading its way, The Sun appointed an “ombudsman” (“Most Sun readers probably think an ombudsman is a Swedish bus driver,” wrote Peter MacKay in The Evening Standard 25 Jan). The ombudsman’s “independent credentials” were faultless: he is Mr Ken Donlan, The Sun’s managing editor.

Meanwhile, The Independent ran a long, detailed background feature on The Sun’s hounding of Elton John (11 Feb). It made eye-popping reading. The sheer scale of corruption and depravity at The Sun whilst concocting the “case against” Elton was breathtaking. The editor, Kelvin MacKenzie (“a sewer-mouthed yobbo”) is said to have known from the start that the story wouldn’t stand up, but he started a war of attrition against Elton, escalating the vilification in the hope that the pop star would back down.

A man called John Boyce (“Scottish con-man, homosexual pimp and ex-rent-boy”) was employed by The Sun as a contact between male prostitutes on the London scene and the Wapping scumbags. Boyce admitted that he produced “witnesses” to events that never took place and was paid £1,750 for each affidavit he got signed. He was in it purely for the money, and The Sun was a remarkably easy touch. The truth, as ever, was nowhere to be seen.

Mr Murdoch apparently refers to his money-spinning editor as “My Little Hitler” and The Independent asks what the future holds for MacKenzie “the most powerful journalist in the country.” They say he “may well end up the same way as his predecessor did. He was knighted for services to journalism.”

The Times (7 Feb) informed us that The Professional Association of Teachers has issued a report about “declining standards amongst teachers in the past few years”. Mr Peter Dawson, secretary of the union, wants to see gay teachers who come out of the closet sacked. He said: “We are not being judgemental about homosexuality, but many parents would find it morally questionable. It is something that we believe a teacher should keep private; it is not something he should shout or promote. There are things which parents would not want their children to know about.”

Presumably some of the things which these parents wouldn’t want their children to know about are tolerance, diversity and alternatives. Heaven forfend that a teacher should tell children about what is going on in the world. Much better to feed them tales of the Tory dream world.

And I wonder how Mr Dawson squares his union’s stance with a report in The Guardian (Feb) which revealed that: “The number of young homosexual men contracting Aids soon after becoming sexually active, is increasing. The increase appeared to be among 17 and 18-year olds who haven’t yet ‘got the message’.”

And they never will get the message while the likes of Peter Dawson rule the world.

In last month’s Mediawatch I expressed the hope that the career of Wendy Henry, ex-editor of The News of the World had “gone down the toilet”. I’m pleased to report that she has indeed reached the sewer — she has been appointed editor of The People. The People is so utterly loathsome that I would be surprised if even Ms Henry could make it any more depraved.

One interesting little snippet: the three Sunday scandal sheets, The People, News of the World and Sunday Mirror, between them boasting 40 million readers, are all edited by women. There used to be a belief that if women took power in this country it would be a less brutal, more compassionate place. If the quartet is made up with Mrs Thatcher, I begin to wonder what went wrong.

A correction published in The Dunoon Observer: “Fire. The old pouffe which started the fire at 7 Douglas Cottages, as reported last week, referred to an item of furniture and not the owner, Mr Donnie McArthur” (as reported in The Guardian 8 Feb).

GAY TIMES April 1989

That extraordinary phenomenon the “real man” has been stirring from his Neanderthal depths this month. One of his few refuges these days (outside the pub and football ground) is tabloid newspapers. You can always be sure of a sympathetic hearing for “real men” there. A “real man”, apparently, is one that plays sport, kicks a ball around, drinks, fights and generally behaves in a way would make civilised human beings ashamed of belonging to the same species. What is most likely to send a “real man” into a violent frenzy is to suggest to him that he might be homosexual.

The Daily Star informed us (22 Feb) that “The Los Angeles police department is recruiting GAY SHERIFFS!” Above this piece of earth-shattering information is a ‘Wanted’ poster, from the ‘Los Angeles Poofs Department’. “It’s enough to make Billy the Kid spin in his grave,” says the paper with utter disbelief that “poofters” might do the job of a “real man”. “The Wild West image of tough guy lawmen is set to bite the dust.”

Well, I wouldn’t want to be Billy the Kid, but I wouldn’t mind being a Jesse (James, that is), especially in West Hollywood, where 37 per cent of the population are not “real men” (or “real women” come to that).

And next we travel to Australia, natural habitat of the macho beer-swilling oik who advertises himself as “the real man”. It was in Oz that The Daily Express (17 Feb) unearthed a magistrate who had slagged off the Australian cricket team for “homosexual-type behaviour” and “unseemly activities” such as “kissing which is otherwise not normal.” He was not referring, in this instance, to the bowling over of maidens or, unfortunately, to erotic encounters in the changing room, but about the kissing and fondling and admiring of each other’s googlies which occurs during play.

The captain of the team, Merv Hughes (“a real matey bloke even more macho than Rambo. He’s fond of his beer and a good swear”) was not pleased with this “defamatory attack” on his “manhood”.

Michael Parkinson was commenting on the same incident (Daily Mirror 20 Feb) and he ended by saying: “anyone considering an alternative lifestyle would certainly have second thoughts if it meant being kissed by the likes of Merv Hughes.” Oh, I don’t know, I quite like a bit of rough for a change.

And in the pop world, Bros are reported to have “blown their tops” when an Italian journalist asked them “Is it true that both you guys are poofters?” The report was, naturally, in The Sun (27 Feb). Luke, one of the Goss Bros, snapped back: “Look, we don’t wear dresses and we are not gay. Get it right — we are as straight as they come.” He was so angry that an eye witness said: “Luke looked like he was going to hit the guy.”

And just to prove how macho he really is, brother Matt was “branded an animal” after he “started hurling bread rolls and French fries at nearby diners in a posh San Remo fish restaurant.” He did not bother to deny that he was “an animal”. In fact, one gets the distinct idea that he might consider it a compliment.

And finally, on this fascinating topic, Peter MacKay, writing in the London Evening Standard (13 Feb) gave the last word to the late Tom Driberg MP who “recalled in his scandalous memoir Ruling Passions that, after going to bed with a Scottish soldier he had picked up in Edinburgh, he asked the handsome kilted giant why he was not out seducing women. ‘Och, sleeping with women is for sissies,’ was the reply.” And that says it all.

The new chairman of the invertebrate Press Council, Louis Blom-Cooper, has promised to review the role of the Council in the light of recent criticisms. With this in mind he has created a committee to consider issues such as intrusion of privacy, right of reply and chequebook journalism. The operation and speed of the Press Council’s complaints procedure, including possible development of its conciliation service and of internal newspaper ombudsmen, will form a major part of the review.

I’ll have a few things to say to Mr Blom-Cooper about a complaint of mine which was upheld last month against Ray Mills, The Daily Star’s former disgraceful columnist.

The period between the complaint and the adjudication was a full year. It resulted in a small report of the Press Council’s decision in the 11th March edition of the paper, and nothing else. The complaint had concerned Ray Mills’ description of Victor Miller, the murderer of newsboy Stuart Gough as a “black bastard”, and the Council described Ray Mills’ outpouring as “indefensible.”

So what? Ray Mills just sits back and laughs. There has got to be something stronger than this if the Press Council is to be taken seriously by its detractors.

Meanwhile, The Sun’s internal ombudsman issued his first report (17 February) condemning the paper for “breaking privacy rules by revealing TV star Leslie Crowther’s treatment for alcoholism.”

The paper “was wrong to buy and publish the article,” said the ombudsman.

A few days later, with its usual childish defiance, The Sun wrote the same story about comedienne Joan Turner who was entering the self-same clinic for treatment for the self-same problem.

So much for the ombudsman’s influence over its employer, and I shall tell Mr Louis Blom-Cooper as much. If you want to stick your two-pennyworth in, write to The Press Council, 1 Salisbury Square, London EC4 8AE by 1st May.

Are the papers trying to tell us something, in a roundabout way, about two Tory politicians? The first is William Hague, freshly elected in the Richmond by-election. According to the London Evening Standard (2 Mar) he was recently a guest of the Speaker at a soiree at the House of Commons — the only bachelor amongst fifteen married couples. “He shares a flat with Alan Duncan,” the Standard’s gossip writer informed us, “two years his senior, also politically inclined …”

Mr Hague (27) “who has already had a 15-minute chat with the Prime Minister … says: ‘It’s complete nonsense that you have to marry for career reasons.’”

Meanwhile, The Sun (2 Mar) reported “Young Tories sat stunned as their Conservative leader’s slide show on Russian culture suddenly showed a colleague flashing his bum.”

Apparently, John Kershaw, who is leader of the Conservative group on Manchester City Council, went on holiday with Steve Robinson, “a psychiatric nurse in his mid-twenties” who appeared in the photo “grinning and lying face down on a hotel bed.”

“Oh, that should not have been there,” Mr Kershaw is quoted as saying.

Freudian slip, perhaps?

Gratuitous insults department: “Another surprising finding of the survey was that only 74 per cent of the public disapprove of a lesbian or gay couple caring for a child, and 14 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds would approve of such an arrangement.” — Mail on Sunday (5 Mar).

Speculation has been rife as to whether the quiz show Trick or Treat is to be AXED (as the tabloids love to say about cancelled TV programmes).

The Daily Star (16 Feb) said the slump in the show’s popularity was all the fault of “Outrageous transvestite co-host Julian Clary, who calls himself The Joan Collins Fan Club. The executive claimed that camp Clary’s lewd behaviour, women’s clothes and make-up had older viewers switching off in disgust.”

