GAY TIMES – January 1991

World Aids Day was well served on television and in the broadsheets, but the tabloids continue to promote the idea that HIV is not a problem for heterosexuals and that those who say otherwise are “homosexual propagandists”.

The welter of research findings, predictions and anecdotes had no effect whatsoever on those, such as Garry Bushell in The Sun and Brian Hitchen of The Star, who continue to insist that Aids remains a ‘gay plague’. “The Mawkish Minority had a field day, relentlessly pushing their claim that the awful disease threatens us all, despite the bitter controversy over this point in the medical world,” said a Star editorial (3 Dec). “Aids is a horrible killer illness. But so are cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and a host of others. And they strike a lot more people in this country than Aids. Sufferers from these menaces … must be wondering why Aids is singled out for such lavish attention. Is it because Aids has ravaged the high-profile world of show business, killing many male entertainers? … It’s a queer old world, isn’t it?”

Garry Bushell, of course, managed to put it even more offensively. “It’s almost impossible to switch on TV without seeing some sanctimonious twerp rattling off a load of scientific-sounding mumbo jumbo proving the end of humanity is nigh … That may be true in the entertainment industry — riddled as it is with a mafia of promiscuous shirtlifters who are dropping like ninepins.”

Maybe heterosexual Aids is not happening here in a dramatic way — yet. But I would refer Mr Bushell to an article in The British Medical Journal, reported in the London Standard (30 Nov) under the headline “Aids will destroy nations”. It referred to African nations, of course, and we won’t wait to hear what Mr Bushell’s disgusting reaction to that would be. And no doubt he considered the World Health Organisation to be a “front for poofter propaganda” when it announced (Standard 27 Nov) that it now estimates that between eight and ten million people are HIV positive worldwide.

Glenda Jackson has a message which Bushell et al will find incomprehensible: “The battle against HIV and Aids will only be won if we acknowledge it is our fight and not someone else’s. If we don’t meet this challenge, we will have lost our humanity.”

However, there is no “scientific-sounding mumbo jumbo” involved in the stark fact that more and more women are becoming HIV positive. The heterosexual spread of HIV might be slow — one prediction said it could be thirty years before it reached the same level among heterosexuals as homosexuals — but it is inexorable. To encourage complacency at this stage, when millions of lives could be saved, has little to do with protecting gay rights, and everything to do with saving innocent people who are being deliberately misled by neurotic homophobes.

Bushell, Hitchen and the others who encourage heterosexuals to believe they are immune to HIV, are a public health hazard, and their rantings should carry a Government health warning.

***

The religiously-inspired are also a menace to their fellow citizens. The alarmingly crazed Graham Webster-Gardiner of the Conservative Family Campaign spoke to The London Standard (27 Nov) about the Terrence Higgins Trust: “They are simply a homosexual propaganda group. If they stopped their particular practices, Aids wouldn’t be a problem.”

Mr Webster-Gardiner is against the dissemination of practical information about safer sex, as is Councillor Joe Brennan of Galway, who described an Aids leaflet aimed at young Irish people emigrating to or already living in Britain as “immoral, obscene and pornographic” (Irish in Britain News, 30 Nov). “Let’s have the courage to tell everyone that by adhering to Christian principles we will avoid Aids,” he says.

There is nothing particularly “Christian” or “principled” about encouraging people to put their lives on the line in order not to offend some ridiculous dogma invented for use in an age long gone.

***

The “loony left” seems to be coming back into fashion as newspapers sniff out every grant — however inconsequential — made to gay people by local authorities. Bristol City Council has been put through the tabloid wringer for daring to give £500 “to pay for 15 lesbians to take acting classes” (Daily Star, 29 Nov). The Star wheeled out “angry Tory councillor” Marmaduke Alderson to say: “The decision is a classic example of how far away Labour is from the mainstream of politics.”

Commenting on the same measly grant (I mean, five hundred quid, I ask you!), our old friend John Smith (Man of the People) said: “Homosexuals are constantly reminding us that they are really quite normal human beings and no different from anybody else. Fair enough. But if that’s the case, why the hell do loony authorities keep treating them as something special?”

Well, John dear, it isn’t so much local authorities who treat us as ‘special’, it’s people like you. I notice you are silent on grants made to other minority groups. Why not put the boot into authorities that give money to rugby clubs, opera companies and scout troops? Could it be that you have something of an unhealthy obsession with homosexuals?

Meanwhile The London Evening Standard reported an “outcry” over Essex University’s plan to hold “the first United Kingdom conference on gay and lesbian studies, partly financed by the European Commission”.

As we know, as far as the right-wing press is concerned, the EC are a bunch of loony lefties (“Euro Laws will turn UK into Gay Paradise” — Daily Star), but where exactly is the “outcry” we have been promised? Well it seems to consist of some obscure local councillor, Doug Pallet, saying “This conference is an abomination”. Well, he’s entitled to his opinion, I suppose, and now he can go and stick his head in a bucket.

***

On the subject of the latest Aids statistics, Julie Burchill wrote (Mail on Sunday, 21 Oct): “The fact that simply because a large number of rich, white homosexuals went on holidays to Aids-riddled Haiti in the Seventies and Eighties and indulged themselves with dirt-poor native boys for the price of a Pina Colada, we are now in the second Dark Age of sexual misery. It ill-behoves them now to wag their fingers at us, as we attempt to clean up the mess they’ve made.”

Who exactly is the “we” Ms Burchill refers to? And following her logic, might I ask how Aids reached Haiti the first place in order for it to be carried out into her world? Presumably she wouldn’t have minded if it had stayed there. Which raises another hornets’ nest of racism.

***

The Press Council will be disbanded on January 1st, and its place will be taken by the Press Complaints Commission. This will be operated almost entirely by newspaper editors themselves. So much for independence. The new commission will be just another front the newspapers have invented to stave off the introduction of legislation to curb the more disgusting antics of the tabloids.

It isn’t clear yet what the terms of reference will be, but at present the editors of national papers are considering a 16-clause draft code of conduct.

The good news is that this is thought to include Calcutt’s recommendation that no unnecessary references to sexual orientation should be made, but the bad news is that the Commission will not (unless there is a reconsideration) consider complaints from “third parties”. Therefore, only those who are deemed to have been directly affected by a story will have the right of access to the Press Complaints Commission. It is unlikely that there will be another opportunity to challenge press homophobia in the same way as last year’s “poof and poofter” adjudication did.

I will be interested to know how the Press Complaints Commission would deal with a story such as that carried in The People (9 Dec) concerning a gay man employed as a butler in Downing Street. The paper splashed the story on the front page and on several pages inside. All it amounted to was a statement that the man is gay and that after loyally serving Mrs Thatcher, he was doing the same job for Mr Major. The inference, though, was clear — a gay man should not have a job in Downing Street, not even as a butler. How can the new commission control such spite? And does it even want to? We’ll have to wait and see.

***

A lot has been made in the popular press about Holland’s derision to reduce their age of consent, for homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, to 12. It was a story tailor-made for the sleaze papers who approached it in their usual hysterical manner, insisting that children cannot possibly be interested in sex, and are only capable of being exploited.

A more considered view was offered by The Independent on Sunday (18 Nov) which had actually done some research on the matter and found out the background to Dutch thinking. “The outcry abroad was a misunderstanding,” it quotes Gert Schutte of the Reformed Political Association as saying: “The new law was ‘not a liberal law’, it merely clarified things.”

The Independent on Sunday says that “relaxed attitudes to under-aged sex, coupled with good counselling and health services, have not led to the kind of hell imagined abroad.”

Mrs Willie Swildens, the woman who sponsored the new law said: “There must be some difference in the British way of living … I thought you were a free-thinking society, but perhaps you aren’t.”

I can assure you, Mrs Swildens, there’s no perhaps about it.

***

While watching the drama of Mrs Thatcher’s departure unfold, I was sipping a glass of recently opened champagne and thinking about Oscar Wilde’s comment about the demise of that other heroine of Victorian values, Little Nell. “You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh.”

Commenting on the despatch of Thatch in The Observer (25 Nov), John Sweeney wrote a most cheering article entitled “Iron Lady drags her tin men to the scrap heap” in which he predicted the fall of some of Mrs T’s most ardent followers. Among those he named were Kelvin MacKenzie — editor of The Sun — whose dismissal was “long overdue” and Bernard Ingham, the Machiavellian press officer. The latter is gone, the former still clings on. The “pall of failure”, according to The Observer, also hangs over Norman Tebbit, although the Chingford thug is still stirring trouble for gay people.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph (7 Dec) Tebbit wrote: “Many people have the strongest reservations about the practice of some local authorities in fostering young children into the care of adults who engage in unnatural sexual practices. Those who defend such authorities frequently do so by claiming there should be no discrimination by public authorities between those of normal sexual orientation and homosexuals. In the care of young children, at least, I would certainly not agree with them …”

Nothing new here, but the point of the letter is to draw Telegraph readers’ attention to a circular advertising a National Foster Care Association workshop entitled ‘Towards an Equal Service for Lesbians and Gay People’.

Mr Tebbit says: “I am told that the National Foster Care Association is funded by the Department of Health and the Scottish Office. I find it hard to believe that it is appropriate for taxpayers’ money to be used by the homosexual lobby to ‘develop anti-heterosexist attitudes’ among vulnerable young children in the care of local authorities. Surely such children have problems enough without having homosexuality rammed down their throats.”

The following day, The Daily Express reported that Health Minister Virginia Bottomley had “launched an enquiry” at Mr Tebbit’s behest. She is quoted as saying: “Under no circumstances should there be any question of subordinating the interests of any children to the promotion of equal or gay rights.”

And so you have another gay fostering scare story conjured up by an ace propagandist who recognises the mileage he can get out of twisting and distorting an important issue. Norman Tebbit is a shrewd operator, and if The Observer’s prediction does not come true, and he escapes the sinking of the Thatcher flagship, we can be sure that he will not leave this subject alone.

The reptile has given due warning that the Tories have found an issue that is ripe for exploitation, and the gay community should start preparing for the fray immediately. I suggest that Stonewall or CHE commission an independent study into gay and lesbian fostering so that when the time comes — as it surely will — for the big attack on gay fostering (and in the process, gay rights in general), we can refute the carefully-orchestrated scaremongering with authoritative evidence.

***

A tabloid newspaper’s agony aunt is very important for she provides an excellent source of semi-justifiable titillation for readers. It is clear from agony columns that the great British tabloid-reading public is the most sexually hung-up in the world. Naturally, among the cries about “My husband’s kinky demands” or “He’s having it off with my sister’s daughter’s friend”, there is plenty of homosexuality. Sometimes the advice proffered is reasonable. Deidre Sanders in The Sun has been offering an 0898 phone-in on gay relationships to her readers which, although expensive, couldn’t be faulted.

Often, though, the advice is abysmal. What doesn’t vary is the relentlessly negative way in which the problems are presented. The People’s ‘Dear Barbara’ column (2 Dec) featured “Secret shame of the Desert Rat buddies”, and you can imagine what that was, she also offered “Dismay of Being Gay” (18 Nov). Then our old pal Deidre in The Sun (6 Dec) was featuring “Gay gang rape has ruined my life.” The Daily Star’s Patricia Mansfield was providing advice to a woman under the heading “Lesbian lover is bored with me.” The News of the World has brought us “Gay obsession with pal’s son”.

Notice the key words in these headings: “dismay”, “bored”, “shame”, “ruined”, “obsession”. No tabloid paper could allow a gay person to be seen as successful, happy or well-adjusted. If they did, it might give the lie to the rest of the dross they print about us.

 

Gay Times, February 1991

SHOULD Ian McKellen have taken a knighthood from the Wicked Witch of the West, or shouldn’t he? This has been the question exercising the minds of the gay community’s celebrities this month, as well as the nation’s Press. 

Derek Jarman is firmly of the opinion that he shouldn’t and said so in a strongly-worded article in The Guardian (4 Jan). The famous filmmaker chastised the celebrated actor thus: “As a queer artist I find it impossible to react with anything but dismay to his acceptance of this honour from a government which has stigmatised homosexuality through Section 28 … signalling that gay relationships are to be regarded as just pretence, and which is poised, by means of Clause 25 of the Criminal Justice Bill, to take important steps towards recriminalising homosexuality… Why did you accept this award, Ian? It diminishes you.” 

This was followed on January 9th by a letter in support of Sir Ian signed by 18 stage and screen luminaries. “As Gay and Lesbian artists” it began “we would like to respectfully distance ourselves from Derek Jarman’s article.” And front-page news was made. 

The debate was thrown open, and the papers had a field day Libby Purves in The Sunday Express (13 Jan) said: “It was strangely touching when a group of famous gay actors came out publicly in order to defend Sir Ian McKellen’s knighthood. It felt like a belated, sad tribute to all those past actors.,. who spent all their lives disguising their true nature by posing with fake girlfriends and even marrying … They did it so as not to ‘alienate their public’. Thank God that we, the public, have grown up now.” 

The public may have grown up, Libby dear, but journalists certainly haven’t. The tired old hacks are still, underneath it all, shocked and affronted by homosexuality. Having failed to deter us so far with their crude abuse, they’ve now fallen back on pretending that gay life is all irrelevant tosh. The Sunwas quick off the mark, and in its early editions (10 Jan) it said:  Gay and lesbian show business stars applauded the knighthood for actor Ian McKellen. They see it as some kind of victory for homosexuals. This is nonsense. So long as he remains within the law, no-one objects to Ian McKellen receiving all kinds of recognition. He was knighted for his talent as an actor, not for his sexual preferences.” 

This sentiment was echoed by John Smith of The People (13 Jan): “The suggestion that homosexuality is some kind of handicap when it comes to being honoured is vet another example of the gay community seeking to prove prejudice where none exists … Sir Ian was honoured for being a brilliant actor. What the hell does homosexuality have to do with it?” 

Peter McKay, the London Evening Standard’s tiresome “star columnist”, took the argument a step further (10 Jan): “I wasn’t aware of the British Gay Movement. Most intelligent homosexuals shun organisations which seek to define them simply on the grounds of sexual preference. Stupid homosexuals, and sly ones who can make a career out of their sexual orientation, think differently.” 

Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the homosexual-obsessed Sunday Telegraph Comment Section wrote in similar terms about “the love that should not shriek its name”. Mr Wheatcroft says: “Is Out the right way to come? Is homosexuality an appropriate political issue? Does it make sense to speak of a Gay Movement and a gay community?” Well, I suppose it doesn’t make much sense to speak of such things if you’re straight and not under threat from laws which are being introduced by stealth. And as for homosexuality being a political issue, Mr Wheatcroft says that he hopes “no one wants to go back to the days when men were imprisoned for the love that dare not speak its name”. Perhaps someone should appraise him of the Criminal Justice Bill and then he can put his question again, this time to Mr Major: is homosexuality an appropriate political issue, Prime Minister? 

Julie 8urchill, bilious harpy of The Mail on Sunday, couldn’t resist the topic, and wrote (13 Jan): “Why doesn’t Dame Ian simply issue a press release explaining that he accepted the gong because, like most of us girls, he just loves flashy jewellery and being made a fuss of?” The daftness of Ms Burchill’s opinions and the hysterical manner in which they are expressed are advertised as “provocative” and “controversial”. In fact, they are just plain drivel. 