Lewd behaviour? Am I watching the same show as everyone else? The Sun’s TV critic Moira Martingale opined (1 Mar): “I’m sure Trick or Treat is being axed because of boring Mike Smith rather than camp Julian Clary, who’s rather fun.”

Daily Express reader Marion List of Lancaster did not agree (24 Feb): “The awful Julian Clary makes me feel sick,” she wrote. I know what she means. The Daily Express letters page has a similar effect on me.

City Limits (23 Feb) was enthusiastic: “The unmissable Joan Collins Fan Club perfects the catty one-liner … in this vicious but vastly entertaining game show parody.” This was echoed by a correspondent to The Sun (3rd Mar) who thinks Julian is “fantastic”.

The question of whether or not our Jules survives into the next series (should there be one) is not a topic that will keep me awake nights. But he certainly knows how to make “real men” squirm, and that’s a point in his favour.

“Silence Equals Death” goes the slogan, and I think this is the technique that the tabloids are trying to use on Channel Four’s lesbian and gay magazine ‘Out on Tuesday’. By all previous standards ‘Out on Tuesday’ should have provided endless cannon-fodder for the gay-bashers at The Sun and Star. But what do we get? Total silence. The only mention they’ve made of the programme so far is an unavoidable one-line announcement in the TV listings. Why is this? Could it be that they do not wish to alert their readers to the existence of a positive, confident and well-made programme which totally contradicts their own negative view of gay life?

Of the tabloids, only The Daily Express (15 Feb) reviewed it, and then only to whinge that the Saatchi and Saatchi attempt to “promote homosexuality” got round the IBA ban on gay advertising.

It’s a shame that many potential viewers, who would have been helped and reassured by the programme, will never know it existed, simply because their morning paper failed to tell them about it.

The Sun’s medical correspondent Dr Vernon Coleman likes to think of himself as “controversial”. In fact, his opinions (of which he has plenty) seem, at times, simply daft. Writing in the 23 Feb issue of The Sun, he commented upon the Health Education Authority’s Aids campaign, the one in the straight papers featuring a beautiful woman. “The adverts are designed to convince us that straight sex is dangerous … But it is the HOAX of the century …Last October I pointed out that the Government’s official estimate was that just EIGHT heterosexuals had died of Aids contracted in Britain since 1981.” Now, he says, that figure has been reduced to FIVE. On this reasoning Dr Coleman suggests that the HEA’s spending of “£3.5 million of YOUR money” is simply “pointless, misleading and unnecessary”.

However, on 2 March, The Independent was quoting Mr Chris Daykin, chairman of the Aids working party of The Institute of Actuaries, as predicting that Aids among heterosexuals could exceed the cases among homosexuals by the first decade of the next century. “It seems likely that heterosexually-acquired infections are growing quite fast,” he says, “albeit from a small base.”

As usual, the advice proffered for confounding these predictions is for heterosexuals follow the gay lead and “significantly change their behaviour.” Such a thing is though unlikely when you have the likes of Dr Vermin Coleman encouraging a potentially fatal complacency among the people who have proved they do not want to hear the message.

I know that some tales get better for the telling, but The Sun excelled itself on March 6th when it recounted the story of the lion that was used as a gimmick at one of the Hippodrome nightclub’s gay nights. The incident took place at least two years ago, but you know The Sun — always first with the news. Anyway, according to the article, the lion “went berserk”, not because it was being used as an unwilling prop in a cabaret but because “the air was filled with the fumes of an illegal sexual stimulant amyl nitrite… ‘As soon as the lion got one whiff of that it went berserk,’ recalls the club’s former Press officer, Paul Kassel. ‘We ended up with hundreds of squealing gays running over each other in every direction, stabbing each other with their false nails in their panic.”

Maybe they outlawed poppers while I wasn’t looking, but I don’t think so. The Sun is simply inaccurate to say that amyl nitrite is an “illegal” substance- — the rest of the article is a bit hard to believe, too.

GAY TIMES May 1989

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

Tabloid tittle-tattle reached a new high of stupidity on 2 April in The People (Wendy Henry’s ugly pup). The front page announced, “Bet Lynch’s Hubby is Gay”.

Now then, who are they talking about? Alec Gilroy the landlord of the Rovers Return? Surely he is Bet Lynch’s hubby. But then again, they might be referring to the husband of Julie Goodyear the actress who plays Bet Lynch. She recently married an American called Richard Skrob. Do they mean him?

No, indeed, they mean Roy Barraclough, the man who plays Alec Gilroy, the husband of the fictional character Bet Lynch. Are you still with me? I hope so because we haven’t got round to Bet Lynch yet, who is also gay – that is to say, Julie Goodyear who plays the part who is, in fact, now Bet Gilroy because she married Alec Gilroy who is played by Roy Barraclough who is gay.

Mr Barraclough was cornered by The People while on holiday in Greece. Was he suitably ashamed? “I am gay and proud of it,” said the actor. “I am discreet and what I do behind my own front door is up to me. Still, I’m honest and as you’ve asked me, I can’t deny it.”

That didn’t stop The People which maundered on about “the gay shock” and “Roy’s amazing double life.”

But I fear they’ve pulled this trick a little too often. Nobody cares any more. Roy Barraclough and Julie Goodyear play two of the best-loved characters on British television and the public do not wish to see them crucified. Whether it is her intention or not, the editor of The People is actually turning the tide in our favour.

Ms Henry might be losing her touch. Her marbles went some time ago.

Mrs Thatcher seems to be having a bit of a problem at the moment. Her popularity (inexplicable as it is) at last seems to be showing signs of diminishing. The Labour Party was actually ahead in one opinion poll.

It’s at times like these that Maggie’s press acolytes go into action, trying to reverse the trend. If Mrs Thatcher’s policies are a load of dangerous rubbish, then the only way to keep her in power is to make those of the opposition sound even worse.

One proven way to frighten those delicate voters is, of course, to drag the gay bogey out of the closet. “Labour Plan New Laws to Protect Gays” screeched one headline in The Sun (20 Mar). “Labour will make discrimination against gays or lesbians a criminal offence” reported the most loyal mouthpiece of our unspeakable Prime Minister. In the light of Section 28, Labour’s small movement towards protecting our rights might seem overdue. But as far as The Sun is concerned these are “shock measures”.

The Left’s support is fine on paper, but how real is the support within the party for gay rights? What happens when it comes to the crunch? How many Patricia (“We’re losing pensioners’ votes because of the gay thing”) Hewitts are there under the red flag?

Well, as far as reactions to inflated press stories go, we have a mixed bag — some Labour councils are defiant, some defensive. Let’s look at a few of the ‘loony left’ stories from this month and examine the reactions.

First we have Patrick Moore, the telly astronomer. Most people consider him a harmless eccentric, but a report in the London Evening Standard (30 Mar) reveals him to be a venomous homophobe. Joining forces with barmy Baroness Cox he denounced “the innocently titled (book) The Milkman’s on His Way at a recent committee meeting in the Lords”.

According to The Standard, the David Rees bestseller has been “placed on the ILEA positive images list sent out to school libraries, and Moore claimed at the meeting: ‘Our children are being corrupted and depraved by it’.” (Just for the record, Mr Moore is unmarried and, as far as I know, childless).

The star gazer then begins to sound rather like one of the slobbering hypocrites who feature so prominently in Gay Times’ own wonderful cartoon Fermenting Fruits: “Pure sexual perversion …children will read it and try it out and get Aids. It is an obscene publication and the ILEA are as guilty as drug peddlers for recommending it.”

The most revealing part of the report (because nobody is going to be influenced by the hysteria of a crank like Moore) is the defensive reaction of an ILEA spokesman: “We don’t actually recommend books as such,” he is quoted as saying, “The book was marred by voyeurism and overtly explicit accounts of sexual activities.”

For our next example we move to Ealing in West London, where a “hard Left” council is supposed to have an equal employment policy covering lesbians and gay men. To be fair, they’ve taken more than their share of stick about it, but now the Ealing Gazette (17 Mar) says: “Catholic … parents were told the phrase ‘Ealing Council welcomes applications from lesbians and gay men’ would be dropped in an advert for a head teacher at Our Lady of the Visitation Roman Catholic School in Greenford. But the line cropped up in a national newspaper — and angry Catholics thought the council had included it deliberately.” But, of course, they hadn’t.

Ealing’s equal opportunity policy is as strong as a rock —until the first set of bigots comes along and demands its removal. The Council then accedes without a murmur.

Meanwhile in another London borough — Haringey —home of the first local authority Lesbian and Gay Unit, there is more controversy over the ‘positive images’ policy. But this time criticism comes not from some Holy Joe ‘parents group’ but a teacher in a local school. HW Medwell wrote to City Limits, the London listings magazine (6 Apr) following an article about the aftermath of Clause 28 by Melissa Benn and Rose Collis. “Haringey Council has been surprisingly quiet on the issue,” he says, “In the secondary schools where I have I taught, the Positive Images policy has been something you read about in the Tory press. No informational literature on Positive Images has been distributed to teachers or other staff during the period of controversy; nor has there been any verbal guidance from the ILEA. We’ve had to think of our own answers to the oft-repeated question ‘When do we start having gay lessons?’ and our own ways of coping with the marked increase of the traditionally high quota of heterosexist filth we meet in the classrooms. Benn and Collis could fruitfully have explored the reasons why a ‘radical’ council should behave in this way.”

A little better is the reaction of Brent Council which was reported in The Evening Standard (3 Apr) as “planning sex advice sessions where people are encouraged to ‘talk dirty’. The proposal is part of the borough’s Aids awareness campaign, designed to break down sexual barriers.”