Chris Smith wrote an I’m-with-McKellen article in The Observer (I3 Jan) describing his own experiences of coming out in public life. George Melly, writing in the London Evening Standard (11 Jan), couldn’t make his mind up which side he’s on (he’s described as “married now for 30 years, was a bisexual into his early 30s” so Indecision is nothing new to him). In the end, he concludes that although he thinks McKellen was right to accept the honour, he was glad that Jarman wrote his protest. “I’m glad it was over the top and I hope it frightens the horses.” 

                  McKellen has remained regally silent amidst all the hoo-ha but in a view he gave even before the knighthood was announced, and published I The Sunday Times he is quoted as saying of his access to the Establishment: “I must take advantage of it, I get to talk loudly to the media and to talk quietly to people in pow And that is where my use to society lies.

You cannot pull down an actor whose work you admire because he is gay — but you can sack the teacher, or the nurse or the fireman. And that must change.” 

***

THE Press Council’s swansong was sweet to the ears of gay people. Its final adjudication was against John Smith of The People and reinforced their previous ruling that words like “poof’ and “poofter” were not acceptable as terms of crude abuse against homosexuals. 

But within days of the Press Council going, the nightmare started again. “Mystery of meat rack poofter” announced The Sport (3 Jan) while The Dally Star treated us to a “woofter”, The Sun to a “poof and even The Daily Telegraph managed a “poofter” (29 Dec). 

So what can be done about it? I wrote to the Press Complaints Commission’s chairman. Lord McGregor, to ask if there was any way that the new body could prevent the reappearance of insulting and abusive language His reply was terse to the point of contempt: “Thank you for your letter about what you describe as insulting language to describe homosexuals. I have noted your view.” 

It seems fairly obvious that McGregor of Durris does not share my view that dehumanising and violent language in newspapers is dangerous. However, I shall continue to pursue the matter. The Press Complaints Commission was, of course, set up by the newspapers themselves as a last-ditch attempt to fend off legislation. Anyone with a grain of sense can see it is no more than a front and doesn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of making the Press clean up its act. Places on the Commission are taken by members of the Press fraternity and include the editors of The News of the World and The Daily Star In an interview (Sunday Times, 6 Jan), Lord McGregor said that “Many of the press felt, given the very posh people running the (Press) Council that it operated de ham en bos and they were subject to an external set of rules that they didn’t understand.” He said that the inclusion of tabloid editors on the Commission would ensure that it was seen as fair. The question is. will the tabloid editors — who repeatedly instigate these gross intrusions into privacy — uphold complaints against themselves? The Labour Party has addressed the matter m its proposed Charter of Rights. “On being elected,” the document says, “we will assess the success 

A SAD tale in the Bristol Evening Post (I I Dec) concern** two gay lovers who were desperate to escape a “hate campaign” which was being waged against them by their neighbours in a block ol flats. The paper says: “Their flat had been burgled and sprayed with obscene graffitti” and the two were insulted in the street. In their desperation to be rehoused, the pair hatched a plot to damage their flat. They planned a small fire in the entrance hall, but they misjudged and the whole thing got out of control. They were lucky to escape the resultant conflagration with their lives. 

Charges of arson followed, and in their defence their barristers said: “He wanted to live in peace with his partner. That was his right: that right was abused by others… Things got so bad they were afraid to go out singly.” Victims of homophobia, you might think, with extenuating circumstances. The judge didn’t agree, and the pair were sent to jail for three

of the new and enhanced system of voluntary regulation (the PCC). If we consider it has failed — measuring its success against the stringent criteria set out in the Calcutt report — we will.. introduce statutory protection through a Press Complaints Tribunal made up of men and women from all sections of the community.” The proposed Tribunal will be empowered to make the newspapers publish a full apology or award a right of reply and enforce a code of practice which sets “minimum standards on the representation of women, and of ethnic and other minorities”. They also promise legal aid for libel. However, that is all dependent on an election victory for Labour. In the meantime we have to let Lord McGregor know what we think of The Press Complaints Commission and to draw his attention to instances of offensive and insulting reports in newspapers. The address is: I Salisbury Square. London EC4Y 8AE. 

BESIDES James Anderton. there was another gruesome character who 

shared the honours with Ian McKellen: Brian (bullet head) Hrtchen. editor of The Daily Star If anything discredit; the honours system it B the lauding of this creep. The Dally Star, under Hitchen’s leadership, has earned some of the most disgusting and degrading copy ever to appear in a national newspaper. And that’s saying something. Look at this from the December 18th issue “Supporters of an Aids centre in Bournemouth are miffed because Cliff Richard turned down a plea for help , . . Cliff is quite right Why should anyone be obliged to help people who. mostly, have only themselves to blame for their predicament? Despite all the homosexual propaganda, Aids is still I’most entirely a disease passed on by poofters and junkies. Only their pronnscuity and stupadity has spread it like wildfire. Thank goodness that someone of Cliff’s stature has stood out against the Aids industry Lets hope that other showba stars follow ho example “ You can see why Mrs Thatcher was such an admirer. 

IT has been fashionable in the gay press to suggest that The Independent is anti-gay because it has investigated the management problems which are undoubtedly besetting Aids charities. I do not share this view. Aids charities are not beyond criticism, and if anything is amiss, e should know about it. I agree that if the reporting is sensationalist, then more damage than good can be done. But! do not believe that The Independent is drawing attention to the difficulties in organisations like THT and Lighthouse because it wishes them harm. I’m sure the motivation is constructive. And as for being anti-gay, I should point out that The Independent has carried many stories about the state of gay rights in this country, and all of them sympathetic. In the past month we have seen it sensitively exploring several issues: the police and the gay community; the implications of the Criminal Justice Bill for gays, the new rules being proposed for adoption laws; the McKellen hoo-ha. It has carried two supportive editorials. Let’s save our criticism for those who really hate us and want to do us down The Independent is much more of a friend than a foe 

Dreams can come true department /. ‘Tebbit makes a decision to step down” — Independent (17 JanJ 2. “Murdoch faces new debt crisis” — Evening Standard (16 jan) 3. “Homosexual protestors win 00,000 from poke” — Independent (15 jan) 

lies. You cannot pull down an actor whose work you admire because he is gay — but you can sack the teacher, or the nurse or the fireman. And that must change.” 

THE Press Council’s swansong was sweet to the ears of gay people. Its final adjudication was against John Smith of The People and reinforced their previous ruling that words like “poof and “poofter” were not acceptable as terms of crude abuse against homosexuals. But within days of the Press Council going, the nightmare started again. “Mystery of meat rack poofter” announced The Sport (3 Jan) whilst The Daily Star treated us to a “woofter”, The Sun to a “poof and even The Daily Telegraph managed a “poofter” (29 Dec). So what can be done about it? I wrote to the Press Complaints Commission’s chairman, Lord McGregor, to ask If there was any way that the new body could prevent the reappearance of insulting and abusive language. His reply was terse to the point of contempt: “Thank you for your letter about what you describe as insulting language to describe homosexuals. I have noted your view “ 

It seems fairly obvious that McGregor of Durris does not share my view that dehumanising and violent language in newspapers is dangerous. However, I shall continue to pursue the matter. 

The Press Complaints Commission was, of course, set up by the newspapers themselves as a last-ditch attempt to fend off legislation. Anyone with a grain of sense can see it is no more than a front and doesn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of making the Press clean up its act. 

Places on the Commission are taken by members of the Press fraternity and include the editors of The News of the World and The Daily Star. In an interview (Sunday Times, 6 Jan), Lord McGregor said that: “Many of the press felt, given the very posh people running the (Press) Council that it operated de haut en basand they were subject to an external set of rules that they didn’t understand.” He said that the inclusion of tabloid editors on the Commission would ensure that it was seen as fair. The question is, will the tabloid editors — who repeatedly instigate these gross intrusions into privacy — uphold complaints against themselves? The Labour Party has addressed the matter in its proposed Charter of Rights. “On being elected,” the document says, “we will assess the success of the new and enhanced system of voluntary regulation (the PCC). If we consider it has failed — measuring its success against the stringent criteria set out in the Calcutt report — we will.. introduce statutory protection through a Press Complaints Tribunal made up of men and women from all sections of the community.” The proposed Tribunal will be empowered to make the newspapers publish a full apology or award a right of reply and enforce a code of practice which sets “minimum standards on the representation of women, and of ethnic and other minorities”. They also promise legal aid for libel. However, that is all dependent on an election victory for Labour. In the meantime, we have to let Lord McGregor know what we think of The Press Complaints Commission and to draw his attention to instances of offensive and insulting reports in newspapers. The address is: I Salisbury Square. London EC4Y 8AE. 

***

BESIDES James Anderton. there was another gruesome character who shared the honours with Ian McKellen: Brian (bullet head) Hitchen, editor of The Daily Star, If anything discredits the honours system it is the lauding of this creep. The Dally Star, under Hitchen’s leadership, has carried some of the most disgusting and degrading copy ever to appear in a national newspaper. And that’s saying something. 

Look at this from the December 18th issue “Supporters of an Aids centre in Bournemouth are miffed because Cliff Richard turned down a plea for help , . . Cliff is quite right Why should anyone be obliged to help people who. mostly, have only themselves to blame for their predicament? Despite all the homosexual propaganda, Aids is still almost entirely a disease passed on by poofters and junkies. Only their promiscuity and stupjdity has spread it like wildfire. Thank goodness that someone of Cliff’s stature has stood out against the Aids industry. Let’s hope that other showbiz stars follow his example “ You can see why Mrs Thatcher was such an admirer. 

***

IT has been fashionable in the gay press to suggest that The Independent is anti-gay because it has investigated the management problems which are undoubtedly besetting Aids charities. 

I do not share this view. Aids charities are not beyond criticism, and if anything is amiss we should know about it. I agree that if the reporting is sensationalist, then more damage than good can be done. But I do not believe that The Independent is drawing attention to the difficulties in organisations like THT and Lighthouse because it wishes them harm. I’m sure the motivation is constructive. 

And as for being anti-gay, I should point out that The Independent has carried many stories about the state of gay rights in this country, and all of them sympathetic. In the past month we have seen it sensitively exploring several issues: the police and the gay community; the implications of the Criminal Justice Bill for gays, the new rules being proposed for adoption laws; the McKellen furore. It has carried two supportive editorials. Let’s save our criticism for those who really hate us and want to do us down The Independent is much more of a friend than a foe.

***

Dreams can come true department. 

1. “Tebbit makes a decision to step down” — Independent17 Jan) 

2. “Murdoch faces new debt crisis” — Evening Standard(16 Jan) 

3. “Homosexual protestors win £30,000 from police” — Independent(15 Jan)

***

A SAD tale in the Bristol Evening Post (11 Dec) concerning two gay lovers who were desperate to escape a “hate campaign” which was being waged against them by their neighbours in a block of flats. 

The paper says: “Their flat had been burgled and sprayed with obscene graffiti” and the two were insulted in the street. In their desperation to be rehoused, the pair hatched a plot to damage their flat. They planned a small fire in the entrance hall, but they misjudged and the whole thing got out of control. They were lucky to escape the resultant conflagration with their lives. 

Charges of arson followed, and in their defence their barristers said: “He wanted to live in peace with his partner. That was his right: that right was abused by others… Things got so bad they were afraid to go out singly.” Victims of homophobia, you might think, with extenuating circumstances. The judge didn’t agree, and the pair were sent to jail for three years.

***

THE Northern gay magazine Scene Out carried an article celebrating Coronation Street’s 30th anniversary and lamenting the fact that The Street has never had any gay characters. 

The Sun reported it as: “Gay soap fans are urging TV bosses to change Coronation Street to Queer Street.” That prompted a Granada TV spokesperson to say: “Coronation Street is a family show and we have no plans to feature gays or lesbians.” 

Commenting on the story, John Smith in The People (6 Jan) said it was a “duckie idea.’” But after his usual careful consideration he concluded that, in fact, it made him want to “puke”. But is it such a bad idea? After all, the cast and crew who actually produce the programme would be able to bring a whole range of personal experiences into a gay story line. For instance, Coronation Street’s creator, Tony Warren, whose name appears on the credits of every episode, is prominent in the Manchester gay community. Two of the actors who play the show’s best-loved characters Bet and Alec Gilroy (Julie Goodyear and Roy Barraclough) have both been outed by the tabloids. 

Ivy Tilsley’s first husband, Bert (the late Peter Dudley) was persecuted by the tabloids after being convicted of cottaging. Lynne Perrie who plays Ivy is, in real life, supportive of her gay son who is HIV positive, and she and her best pal Vera Duckworth (Liz Dawn) have a lucrative second careers as cabaret entertainers in gay clubs. Rumours about other “well-loved” and veteran stars of the show also abound. If the lesbian quotient of Coronation Street were ever to be completely exposed, the true nature of this “family show” would probably send the nation into a mass swoon. 

So, come on Granada — get real.

GAY TIMES March 1991

When the Tories do something unforgiveable, they seem to have an unending supply of academics waiting in the wings to justify it. And so it is with their present anti-gay proposals.

First, Clause 25 of the Criminal Justice Bill — an abuse of citizens’ rights that would be unbelievable in any other context. There could be no excuse for such legislation, and yet out from the woodwork slithers Norman Stone (“Professor of Modern History at Oxford University”) to write in The London Evening Standard (7 Feb) that “The gays do protest too much.”

In a pathetic apologia for the Government’s apparent attempts to re-criminalise homosexuality without appearing to do so, Professor Stone (once one of Mrs Thatcher’s chief advisers) wrote about Oscar Wilde —perhaps history’s most poignant victim of cruel sex laws: “Now, what caused the Wilde disaster? Was it the persecution by law of homosexuals in England? Or was it just in the nature of the beast that it would all end in tears?” he asked.

Yes, in Norman Stone’s book, the victim is entirely responsible for the crime. His reasoning is that homosexuals get sent to prison because of “the nature of the beast” rather than because of unjust laws. Therefore, and QED, Clause 25 was quite justifiable.

Stone ends his article with the favourite trick of right-wing propagandists — invent a threat and then ascribe it to the enemy: “We can do without all of this gay trumpeting from the woeful-countenanced non-knight, Derek Jarman. We can do without any public statements to the effect that ‘gay pride’ needs statutory endorsement: public decency, the family, are part of civilisation, and we should support them.”

When did anybody ask for gay pride to be given “statutory endorsement”? And why should the non-persecution of homosexuals present a threat to public decency and the family or, indeed, civilisation? And since when has society existed for the exclusive use of heterosexuals?

Mr Stone says that: “It is, of course, a ridiculous waste of police time” to stake out cottages and provoke gay men into criminal acts. He says that he is pleased that “London juries nowadays are inclined to acquit if ever they find police entrapments of this kind.” He then says: “The police should be dealing with serious crime, of which there is too much.”

Perhaps someone should tell Norm that Clause 25, on the face of it, is going to turn the things he thinks are trivial into “serious crimes”, provoking even more spiteful police activity.

If Norman Stone thinks the gays protest too much, I have to reply that maybe the professor doesn’t know enough.

On the other hot topic — adoption and fostering by gay couples — the social work magazine Community Care offered (24 Jan) a forum piece. Making the case for fostering was Don Smart who has been trying, with his partner John Elderton, to adopt a boy with Downs Syndrome. He told a sorry tale of dithering and dodging by the social work agencies when the application was made: “The last time we tried we were interviewed by a psychiatrist, which at first we did not mind. I later found out that hetero-couples would not have had to undergo this interview … I contacted five London boroughs to see what response I would get from them about fostering babies with HIV and Aids. Either they didn’t have a policy about working with lesbians and gay men, or they did not see that at present there was a need for such a service. As soon as they knew I was gay they tried to ring off. Many of these places have an equal opportunities policy but not when it comes to being gay.”

The other side of the argument was put by Richard Whitfield; “emeritus professor of education at Aston University” he is also chairman of something called the National Family Trust, which sounds remarkably like one of those dreadful right-wing Christian pressure groups which hide their real motives behind inflated and misleading titles. Any organisation which has “National” and “Family” in its name must, these days, be treated with utmost suspicion.

Professor Whitfield abuses his academic training by employing in his article every trick and device to misinform the reader. His opinions are presented as fact, with no evidence to back them up. He, like Norman Stone, creates bogeymen to frighten the nervous. “For children to stand the best chance of thriving in our culture they need, ideally, to experience the unconditional love of a mother and a father figure who are committed both to the child and to each other. In this way the youngster daily experiences role models from each gender, helping over a long period, often at margins of awareness, to promote the emergence of a secure sexual identity.”

Oh really? By “secure sexual identity” I take it that Whitfield means a heterosexual identity.

However, I — and I suspect the vast majority of Gay Times readers —came from an “ideal” heterosexual family, as described by Whitfield. How come I’m homosexual? How does the professor explain this apparent total failure of his theory? Who’s to say that in reverse, children raised in same-sex households wouldn’t stand a better chance of turning out straight? I don’t know. And neither does Professor Whitfield, although you’d never guess it from the dreadful certainty of his opinions.

By denying gay men and lesbians the opportunity to foster and adopt, the country is throwing away a precious and much-needed resource. We can’t afford to do that.

***

Simon Hoggart, the columnist who has taken over the space thankfully vacated by Richard Ingrams in The Observer, got off to a good start (20 Jan) when he wrote: ‘‘Being a homosexual must often make for a difficult life, made worse by endless priggish preaching from some commentators. They were out in force last week after the argument on whether Ian McKellen should have accepted a knighthood. The gist seems to be that, in their infinite compassion, they didn’t mind what homosexuals actually did, provided they retained a fitting sense of their own inferiority. They even trotted out the wearisome old saw that ‘gay’ was a serviceable little word before the homosexuals hijacked it. So it was, and so was ‘queer’ before the bigots got hold of that.”

This point could not go unanswered by one of “this blabbering clique” (as The Guardian succinctly branded Fleet Street’s polemicists — 9 Feb), namely “Mandrake” of The Sunday Telegraph who wrote (27 Jan): “Of course ‘queer’ was sometimes used as a term of abuse, but then anybody who thinks that ‘gay’ is merely a neutral or commendatory replacement hasn’t been reading The Sun regularly.”

What Mandrake overlooks — or is, perhaps, incapable of comprehending — is that homosexuals chose the word “gay” for themselves, and however hard it tries, even The Sun cannot turn it into a word of abuse. I am happy to label myself gay, and in however sneering a fashion the word might be employed, I feel no insult from it. Sticks and stones, Mr Mandrake, may break my bones, but being called gay makes my chest swell with pride.

***

“Most of us have secrets of some kind in our past, things we would rather other people didn’t know about and that we try to hide from the rest of the world — and sometimes from ourselves. Yet the paradox is that when eventually it comes out, there if often an overwhelming feeling of liberation; one no longer has to live a lie, terrified that somebody will discover the truth.” So wrote Liz Hodgkinson in The Guardian (23 Jan) as she explored the topic of coming out.

Of course, coming out is not confined to homosexuals any more. It seems the concept of unburdening ourselves of oppressive secrets is now seen as therapeutic by a wider public. The article quotes a GP, Dr Susan Horsewood-Lee, as saying: “Any patient with a terrible secret — or something they imagine is terrible —thinks that I, as their doctor, can guess all about them by simply looking at them. Then they find, to their surprise, that when the secret is out, nobody cares — and in an instant, years of stress and tension can vanish.”

This opinion is supported by psychotherapist Vera Diamond: “If you’re in the public eye, the worst that can happen is that it’s a one-day wonder in the newspapers … you have to be really bizarre for anybody to take the slightest notice. Most people just want to get on with their own lives.”

This is something the gay community has discovered the hard way. Coming out is still a big step for most people, but it’s getting easier all the time.

***

The apparently never-ending saga of newspapers using the words “poof and “poofter” as words of abuse against gay men has taken a new turn. I wrote to The Sun’s ever-so-independent Ombudsman, Mr Kenneth Donlan (ex-managing editor of the paper), complaining that the-paper-that-supports-our-boys was not adhering to the Press Council’s ruling on insulting language.

Mr Donlan replied: “The words poof and poofter are colloquial, they are not necessarily degrading as you suggest. I believe your allegation that the words are abusive and dehumanising to be false. It also smacks of over-reaction and to be read as hyperbole of the worst kind … I know that there has traditionally been a nasty section of society lobbying against the homosexual community. This is now disappearing as tolerance takes hold and I believe that all will benefit in the long run.”

Such arrant nonsense would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. Who does Mr Donlan believe this “nasty section of society” to be? Does he read his own newspaper?

Given that the Press Complaints Commission (chairman Lord McGregor) refuses to even answer letters on the subject, it becomes clear that the gay community now has no means of redress against tabloid aggression.

***

Welcome Out department (a monthly round-up of newspaper ‘outings’):

  1. Movie veteran Van Johnson, 74, whose step-son revealed that the former heart throb left his wife for a chorus boy — (London Evening Standard, 12 Feb).
  2. St Paul. (Yes, theSt Paul), who has been outed by Bishop John Spong of Newark, New Jersey. (Guardian 4 Feb)

***

Tory MP Julian Critchley, wrote a gloriously splenetic critique of that other member of the blabbering clique, John Junor, in The Independent (9 Feb). Of Junor, Mr Critchley said: “His talent owed less to Momus, the God of mockery, than a flair for vulgar and common abuse … His is the voice of the anonymous letter-writer, of the men and women with a taste for green ink, the senders of hate mail.”

While she was in office, Mr Critchley was one of Mrs Thatcher’s most consistent and effective critics. He has, like so many of us, waited a long time to rejoice in her downfall. It is therefore highly appropriate that he should now be allowed the pleasure of spitting at her rusting tin men. It’s good to see him giving Junor a helping hand towards the scrap heap.

***

“The BBC is to launch a series for homosexual men and women in the autumn,” announced The Daily Telegraph on the 25th January, and once more the floodgates were open.

“And Now Our Show For One-eyed Mexican Dwarfs” said Andrew Penman, in Today (26 Jan). It was the ironic headline over an attack on minority programming in general but gay programming in particular. He mentioned Brookside’s and EastEnders’ gay characters and said: “Shows such as this portray gays as living in the same world as the rest of society, faced with many of the same problems — and a few more besides. This has got to be better than dumping them in their own slot which everyone else can ignore.”

I agree. Gays must remain visible in the mainstream, but the difference is that gay programmes are not only about gays they are also for gays. They can address our specialised concerns in a way that regular documentary or drama can’t.

In this connection that twittering blue-nose Mary Kenny was going on (Daily Mail, 31 Jan) about “Why I no longer watch TV”. Apparently, she is afraid she’ll catch sight of “teenagers sprawled before the awesomely decadent, and wholly unfunny, Julian Clary, who seemed like a character out of a movie about the decline of the Roman Empire, as interpreted by Fellini.” Of the proposed gay programme she says: “Gosh, thank heavens I won’t be watching it. I’m all for tolerance and respect for privacy” (er, um) “which indeed is why I do not choose to see any broadcasts about anyone’s sexuality.”

Fair enough. Mary Kenny has done what people have been advising Mrs Whitehouse to do for years — switch off. But one fears that if this new Beebgay series should come to pass the tabloid press, the National Viewers and Listeners Association and the Broadcasting Standards Council are going to have a field day.

Aunty deserves a pat on the back for being such a game old bird.

***

The Sun was telling its readers (13 Feb) “How the Tories Save Kinnock £50 on Poll Tax”. Apparently, the Tory council in the West London Borough of Ealing, where Mr Kinnock lives, is about to reduce its poll tax by said amount. How did they do it? Well, to start with they chopped everything to do with gays and lesbians. According to Council leader Martin Matlam, they saved £600,000 by axing the Gay and Lesbian Advisory Service”. They also didn’t pay (as did their loony left predecessors) “£1,000 to the Ealing Gay Festival” or £1,915 to Lesbian Switchboard.”

This might all sound quite reasonable to your average Sun reader. But I also happen to live in Ealing and I saw no evidence of any “Gay and Lesbian Advisory Service” — certainly not one that gobbled up £600,000. And if there had been an “Ealing Gay Festival” I’m sure I would have known about it. And does anybody know the whereabouts of “Lesbian Switchboard”, because I can’t find any trace of it.

It seems that either the previous council in Ealing kept very quiet about its gay facilities or The Sun and its pet Tories are lying again. I wonder which one it is?

GAY TIMES April 1991

It seems The Sun and The Star had been looking forward to the gay holiday camp weekend almost as much as the people for whom it was meant, and everyone knew our boys from the scandal-sheets would be there incognito. Despite a “Hunt the Sun reporter” contest, the tabloids’ top-flight investigators somehow avoided detection and managed to file their reports from this dangerous front.

The Sun’s Gordon Stott told his readers (4 Mar) “The campers really camped it up at Butlin’s … More than 1,200 homosexuals, lesbians and transvestites had a gay old time when they converged on Skegness for a hi-de-hi holiday.”

The Sun of course, couldn’t actually allow its readers to imagine that the weirdos were having a good time, and had to spoil the whole thing by becoming its usual unpleasant self …“When the sun went down the ‘fun and games’ took on a seedier nature … Skin tight jeans or Lycra cycle shorts and leather jackets over bare chests were favoured by the majority of them.” There was a “lesbian WEDDING where a butch woman named Trigger kissed and fondled her shaven-headed partner… men openly KISSING other men … gays MASSAGING each other as they sat at the poolside bar … transvestites PARADING … two MASKED men indulging in mock oral sex on a dance floor.”

The bizarre capitalisation is entirely the work of The Sun.

With the full-page article was a picture of Sun-man Stott receiving his prize for coming fourth in the handbag-throwing contest. He is a fat, smirking creature and need not have worried about being sexually molested: no gay man with an iota of taste would have gone within a hundred feet of him.

The Star’s intrepid undercover operator was Frank Curran and his story (another full page — 4 Mar) was littered with words like “woofter”, “fag”, “queer” and “pansies”. Mr Curran claimed third place in the handbag throwing contest.

These third and fourth placings were derided however in The Sport by Kiss-Me-Quick Nkwocha who claimed he’d won first prize. He’d been “stunned”, he said, by what the “nancy boys” were doing, so stunned that despite his “come on” pseudonym he’d “barricaded” himself in his chalet to hide from the “wolf-whistles” and from a man called Julian who’d put “a groping hand on my bot”.

Despite their best efforts, these three reports could not hide the fact that everyone — even the moralising miseries from the papers — had a great time. No violence, no rape, no pillage, not so much as a broken glass. Can the wonderful, heterosexual tabloid-readers taking their holidays in Majorca claim the same?

***

Whose face is that, grinning maniacally from the cover of the February issue of Searchlight “the international anti-fascist monthly”? Why, it’s none other than our old friend Garry Bushell, The Sun’s resident “TV critic” and supposed “scourge of the gay community”.

What on earth could such a wonderful person be doing or the cover of a magazine devoted to exposing crypto-Nazis? Well, investigators at Searchlight allege that our dear Gazza has close links with the National Front. He is also said to have attended the somewhat suspect 80th birthday party of Lady Mosley, wife of war-time fascist Sir Oswald.

Private Eye, which has been conducting a gratifyingly spiteful vendetta against Bushell, approached Gazza for confirmation or otherwise of these allegations. Mr Bushell eventually admitted that, yes, he had attended a Mosley gathering — but only in his capacity as a Sun reporter. The rest he denied.

Searchlight also included a Sun photo which appears to show Gazza speaking to a young NF street activist and trying to pass him off as a homeless person forced to sleep on the streets This must be sheer coincidence —Gazza would surely not keep company with such a well-known racist and thug — let alone fabricate stories for The Sun. Would he?

As regular readers know, Mr Bushell’s loyalties have changed over the years. At one time his allegiance was to the extremely loony Left; now, if Searchlight is to be believed, he subscribes to the utterly barmy Right.

Of course, his views, as expressed in The Sun, bear no resemblance whatsoever to the racist, homophobic, jingoistic and violent filth espoused by the National Front. Just look at this example from March 6th issue of The Sun, when he was writing about Channel Four’s “Free For All” public access programme: “It started with creepy Peter Tatchell showing sick scenes of men snogging — the real voice of Joe Public that! — and has gone on to plug more lost or loony causes. You won’t find anyone arguing for the return of capital punishment or defending the Isle of Man’s stand on perversion here. Everyday views are kept off TV.”

So, is Garry Bushell a sinister and dangerous extremist or is he just a ridiculous little man who can’t make his mind up which immature political creed to support next?

***

Columnist Jaci Stephen was contemplating in The Daily Mail (28 Feb), why it is that straight women are so fond of the company of gay men. “Most heterosexual men only have to look at their own behaviour, or the behaviour of their friends, to find the answer,” she says. “Even the briefest observation of their activities is enough to convince a woman that they are a species quite unlike anything else on the planet.”

Ms Stephen opines that women and gay men share “the better parts of their personalities” with each other: “They are the qualities that women admire, and usually find, amongst their own sex — gentleness, sensitivity, emotional openness.”

I’ll go this far with Ms Stephen, but then the rationale becomes a little suspect: “One of the reasons that women and gay men delight in each other’s company is because each is obsessed with just one subject: men … The great comfort for women, is the discovery that gay men always have a worse time with men than they do.”

My observation of marriage indicates the contrary, I’m afraid: a woman is far more likely to be beaten up by her husband than a gay man by his male partner. Putting the “always” in italics is a bit rich, really.

Jaci Stephen obviously has real affection for her gay friends and it’s good to see such stuff in The Daily Mail, but unfortunately she spoils it all by ending with this: “If all men displayed the same qualities that women admire in gay men, women would stop pursuing them. Because the truth is, at the end of the day, that there’s one thing a heterosexual man can do for a girl that a gay man can’t.”

Smash her face in, perhaps?

***

More-offensive-than-thou department: On hearing that Sussex University was offering students “a degree course in gay and lesbian studies” (London Standard 27 Feb), loony Tory MP Terry Dicks said: “The place should be shut down and disinfected. If there was such a thing as financial carpet bombing, Sussex University should be the target.”