As usual the first whinger on the scene is Tory group spokesman Leslie Winter who is quoted as saying: “It is absolute nonsense when you consider all the other problems we have.”

Apparently, the council which is “on the brink of a financial crisis” is to ask the Government for £300,000 to pay for the Creative Sex Workshop scheme. “It is based on an American project called Hot, Horny and Healthy, which uses blue movies to encourage people to attend. Brent’s Aids adviser, Vernal Scott said: ‘They put on porno films with people wearing condoms and it’s very popular’.”

Deputy council leader Pam Jordan said: “Anything that makes people aware of the Aids peril has got to be a good thing.”

Anybody with the brass neck to ask Mrs Thatcher for three hundred grand for a Hot, Horny and Healthy project gets full marks from me.

The Leicester Mercury (9 Mar) gleefully reported the banning of ten national newspapers from a students’ union because they were deemed to be “anti-gay”. The ban was presented as ludicrous and good only for mockery, especially since one of the banned titles was The Guardian, seen by many as the only pro-gay paper in the country.

But how consistent is The Guardian in its approach to gay matters? There can be little doubt that it has carried many excellent, thoughtful features that wouldn’t have looked out of place in this magazine. It doesn’t neglect major news stories of interest to gay people, either. But occasionally something slips through the net. One such piece was “Case of the limp-wristed stud” which appeared on 23rd March. It was supposed to be a funny account, by Shelley Bovey, of a cat which had been purchased for “80 quid” for stud purposes. The cat, Claude, showed no interest in the females presented to him which made Shelley Bovey immediately assume that he is gay: “At rest he turns his head affectedly to one side. One paw is tucked under his chest. The other droops languidly. Our stud cat is undeniably limp-wristed.” Then Claude starts a relationship with the tom cat from next door. “One bound through the cat flap and he and Black Tom are greeting each other affectionately, nose to nose. That casual first kiss is just part of a new familiar ritual. Claude then gets down and rolls enticingly in front of Black Tom. Then they disappear, but I don’t wish to go into that. Afterwards . . . they sit on the table outside the kitchen window, close together, exuding contentment, wrists dangling limply over the edge of the table.” Shelley Bovey says, “Not that I am any kind of homophobe”. I’ll believe her, thousands wouldn’t.

I know it’s supposed to be a bit of fun, but there was something unpleasant about the imagery and the cheap cracks which left me feeling uncomfortable. All the same, I wouldn’t ban The Guardian on the strength of it.

Considering the apparent distaste with which the tabloids view gay sex, they don’t half seem fascinated by it. Take this example from The Sunday Mirror (26 Mar), under the headline “Three-men-in-a-bed gay sex romps”: “We chatted and had a few drinks and Hugh and the other man started kissing each other … They became quite intimate. I was sitting in another chair in the lounge, watching them. The other guy went out of the room and Hugh encouraged me over to him and we started kissing and fondling. Soon afterwards we all went upstairs to Hugh’s bedroom and it all got rather involved after that. We were naked and it was a tangle of arms and legs. We all had sex with each other.” Then there follows an explanation about who dominated whom.

When you recall the hoo-ha over Colin’s kiss in EastEnders, I wonder if that righteous, campaigning newspaper The Sun will now organise a telephone poll asking whether The Sunday Mirror ought to be banned because it brings explicit gay sex into the front rooms of “real” families?

Gratuitous Insults Department: “Eartha Kitt is a founder member of the Showbiz Greats Club … despite her ghastly camp followers.” —John Knight, Sunday Mirror (19 Mar)

“I was going to get engaged but I have just discovered the awful truth about my future mum-in-law. She is gay. Now all my friends have found out and say I should finish with him, pointing out that our children could be at risk if they had a gay grandmother.” — Letter to Sun’s Agony column (20 Mar).

Jesus-in-Jackboots department: “Is it not true that for long enough now the Anglican Church in general has soft-pedalled about the sins of the flesh? I find it particularly distressing when a flabby attitude towards this issue goes hand in hand with a sentimental solicitude for Aids victims. It smacks of hypocrisy for a Church to lay claim to sympathy for a group of sufferers, and yet to withhold the full power of its collective voice against one method by which they may have become infected.” — letter in The Church Times (31 Mar).


The Sun (21 Apr) carried an article claiming that Shakespeare was gay (“Friends, Romans and Countrymen, lend me your rears.”) Its only purpose was to give the writer, George Pascoe-Watson, the opportunity to make some feeble, bad taste puns. Example: “Schoolkids everywhere know that the bard’s bawdy quotes do NOT include: Beware the Aids of March; Once more into the britches, dearie friends; To be or not to be one, that is the question.”

He makes other pathetic attempts at humour by saying Shakespeare did not title his plays “Macbent, A Mince-Summer Night’s Dream or King Queer”, proving that you don’t need a sense of humour to appreciate The Sun — you need to be brain dead.

Commenting on this in The Guardian, Bryony Coleman wrote: “No doubt champions of …Clause 28 will be greatly reassured by this sniggering new low in fourth form wit; yet another leg cocked against the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, yet mother thumbs up for homophobia. It’s the sort of everyday drivel that gays have had to learn to live with.”

Tired of ‘living with it’, I wrote to The Sun’s other unfunny joke, its ‘Ombudsman’, Mr Ken Donlan. I complained in reasonable terms about the cheap cracks about Aids and the nasty stereotyping of gay people in the article.

Mr Donlan’s reply was succinct: “The gay community invites the treatment which you rightly reject because of the antics of a minority.” A classic example of The Sun’s favourite tactic — blame the victim for the crime.

And if you want to see another example of the same trick, look at their front-page story of 12 May “Lesbian Warders Shocker”. It reported a court case in which a man was accused of causing actual bodily harm and damaging property. He “got drunk on beer and punched and kicked Mrs Wells on the legs until she fell to the floor. He is then said to have broken £1200 worth of ornaments.”

But the people who appeared to be on trial in The Sun’s story were the women staff at Holloway jail. According to The Sun the prison is “in the grip of dozens of lesbian warders … Many of the 250 officers at Britain’s biggest women’s prison are gay and attend drinking parties packed with lesbian couples.”

The man on trial is given only a passing mention, the women who have done nothing but act as punchbags for him are, on the other hand, vilified and made to sound sinister. “There was a wicked conspiracy against him by lesbians.”

No use complaining to the Ombudsman about this distortion. Kenneth Donlan is a front to deflect attention from The Sun’s disgusting tactics. But he ain’t fooling this punter.

For some reason The News of the World decided to splash the opinions of sex-obsessed harridan Victoria Gillick over double pages for a couple of weeks. On 14 May she “launched a vitriolic attack on gays for spreading the killer disease”: “Their practices are dangerous and unlawful. They play in open sewers. Somebody has got to say loudly and clearly that sodomy is dangerous … People with Aids are turned into martyrs … it’s nobody’s fault but theirs … Homosexuals will tell you that their way’s normal and natural. They claim it’s an alternative. But they’re the ones who ought to be named for what they’ve done … People were prudish about sex in the last century because it was a killer. Syphilis killed, having too many children killed.”

The mother-of-ten rambles on in similar fashion for two whole pages. Her uninformed, ignorant opinions will, no doubt, be cheered by News of the World readers (although a telephone poll revealed that 15,966 of them thought Gillick had ‘overdone it’ with her own rabbit-like reproductive habits).

At the bottom of the page a small quote is attributed to Maureen Oliver, co-ordinator of OLGA: “How can she say that lesbian or gay sex is unnatural — unnatural for whom? If someone’s gay, then that sort of sex is not unnatural for that person. There’s an increase in attacks on lesbians and gays whenever someone like Mrs Gillick gets publicity for her views.”

Given that this is an undeniable fact, what motive prompted NoW editor Patsy Chapman to give such prominence to Mrs Gillick’s worthless ranting? Come on, Ms ‘Chapman, we’re waiting for an answer.

An astonishing court case was reported in The Hampstead and Highgate Express (14 Apr) concerning two men who were kissing in a Kings Cross street.

Apparently, the two had been arrested by a police officer who “realised how offensive this can be to ordinary members of the public”.

The men were bound over for £100 each after charges of “gross indecency” against them were dropped. The judge Thomas Pigot, QC, told them they were lucky to escape a prison sentence: “This kind of thing is intolerable”, he said, “and you had better tell your friends that they risk a prison sentence if they do it … People are fed up of watching performances of this kind.”

And this person is fed up of hearing stupid, homophobic, ranting old twerps using their privileged position as a platform for their vile bigotry. Justice? It all seems to hang on the mood and prejudices of the bewigged berk you happen to come up before.

Michael De-la-Noy was writing in The Independent (15 Apr) about his desire to take a holiday in a guest house. But where to go? “I decided to take a furtive peep at Gay Times, and lo and behold,” he wrote, “a bevy of enticing advertisements beckoned.”

Mr De-la-Noy chose an establishment in Dartmoor National Park, where he was greeted with inordinate generosity. Free drinks, free afternoon tea, tiny prices for an excellent meal and accommodation in exquisite surroundings.

Having snapped himself up a bargain courtesy of the gay community is he grateful? “No, I could not have stood the cosy intimacy and chi-chi conversation in the sitting-room for very long, but I assume that most patrons for whom ‘gay guest houses’ are primarily run would have appreciated the overtly hand-holding atmosphere. (Those who were staying at the same time as myself had not, I think, been in a stable relationship very long, and honeymooners en masse can be very trying).”

Charming. He intrudes himself into the small space that gay holidaymakers can call their own and then has the gall to complain when we relax in our own way. ‘Chi-chi conversations’ are far preferable to sour-faced whinging.