The following day Richard Littlejohn asked in The Sun: “What’s with the ‘financial’ Tel?”

***

Given that defections from Britain’s churches are running at 1,000 a week, I wonder whether there are enough people to bother about Christian attitudes to homosexuality any more. However, just for the record, here are a few of the developments and comments from the past month:

  1. “Two of the largest mainline Protestant bodies in the US are considering recommendations that they abandon their opposition to homosexual practice … the Presbyterian Church and the United Methodist Church.” — Church Times (1 Mar)
  2. “When he was asked about his attitudes towards homosexual clergy and ordinands, Dr Hope (the next Bishop of London) made it plain … there would be no discrimination against anyone on grounds of sexuality.”
  3. “Half the time that’s the truth of the homo and lesbian societies, that they are in total rebellion to God … And what did God say to Sodom and Gomorrah? And what did he do? He rained down fire from heaven and consumed them, the city and all the filth…” — Rev Paul Lister, in the parish magazine of St George’s, Tufnell Park, London.
  4. “The homosexuality of clergy will continue to be a problem as long as sexuality is a human problem” — George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury (Readers Digest — March issue).

***

The Morning Star (28 Feb) reported the deplorable findings of an Isle of Man parliamentary select committee which recommends that the island’s anti-gay laws should remain intact. The report said: “Maintaining such a criminal offence is likely to serve to reduce significantly the incidence of the HIV virus and Aids.”

This line of thinking was neatly demolished by a spokesman for the Campaign for Homosexual Equality who is quoted as saying: “The natural conclusion to this argument should be that heterosexual sex should now be banned as it is within this sphere that the incidence of Aids is now rising fastest.”

I fear this logic will not have wide circulation in Mad Manx circles.

***

With the local Government elections coming up in May it is, of course, time to dust down the loony left and give it another outing. Although there is little money being spent on gay and lesbian issues these days, there are other angles the papers can use to make the connection between homosexuality and extreme socialism. The Daily Star (“Queer Street” — 8 Mar) told the tale of “loony” Newham Council in East London which is considering naming some streets after “gay heroes” as nominated by the council’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Group. “Vidyapati Drive, Tseko Simon Nkoli Road and Audre Lord Avenue could soon be appearing on the local map” it told its apparently credulous readers.

Just a week earlier the Newham Reporter had reported, quite straight-forwardly, that these possible new street names “were suggested in order to provide positive images of black people, women, the disabled and homosexuals”. And why not indeed?

Vidyapati was a 15th century gay Bengali poet, Nkoli is a respected black gay South African activist and African American lesbian Audre Lord is another poet highly praised on both sides of the Atlantic.

But following age old tabloid tradition, The Daily Star wheeled out the local Tory bigot to “storm”: “Whatever will they think of next?”

I don’t know, but whatever it is I expect the mean-spirited, mini-minded Star will keep us informed.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Express (10 Mar), returned to the subject of how wonderful (Tory) Ealing Council in West London had managed to reduce its Poll Tax by £80 by simply reversing Labour’s policy of “squandering money on services for lesbians and gays”. The trouble with this story, which is becoming self-perpetuating, is that it is untrue. The previous Labour council spent almost nothing on lesbians and gays, and Ealing’s poll tax has been reduced by £40 not £80. What The Sunday Express, and all the other papers which are retailing this story, failed to explain was that the council in Ealing have increased rents by an incredible 100 per cent in the past year and has reduced essential services scandalously.

Still, if you’re an habitual liar, which the right-wing press is, you might as well make a good job of it.

***

The large-scale anti-Clause 25 protest march through London brought little news coverage in the straight press (a photo in The Observer, a news paragraph and comment feature in The Sunday Times) but it did produce the predictable whingeing letters to the London Evening Standard (20 Feb): “As a housewife with two young children I was furious the way central London was hijacked last week by so called ‘gay activists’ … I would like to know if the streets of London are the right place for children to witness two women kissing passionately or to see groups of young men walking down the road holding hands.”

This selfish woman — who imagines that the world belongs exclusively to her and those like her and who seems totally incapable of understanding the threat that prompted the march —met her match when a lesbian mother wrote in reply (27 Feb): “Mrs Richardson requests that we should keep what we do in the bedroom out of sight, ‘where it belongs’. I wish that straight couples would pay us the same courtesy. Walk through any park on a summer day and there are straight couples everywhere keeping it far from private. Almost the only thing they don’t do is indulge in the sex act itself. Yet when my lover and I faced a long separation we couldn’t even say goodbye in the same way other lovers would.”

***

Welcome Out department: This month’s public figures outed by newspapers are Jane Fonda and Shelley Winters who, according to The Sun (8 Mar) “had a steamy lesbian affair”.

***

So-now-we-know-the-truth department: “For seven years Martina Navratilova and Judy Nelson were inseparable … but now the affair is over. And the couple are set to shock the world again with one of the most bitter public ‘divorces’ in American history” — Sunday Mirror (10 Mar)

“The long-time companion of bisexual tennis ace Martina Navratilova last night DENIED they had split. She said: ‘We’re together, and expect to be for a long time.’” — News of the World (10 Mar)

GAY TIMES May 1991

By the time you read this, the local council elections may well be over. Meanwhile, the Tories and their tabloid poodles are working hard to keep up the Loony Left image of Labour authorities and, of course, homosexuality figures large in their smear tactics.

The Daily Mail (9 Apr) told of “hard-up” Hackney Council in East London “offering special courses to black lesbians who have lost their lovers.” Enter Tory opposition leader on the Council, Joe Lobenstein: “I am not objecting to doing something for black people in need,” he says magnanimously, “I am against giving special privileges to lesbians who lead an unnatural life.”

The Sun (27 Mar) headlined: “Doh, a deer, a female queer” and told of “the lesbian version of The Sound of Music” which is to be staged at the Albany Empire, London, with the support of “two Loony Left councils, Lewisham and Greenwich”. Right on cue, here come the mandatory foaming-at-the-mouth Tory councillors: “What a load of utter rubbish!” Coun Ron Lee “exploded”. “Using community charge payers’ money for this sort of thing is totally wrong,” Alison McNair “added”.

Then The Sun came up with its own ideas for song titles and other gay musicals, including: “Idle-vice, Climb Every Mountain, Forge Every Dyke; Sex-queen going on Seventeen; My Favourite Shirtlifters; Oklahomo; My Queer Lady … etc.”

With the revelation that Mr Murdoch is sacking 1,000 of his staff at News International because of falling circulation, perhaps he’d like a few suggestions for songs to sing at the forthcoming plethora of farewell parties: “Red-necks in the Sunset”, perhaps, or “Follow the Yellow Bigot Road”.

***

A new biography of Nancy Reagan was reported in The Guardian (8 Apr). The book, by Kitty Kelley, reveals that the former President of The United States “loved anti-gay and racist humour, even jokes about Aids.”

It didn’t take long for the enormity of this remark to register. This man, who “loved jokes about Aids”, was probably the only man in the world who could, during the early years, have provided the resources and support to significantly hinder the progress of HIV in the western world. He chose to do nothing. He chose not even to utter the word until many years into his presidency. Instead he made jokes while tens of thousands of young Americans succumbed to this horrible condition.

Time will judge Ronald Reagan, and it would not surprise me if he were to be remembered by history chiefly as the man who laughed as Americans died.

On the same topic, it was interesting to see the contrasting approaches of two Scottish Sunday newspapers. The newest paper, The Sunday Scot (17 Mar) has all the hall-marks of a down-market tabloid: it is vulgar, sleazy, ill-informed, bigoted, cynical and full of cheap lies. It said: “Militant gays have learned nothing from the ravages of Aids. They are returning to the bath house antics of the 60s and 70s. The ‘play now, die later’ gays are mostly members of the militant homosexual groups such as Act-Up and Queer Nation. Many go out looking for HIV-positive drug users. One said: ‘This is part of the thrill.’ The gays said they love ‘flirting with death’ and get turned on by ‘living on the edge.’”

While it may be true that ‘safer sex’ campaigns appear to be becoming less and less effective, the sheer stupidity of suggesting that large numbers of well-informed gays are deliberately trying to infect themselves with HIV is little short of slanderous. I’d hoped that this sort of sensationalist approach to Aids reporting had gone out of fashion some years ago, but it still seems to have some mileage north of the border.

The broadsheet Scotland on Sunday, on the other hand, reported (17 Mar) in a straightforward manner the efforts being made in San Francisco to counter the crisis. Education about safer sex — difficult enough even in ideal circumstances — is still being thwarted by “conservatives”. A poster aimed specifically at gay men under 25, who are proving resistant to the safer sex message, depicted “two naked teenage boys draped in the Stars and Stripes and quoting from the American Constitution: ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’”

“It was taken to be unpatriotic by conservatives offended by the link between country, homosexuality and dis-ease,” says the paper.

It mystifies me that few outside the gay community ever seem to challenge these ‘conservatives’ who appear to imagine that they, and they alone, have a right to claim patriotism. Their callousness shows that they don’t seem to care if thousands of young Americans lose their lives to HIV, these bullying rednecks are indifferent to the terrible grief that HIV is bringing into the lives of millions of their fellow citizens.

It’s about time the rotten “sensibilities” of these traditionalists and fundamentalists were recognised for what they are — evil.

***

Amid the hoo-ha over gay parenting, The News of the World (31 Mar) carried a feature on “gay telly actor Jim McManus” who “revealed how for 18 years he led a bizarre double life — as a secret DAD.”

Reading on, you come to realise that there was nothing at all “bizarre” about Jim’s home life. He simply helped raise boyfriend Terry’s child, who came to live with the couple when he was three years old.

“Terry split up from his wife not long after his son’s birth, but later she asked us to take care of the boy … we were by no means well off, but he had a happy life. And I can assure everyone that he has grown up as a perfectly ‘straight’ heterosexual young man.”

You might think this is just the sort of example of successful gay parenting that needs bringing to light to counteract The Big Lie that homosexuals cannot, under any circumstances, bring up well-adjusted children. News of the World readers might be puzzled by this contradiction of received wisdom, but they need not worry because the story goes on to give them just what they want to hear — it claims that Jim McManus is “AGAINST gay and lesbian couples being allowed to adopt children”.

I spoke to Jim McManus about the apparently contradictory sting in the tail of this story. He assures me that this isn’t what he said and it isn’t what he meant. He wanted to reassure Gay Times readers that he is certainly not against gay parenting and is seeking a correction with the NoW’s editor.

He learned the hard way that tabloid reporters hear what they want to hear and tell their readers what they think they want to know.

***

Pop singer Vanilla Ice made a “shock” confession to The Sun (13 Mar) that he was once a gay basher. “Ice, 23, admits he used to roam the streets looking for homosexuals to attack. He only stopped when he was arrested for assaulting an 18-year-old youth in Dallas. The rapper was fined £1250 in 1988 for spraying the teenager in the eyes with mace gas and beating him over the head in a car park.”

Apparently Vanilla (oh, please!), now regrets his thuggish behaviour. “‘What I did was very terrible. I beat up people because …’ he imitated a limp wrist … ‘they were gay.’” He ends by saying that “I just feel so ashamed.”

Well, surely it’s better to be a reformed gay basher than a gay basher. And perhaps he could make up for the wrongs he’s done gay people by donating a large amount of cash to a gay organisation.

***

The disgusting developments in the Isle of Man beggar belief. It’s necessary to ask: are these people living in the same universe as the rest of us? Take this letter from an unnamed “concerned Manxman” in The Isle of Man Examiner (9 Apr): “There is more than enough crime, disorder, cruelty and sickness in the world today without these types of people advocating to permit their type of crime and corruption and no one will convince me that these filthy creatures are not largely responsible for the spread of Aids. They are very sick people, even sick animals are put down … these abnormal people should be … shipped to a desert Island where they can carry out their filthy and disgusting habits to their hearts’ content, leaving we normal beings to live a cleaner, moral and Christian existence.”

Normal? This Neanderthal considers himself normal? In that case, colour me queer!

***

What is it about Cliff Richard that makes it so difficult for people to believe what he says? I mean, how many times has he been asked “Are you gay?” and how many times has he denied it? Yet still the question hangs in the air. The Sun reported (13 Mar) that the ageing pop singer was “besieged by a gang of gay actors and actresses demanding that he ‘come out of the closet.’ “This all happened at a studio where Derek Jarman’s new film about Edward II was being filmed. According to The Sun “the gays … tried to break down the rehearsal room door and chanted: ‘Come out of the closet Cliff and declare yourself a full-blown homosexual’”

This seems rather a clumsy slogan — try chanting it with a group of friends and you’ll see what I mean.

Cliff insists, says the paper, that “he is celibate and has NO sex life.” That doesn’t answer the question, of course, but it does give Spitting Image a good joke for its next series. According to The Sun (11 Apr) a sketch will show two of Cliff’s sperm “complaining about their lack of exercise.”

But taunting Cliff Richard is rather like kicking your granny — a terrible thing to do to an old lady. And it gave John Smith of The People the opportunity to return to his favourite topic (17 Mar): “The ugly Face of the Gay Gestapo.” “Who the hell do these gays think they are, acting like some liberation lynch mob? I don’t know if Cliff Richard is homosexual and frankly I couldn’t care less if he is in the closet, out of the closet or on top of the wardrobe. That’s his business. It is certainly NOT the business of a bunch of braying bully boys carrying the banner for gay rights. What about Cliff’s right to privacy?”

Unfortunately, Mr Smith forgets once again about his own paper’s record on the question of invasions of privacy. The list of individuals involuntarily ‘outed’ by The People is long indeed. The paper has, in the past, acted brutally and mercilessly in its pursuit of gay individuals. If Mr Smith would like a list of the men and women whose privacy his paper has so cruelly traduced, I’ll be pleased to provide it. It will be long as his arm.

And whilst we’re at it, will Mr Smith be able to extract a promise from his editor that if evidence of Cliff Richard’s homosexuality (or heterosexuality) ever becomes available, it will not be splashed across the front page? And can he get blood from a stone?

The dire consequences of criticising Cliff became apparent to loud-mouth columnist Julie Burchill when she commented (Mail on Sunday 17 Mar) on the great star’s stated desire to play Heathcliff in a musical version of Wuthering Heights. “The chairperson of the Bronte Society … seems to think he’s not rough, tough or nasty enough. I tend to agree, may I suggest another role? Cathy.”

This caused Ms Burchill to be inundated by filthy and threatening letters from the good Christian folk who make up Cliff’s fan club. “Apparently there are hundreds of seriously sick people out there… who have somehow got it into their skulls that I was suggesting that the Great One is a poove, a pederast and an all-round perve.” She wasn’t, of course, and finishes by saying: “For the last time, Cliff Richard is all man. Got it?”

It’s very naughty of Julie Burchill to encourage the inadequates who inhabit the fantasy world of Cliff-worship to believe that their hero could not, under any circumstances, be gay. One of these days they are going to get a very nasty shock when real life creeps up behind them and says “Boo”.

***

The controversy raging within the gay community over whether it is acceptable for us to refer to ourselves — and each other — as “queers” has now leaked out into the tabloids. “Young homosexuals don’t want to be GAY anymore,” The Star (9 Apr) informed us, “they want to be QUEER.” They say that being called gay makes them seem like white, middle-class softies. Queers, we’re told, are tougher.

The paper goes on to tell us that “the queer goings-on have angered older homosexuals” — one of whom is quoted as saying “We fought for 20 years to get the word gay accepted and now the younger homosexuals want to get rid of it.”

I am aware of the theory that poisonous words can be detoxified if they are defiantly adopted by those they are intended to insult. Lesbians have been calling themselves dykes for some time now, and many seem happy with the word. But hearing an up-front lesbian calling herself a dyke is a different thing altogether from hearing a hostile heterosexual male calling her the same thing.

I tried for many years to persuade newspapers to stop using words like “poof and “poofter”; my main purpose in doing this was to draw attention not so much to the words themselves, but to the aggressive contexts in which they were being used. No-one in the straight world seemed to have noticed that homosexuals were being vilified and abused on a daily basis by scummy but powerful newspapers. By making a fuss about the insulting words, I was also drawing attention to the almost unbelievable persecution of which the words were only a part.

People, of course, are entitled to call themselves whatever they like, but if our community does decide to consign the word ‘gay’ to the scrapheap, I feel we will be throwing away one of our finest achievements. Whatever the members of OutRage! or Queer Nation might say, ‘gay’ has attained a wonderful universality — the terms black gay man, or disabled gay man or working class gay man all have the ring of authenticity. Gay is a word that belongs to us all.

Just because some tyro activist says gay is middle-class doesn’t make it so. I think whoever is responsible for such a preposterous idea is fighting a different cause to the rest of us. The more-politically-pure-than-thou brigade should not be allowed to demean our accomplishments.

GAY TIMES June 1991

Princess Di proved her commitment to the fight against HIV with a fine speech — written entirely by herself—to a conference of Aids workers. The London Evening Standard (22 Apr) reported that the Princess launched “an attack on sections of the national tabloid press which labelled Aids the ‘gay plague.’”

However, this very same “section” — namely, The Daily Star —seemed not to have heard this part of the speech, and nowhere in its own report the following day did it mention Di’s criticisms of the reporters, commentators and editors who have behaved in a disgusting manner since the crisis began.

“She called for goodwill and humanity to replace discrimination and fear”, said a noble editorial in The Star, which then went on to say: “She was NOT endorsing rampant homosexuals and junkies who are just indulging their appetites for drugs and sex without a thought for the dangers to mankind.” Goodwill and humanity, eh?

“Diana is a wonderful, caring person”, fawned The Star. I agree, but what a shame she has to mix with the ghastly and repulsive people who seek to undermine everything she is seeking to put right.”

And what a shame her words go unheeded by the people who need to hear them most. For instance, she said: “As I see it, a proper knowledge of the facts, put across with love and sensible practical guidance, is just another aspect of being a parent, or a responsible, concerned teacher.” This was backed up by the Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Donald Acheson, who was reported in The New Scientist (6 Apr) as departing from a prepared speech to say that “efforts must be invested in schools to introduce issues of heterosexuality and homosexuality at an even earlier age.” He welcomed the “irreversible candour” in discussing sex that Aids had brought about.

All good stuff and, you might think, showing that we’re moving in the right direction. But then, The Daily Telegraph (7 May) was suddenly giving publicity to a stunt pulled by a right-wing group called Family and Youth Concern (previously the Responsible Society). This gang of religious maniacs, headed by the seriously demented Valerie Riches, wrote a spoof letter to the Terrence Higgins Trust, purporting to be from a seventeen-year old gay man, asking for “help in spreading awareness of homosexual issues in his youth club”. FYC say that in return they received “A pornographic package of leaflets and posters, some of them depicting naked men in bondage poses.”

“The Terrence Higgins Trust would do well to remember that homosexual intercourse below the age of 21 is illegal”, says Mrs Riches in a distorted and exaggerated pamphlet.

And vicious Val would do well to remember that statistics in Europe show that 50 per cent of those who have contracted the virus are between 25 and 35. Nick Partridge of THT says: “This means that people are becoming infected in their late teens and early 20s. People therefore need the information between 18 and 25.”

Family and Youth Concern are calling for the Government to “cease funding the Terrence Higgins Trust” because, in the words of Valerie Riches, “the material aimed at young people amounted to a proselytising of youth in the ways of homosexual activity.” What does this dirty-minded woman want? Would thousands of dead young people pacify that anti-sex bee she’s got buzzing in her bonnet?

The question I want to ask is: what on earth came over The Daily Telegraph to present such an obvious piece of pressure group propaganda as an unquestioning news item? And what caused them to allow William Oddie to use the “Personal View” column to expand on the disinformation provided by Family and Youth Concern? “It is very clearly no part of Family and Youth Concern’s purpose to elicit a hysterical anti-homosexual reaction by publishing these facts,” he says.

Pardon me, but it seems quite clear that such a reaction was precisely their purpose; FYC has been hysterically anti-gay since it was founded.

Oddie then goes on to say that Aids figures from the Department of Health reveal that only 5 per cent of the total cases are women, whilst 82 per cent are gay men. “Such facts cannot simply be abolished: but there has been a massive attempt to smother them under a blanket of obfuscation, for reasons which have little to do with public health”. Mr Oddie says that this all goes to prove that THT has a “hidden agenda” — it simply wants to protect gay people from losing their “newly won acceptability.”

This is an argument which has been put forward continuously by right-wing journalists and pressure groups (usually with “hidden agendas” of religious fundamentalism), but it ignores completely the fact that every epidemic starts from a small base.

Perhaps Mr Oddie should take a look at a report from The World Health Organisation covered in The Independent (3 May), which forecasts that 40 million people will be infected with HIV by the end of the century, some 10 million higher than the previous estimate. What does Family and Youth Concern have to say about that?

I suppose I should be fair to The Daily Telegraph and say that on 3rd May it allowed Stephen Fry to use his regular Friday column to attack those who are trying to manipulate the Aids tragedy for their own political purposes.

“It’s held by many Christians here and abroad that Aids is a visitation from God, sent to punish those whose lifestyles the Almighty finds reprehensible. This is one of the most startling and disturbing ideas to have emerged from a species already renowned for its fatheadedness and unwillingness to listen to reason… What kind of Divine being could be so capricious and irrational? Where is the disease that only affected concentration camp guards? Where is the virus that strikes down the torturers of children, the corrupt, the murderous and the despotic?”

Mr Fry also touches upon the concept of “innocent” and “guilty” sufferers from Aids. “When we begin to divide the world into the deserving and the underserving, as the Victorians did with the poor, we ae turning our backs on every decent human impulse.”

This is something that might be borne in mind by Mr John de Waal who, in a letter to the editor of The Observer (5 May) reasoned that “those who engage in irresponsible and promiscuous sex” are suffering a punishment that is “self-inflicted”. “There should be a word of difference in our attitudes towards those who already have Aids and those likely to get it.”

What was that Stephen Fry was saying about decent human impulses?

***

Yes, the fundamentalists are everywhere, and they have declared all-out war on gays. The Isle of Man’s recent decision not to decriminalise homosexuality followed a campaign orchestrated by Christian activists. There is a strong possibility, though, that on this occasion they have shot themselves in the foot, because according to The Sunday Telegraph (5 May): “There is no doubt that the law will change. The British government will over-rule the Tynwald if necessary, then impose legislation to bring the island into line with the (European) Convention on Human Rights.”

Meanwhile, in the Irish Republic another group of barmy bigots (this time going under the name of Family Solidarity) are urging the Irish premier Charles Haughey to “drop plans to legalise homosexuality, after a nationwide opinion poll showed a majority against the move.” (Mail on Sunday 5 May)

The poll – organised, of course, by Family Solidarity – showed 49 per cent of the electorate “opposed to the reform” with 34 per cent in favour and 17 per cent unsure.

It’s not all bad news, though, and Scotland’s decision to effectively reduce the gay age of consent from 21 to 16 was greeted by relief by Scotland on Sunday (14 Apr) in an editorial headed: “An overdue reform”. The paper said: “The Lord Advocate’s decision to relax the enforcement of the law on homosexuality in Scotland is to be welcomed. Police must have better things to do than hang around public toilets waiting for infringements of an outdated law which does no harm to third parties… the step should rightly be seen as a step towards removing the stigma attached to homosexual se by bringing the law into line with that which applies to heterosexuals. To that end it is doubly welcome to see Scotland taking the sensible and reforming lead.”

We’ll raise a wee dram to that.

***

The Birmingham Evening Mail (22 Apr) said, on its front page, “Labour to woo teachers in gay mags”. This was, of course, their contribution to the “Loony Left” campaign waged just before the local elections. The story concerned the council’s equal opportunity policy. As is usual in such circumstances, positive efforts are made to recruit those who are deemed to be at a disadvantage in employment. The council document said: “We will advertise such posts in the relevant minority Press.”

So, what’s extraordinary about that? If disadvantaged minorities are under-represented then surely that’s the best way to reach them. “This is the trendy Left road, followed by Liverpool and the London boroughs, and it is sad and disturbing to see Birmingham going the same way,” said Tory group leader, Coun. Reg Hales.

Well, come on then, Mr Hales, what are Birmingham Tories in favour of – kicking gay people out of their jobs and denying opportunities to those not on the “approved” list? I think we should be told.

This all begs another question of course, namely: does Labour really deserve this “obsession with homosexuality” tag? Is the party of the red rose really a friend to the gay community? Well. The Sun very thoughtfully asked this very question of Neill Kinnock. “How will you control Loony Left councils that give out crazy grants to lesbians, homosexuals and fringe minorities – like laying on a course for bereaved black lesbians as one council did?”

Mr Kinnock’s reply made everything crystal clear: “All councils will have to reach quality standards. If any council – Labour or Conservative – doesn’t deliver, our customer contracts schemes, already working in many Labour areas, will give you rights to improvement and compensation. And Labour will let you pass your verdicts in ANNUAL council elections.”

Well, that’s as clear as mud, isn’t it?

***

Welcome Out Department: This month we say hello to Christopher Ciccone, “outed”, in an interview with American gay magazine The Advocate, by his sister, Madonna.

The story was subsequently picked up — and elaborated — by The News of the World (19 Apr), which told us that Christopher’s “ultra-religious father” had “banished” his gay son from the family home. An unnamed friend of Christopher’s is quoted as saying: “In some circles he is proud to be gay, but he did not want the whole world to know … He feels betrayed by his sister.”

So, is Chris so pissed off by Madonna that he’ll never talk to her again? Seems like it. But wait — what’s this in The London Evening Standard (7 May)? A large photograph of Madonna and Christopher arriving together for the Hollywood premiere of her new film — all smiles, all happy, not a hint of bitterness. Perhaps outing him was the best thing she could have done. Far from splitting the family into fragments, the “outing” seems to have done them all a power of good. Sorry, News of the World — you seem to have got it wrong again.

Before we leave the wonderful world of “outing”, I thought you’d be interested to know that Mary Poppins… er, that’s Julie Andrews, “denied rumours” that she and her husband, film director Blake Edwards, are both gay. This was also in The News of the World (5 May) and was, again, lifted from The Advocate. She is quoted thus: “One does think about (relationships with other women). But would I want it? Well, I don’t know.”

Imagine if the rumours had been true — what a coup for the gay community! It would, overnight, have killed stone dead a thousand of those aggravating stereotypes. And it would also explain why those dratted nuns can’t solve a problem like Maria.

***

So that I am not accused of giving an unbalanced view of Christian opinion, I suppose I should report the utterances of the Bishop of Durham, as reported in The Daily Star (2 May). “The Rt Rev David Jenkins says he knows many homosexual clergymen. He said: ‘I value the friendship of such men, their caring qualities are obvious to anyone,’”

Enter that wonderful example of Christian love and compassion, Mr, Terry Dicks MP (Tory): “The Bishop is a disgrace to the church … they idea of gay priests is depraved and unnatural.”

Heaven forfend that the Bishop of Durham should ever be allowed the last word on ANYTHING.

***

The Daily Mirror informed us (3 Apr) that “God’s cop Sir James Anderton was off work yesterday with a broken arm after falling off a ladder.”

I can state categorically that, as God does not like bigots, it is His vengeance for Anderton’s past misdemeanours. In fact, I have it on good authority that God also abhors liars, so I would strongly advise Mrs Valerie Riches not to climb any ladders in the near future.

***

It’s good news that the Metropolitan Police intends to actively recruit gay people into its ranks. However, Peter McKay — the wearily unoriginal star columnist of the London Evening Standard (29 Apr) thought it hilarious. “Something will have to be done about that uniform,” he said, rather predictably. “Gay friends of mine are notoriously fastidious about clothes. That domed hat will have to go. Perhaps a colonial-style cocked hat with egret feathers would sit well on top of an ‘unstructured’ tunic; how about baggy blue trousers and special ‘run fast’ trainers? The truncheon certainly needs looking at.”

This “joke” was so obvious it occurred to other columnists, too. Take this from John Pool of The Hartlepool Mail: “Now I’m sure the boys in blue won’t be sporting a pink uniform … but I dare say they could have one or two choice comments to deal with from the public … your average villain may have some reaction to the prospect of being searched by a man with a limp wrist. I’m sure the boys and girls over at the local nick will be having a good chuckle at the story but it certainly adds a whole new meaning to what makes a bent copper.”

God, this stuff is annoying; don’t the idiots who write it have anything in their heads but boring stereotypes?

GAY TIMES July 1991

The Daily Star’s now-notorious POOFTERS ON PARADE headline (17 May) referred to a recommendation from the parliamentary Armed Forces Bill Committee that members of the Services should not be prosecuted for homosexual acts that would be legal in civilian life. The committee did NOT, as The Star so untruthfully put it, call for “homosexuality to become legal in the Armed Forces”. Even if the recommendation were to be implemented, soldiers, sailors and air force personnel will continue to be hounded out of the Services if they’re discovered to be gay. They’d still lose their pensions, their service record and their reputations, they just wouldn’t be court martialled and sent to prison.

In an editorial in the same issue, The Star said: “Our Service men and women are the envy of the world. They have earned universal praise and respect for their courage, discipline and professionalism. Is this all to be destroyed by poofters on parade?”

The editorial labels gay groups “these strident, mincing preachers of filth”. To support the argument, corruption of youth is invoked (“How sickening that young recruits will become open targets of filth”) as well as indiscipline (“Just think of the effect on discipline of cat fights among queens on the front line.”)

In case there should be any doubt about the author of this piece, we can turn, four days later, to The Star’s editor. Brian Hitchen, who was telling us in his weekly column to: “Shove your queer ideas in the closet.” He asked: “Can you see our tank drivers welcoming a Pansy Division? And if a paratrooper was daft enough to indent for a candy-striped canopy, he might find that it didn’t open too swiftly.” (Is he condoning murder, by any chance?)

Sir Brian says: “And though the homosexual lobby will reach for their pens to complain or lisp falsetto abuse down my phone, I’ll tell them this for free: people are sick and tired of your ‘gay’ nonsense and the pretence that homosexuals are normal and that it is heterosexuals who are out of step.”