“I may well continue to take pot luck via the pages of Gay Times,” writes Mr De-la-Noy. If he does, I must make sure that I check any registration book before I take a room at a gay guest house. He’s one person I wouldn’t want to share a holiday with:

Paul Foot, The Daily Mirror’s exposer of abuses in some of our most powerful institutions, took up the cudgels for the gay community on 27 April. He was commenting on the disgraceful police raid on the Vauxhall Tavern in South London, when 35 officers wearing plastic gloves suddenly burst into the pub and started arresting people. “I asked the police if this was a crude exercise in gay-bashing since many gay people drink in the pub,” wrote Mr Foot. “A spokesman replied: ‘The reason the raid took place was in connection with alleged breaches of the licensing laws but also allegations that there was drug dealing going on inside the public house’ … The spokesperson confirmed that there were no arrests for drugs or anything else.”

Nice to see the occasional acknowledgement of the injustice that is routinely meted out to gays, so we should give thanks for small (very small) mercies.

Lord Rees-Mogg, chairman of the dubious Broadcasting Standards Council, has been touring the country finding out for himself what the British public’s standards are. His Lordship, who wrote about his experience in The Independent (18 Apr), still clings to the idea of the “tolerant, liberal British”. He found “that one hears much more antipathy to homosexuals than might be expected in a tolerant society. Scenes of men kissing do not seem to promote tolerance; they were invariably commented on unfavourably, sometimes with sharp hostility.”

What can all this mean for the representation of homosexuality on television? How will Lord Moggy translate his findings into policy? Is he telling us that because the British are homophobic there must be no positive mention of the subject on TV? Or does he think that attitudes need changing?

Maybe he won’t have to do anything, for it seems the self-censorship has begun already. “Lesbian act cut from Royal Gala” reported The London Evening Standard (8 May): “ITV has ordered a controversial lesbian act to be cut from a variety show recorded in front of the Prince and Princess of Wales.” The “controversial” item in question was by “American comedienne Sandra Bernhardt who performed a lesbian version of Billy Paul’s paen to adultery, Me and Mrs Jones.”

As regular readers know, the British press are obsessed with Cliff Richard’s sexuality (or lack of it). Is he gay or isn’t he? The man himself sort of denies it “What does it matter?” is his typical response.

Appearing for the ‘defence’ (Daily Express 18 Apr) is guitarist Hank Marvin. He apparently “hit out at gossips” by saying about his old pal Cliff: “If he is, he’s fooled me for 30 years … I think it is pathetic that everyone is hung up on this question. Because of his beliefs, Cliff leads a very moral life.”

He goes on to say: “Unfortunately, because of this day we live in, people tend to think if you’re not leaping in and out of bed with everybody — or at least seen at every public occasion with a different girl on your arm — there must be something wrong with you.”

Well, that’s true. Wasn’t it tennis player Sue Barker who always seemed to be on the arm of Mr Richard at one time?

Finishing off with a final stab at closet cases, Marvin says: “I know a lot of guys who appear at places with different girls but are as bent as two-bob watches.”

This latest conjecture has had an effect on at least one person, namely plain John Smith “man of The People” who commented (23 Apr): “It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference if he goes to bed with men, women, teddy bears or cups of cocoa.”

Very generous, I’m sure, but can this be the same Mr Smith who wrote in October, 1987: “The responsibility for Aids rests firmly with the gay community and the homosexual sluts who couldn’t care less who they infect.”? Slightly inconsistent, wouldn’t you say?

A survey of 10,000 European teenagers showed that while tolerance of homosexuality seems to be taking a nosedive in Britain, it is increasing in other European countries. Only 15 per cent of our own rising generation thought a gay relationship was “right”, whilst 44 per cent of Spanish young people thought gay was OK.

The other questions asked seemed to indicate that British youth is greedy, selfish, racist and just plain nasty. Reporting the survey (11 May) Today’s headline was “Sad to be gay”. I think the only sad thing is the way young people seem to have been so thoroughly corrupted by Mrs Thatcher’s grasping, self-seeking, intolerant attitudes.

Being disapproved of by such a bunch of bigots feels almost like a privilege.

GAY TIMES July 1989

Recent incidents have brought “rent boys” once more into the public eye. The tabloids’ reactions to news of these young men are often startlingly foolish. Look at this, for instance, from The Daily Star (23 May): “Jason Swift was what we have come to glibly call a “rent boy”. He was a lonely, unloved, unwanted, pathetic little boy who sold his body to homosexuals. How many child runaways who, for a variety of reasons, believe they cannot go home to face their parents … All of them are easy pickings for the warped bastards who have carefully conditioned us into believing that there is nothing really wrong with homosexuality and that rent boys are a fact of life. Isn’t it time for a massive police crackdown on these sewer-dwellers in our midst? And, if that doesn’t work, how about flame throwers?”

This piece of hysteria comes from The Star’s editor, Brian Hitchen. Mr Hitchen would have us believe that children are at risk mainly from homosexuals. But to utter blanket condemnations of homosexuals every time there is a case of male-male child abuse is wishful thinking. If Mr Hitchen believes that brutality towards children is confined to the gay/rent boy scene, he ought to open his eyes. As Julie Burchill pointed out in her column (Mail on Sunday 4 Jun): “Some children are being raped nightly by their brothers, fathers and grandfathers … We nag our children never to talk to strangers —despite the fact that the vast majority of attacks are carried out by family and friends. It is a sad fact that a child may well be safer going for a car ride with a strange woman than sleeping in its own bed at night when there are male relatives in the house.”

A correspondent in Community Care (25 May) tried to explain where rent boys come from: “It is our society’s prejudiced and blinkered views on homosexuality, and abject ignorance on this subject which has caused gay youngsters to be on the run in the first place. Many parents on learning their child is homosexual simply fail to cope with it … Educators are now prevented from teaching children about homosexuality, and from supporting those children who find themselves isolated, knowing they are different from their classmates. There will inevitably be, more runaways; more vulnerable, powerless young people desperately trying to survive on the, streets of our big cities, and more suicides.”

Mr Hitchen and his sympathisers don’t want to hear about this, of course. Nor do they seem interested in other evidence which emerged this month that many mothers, too, sexually abuse their children. Did he have anything to say about the case reported in The Independent (2 Jun) which began: “A three- year old boy was so violently shaken by his father that his spine was broken in 16 places and five of his ribs were fractured…” or the one in The Daily Mail (8 Jun): “Father of five Les Pingel chose victims from little girls learning to ride his ponies … He admitted 21 charges of indecent assault and five attempted rapes.”

Nobody ever mentions the sexuality of straight child abusers, but they almost always point out the gay ones. One honourable exception is Esther Rantzen, whose work on Childline is well known. She was exposing incidents of sex abuse at a boys’ school on “That’s Life!” and in The Daily Mirror (1 Jun). She managed to tell the whole story of male teachers and their assaults on boys without once referring to them being gay.

It’s very handy to be able to lay your guilt at the doorstep of an unpopular minority; gays make convenient whipping boys in this respect. But it just won’t do. As Ms Burchill says: “I think we are becoming incredibly smug about child abuse once more; it isn’t us — it’s the pods who come down and do it.”

Before he turns the flame thrower on the supposedly exotic meeting places of the gay community, the editor of The Star ought to open a few front doors in suburbia. It may be an uncomfortable experience for him to discover that the real villains are nearer to home than he thinks.

I have been criticised for not being polite to gay-bashers. In defence, I would point out that there are others who are far less restrained than I. City Limits (5 Jun), for instance, carried a letter from a lesbian born-again Christian deploring that magazine’s “Official ‘Fuck Off Billy Graham’ T-Shirt”. “I don’t think attacks on good men like Billy Graham help,” wrote our “lesbian and socialist” sister.

But then again, being a lesbian born-again Christian is something like being a Jewish Nazi. Nonetheless, I will try to moderate my language in future, particularly following the news (Daily Telegraph 10 Jun) that a Labour councillor in Finchley has been charged with “using abusive language during a visit by Mrs Thatcher to her North London constituency.”

But before I eschew abuse for good, may I have one last fling at Tory MP Terry Dicks? He was commenting in The London Evening Standard (7 Jun) on a Pride 89 event for Lesbian and Gay Parents: “Quite frankly the whole thing is twisted and perverted. Of perverts, by perverts, for perverts. What is this about gay parents? Two men can’t have a child.”

Mr Dicks is a facile, creepy, moronic, jumped-up dope. It is a disgrace that such a birdbrain should be allowed out of the Reichstag let alone to hold power over people’s lives.

There, having got that off my chest, I now faithfully resolve to stick to diplomatic language. (Regular readers should note that I am notoriously bad at keeping resolutions.)

Before we leave the wonderful Brian Hitchen (referred to as “bone-head” by Private Eye) and his fast-fading Star (circulation well below a million and falling), we must also look at his reactions to the news from San Francisco of “new licences granting all-men couples the same rights as other wedded folk”. “Poofters get right to wed” said the headline.

Commenting on this story (25 May), The Star’s editorial went: “San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. In some ways, it is also the ugliest…What is the reaction of the city of San Francisco to the plague launched on a sick wave of so-called free gay love (homosexual promiscuous sex)? Horror? Shame? Not for a moment. Yesterday the city’s lawmakers voted to recognise homosexual weddings — the first time in history that such a travesty of marriage vows has been legalised … Anyone who thinks that these ‘marriages’ are anything, but a grotesque mockery of a solemn occasion is living in FAIRY-LAND.”

We were spared Mr Hitchen’s informed and thoughtful comments on the news carried in The Daily Telegraph (27 May) that the Danish parliament had gone one step further voting to “allow homosexuals to marry and have equal rights with heterosexual couples in all but adoption.”