Well, he’s right in one respect—the homosexuals have reached for their pens, but mostly to write complaints to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) or — in the case of GALOP, the Gay London Policing Group — to the Kennington Police Station in south London and the Director of Public Prosecutions, demanding that The Star be prosecuted under the Public Order Act.

But is there any use writing to the PCC about such abuse? We’ll have to wait and see — but I know that they have been inundated with objections about this particular outburst. And I also happen to know that earlier this year, Hitchen was given an informal, feather duster-style rap on the knuckles by the PCC, over this very issue. All the same, it is clear that he has no intention of abiding by either the spirit or the letter of the PCC’s code of practice as far as gays are concerned. We want action and we want it NOW!

In its editorial on the subject, The Daily Mail (17 May) claimed that the Committee had recommended “laws banning homosexuality among members of the armed forces should be scrapped”. “Surely there is a very large range of actions which contravene military regulations,” the paper continued, “like falling asleep on guard duty for instance — which come nowhere near to breaking the ordinary law of the land. It is because service conditions are unique that they call for separate military law.”

Excuse me — but where in civilian life are you likely to have the opportunity to “fall asleep on guard duty”? This is an offence which could not occur in any other sphere of life — how on earth it can be compared to a homosexual relationship that could occur anywhere, any time is something, perhaps, The Daily Mail could explain to this puzzled reader.

But we aren’t talking about logic here. We aren’t talking about a fair hearing. We’re talking about pure prejudice and maybe even deliberate mendacity.

***

On the day before the Armed Forces Committee report was made public, the tabloids had been full of a story about lesbians in the Navy. “Gay Wrens Force Sailor Girls Into Lesbian Orgies” was The Sun’s version (15 May), while The Daily Star’s front page screamed “HMS DYKE!”

Call me paranoid if you like, but was it really coincidence that this story broke precisely when it did? Or could some scheming homophobe at the Ministry of Defence have ensured that the story was leaked when it was to undermine the Committee’s recommendations? And what is the story anyway? If you read closely you’ll see that it rests entirely on the allegations of one woman — which doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t true, but neither does it mean that it is. One thing I’d like to bet on — now that it has served its purpose, you’ll never hear another word about this supposed incident.

***

The Independent Magazine (Jun) carried a long profile of the people in the Isle of Man who orchestrated the campaign against gay law reform. “Frank and Dorothy Duggan are a born-again, bungalow-dwelling, sister-and-brother team of furious proselytising and newspaper-letter-writing powers,” writes Amanda Mitchison. She gives a sample of their surreal conversation:

“Frank: Homosexual practice is learned behaviour. It is a wilful sexual perversion. It is unnatural. As someone once wisely said, homosexual sex is dangerous — one go and you’re hooked …

Dorothy: It is evil … satanic really …

Frank: Legalise them and there will be no limit. Soon they’ll want marriage and then to adopt children and the age of consent will get lower: 18, 16, 14, 12 —until it becomes paedophilia.

Dorothy: A high percentage of these paedophiles are homosexual …”

Another self-appointed enemy of Manx gays is Mel Cheetham, who runs a stone mason’s yard. He “started his petition on the island calling for a referendum on the legalisation of homosexual practice, which he believes to be ‘unnatural and utterly disgusting’.

Cheetham carries a copy of the petition wherever he goes. “I stop at roadsides where I see fellows digging the road. The rougher the fellows are the more keen they are. And they say in no uncertain terms what they would do to these homosexuals — they would flatten them. They would obliterate them. They use very, very strong, old-fashioned language.”

There is little doubt that these strange people do, indeed, represent Manx opinion on the subject. But the Isle of Man is not really like anywhere else. It is an in-bred, conservative and, frankly, weird community. It will soon be kicked into the 20th century whether it likes it or not.

***

In a disturbing article in The Independent (20 May), William Rees-Mogg told of a visit to the Salvation Army’s headquarters in London, to speak to Dr Ian Campbell “an important observer of the world HIV epidemic”.

Dr Campbell appears to be doing sterling work in collating statistics and trying to bring more attention to the threat to the world that the world doesn’t want to know about. But then we come to the “solution” to the problem as proposed, we are told, by villagers in rural Zambia: “faithfulness in marriage, abstinence until marriage, and the adopting of a Christian lifestyle”.

Lord Rees-Mogg says: “The ‘unzip a condom’ approach to the HIV epidemic reminds me of the filter-tip response to the issue of cigarette smoking and cancer. It is not wrong, but it is a distraction from the real issue. The Judeo-Christian sexual code has a function to provide for the care of children, and also like Jewish dietary laws, to prevent the spread of disease. That is, in some ways, a similar approach to that of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is also prepared to accept the logic of abstinence and the need for community support … In Christian terms, sexual morality is determined by spiritual needs, but in Darwinist terms, Christian morality is a strategy for survival.”

Three days later, Mary Kenny was writing a remarkably similar article in The Daily Mail: “Condoms, in short … are just not enough to combat Aids … Parallels can be drawn with organisations like Alcoholics Anonymous. AA does not say ‘Practise safe drinking’ to those in the grip of alcoholism. It teaches people to build up a taboo against drinking, and shows them the joys of sober living through community and, indeed, spiritual support … If something is killing us, we develop an instinct to stop doing it. Morality has acted as a strategy for survival. We had believed that modern medicine and science had rendered such strategies obsolete. But once more, history teaches us the old, old lessons that if we don’t have certain moral standards, we perish.”

Both writers are committed Christian propagandists and can be numbered among those religious opportunists who see Aids as a wonderful tool for reviving their flagging fortunes. Like vultures they gather round the corpses of those who have fallen, hoping to ensure their own survival by picking our bones. The ideas propounded by Rees-Mogg and Kenny aren’t all that far removed from the “God’s wrath” theory of Aids. If carried to their logical conclusion we will end up in another sexual dark age, like the one so vividly and horribly remembered in the TV series “A Secret World of Sex”.

Religion does not hold the key to stopping Aids, but we must be vigilant that our tragedy is not hijacked for exploitation by authoritarian forces such as the Salvation Army or the Catholic Church.

***

Not all local papers are aggressive and hostile to their gay communities, and a good example of friendly reporting came in Blackpool’s Evening Gazette (22 May). The paper’s chief feature writer, Jacqueline Morley, decided to investigate claims that Blackpool is “in the pink” and taking over from Brighton as “the UK’s premier gay resort”. She reported mainly on the Flamingo Club, now celebrating its tenth birthday, which has progressed from “a seedy top-floor dive frequented by a few stately ‘homos’ — and an elderly hooker who came out of semi-retirement for pigeon fanciers and bank holiday weekends” to become “Blackpool’s second largest, albeit least troubled, nightclub … the centre of Blackpool’s gay golden triangle”.

It’s a generally good-natured feature, full of affection, the only fly in the ointment being Superintendent Ken MacKay, who objected to a licence for another branch of the Flamingo, called Basil’s on The Strand. The Superintendent “overcomes personal aversion and reluctance to discuss homosexuality, to stress that the force is not anti-gay”. A bit of a contradiction there, but never mind.

Even the town’s tourism director, Barry Morris, has to concede — not with the best of grace — “We have some way to go before taking over from Brighton. It is not a record I have set out to get but it is a sign of the times. Gays are here to stay … Most are more law abiding than extremist elements of the so-called straight community.”

***

The tenth anniversary of the Aids epidemic was marked by most papers. The Independent’s review of the decade was headed “From five young men then … to this now” (4 Jun). It illustrated how, from such small beginnings in 1981, Aids has become pandemic. This should make salutary reading for those newspaper commentators who continue to insist that “only a handful of heterosexuals” are infected and so there is nothing to worry about. Once upon a time, only a handful of homosexuals were affected, and look what has happened since then. There is no room for complacency.

***

Not Out Department: This month’s celebrities who AREN’T gay, include Jason Donovan (Jason Says: I’m No Gay” — People, 26 May), and Prince Edward (“We expose Liar in ‘Gay Edward’ Slur” — News of the World, 19 May).

The NoW’s “liar” was Duane Hoffman who claims, in some ghastly American rag, that he “arranged male escorts for Edward as the bachelor prince visited the US”. Disgraceful. Given that Hoffman is “gay and dying from Aids” it’s obvious that you can’t believe a word he says. And, anyway, no true blue British paper would carry such disgusting innuendo about Eddie, would it?

But what’s this — Sean Smith, The Sunday People’s unpleasant gossip columnist, revealed that Prince Edward “joined a wealthy weekend party of boating enthusiasts … with his companion for the jaunt”. So, who was this companion “who joined him below?” — “Blonde and shapely?” asks Mr Smith. “Well, no actually. 1 can tell you he was a strapping young man and a damn good crew.”

***

Gratuitous Insult Department: “Why should gays be a charity? They’ll be calling rapists a charity next!” — Cub Pack leader Mike Turner, after being told some of the money raised in the TVS Telethon was to go to the local Gay Switchboard. (People, 19 May).

***

Michael Cashman’s TV documentary about homophobia was too much for some of the critics. Compton Miller in The Daily Express (29 May) said: “Most citizens living outside our gay-tolerant cities have an old-fashioned morality. Nothing propounded by Cashman or his discussion group of gays … would have convinced them that our laws are unjust towards homosexuals. Indeed, the ‘notorious’ Clause 28 … has successfully curbed the loony Left’s worst excesses. Cashman struck me as being too dogmatic and bitter to win many converts.”

The Daily Telegraph thought Mr Cashman “a bully” in his treatment of the aged, but grotesquely homophobic, Councillor Muffett of Worcester. Naturally the DT would have to speak up for such a person — even though he was the epitome of the hatred and irrationality that programme was supposed to be about — because he represents the majority of the paper’s readers.

Other papers thought Michael “courageous” (Observer, 2 Jun) and “persuasive” (London Standard, 29 May) and “dignified” (Guardian, 28 May).

It might be argued by the more impatient gay activists that this gently-gently approach to public relations has got us nowhere over the past twenty years, but homophobia is deeply ingrained in our culture, it will take generations to shift. It will need a thousand programmes like “Byline”, which chip away at irrationality, backed up by dignified and reasonable campaigning.

GAY TIMES August 1991

The Sunday Mirror thought it was on to a winner when it made the “scandalous” discovery that Southwark Council in London had fostered a 15-year-old youth with two gay men. As the paper prepared to harass and vilify the people involved, the Council obtained a court order to stop it.

The Sunday Mirror, in a fit of indignation, challenged the order in the High Court and managed to get it modified: the story could be carried, but the people involved could not be named or approached.

“A Victory for Free Speech!” crowed The Sunday Mirror in an editorial (30th June). “The Sunday Mirror has won a great victory … Southwark Council, voted in by local people and funded by every tax payer in the country, did not want YOU to know what it was doing in YOUR name and with YOUR money. In short they did not want you to know the full story.”

This might sound noble, but rings hollow to those of us who know what such newspapers make of their “freedom of speech”. Indeed, the very same issue proved that the court injunction was a very necessary check to save innocent people from persecution. The Sunday Mirror managed to track down the boy’s mother and, in a double-page spread, headlined “How Could They Hand My Mixed-Up Boy Over to a Couple of Gay Men?” it proceeded to scandalously twist and distort the situation.

They started by claiming that the mother was “outraged” and “shocked” at the decision by social workers to place her son with a gay couple. “I’m saddened and disturbed by what is going on, but I’m powerless. It’s like he doesn’t belong to me anymore.” Shocking? Disgraceful? It seems so, until you read much further and discover that the boy was physically and mentally abused by his father. “His dad never showed any fondness or affection for him and would beat him.”

Mum admits that her son has been a rent boy but says that she is convinced that he isn’t really a homosexual. But isn’t this it’s-only-a-phase reaction indicative of the wishful thinking of parents all over the world when they discover that their child is gay? The only person who really knows the truth is the young man himself — and he insists that he is gay.

So, is this youth in danger from his foster parents (because, let’s face it, that’s the implication at the bottom of all this hoo-ha)? If you read well into The Sunday Mirror’s “exposé” you will find that the mother “stressed she was not anti-homosexual, and she respects the men caring for her son. ‘He has introduced me to his foster parents and I like them. He seems happy and stable. I’m not trying to say that there is anything wrong with their home life. It’s just that the whole thing was rushed through while I was looking the other way. I should have been consulted.’ This does not sit very easily with The Sunday Mirror’s shock-horror presentation of the story. The Sunday Mirror insists that it had no intention of crucifying the individuals concerned.

If that is the case, why did it pursue the whole matter through the courts? Couldn’t it have quite easily commented on the whole issue of gay adoption and fostering without referring to specific cases? It tries to justify its actions by claiming it was “protecting free speech”. In fact, it is just another tabloid newspaper doing what tabloid newspapers do best —hurting people.

Of course, there is a human interest angle to this, but that can go hang when there are political points to be scored. “Outrage Grows Over Gay Foster Parents” announced The Daily Mail (1 July), ensuring its readers knew that Southwark was “Labour-controlled”. A Tory councillor, Mrs Heather Kirby is quoted as saying: “I have suggested that Southwark should not carry out children’s services at all.”

The London Evening Standard carried a particularly nasty editorial (2 July) saying that the Council’s decision was “absurd and perverse”. “What sort of values allow them to discriminate against heterosexual foster parents? And how many children are going to be betrayed by the folly and laxity of Southwark social workers before they are brought to book?”

With the cruel, ignorant moralising running at this pitch, it seemed that Southwark’s by-now famous “pretend family” was doomed.

“Monstrous!” screamed The Sport (28 June) just for once not applying the word to a pair of female breasts. “The Sport is not into gay bashing,” it shamelessly announced, before happily bashing gays. When even a degrading, pornographic pile of dung like The Sport can feel morally superior shows just how deeply homophobia is ingrained in our society.

Then, The Sunday Times put a new angle on the matter (7 July) when it discovered that a “Tory flagship council fosters boy with gays”. Wandsworth council this time, had “fostered” an 18-year old “who says he discovered he was gay last year”. Excuse me — but did they say an 18-year-old boy? I was under the impression that 18 is now the age of majority in this country. When does a boy become a man? When it’s convenient to the paper’s point of view, that’s when!

Once again, a parade of ill-informed “experts” was hauled out to make the usual knee-jerk noises. Christopher Walby, chairman of the Institute of Directors of Social Services said: “As young people grow up, they often go through confusion about their sexual identity. To start labelling young people as gay is very dangerous.” Very dangerous? I would have thought leaving them with brutal, uncaring parents was even more dangerous, but I suppose it all depends on how deep your anxiety about homosexuality runs.

There were a few voices of reason. Penelope Leach, a “child care expert” said “living with a gay couple would not prevent the teenagers from choosing their sexual preferences when they were older. In the circumstances it sounds as if Wandsworth has made the right decision.”

Virginia Bottomley was quoted as saying that she would object to councils fostering children to gays on “ideological grounds”, but that it could be acceptable. “The most important thing is what is best for the child.”

Even Roger Sims of the Conservative back-bench health committee refused to “comment further without full details” – an example to the other speak-before-you-think, pronounce-before-you-know merchants. None of these cases is as cut and dried as the papers would have us believe, and pretending otherwise does a gross disservice to all concerned.

***

Stiff competition for the hypocrite of the month, but I’m plumping for Peregrine Worsthorne – again. In The Daily Telegraph (26 June) he was writing: “How often is moral indignation simply the cloak under which journalists – and anybody else for that matter – hide their sadistic pleasure in putting the boot in?”

He must have been referring to a piece which had appeared in his Sunday Telegraph Comment Section (16 June): “Anybody who knows anything about it knows very well why homosexuality should not be legalised in the armed services. But this does not stop calls for this ‘reform’, on the grounds of human rights and other such claptrap … It is another sign that, on anything to do with homosexuality, realism is deserting much of the educated classes. A book reviewer … refers – without quotation marks – to the ‘marriage’ of Britten and Pears. Britten and Pears had a perfect right to live together. But it was no marriage. When was it solemnised? Are there any children? Not only are the armed forces, who for so long have coped with homosexuality humanely and discreetly, to be made a mockery of but so also is the heterosexual institution of matrimony.”

Yes, that’s moral indignation. Did you get sadistic pleasure from it, Perry?

***

Let’s-blame-gays-for-EVERYTHING department: Sinister attempts were made last month to link gays with two particularly brutal murders. The husband of Penny Bell, the woman whose body was found in a car in West London, was said to have “a string of gay lovers” who were supposedly being “quizzed by police” (Daily Mirror 12 June). And Michael Shorey, the man convicted of casually killing his girlfriend and her flatmate, was said by The Daily Star to have “a string of close gay friends”.

Meanwhile, the horrible murder of six-year-old Barry Lewis by a gang of paedophiles was also laid at the door of the gay community. All the papers covered the story and, as an example of human depravity, it made painful reading. Several readers wrote to the editors of national papers pointing out that the repeated use of the word “homosexual” in their reports made it appear that this was another “gay” crime.

Why do newspapers do this? Why are they so anxious to make an association between homosexuality and just about every revolting crime that is committed? Is it carelessness, or do they do it on purpose?

***

Most of the time it is the papers that set the agenda, and we are obliged to react. Just for once it was the other way round. OutRage!’s gay wedding in Trafalgar Square got plenty of news coverage, and created a lot of comment about the state of marriage in general and whether it should be available to gays in particular.

First off the mark was the utterly immoral “morals crusader”, Mrs Victoria Gillick, who said in the London Evening Standard (12 June): “I regard most things gays do as a swansong, because there are not going to be a lot of them left in 20 years’ time. There will not be enough of them left to squeak.”

On the letters page the following day, Jill Venezuela retorted: “Just how outrageously unChristian Mrs Gillick has now become is evident … As she has 10 children herself, has she considered that one of them is potentially gay? Poor little squeaker.”

Nigella Lawson in the London Evening Standard (3 July) had no doubt. Her column was boldly headlined “Let gays get married”. She wrote: “Most heterosexual people do think of homosexuals as being more promiscuous than they are, as having less stable relationships. But the point is, they insist on denying them the right to legitimate or stabilise any relationship they have. I don’t know whether this is humbug, double-think or a particularly logic-defying self-deception. Whatever, for anyone at the receiving end of these smug and superior generalisations, it is clearly a no-win situation and demoralising at that.”

Ms Lawson thinks that gays should be granted “legal, registered domestic partnerships”.

Mary Kenny, on the other hand (Sunday Telegraph 23 June) thinks it “signals an extraordinary search for respectability which seems to be one of the hallmarks of our times”. She notes that when gay liberation first started, homosexuals proclaimed they were going to create an alternative lifestyle with none of the trappings of bourgeois respectability. Nowadays, she says, “campaigning homosexuals want to express their sameness, ordinariness and respectability”.

I’m not sure that Mary Kenny saw the Trafalgar Square wedding, with its leather-clad brides and fishnet-stockinged bridegrooms. There was more than a touch of send-up there, but I take her point.

If we really want to have gay marriage, the people we need to convince are the ones who make a small fortune out of the institution – the caterers and dressmakers, the bell-ringers and car hire merchants. The Independent on Sunday thoughtfully conducted a straw poll among entrepreneurs in the wedding industry asking: “Should gay couples have legal rights?” Most thought it was OK; two dissented.

Lily Lamb, a cake decorator, donned her philosopher’s cap to pronounce: “It’s wrong to have homosexuals at all … I wouldn’t decorate a gay wedding cake on principle.” While Diana Shirley “a honeymoon holiday specialist” said she was “against homosexuals marrying, but on the business side I’m for it”.

Meanwhile, Barbra Streisand was reported in The Sun (1 I July) to have “boycotted her son’s wedding – because he married his homosexual lover in a gay ceremony”. Streisand, who used to sing about “people who need people” obviously doesn’t practise what she preaches.

Someone else who just can’t drag himself into the twentieth century is dreary Peter McKay of the London Evening Standard, who was maundering on about Martina in his column of June 20th. “Martina Navratilova’s former companion, Judy Nelson is photographed leaving an American court with her two handsome sons … aged 20 and 17 … Lesbians have rights too. But to appear in such a case flanked by her two sons struck me as particularly revolting … (it) appeared to me to turn an accepted moral order on its head. We expect a mother to attend court with her sons accused of breaking society’s laws. But here is a mother using her sons in pursuit of compensation from a relationship which – if not actually an insult to their very existence – affronts the basis on which they were conceived.”

Will somebody show Puffed up Pete the door, please?

***

The Independent on Sunday (16 June) carried an interesting feature on America’s present craze for “outing”. The article was subsequently lifted by The Sun and presented under the headline “Branded Queer by Evil Gays”. The Sun, as you can see, doesn’t approve of outing celebrities. This does not stop them reproducing the posters which name the people in question. The “sinister gay sex slurs” which shock The Sun so much are, in fact, child’s play when set against The Sun’s own record of outing. Remember Elton John? Not only did they name Mr John as gay, they invented a whole catalogue of “sex slurs” in order to justify their actions. I wonder when we’ll see the headline “Evil tabloid newspaper lies through its teeth?”

Not in the immediate future, I suspect.

***

Welcome Out Department:

  1. Patric Walker, astrologer, who was interviewed in the London Evening Standard (21 June). “And how does his homosexuality sit with his Catholicism? Big Pause. ‘How! Sexuality is a natural body instinct; Catholicism, religion, philosophy are totally mind things. The body tells you one thing, the mind another.’”
  2. David Harrison-Harvey “picked by the Government to head a crucial foreign investment campaign” and describing himself in the London Evening Standard (10 July) as “Mr Establishment, conservative with a small and capital C” decided to come out “publicly, painfully and purposefully” in protest at the attitudes of the insurance industry to people with HIV and Aids. Three cheers, and let’s have more of this kind of thing from those on the Right, please.

GAY TIMES September 1991

The outing “hoax” started in The Sunday Times (28 July), but turned, during the following week, into a maniacal frenzy which sent the British press into overdrive.

FROCS had succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. [Note: FROCS – Faggots Rooting Out Closet Sexuality – was an ad hoc group that declared it intended to “out” a number of high profile public figures and called a press conference for this purpose. At the conference they said it was all a hoax, there would be no outings from them but asked the press to look at its own double standards on the issue.]

FROCS stated aim was to expose tabloid hypocrisy and homophobia, and all the papers — tabloid and broadsheet alike — performed right on cue. Every one of them editorialised in a most alarmingly self-righteous fashion. They said the supposed campaign was a “witch-hunt” (Daily Star 29 July); “spiteful” (Sun); “Bitchy and scabrous” (Daily Mirror); “downright nasty” (Independent); “McCarthyism” (Daily Telegraph); “despicable and vicious” (Daily Mail); “cruel” (Daily Express).

However, whatever the rights and wrongs of “outing” it gave the press a prime opportunity to dispense their homophobic poison in large measure. “This fascist gay army is doomed to failure,” said George Gordon, The Daily Mail’s disgraceful American correspondent. He started out talking about outing, but rapidly got on to his usual hobby horse — Aids. “The whole outing exercise was, in fact, the last desperate throw of angry gay activists who had failed to convince the world that Aids was as much a threat to the community at large as it was to homosexuals.” He maintains that Aids is a “lethal disease of choice”.

Mr Gordon says that the poster campaign was “as vicious and nasty as anything dreamed up by the Nazis in denouncing Jews a tool of psychological terrorism,” Yet in a phrase that could almost have been written by Dr Goebbels himself, Gordon says: “It was redefining the concept of suggesting that a gay community is genuine, inescapable minority into which one is born, from which one derives advantages and disadvantages and to which one owes inherent allegiance. It brands as immoral the attempt by prominent gays to escape the social penalties of homosexuality and advances a claim of moral kinship.”

Change the word gay to Jew in this passage and you will find classic fascist double-talk. Mr Gordon also says: “If any group needed an excuse to discriminate against gays, the Outing project has handed it to them on a plate.” Do journalists constitute such a group, by any chance?

But we needn’t worry — George Gordon’s powers of prophecy are somewhat flawed. A few years ago, he was writing in The Daily Mail that “The Gay Parades Are Over”, predicting that within a couple of years Aids would utterly destroy the gay community.

Since then the Gay Parades have become even larger and the gay community much stronger.

Lynette Burrows in The Sunday Telegraph (4 Aug) is no better. She states: “The aim of outing is to improve the civil liberties and general acceptability of homosexuality by demonstrating how many covert homosexuals there are doing a useful job in public life … It is as if a group who wanted hard drugs legalised were to publish a list of those pop stars who sniff cocaine, in the hope that their fame would commend their vice.” So, having a homosexual orientation is the equivalent of injecting drugs, is it? Such a thoughtful woman!

She says that the “common man” does not glean his concept of right and wrong from observing the activities of those who consider themselves to be “the best people”. “So are there any factors which might make the common man change his opinion that the Bible had it roughly right when it described homosexuality as wrong and dangerous; or is there even anything in the nature of ‘outing’ which might cause the common man to think that he had misjudged the homosexual lobby?”

Once again, the Nazis are invoked: “The instinctive repugnance which ordinary people feel for the practice of homosexuality has little to do with religion, as can be seen from rabidly anti-homosexual regimes like the Nazis’, which punished it with death, and from our own society which has become more openly and crudely anti-homosexual as our religious tolerance wanes.” So what exactly is Lynette Burrows’ point? That it’s OK to emulate the Nazis if that is what the ‘common man’ wants?

Burrows says that young men are “persuaded out of their role as husbands and fathers of the next generation by a practice that is the literal death of all that most parents have lived for and all the treasures of the temperament, intellect and talent that they have nurtured. This is not an idle fear to be merely dismissed as mere prejudice; it is the healthy response of families and of a society which know themselves to be threatened.”

These kinds of specious arguments, based on premises that don’t stand up to rational examination, are becoming more common in the “posh” papers. Listen to Barbara Amiel in The Sunday Times: “The excuse they (FROCS) offer for this appalling business is the need for strong role models for their community. What community is this? A community defined by the object of sexual desire. Militants have actually convinced perfectly decent people who are afraid of being unenlightened that the morally superior thing to do is view homosexuals as a separate, distinct group with a specific lifestyle and different values from the rest of us.”

Perhaps if Ms Amiel occasionally thought before she wrote, she would realise that the gay community arose to shield its members from constant attacks from “decent” people such as herself and Lynette Burrows and George Gordon. It’s because of their attitudes that “militant” homosexuals need to exist in the first place. Such simple reasoning seems beyond their grasp,

Later on, The Daily Star (7 Aug) was telling us on its front page that Tom Selleck was “proud to be straight” while The London Evening Standard (6 Aug) said that “so hetero Selleck sinks the outers.”

This wasn’t quite correct. Selleck had, in fact, sued the disgusting American tabloid The Globe which just happens to be edited by our old friend Wendy (sewer-rat) Henry, Regular readers will remember Ms Henry was sacked from a couple of British tabloids after dragging their standards lower than anyone thought they could possibly go. Nice to see her getting stung again. Well done, Tom.

Meanwhile, The Sun carried a story about Prince Edward headlined “Eddie’s Big Secret” (7 Aug). Far from being what you thought, it reported that Eddie “got into trouble for having girlfriends in his room at university. But he always tried to keep his student flings secret to protect the girls from publicity.”

Later that week a commentator was crooning: “I’ll bet the champagne corks were popping at Buckingham Palace at the news that Eddie had girls in his room after midnight”.

I think maybe her Majesty is a little more knowing than that — and it could be that she managed to obtain a complete copy of the Paris-Match which had six pages ripped out by distributors before it reached British shops. I am not allowed to tell you what was on those pages — let’s just say that Liz and Philip are probably trying to force the corks back into the champagne bottles at this very moment.

In America the outing campaign continues apace, and a senior Pentagon official has been outed in order to protest at the army’s persecutory attitude towards gay servicemen and women. Commenting on this latest “scandalous” example (14 Aug), The London Evening Standard’s Washington correspondent, James Bowman, argued that this man was not personally responsible for the witch-hunts that go on in the armed services and therefore shouldn’t have been targeted. The outers claim that because he works in the defence department he is helping administer the injustices and is, therefore, a hypocrite. In support of his argument, Mr Bowman cites a new film Europa Europa, the plot of which concerns “a Jewish boy in wartime Poland who, by fantastic happenstance, finds himself a member of the Hitler Youth”. At one point his true identity is discovered by a German soldier – an ex-actor – who is gay. The boy asks him “is it hard to play someone else?” The soldier replies: “It’s easier than being yourself.” Mr Bowman is moved to ask: Perhaps Queer Nation would consider such ‘hypocrites’ for outing, too. [Note: Queer Nation was the American group that started the outing controversy by publishing posters naming closeted gay actors.]

The answer is that if they are persecuting other people like themselves who choose not to pass for Nazis, then yes, yes and thousand times yes.

***

The debate on Christianity and homosexuality rumbles on in the pages of the religious press.

The Catholic Herald (9 Aug) reported that “The Vatican has intervened to block a north Italian parish priest’s initiatives in favour of homosexuals who continue to practise their Catholic faith.” The priest in question was Fr Goffredo Crema of San Savino, near Milan.

The priest had been writing articles in a gay magazine and helping to run a telephone helpline for gays. But the Vatican’s attempt to stifle the good father’s ministrations to his homosexual flock have brought deserved resistance. “Homosexuals from all over Italy as well as non-gay university professors, leading writers, journalists and a few Members of Parliament have lodged an appeal with Fr Crema’s bishop to fight Rome’s ruling.”

Meanwhile, according to The Guardian (14 Aug), “US public television is to pull a short film about a church demonstration by Aids activists from a broadcast later this month. It blames the ban on the film ‘pervasive tone of ridicule’ of the Roman Catholic Church.”

If it continues to behave in such an inhumane and fascistic manner, ridicule is the least the Vatican deserves.

Meanwhile, The Church Times (26 July) reported that the Episcopal Church (the US equivalent of the Church of England) discussed yet again whether it could sanction the ordination of practising homosexuals or bless same-sex relationships. Once again it failed to come to a consensus on either question.

The Church Times said: “Neither of the main competing proposals on homosexuality that had been sent to the convention was adopted. Instead, the 1,050 bishops, priests and lay deputies opted for compromise and maintains an ambiguous status quo.”