A spokesman for Denmark’s 1948 Association of Gays and Lesbians said: “We hope Denmark’s example will influence the work for human rights for gays and lesbians in many other parts of the world.” A noble sentiment. Can we expect some movement in Thatcher’s Britain?

Well, not according to The Sun (26 May) which gleefully informed us that: “A bid to lower the age of consent for gay sex was rejected last night by the Government”. Tory MP Nicholas Winterton has just returned from San Francisco and was unimpressed by what he saw there. He is quoted as saying: “In view of the shocking situation in San Francisco, Aids continues to pose a massive threat. Anything which increases that is out of the question.”

Yes, Britain leads the world, as usual. Its record of homophobia, gaybashing and head-in-the-sand stupidity remains completely intact. Well done, Maggie!

That’s-one-way-of-looking-at-it department: “Private Eye has always stank of a strident homophobia to the extent that my one regret if it now goes under is that this country’s six million lesbians and gay men will be unable to sue it for collective gross defamation of character.” Letter in Guardian (8 Jun)

Let’s-blame-the-gays-for-EVERYTHING-department: “The Rottweiler is the gay community’s favourite pet” — The Star

For the last five years of his life, Russell Harty had a lover called Jamie O’Neill. Last month Mr O’Neill appeared on Channel Four’s anti-newspaper programme “Hard News” telling how the tabloid press had hounded Russell Harty into the grave.

Now The Sunday Mirror has come to get Mr O’Neill, too. In an article (11 Jun) Jamie is alleged to have had “a sordid past” working in “sleazy Soho clubs” and “parading around naked in sexually explicit poses” in Mister magazine. Mr O’Neill is portrayed by the article as greedy, grasping and ruthless.

Is this another example of the vengeance tabloids exact on their critics or is it mere coincidence?

With such a compassionate and sensible leader, is there any wonder that the Roman Catholic Church is such a humane institution? Especially where its followers are most ardent —Latin America.

The Independent (3 Jun) told us how Mexico’s “much needed Aids education campaign” had been scuppered by the Church and other “conservative” forces. It all ended with a call from the loonies who run the asylum “for a roundup of homosexuals and compulsory euthanasia for victims of the virus.”

In a report which was quite staggering in its implications, reporter Chris McGreal revealed: “The head of Mexico’s Aids prevention programme, Dr James Sepulveda, met Church and ‘pro-life’ groups in an effort to end their blanket ban on any mention of the word `condom’ … The Church described the government’s education campaign as ‘criminal’ and forced the cancellation of a television advert because a popular soap opera star warned ‘if you are going to have a relationship use a condom’ … Conservatives pressure television and radio stations by threatening advertisers with boycotts and by playing on public prejudice with violent attacks on homosexuals.”

At least 100,000 Mexicans are infected with HIV, but because of the Catholic Church’s dogmatic interference there is hardly any public knowledge about it.

Which leads me to ask: are Mexican Catholics pro-life or are they pro-genocide?

Just when you thought the tabloids had given up Aids hysteria, back they come with a bit of old-fashioned pig-ignorant Aids madness.

“The House that Died of Shame” was the headline in the Paper that Knows No Shame (News of the World 28 May). It concerned the residence of the late Rock Hudson over which hung “the taint of his diseased death.” Now, according to the NoW, it “is being gutted until every memory of Hudson is obliterated.”

Naturally the new owner, film director John Landis, will want to rearrange the house to his own taste, but The News of the World says: “Workmen wearing protective clothing have stripped the house to a skeleton … Demolition men are careful not to cut themselves. No one wants to chance the remotest possibility that the disease can linger on, even in the wood, stone, porcelain and fabric of the house … An estate agent explained: ‘People didn’t want to sleep in the bedroom where Rock breathed his last breath. Similarly, they didn’t want to use the bathroom facilities or swim in the pool where he and his buddies played.”

Rock Hudson died more than two years ago. The tabloids continue to pile indignities upon his memory, but even worse than that is the continued encouragement of such sad ignorance. No-one in the article contradicts the foolish idea that the virus can linger in a house for years on end; nobody makes the slightest effort to challenge the superstitious nonsense being peddled.

I had imagined my contempt for The News of the World could not intensify any further. Just shows how wrong you can be.

The News of the World (4 Jun) carried an extraordinary article headed “Evil Fantasies of Kinky Canon” in which a senior church man had, apparently, revealed to a NoW reporter his most intimate fantasies about “ogling youngsters on the beach” and “gay orgies”. What came over most strongly in the feature was the uninhibited terms in which the “confession” was couched. One began to wonder why on earth the Canon had chosen to talk in this way to a reporter from such a notorious rag. And then you began to think: did he actually know he was talking to a reporter, and had he any idea that the conversation was being taped?

It is unclear from the article when or where the interview took place, or how it was obtained. I have made a complaint to the Press Council in the hope of finding out just what is going on here. If it turns out that the interview was obtained by deception, then I consider it to be a gross abuse of journalistic ethics. To destroy someone simply because they let their fantasies run away with them is a terrible use of the power of the press.

I’ll keep you informed, but in the meantime: if you are in a public position and you get into conversation with a sympathetic stranger, make sure you know whether he’s got a tape recorder up his sleeve and a pay packet from Mr Murdoch in his pocket.

GAY TIMES August 1989

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography The Reluctant Gay Activist is now available from Amazon

Last month I wrote about my suspicions that The News of the World had used deceit and a hidden tape recorder to trick a gay clergyman into incriminating himself. I tried, through the Press Council, to persuade The NoW to admit that they had used trickery in their entrapment of Canon Brian Brindley, but they repeatedly refused to come clean.

Now Canon Brindley has resigned from his post as business manager of the Church of England General Synod and the whole murky incident has been exposed. As suspected, News of the World reporter Chris Blythe had insinuated himself into Canon Brindley’s confidence, posing as “a friend and an admirer” and encouraging the Canon to speak of his secret sexual fantasies in an indiscreet manner. All this time the treacherous liar, Chris Blythe, had a tape recorder secreted about him and was recording the Canon’s musings; these later appeared in The News of the World under the heading “Evil Fantasies of the Kinky Canon”. Accepting the Canon’s resignation from the General Synod, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “I believe the manner in which the journalist obtained and used the material gained from Canon Brindley was deplorable.”

Meanwhile Canon Brindley’s Bishop, the Right Rev Richard Harries said: “That a journalist should go into the Canon’s home with a concealed tape recorder, cajoling him into fantasising about his private life is deplorable. More deplorable is the fact that a national newspaper should print a story based on material obtained in such a deceitfu1 manner.”

But you do not criticise The News of the World (or any other tabloid) and walk away unscathed. On 9 July the filthy rag “confessed” to using these despicable tactics in order to ruin Mr Bridley and then went on to repeat, with lurid embellishments, all the original alleged comments. The victim was referred to as “vile Brindley”, “the camp Canon”, “the Kinky clergyman” etc. There was talk of “sorting out a powerful ‘Gay Mafia’ within the Church”, and then came the sanctimonious plea of public duty: “From time to time newspapers feel justified in using clandestine methods in reporting matters which are in the public interest. We believe that the conduct of Canon Brian Brindley was such a case.” As The News of the World rightly points out: “The Press Council which, as a broad rule, frowns upon subterfuge and deceit, has many times recognised the legitimacy of such techniques.”

My complaint with the Council will progress, and we’ll see whether they consider that the repeated humiliation and destruction of Canon Brindley served any discernible public interest.

The supposed rent-boys-in-the-White-House scandal has brought some strange reactions from our own press. Most of them carried the story of senior US Government officials using credit-cards for “call boys”, but only The Guardian (1 Jul) questioned the veracity of what was going on. Its suspicions were aroused by the source of the story — The Washington Times. Now this rag — so far to the Right it almost falls off the dial — is owned and run by The Moonies, a sinister pseudo-religious cult with more arms than a shoal of octupuses.

I am not saying that there has been no rent-boy activity in US Government circles (or in Westminster come to that), but some of the Washington Times’ allegations about “homosexuals who held senior posts during the Reagan administration” being “compromised by KGB agents” are simply risible.

One politician is quoted as saying he suspects there was a “nest of homosexuals” close to Ronald Reagan when he was president. This kind of language (“A nest of homosexuals” is presumably one step down from a “nest of vipers”) suggests that gay people are automatically untrustworthy, disloyal and easily corrupted.

But a different angle was taken by The Sunday Telegraph (2nd Jul). “Conservative gays tumble out of the closet,” it said, reporting the bewilderment of the staunchly right-wing Republican Party at the news that some of its most active members are gay. “What fascinates the gossips is the notion of a conservative homosexual; not some mincing Left-wing queen, but a sober-suited chap with a firm handshake who presumably spends most of his time in the closet.” We can put the crudity of such comments down to the journalist’s ignorance but there is no doubt that, at last, they’ve discovered the phenomenon of the self-hating homosexual. This type has already been identified by Laud Humphrys in his study “Tearoom Trade”. He described “the breast plate of righteousness” effect which causes some gays to assume exaggerated homophobic views and inflated conservatism in order to hide their own homosexuality.