The Church Times Diary (7 Jun) was writing about Bishop Spong of Newark, New Jersey, who has spoken out strongly in favour of acceptance for gays within the religious community. The diarist noted that in a recent visit to London, Bishop Spong gave a talk “Seeking to show how similar standards for heterosexuals and homosexuals might work, he suggested that certain pursuits were life-denying for both; and along with things like prostitution and pornography he listed promiscuity.”

Apparently, some gay people in the audience had objected to this, saying they found promiscuity life-enhancing. The diarist opines that “this is where the battle ground will one day lie. Even if homosexuals achieved acceptance of their argument that ‘It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves,’ those among them who went on to claim that they could be excused any attempt at the virtue of fidelity would find the going very difficult.”

I imagine that many Christians would say that if you want to join the club, you have to play by the rules. The problem is that nobody seems to know what the rules of this particular game are.

Indeed, Stephen Fry was writing in his column in The Daily Telegraph (12 July) about the dangers of being selective (as so many frenzied fundamentalists are) in laying down biblical law. “There are a couple of passages from Leviticus where it is explicitly stated that it is ‘an abomination’ for a man to lie with another as with a woman. These are eagerly seized upon by those who would wish to demonstrate the wickedness of homosexuality. Neighbouring passages which state, with equal fervour, that thou shalt not wear a garment made of two different kinds of stuff, nor round off thine hair at the temples, nor mar the edges of thy beard, nor make any tattoos upon thyself, nor breed one kind of cattle with another, the-se are cheerfully ignored. Yet Leviticus states that all statutes must be obeyed, from kosher food to the sacrifice of a lamb (or two turtle doves if you cannot afford a lamb) made by a woman who has purified herself after giving birth … One is not given the option of picking and choosing between these eccentric commands.”

I wonder what Rev Tony Higton has to say about that?

***

The Daily Star’s “Poofters on Parade” outrage drew more than 170 complaints from all over the country to the Press Complaints Commission, and will be adjudicated on at its September meeting. Despite what you may have read in The Pink Paper, the meeting will not be chaired by Brian Hitchen, the author of the offending pieces.

***

Welcome Out Department: Florence Nightingale. The Sunday Express produced a bit more evidence to add to that already available that the Lady with the Lamp was a Sapphic sister. Major General Frank Richardson, aged 94, says that a “distinguished lady forbear of his called Helen was almost certainly seduced, within a whisker” by Ms Nightingale. The tenor of the piece, as you’d expect from The Sunday Express, extremely unpleasant. But at least it adds another hero to our rapidly-expanding roll-call of honour.

***

The Daily Star told its readers that “a London council tried to push through an odious policy. And they tried to cover their tracks. They wanted to foster three sad little girls with a lesbian couple. They made the girls wards of court. They persuaded a High Court judge to rule that newspapers would not be able to breathe a word about the story. That no questions should be asked. That the name of Southwark Council should not be mentioned. They reckoned without The Daily Star.”

Yes, that brave Mr Hitchen has managed to ensure that these “sad little girls” will remain in care – because he doesn’t approve of the lifestyle of the two women who were prepared to offer them a home.

Through some perverted logic, Hitchen manages to present himself as a hero. But this squalid bullying of innocent people in a cause for shame, not self-congratulation.

The usual backbench storm troopers were wheeled out to back up Fuhrer Hitchen. Gerald (holier-than-thou) Howarth was quoted as saying: “It must be a matter of public policy everywhere that children are not fostered by lesbians and homosexuals. That’s the way the Almighty ordained it. Whatever gloss you put on it, homosexuality is a deviation.”

GAY TIMES October 1991

Chaim Bermant — the noted opponent of prejudice against Jews — has gone into the recycling business. In The Daily Telegraph (3 Sep) he strung together a collection of over-familiar, ignorant and unoriginal opinions, first voiced by the likes of George Gale and John Junor — and subsequently copied by every right-wing ratbag you can think of — and called it a “Personal View”.

“Gays … are reverting to queers,” he starts tiredly, “but given their disposition should they not be calling themselves kamikazes? I ask the question in all seriousness, for they not only seem to have a death wish themselves, but an apparent readiness to inflict death on others.”

He was anxious that his readers should know that a Health Education Authority report “shows that a growing number of gays are no longer taking precautions to protect themselves, or their partners, and that promiscuity among them is as rife as ever.” He then went on to triumphantly quote Lynn Barber’s now notorious interview with Derek Jarman: “He was diagnosed as HIV positive five years ago and presumes he has Aids. Yet he admits he still picks up young men without mentioning his condition.”

Mr Jarman made clear in the Barber interview (in The Independent on Sunday) that all his encounters were safe, but Mr Bermant wants to know how safe is safe sex “given the hazards”.

Well, if you’re doing it right, very safe. But Mr Bermant does not want to know about the particulars of safe sex, he only wants to make points: “The (1967) Act was intended to remove the stigma of illegality from homosexual practices and to end the pariah of the homosexual. But, if politicians could have foreseen what was to follow, the Act would never have been passed … Where they had been retiring and discreet they became strident, assertive, even aggressive … they tried to push their teachings in schools … the homosexual way of life is … a desperately sad one. Their gaiety, where it exists, is extremely ephemeral. There is little love in their lives and their promiscuity is an attempt to snatch a moment of bliss in physical gratification … inherent sterility … Their relationships are generally brief … efforts at proselytisation … protest about pseudo-grievances …gays are pushing their luck and seem to think they can win over public sympathy by alienating it …” etc etc.

This, of course, is the kind of kaka one would expect from The Daily Telegraph — they’ve been publishing the same article, with a different name over it, at six monthly intervals for the past decade.

But do we expect better from The Guardian? Our enemies will have raised a cheer when they saw confirmation of just about everything they’ve ever said about us, served up by a gay man in The Guardian of September 7th. Rupert Haselden wrote, in a major feature: “There is an inbuilt fatalism to being gay. Biologically maladaptive, unable to reproduce, our futures are limited to individual existence and what the individual makes of it …” Mr Haselden says that because we have no children, we waste our meaningless lives in a merry-go-round of promiscuous sex “where Aids dangles like a flashing neon sign in the midst of the gay community becoming a metaphor for the self-destructiveness and self-indulgence that accompanies it.”

He writes about Aids as though it is an inevitable fate for any gay man who dares to have sex with another man. “All around, friends, lovers and acquaintances are dying and we in our turn prepare to make this supreme sacrifice. We are walking to the slaughter as stupidly as bullocks … Perhaps we have become fatalistic but there really isn’t any choice. If there is, it’s to sit at home waiting to die.”

The whole article is couched in this hopeless, passive self-indulgent style. It is shot through with self-loathing and moral cowardice.

Angry gays protested to The Guardian in their hundreds. How could a paper we had considered to be a friend stab us in the back like that? The Guardian maintains that it simply wanted to stimulate debate by being provocative. What it succeeded in doing was handing the right-wing a powerful stick with which to beat us.

The Sunday Express was first to take it up (15 Sep), with a full-page anti-gay diatribe, part of which was based on the Haselden article, exhorting its readers to withdraw any residual sympathy they may have had for gay people on account of how irresponsible we are.

The Guardian, meanwhile, published a supposed apology from Rupert Haselden (14 Sep) which merely compounded the errors of the previous article. He still maintains that “promiscuity” equals death, as though safe sex can’t be practised if you have more than a couple of partners.

If the publication of this trash was simply an error of judgement, then let Peter Preston, The Guardian’s editor, admit it. And let him make reparation by improving and extending the paper’s coverage of lesbian and gay issues.

If it was a deliberate decision to hurt its many thousands of gay readers, then The Guardian should remember that we have at our disposal the considerable power of boycott.

***

The Princess of Wales set an example to the whole country in her care and concern for her friend who was dying from Aids. She didn’t mess about with mealy-mouthed justifications — she just did what she felt was right, and if that didn’t suit the establishment, tough titty.

Not so the vile hacks of our press, who between them have responded to Princess Diana’s shining humanitarianism with a show of mean-mindedness that beggar’s belief.

The smug, self-congratulating Peter McKay on the London Evening Standard wrote: “Homosexuals die of Ads because medicine has not found a way of protecting them from the possible consequences of their sex lives. This is sad, but it is asking too much, I think, of public opinion to accord them more protection, more care, than what is offered those who endure other fatal diseases which they can’t avoid.” McKay, too, referred to Derek Jarman’s interview: “Some homosexuals who are HIV positive argue that they have a right to risk spreading the disease by continuing to have sex with young men they pick up on Hampstead Heath who do not know they are so affected.”

He then goes on to patronise the Princess of Wales’s concern: “(She) is young. She has a good heart. But I hope she develops a sense of proportion over Aids.”

Peter McKay’s apparently unshakeable ignorance is as nothing when compared to the offensiveness of John Junor, writing on the same subject in his column (Mail on Sunday, 1 Sep): “One visit I could understand. But six hours in a single spell? Four visits in 48 hours? A further bizarre visit to his bedside even after he had died? And finally a dramatically starring role at his funeral? Isn’t all this going over the top more than just a little?” He asks. “Just what then do you suppose can explain her preoccupation with this disease? Could she really want to go down in history as the patron saint of sodomy?”

Lynn Barber, in her column (Independent on Sunday, 8 Sep) took Junor to task in a most pleasingly vicious manner over that little outrage: “JJ says it would be ‘inconceivable’ for Princess Diana to have behaved in the same way if her friend had died of syphilis. Really? Is there a pecking order of illness? Where would JJ stand on, say, cirrhosis of the liver? At any rate, when JJ is on his deathbed, I hope his friends, if such there be, will weigh these matters carefully and think twice before visiting him.”

In the meantime, Julie Burchill was trying to devalue the Stirling work being done on Aids by Elizabeth Taylor. In a particularly bilious attack on Miss Taylor’s efforts to raise awareness (and money) for the fight against Aids, Burchill says that Elizabeth Taylor is only doing it because it’s easy. “Aids is not a contentious charity,” says Barmy Burchill (Mail on Sunday, 8 Sep).

But you’re wrong, Julie. Anybody who makes a public commitment to fighting Aids has to put up with — at best — the tawdry sneering and sniping of people such as yourself. At worst they must endure ugly abuse and even violence. The recent London conference of people with HIV and Aids showed the depths to which some people will sink in order to persecute those affected by HIV. Many journalists seem happy to invent the specious ‘rationales’ that make lynch-mobs feel self-righteous.

***

The topic of gay men seeking sex in public or semi-public places has been an issue of contention within our community for some time — to cottage or not to cottage, that is the question. But now it’s spilling out into the straight world in a big way.

According to The Sunday Telegraph (8 Sep), the residents of Hampstead in London are having their liberal consciences tested by the growing use of the Heath by gay men. It says: “The local newspaper is full of letters alleging that the north London parkland … has become a no-go area for families and lone walkers. They complain of men having sex on the footpaths while others solicit for partners.”

The ST then alleges that each weekend up to 500 men gather to picnic and bathe together in an area beside a bathing pond they have claimed for themselves and christened the Gay Lawn. “Some laze naked in the sun in an enclosed men-only changing area they call the Slab. At dusk scores more arrive to seek sexual partners in an area of woodland nicknamed ‘the jungle’.”

The London Evening Standard took the story up (12 Sep) in a two-page feature. It told tales of male couples doing it “doggy fashion’ on public footpaths in broad daylight. Some Hampstead residents claim that they are embarrassed to walk on certain parts of the Heath and worry about what their children might see. The Standard asks: “What would society’s response be if heterosexuals were to behave in the same way as the Heath’s gays?” and suggests the answer might rest in a letter from a resident which was published in The Hampstead and Highgate Express: “Let homosexuals with responsible, loving relationships put pressure on the men who are creating a feeling of despair and dislike in normally tolerant people.”

It’s difficult to know how much all this is a genuine problem and how much is self-perpetuating hysteria exacerbated by newspaper reports. Margaret Drabble, the novelist, has been walking on the Heath for 23 years and she says: “I have never heard of anything remotely unpleasant going on. It does not bother me at all. You know where they go and you can choose to go to those areas or not.”

Now over to Irvine beach park in Ayrshire, where The Daily Star reported (12 Sep) the case of the outraged passer-by who saw gay goings-on in the sand dunes. Mr Albert Brown who “could hardly believe that this was going on in a public place”, took photos of the “loads of naked bodies in the dunes” and handed them in to the local police station, But the boys-in-blue were red-faced when they realised that a participant in the “gay sex romps” was one of their own bobbies!

In Holland they do things differently. The Guardian carried a report about a beach at Zandvoort, west of Amsterdam, where gays gather to frequent the sand dunes. The local population in the area are indifferent, and the police pay no attention. According to the article, the nude beach — scene of many an indiscreet alfresco encounter – “intrigues and enriches the local population”.

Public nuisance or simply public perception?

***

An obituary of Dr Irving Bieber (Guardian 29 Aug) remembered his infamous 1962 research paper, which was to have profound implications for gay people. “He headed a study team that made a nine-year study of 106 gay men to find the origins of homosexuality. He concluded that it was an illness that could be treated or prevented through psychotherapy. He held that early disruptions in family relationships contributed to homosexual development.” Yes, it was Irving Bieber who propounded the theory that homosexuality is “caused” by having a domineering mother and a weak or absent father.

I wonder what the Professor would have thought about the findings of Simon LeVay, another American scientist who asserted last month that he had found a physical difference between the brains of gay men and those of heterosexual men. Surely they can’t both be right — either your mother made you into a homosexual or your hypothalamus did?

But The Independent on Sunday had great fun (1 Sep) tormenting those Christians who assert that homosexuality is a “choice” and therefore sinful. If this brainspot business is correct, surely the Bible’s condemnations are little more than ignorance of the physiological facts. As we know, God is omnipotent. He could not, therefore, have made a mistake in fashioning our hypothalamuses in the way He did if He hadn’t meant us to be gay.

It would be nice to say that it doesn’t matter a gnat’s arsehole what the Bishops and Archbishops think about gay people, but unfortunately The Sunday Times reported (15 Sep) that “A Church of England bishop is supporting plans to introduce American-style therapy sessions that claim to ‘heal’ Christian homosexuals so they become heterosexuals.”

According to the report, 43 “counsellors” have been training at Oak Hill College, North London and are now planning to set up a network of “sexual wholeness” groups at churches up and down the country. At the forefront of the scheme is the Rev Christopher Guinness who will attempt the brainwashing from St Michael’s Church, Belgravia.

Groups to look out for — now that the Conservative Family Campaign has collapsed under the weight of its own hatred — are “The Courage Trust” and “The True Freedom Trust”. It would be pleasant to be able to write off these two barmy organisations as just another collection of loonies with a neurosis about homosexuality. Unfortunately, they pose a severe threat to confused gay people who fall into their evil net.

Or as one gay man who underwent the “therapy” and remains gay says: “It is so dangerous because it parades as an answer to the problem, and if it doesn’t work somehow it’s your fault because you’re being sinful and you’re not giving yourself to God.” The Bishop of Durham was quoted as saying: “They do not face up to the serious probability of science that there are a number of homosexual people who are so by their very nature, and so they could be inflicting real violence on people. It’s in danger of interfering with nature and it’s exploitative, and has nothing to do with Christian grace.”

I’ll say amen to that.