The Sunday Telegraph (very fond of homosexual conspiracy theories, as you will remember) goes on to reveal: “The National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty, a pro-Contra group, was headed during the Reagan years by Mr Carl Channell, a homosexual. Mr Channell’s mentor, Mr Terry Dolan, brother of the Reagan speech writer Mr Anthony Dolan, was another influential homosexual. He was instrumental in founding the National Conservative Political Action Committee and died of Aids. Mr Dolan once mailed a NCPAC fund-raising letter that said: “Our nation’s moral fibre is being weakened by the growing homosexual movement”. Another homosexual who was a favourite of the emerging New Right, and chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, was Congressman Robert Bauman of Maryland. His political career ended abruptly when he was arrested for soliciting male prostitutes in a Washington bar.” Gay people know from long and bitter experience that our worst enemies often come from within our own ranks, but The Sunday Telegraph seems to find the idea novel. Still, if you insist on thinking and writing in worn out stereotypes, you’re bound to miss the point.

I don’t know what the Moonies’ reason is for creating this furore, but there is almost certainly some ulterior motive behind it. Meanwhile, ordinary gay people have to take the flak of being made to sound like some kind of dreadful fifth column, infiltrating American life like aliens from another planet. The truth is that the hypocrites who have created this right-wing backlash against gays (and many, as we have seen, are gays themselves) are now reaping the whirl-wind along with the rest of us.

The nomination for the most inhuman, callous and detestable comment on Aids must go to Abdullah al-Mashad “leader of a body which rules on Islamic issues in Egypt” who was quoted in The Independent (4 Jul) as saying: “We should kill Aids victims to stop them harming society … Aids victims could be denied food, water and medical treatment.”

But before the pronouncement could be exploited, Rushdie-style, by Muslim fundamentalists, Dr Hesham al-Essaway, chairman of the Islamic Society for Religious Tolerance, pointed out that the views of al-Mashad had no basis in Islamic law.

However, the whole episode once again served to open up the debate about Aids and morality. As Rabbi Julia Neuberger wrote (Sunday Times 9 Jul): “The fact that many victims are homosexuals strengthens the vitriolic response of the self-appointed moralists, who argue that they deserve segregation at best and death otherwise, but certainly not our sympathy and love. The immorality of this argument is breath taking. It comes from religious leaders of all faiths. Yet it is beyond me why where you put your penis and into whom should be a moral question, rather than whom you betray, whether you are faithful, and whom you are exploiting sexually.”

Wimbledon inevitably means it’s time to wheel out the tired old Martina-is-a-lesbian features. Surely everyone who could possibly be interested knows by now that Ms Navratilova is not only one of the greatest woman tennis players the world has ever known but also the lover of Judy Nelson. But just in case anyone had missed it, The Sun gave it another airing (28 Jun) under the heading “Martina’s Courtiers”.

Apparently: “Martina has never made a secret of her homosexuality but the revelation of her affair with wife and mother Judy whipped up a storm of controversy.” Or put another way, The Sun whipped up a storm of controversy and the rest of us have to endure it. The Daily Mail (1 Jul) rated Wimbledon’s romantic partnerings and gave Martina and Judy 9 out of 10 (as opposed to Boris Becker and companion’s 5/10).

The following day, The Sun’s Dear Deirdre (“The world’s top agony aunt” it says here) was regaling us with “My Mum’s Lesbian” and “Can children come to terms with having gay parents? Or should gay parents keep their sexuality secret and sacrifice their dreams of sharing life with the partner of their choice?”

Well, that’s interesting enough, and the letters that followed were a reasonable exploration of the subject (given The Sun’s propensity for scaling everything down to three sentences so as not to over-tax their readers). Deirdre’s advice was understanding, reasoned and she gave some contacts for further counselling.

Last time I gave Deirdre a pasting for being so negative on gay topics, I was told she goes on working for The Sun because her column is the only one in that paper which could possibly get any sympathetic coverage for gays and anyway her copy is often distorted by The Sun’s notorious subs.

We’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

National press coverage of Pride this year amounted to a couple of worthy articles by Nicholas de Jongh in The Guardian, a tiny paragraph in The Sunday Times and an even tinier one in The Observer (25 Jun). But as their contribution to the celebration, The Sun and The Star were cheering on the thugs who destroyed a flower bed in Manchester which had been planted to celebrate Lesbian and Gay Pride. “Anti-gay gang wipe out pansies! (We’ll get to the bottom of it say lefties)” was The Sun’s predictably jeering reaction (1 Jun). And this anti-gay gang — could they mean the notorious Wapping Wankers, bussed up to Manchester especially for the occasion?

The British press seems far more enthusiastic about reporting American Pride marches; perhaps the poor dears feel less threatened if it’s all at a safe distance. Anyway, while totally ignoring the British march, The London Evening Standard carried a report (“Sad to be Gay” 3 Jul) of the New York celebrations. Author of the piece, Clive Barnes, starts off by telling us how glum gays are, quoting the gay-bashers favourite line from Boys in the Band “You show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse”.

It seems that Mr Barnes has come not to praise the gay movement but to bury it. However, even he has to admit that the annual Lesbian and Gay Pride March is important enough to receive “growing political support —many of the current mayoral candidates including the incumbent, Mayor Koch, marched in this year’s parade”.

But Mr Barnes is anxious that no-one should get the idea that gays in New York are making progress: “The backlash has been spurred by the Aids epidemic, which is popularly seen as the gay scourge and in some sections of the community has made the homosexual actually feared. As gay concern rises over the money allocated to Aids care and research a certain restlessness seems to be building in the straight community … In New York City, a significant increase in ‘gay-bashing’ has been reported. As well, hopes have dimmed in the city of getting either homosexual marriages legalised, or at least a ‘domestic partners’ law similar to that recently passed in San Francisco.” He grudgingly admits, though, that: “Gays are no longer in any New York closet at least not as a community- and in general terms their situation regarding discrimination and acceptance has clearly improved. But it has certainly not improved as much as its militant advocates would wish.”

But even before New York gays had time to ponder the futility of it all, there was incredibly good news for them. “Gay couple are family, court rules” was the headline in The Guardian (8 Jul) over a story which said: “In an historic ruling, New York’s Court of Appeals, the State’s highest court, has broadened the legal definition of a family to include a gay couple.”

Seems the epitaph was a little premature.

Good news department: “The founder of the Moral Majority, Mr Jerry Falwell … announced that he would be dissolving the Moral Majority this August …” — Guardian 14 Jun.

History-of-homophobia department: “One of his executioners later boasted in town that when Lorca was already dead he fired ‘two more bullets into his arse for being queer’. Envy of his fame and hatred of homosexuals were at the rotten core of Lorca’s hideous death”. — Guardian (30 June).

GAY TIMES September 1989

The two sides in the Church of England debate on homosexuality are donning their gear ready for the Big Fight. The liberal corner (supported by some of the broadsheet newspapers) wears kid gloves and jewelled slippers, while the fundamentalist corner (cheered on by the tabloid press) is dusting off the jackboots and knuckle-dusters. First round goes to The People (11 April), taking its turn to play Holy gestapo, and rooting out the vicar of Dulwich who they alleged had hosted “gay orgies” at his vicarage.

The information was supplied by a parasitic little Judas named Paul Gregory, who enjoyed himself at the parties and then betrayed his fellow gays by running to The People when he was short of a bob or two. I hope his ten pieces of tabloid silver choke him.

Meanwhile, Cannon Brian Brindley, who recently got the concealed tape recorder treatment from The News of the World (“Murdoch’s stinking rag” — Auberon Waugh, Sunday Telegraph 13 Aug), has now resigned from his job, hounded out not only by sanctimonious creeps posing as journalists (take another bow champion liar Chris Blythe) but also by his fellow Christians. Commenting on the nasty activities of two individuals who circulated The NoW revelations to all 574 members the General Synod in case they missed them, The Independent editorialised: “How was the attack on Canon Brindley supposed to help the Church? It has lent support to those who fear the Synod has become a playground for self-righteous, petty-minded activists ready to use any weapon, no matter low, in pursuit of their feuds. They may have convinced themselves that on balance they were doing good. But to do good by endorsing, or seeming to endorse, the persecution of homosexuals, the betrayal of confidences and the standards of the gutter press is an approach which finds no parallel in the gospels.” (Auberon Waugh in The Sunday Telegraph put it a little more directly on 13 Aug when he asked: “Why were they reading the newspaper in the first place, unless planning to masturbate or looking for prurient gossip?”).

Canon Brindley’s former bishop, Patrick Rodger, wrote in The Independent (12 Aug): “That he should have been driven to this (resignation) is a poor reward for his years of faithful ministry both to his parish and to the General Synod. Many members of the Synod (who were powerless to prevent the article being circulated to them at York) were as distressed by that squalid episode as you obviously were by the behaviour of The News of the World.”

No doubt Canon Brindley’s persecutors would say that it was his duty to practice what he preached. If he called for sexual restraint from the pulpit (and, apparently, he did), then he should live by the same tenet.

Some light was thrown on this dilemma by Rabbi Lionel Blue, who did the dignified thing and came out voluntarily in a rather depressing interview with The Independent (26 Jul). He said: “Some of the ministers I knew and respected said one sort of thing in the pulpit and another in their private counselling and advice. There was that gap between the theory and the practice. One said to me: Always give the general rules in the pulpit, but treat everyone who comes to you as an exception.”

Far better, surely, to be honest and up-front in the first place. If priests are allowed to accept homosexuals in private but are required to condemn them from the pulpit, doesn’t the double-standard risk making the Church look even more foolish?

One man trying to do something about that is the Anglican Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, the Rt Rev John Spong. He recently spoke in London about the need to recognise “homosexual and lesbian ‘marriages’” (Daily Telegraph 9 Aug). The People said Bishop Spong’s remarks were “another move in the pansy propaganda war” (13.Aug), while The Sun (10 Aug) enlisted the gay-hating Rev Tony Higton: “The bishop would be regarded as a lunatic by many in the church. His views are not Christian … he is not qualified to be a Bishop … it is blasphemous for him to call sex outside marriage holy.”

I would have thought Mr Higton was walking a tightrope in calling others “lunatic” — the sanity of his own views and activities might well be called into question by the less charitable among us (which includes me).

The intellectual bankruptcy of fundamentalist argument will hopefully ensure that it soon fades into oblivion, and then a debate that means something can begin.

There’s been a bit of a hoo-ha in Exeter over remarks made by Tory councillor Dr Adrian (born-again) Rogers. Commenting on a book-shop window display celebrating Lesbian and Gay Pride, the rabid Rogers raved: “I believe any public display of homosexuality should be made illegal. To glorify immoral relationships which have cost so many lives with Aids is absolutely sick” (Exeter Leader, 13 Jul), and “I continue to consider homosexuality as a God-condemned, sterile and disease-ridden occupation.”

Now all this might seem like a routine bit of gay-bashing from an attention-seeking politician who recognises a sure-fire way to get himself onto the front page of the local rag. Dr Rogers is the standard tin-pot local councillor with delusions of grandeur, but his relentless homophobia seems more like an unhealthy obsession than a genuine concern.

Lining up with Dr Rogers was the Leader’s “controversial” columnist Alan (happy ignoramus) Butt, a sort of cut-price Ray Mills, who wrote: “Toleration of gays – or sads as I prefer to call them – is one thing. Proclaiming their tarnished sexual appetites (and their sexual deviation) is another.”

The letters column over the following few weeks provided a lively platform for people to state their entrenched positions. The gay community rallied after a slow start and the paper seemed, after a while, to be under some kind of siege. Eloquent dismissals of the homophobes’ arguments appeared. Particular credit goes to Beth Lambdon (the manager of Fagin’s Bookshop) for a couple of robust letters. The bigots’ contingent included the following anonymous contribution: “I am a retired magistrate. I sat on the bench when homosexual acts were illegal, during the ‘Sexy Sixties’ and let me tell you that when any homosexual had the misfortune to come before me he was treated with the full might of the law — six months imprisonment. I quickly acquired the reputation as a ‘hanging judge’ among many of my more liberal colleagues, but my methods often had the desired effect.”

As I suspected, all men are equal before the law — unless they’re gay. Also appearing in the correspondence column, along with about twenty-five Holy-rollers (an obviously orchestrated write-in by one of Exeter’s wilder churches), was Mrs Edna Welthorpe, celebrated alter-ego of the late Joe Orton, presumably communicating through a medium. Quite appropriate really, as by the time her letter appeared the whole thing had become the kind of hysterical farce that Orton would have loved.

The God-shouters were rolling their eyes to heaven and praying for the sinners. They were thanking their God that they were ‘normal’ and that the homosexuals would get their just desserts in the sweet by and by.

It was an example of the British at their best, cheerfully parading their ignorance and sexual hang-ups (not to mention their illiteracy), and seemingly unaware of how ridiculous it all was. Just the ticket for the silly season.

The Daily Mail’s resident bigot George Gale has incurred the wrath of ACT-UP, the militant Aids organisation. (Their raid on The Mail’s offices was reported in the communist Morning Star, 8 Aug, with a background piece in The Observer 13 Aug). One of the many grossly offensive remarks Gale made in the now notorious Mail column of 21 July was: “The message to be learned — that the Department of Health should now be urgently propagating — is that active homosexuals are potentially murderers and that the act of buggery kills.”

George Gale

The dreadful irony is that the charge of murder might well boomerang back on George Gale one day. What happens when those heterosexuals, lulled into a false sense of security by ill-informed comments, find that they aren’t after all immune to HIV? Will Mr Gale (and The Sun’s “medical expert” Dr Vernon Coleman who pushes the same line) accept any of the blame? Who will be the murderers then?

One can’t help thinking that George Gale’s homophobia is so ingrained that he’s incapable of seeing past the prejudiced chip on his shoulder. He seems even to abandon logic in order to make the “facts” fit his hatred of gay people. I ask him — and Sir David English, editor of The Daily Mail — to consider this letter, written to The Independent (4 Aug) by Annabel Kanabus of Aids Education and Research Trust: “Many studies have shown that vaginal intercourse may indeed transmit the virus. However, although anal intercourse may indeed transmit the virus more efficiently, it should be remembered that it is not only homosexuals who enjoy this activity. The most important factor with HIV is not who you are but what you do … Of millions infected, the vast majority are heterosexual. It is only in a few Western countries that the virus, unfortunately for them, became established among homosexuals. There seems no good reason why the high level of heterosexual infection seen in other countries will not, in due course, happen here, and it will happen more quickly if people deny what is happening before their very eyes.”

I implore The Daily Mail, and the rest of the British press to stop their commentators creating this dangerous complacency amongst heterosexuals. It may never happen to them — but who will be responsible if it does?

The Independent reported: “A series of sex scandals involving altar boys and, so far, 23 priests, brothers and officials across the country is causing turmoil in the hierarchy of Canada’s Roman Catholic Church”. The blame seems to lie with the Church’s ridiculous insistence on celibacy, which few of the priests and monks seem to be able to sustain. It was refreshing, though, to find that the debate was not the shallow “Gay priests molest choirboys” nonsense that tends to prevent sensible discussion of the topic in this country. In fact, one report into the scandal makes a comment which should be engraved in stone and beaten over the head of British tabloid journalists until they understand it: “There was no one profile of a child molester; the link between abusers was not sexual preference but opportunity.”

Editors of The Sun and The Star please note: child abusers don’t do it because they’re gay or straight, they do it because they’re tempted and they don’t resist. The sex of the child seems often to be irrelevant.

An illustration of how important it is for gay couples to make wills if they want to be sure their partner inherits their money was contained in The Sun (26 July). “Roly-poly comic Jimmy Edwards, who died last July, left his £250,000 fortune to a young man friend — cutting his brother out of the will. Star Jimmy … bequeathed the cash to Philip Aylemore who shared his farmhouse. Brother Alan got nothing. Jimmy divorced his wife Valerie ten years after telling her on honeymoon that he was a homosexual.”

The Sun shows how easily it is assumed that gay relationships are “not real” and that the family have some kind of “right” to the money. If Mr Edwards hadn’t made a proper will, that’s probably how a court would have seen it, too.

So, if you want your lover to get your cash rather than a family who might have made life difficult for you, get a solicitor to draw up a will.

The South Wales Evening Post (5 Jul) carried a report about a police crackdown on a beach frequented by gay men near Jersey Marine. It gave the local police, in the person of Constable Richard Thomas, the opportunity to carry on alarmingly about the alien nature of homosexuals. Apparently gay men are coming from all over Europe to cruise on the beach. “Let’s hope we can drive them out of our area,” says PC Plod, explaining the persecutory nature of his clean up: “Local residents have had a bellyful — they are very concerned about it.”

Of course, by kidding themselves that the arrested gays are coming from “somewhere else” the people of Coedffranc can claim that “abnormality” has to be imported and that there are no gay people living in their midst.

Self-delusion? Hypocrisy? Take your pick.

The Guardian printed a letter (10 Aug) from Peter Dawson, General Secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers (the PAT is one of those ‘conservative’ unions which seems to work actively against members interests). Mr Dawson was defending his opinion that EastEnders “presented deviant behaviour as perfectly normal”. He cited the homosexual story-line as particularly “evil”. The letter was held up for admiration by John Smith. The Man of The People who wrote (13 Aug): “It’s about time someone put the poofters in their place.”

Needless to say, Guardian readers were unable to let such illiberal yammerings go unanswered, and within days the letters column was awash with people giving Mr Dawson the long overdue slagging he deserved.

“I am a newly qualified teacher. I am also ‘normal’, by which I presume Mr Dawson means heterosexual,” wrote Josh Parker (12 Aug), “However the use of such labels would seem to be a pointless exercise, because who can say what would happen if I should meet a man with whom I fell in love? I’ve been wondering which union to join since gaining my B. Ed. and with the intolerant nature that Peter Dawson expresses, it most certainly won’t be the PAT.”

Peter Knight in the same issue suggested that members of the PAT wave bye-bye to Mr Dawson and his anti-gay Association: “Unless, of course, like him they are proud to come out and proclaim that they are afflicted with the unpleasant disease, homophobia. 1 do understand that it is very difficult for such people because they are firmly convinced that their sickness is normal.”

What more is there to say?

GAY TIMES October 1989

THE News of the World and The People seem to have perfected a new blood sport — gay-baiting. It is rather like fox-hunting, except that with gay-baiting nobody seems concerned about the barbaric cruelty of it all. The location of the victim is usually ascertained using information purchased from some greedy rent-boy or alternatively a trap is set by a deceitful journalist. Then the hyena pack moves in for the kill.

The selective use of quotes, the ludicrously sanctimonious tone and the liberal use of emotive adjectives ensures that readers are left in no doubt that homosexuals are exotic, alien and have no place in the ordinary world of “good” people (i.e. the readers of these foul rags). The reasoning seems to be that if you tell people often enough that gays are evil, eventually they’ll come to believe it.

The past month has seen the usual clutch of gay exposés, all of them awash with antagonistic adjectives. Take The People’s 20th August offering “Queen Mum’s priest in gay sex scandal” which, within the first three paragraphs, contained the words “perverted”, “vile”, “seedy”, “sordid”, “kinky”, “filthy” and “corrupt”. Then on 27th August we were regaled with “Top Lawyer exposed in Rent Boy Scandal” which described the victim as “sordid”, “kinky”, “bizarre” and “squalid”; on 3rd September The News of the World’s contribution was “Beast sends gay filth on Prestel” (“perverted”, “seedy” etc.).

What was not clear from the stories was how they were obtained. Do readers of this tittle-tattle have any idea of the lengths to which the journalists go in setting up the victims? Have they any inkling of the lying, trickery, deceit and sheer premeditated nastiness that goes into creating the weekly diet of gay-baiting? Are they aware of the amounts of money paid out to prostitutes and liars in the pursuit of exposés? Tabloid readers must face up to the fact that in buying these papers they play a major part in encouraging the malevolence which passes as journalism.

The editors of The People and The News of the World, Patsy Chapman and Wendy Henry, seem concerned only with their fat pay cheques and not with the havoc and destruction they wreak in the lives of their victims.

The tragedy is that while the tabloids constantly blame unpopular minorities for the lamentable state of our society, it is they themselves who are the arch-promoters of perverse values. The family fanatics who fall over themselves to protect children from any positive mention of homosexuality seem indifferent to the hatred and intolerance being instilled in their off-spring by the Murdochs and Maxwells of this world. Could this strange paradox have anything to do with the fact that nearly all the agitators for “traditional values” are Tories and all the tabloids are likewise?

Those politicians who imagine that accusing opponents of sexual misdeeds is an easy way to power must be having second thoughts at the moment. If you present yourself as the party of “family values” claiming the moral high ground, you had better watch out that there aren’t any sexy secrets in your own closet.

The Tories have repeatedly discovered, as they present themselves as morally superior, that own goals are very easily scored. The side has been let down by the likes of Harvey Proctor, Cecil Parkinson and now Ross Harper, president of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Association (“Scots Tory resigns after ‘spanking’ allegation” — Guardian 9 Sep). When it happens to them, the Tories get on their high horse: “It is essential that it should become a form of criminal defamation to expose the private deeds of persons if they have absolutely no bearing on their competence or honesty in public life. The Press Council should be given the right to prosecute those whose conduct destroys the lives of people whose affairs are strictly private matters, and nothing to do with their status,” said Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, Tory MP for Perth and Kinross (Sunday Telegraph 10 Sep).

The Tories are learning that those who live by the exposé are likely to die by it, too.

They’re having similar problems in the USA, where a spate of gay revelations in the Republican party has caused their spokeswoman Leslie Goodman to declare “It was a personal matter and none of the public’s damned business” (London Standard 30 Aug). It will be difficult therefore for the Republicans to exploit the plight of Democratic Congressman Barney Frank. Mr Frank is an openly gay politician who, it is claimed, “used the services of a male prostitute, Stephen Gobie, who rewarded his benefactor by setting up a sex-for-sale operation in the basement of the Congressman’s Capitol Hill home.”

According to opinion polls, Congressman Frank’s constituents would re-elect him tomorrow despite the “scandal” which was revealed by the Moonie-owned Washington Times. Americans seem bewildered by the issue; they are torn between the desire to punish ‘moral culpability’ and the need to stop the hypocritical destruction of their most effective public servants.

The Standard quotes “an expert on political ethics”, Michael Josephson: “It is difficult to know when a private act will put a public life at risk. We are in a period of moral tumult right now. We are becoming aware of our frailties, but also of our ideals. It’s a very important process from which we will begin to choose our values.” The Independent (9 Sep) put it more directly: “The country may howl about the decline of standards, but their own standards are no less sordid than the people who represent them.”

The Independent conjectures that “What must disturb Frank most is Gobie’s appetite for money and notoriety. As Gobie recently told a local reporter: ‘I’m an open person. I’ll listen to all offers’. One, may presume he has other steamy stories to tell and no scruples about telling them.”

It seems that the greedy, back-stabbing little traitor, so beloved of tabloid editors, is an international phenomenon.

Another issue this affair is bringing to the fore is the political power of the gay community in America — “A potent, and hyperactive political lobby” according to The Independent, or “the new muscle of the homosexual lobby” as The Standard called it. “Its strength is seen in dozens of ways from Chicago’s Mayor Daley riding at the head of a Gay and Lesbian Pride parade to the unprecedented underground clinical testing of unproven drugs for Aids at the behest of militant gays,” reported The Standard’s Washington Correspondent.

Even the political commentators admit that they have no idea how this case will be concluded, but it may serve as a catalyst for sorting out some of America’s ludicrously contradictory ethical dilemmas.

The revelation that American actor Michael Glaser’s family has been devastated by Aids has brought on another bout of the objectionable “innocent or guilty” idea of people with HIV. The once-respected Sunday Times opined (27 Aug) that there were “people whose lives have been invaded by a deadly enemy, not through drug abuse or homosexual contact, but through a blood transfusion”.

The Sunday Times was taken to task over that by Dr Trevor Bentley of Wetherby who wrote in its letters column the following week: “Is the implication that (those infected through blood transfusion) are especially in need of sympathy and understanding, whereas those who have contracted HIV in some other way don’t deserve it? Anyone who has HIV deserves all the caring and love we can give them.”

This kind of compassionate thinking has no place in the hate-filled world of Brian Hitchen, editor of The Star, who wrote (29 Aug): “Just how many innocents like the Glasers are there in Britain? How many families have been sentenced to death by faceless blood donors who were drug addicts or permissive homosexuals? And how long are we going to support spurious Aids charities for those who brought this awful curse upon themselves?”

One might be tempted to ask how long the few thousand people who buy The Star will continue to support a spurious newspaper.

That’s-telling-him Department: Report in The Times of the Murdoch lecture at the Edinburgh Festival (26 Aug): “Ms Jaci Stephen, the television critic of the London Evening Standard questioned Mr Murdoch’s wish to rid British society of the barriers which caused so much damage. ‘How do you tie that view with publishing a newspaper that represents the very worst in every prejudice, that is really at the root of rotten British society?’”

The battle over gays in the Church continues to be fought abusively in the tabloids, more politely in the serious press.

The sad case of Canon Brindley has now rumbled to a halt. You will remember that News of the World reporter Chris Blythe lied his way into the Canon’s confidence and then set him up with a hidden tape-recorder. Anti-gay members of the General Synod (of which Brindley was a prominent member) waited until the persecuted clergyman was down before they put the boot in — hang your heads in shame Jill Dann and David Holloway — and the Canon is a ruined man.

The Rev Malcolm Johnson wrote to The Independent (15 Aug) in reply to one of those self-righteous members of the Synod: “Would Mr Reid and his fellows have pursued Brian Brindley had the fantasies been heterosexual? … I also find it impossible to believe Mr Reid when he says this affair has nothing to do with persecuting homosexuals, because in his recent book Beyond Aids, homosexual acts are throughout described as ‘buggery’ and hardly a page goes by without him insulting lesbian and gay people. Who does he think he is kidding?”

Mr Brindley’s parishioners also came to his defence in the same issue of The Independent. Elizabeth Utting, Canon Brindley’s former churchwarden, wrote “on behalf of the congregation”: “We at Holy Trinity have been left bereft of a good parish priest whom we have known and trusted as pastor, preacher, teacher and friend for over 20 years. We are not interested in church politics or the Synod. We should all prefer Canon Brindley to return to us as our parish priest.”

I had made a complaint to the Press Council about the activities of The News of the World in the Brindley case, but at the request of the Canon I have now reluctantly withdrawn this. I do not wish to provoke further vilification, but in effect the NoW has intimidated us into silence.

But before we leave the whole story, one has to ask how safe it is to criticise The News of the World without risking the same treatment for yourself. The Rev Malcolm Johnson has been a leading critic of The News of the World’s reprehensible tactics, and he duly got the treatment (27 Aug) in a non-story headlined “Emma’s Odd Vicar Says Let Gays Wed.” Mr Johnson, who officiated at the much-publicised “wedding” of Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh, is referred to as an “oddball” because he blesses lesbian and gay relationships. The “story” itself says nothing and has no point; its only apparent purpose is to smear and humiliate Malcolm Johnson.

Patsy Chapman disgraces the trade of journalism once again by using her position of power to try and destroy critics of her vicious rag.

John Smith of The People wrote (20 Aug): “Channel 4 invited me to . . . confront a bunch of homosexuals who objected to me calling them poofters. However, when the little darlings turned up at the London studios their behaviour was so arrogant, objectionable and aggressive that the producers …scrapped the whole idea. Excitable creatures these poofters.”

The Press Council has repeatedly rejected complaints about newspapers’ use of abusive terminology for gays, but this might change. Raymond Swingler, assistant director of the Council says, “The issue is far from static and the offensiveness of the terms you mentioned could well be reviewed by the council.”

The answer seems to be: keep those complaints rolling.

Tabloid stories about gays are almost invariably negative, but the headlines which go over them are even worse. I’m beginning to wonder whether tabloid sub-editors (the people who invent the headlines) don’t undertake training courses to increase their offensiveness skills. Perhaps the courses are geared around “Effective smearing for subs” or “Fine-tune your stereotyping”.

Just look at a few of the headlines from the past month and note that each contains a negative word to set the tone: “Pervert Priest sacked” (People 27 Aug); “Beast sends gay filth on Prestel” (NoW 3 Sep); “Fear of lesbian friend” (NoW 3 Sep); “Gay Mum and Dad made my life a misery” (Star 8 Sep); “Warder at Myra Jail in a Lesbian Wedding” (with the most tenuous connection between the women involved and the ‘evil’ Myra Hindley, who is pictured with the word “sadistic” — Sun 7 Sep); “Bisexual Brando made my life Hell” (Sunday Mirror, 3 Sep); “Gay Shame of Top Teeny Heart-throb Jason” (People, 10 Sep).