GAY TIMES February 1992

Was there anything Freudian in the Anglican Bishops’ decision to use the term “homophile’ instead of “homosexual” to describe gay priests in their recent report on sexuality? It seems they’ve not only taken sex out of the terminology, they’ve also tried to remove it from the lives of their “homophile” vicars.

The publication of the report rekindled the whole acrimonious gay debate in the Church press. The bishops themselves are far from being agreed. Writing in The Church Times (10 Jan), John Habgood, the Bishop of York seems confused about the whole thing. On the one hand he accepts that some homosexual relationships can be good and life-enhancing, although like so many others in the Church he has great problems in accepting “homosexual genital activity”. He asserts that “an understanding of ‘nature’ … does not, as some people claim, justify the belief that homosexual relationships are in all respects as natural as heterosexual relationships”. He also claims that if homosexual relationships were to be accepted on a par with heterosexual marriage, they would undermine that institution. “To accept permanent homosexual relationships as an alternative to this social institution would be to misconceive and undermine the character of marriage itself, which is more than just a personal relationship between two individuals.”

In the same issue of Church Times, Hugh Montefiore wrote that an ancient Anglican tradition had been breached by the bishops’ pronouncement that it was OK for lay people to … well, lay each other (so long as they are in a committed relationship) but not at all OK for gay vicars to get the leg over (whatever the depth of their feelings for their partner): “There is no higher or lower way. All must aim at perfection, but perfection must be achievable within the particular circumstances of an individual,” says Montefiore. “The idea is far more likely to be misrepresented or obscured by such a clergyman trying to lead the kind of life to which he has not been called by God”.

The Bishop of Durham was, predictably, critical of the report (CT, 13 Dec): “I urged on my fellow bishops that we should not put the burden of these admitted uncertainties upon a small number of homosexual clergy who are still living discreet and disciplined lives, without scandal, and with the exercise of an effective and valued priesthood. The House of Bishops collectively decided otherwise.”

The Bishop of Chester, on the other hand, made a swingeing attack on gays who displayed a “phobia” about other homosexuals “of holy living”. He claimed that some who lived holy lives were afraid to declare their orientation “because of fierce attacks” from people such as OutRage!

Another Bishop, this time of Ely, also threw the blame back at the gay community, saying that the debate had reached a pitch in which “the affirmation of the norms of Christian conduct will be slated as homophobia, while any acceptance of the existence of homosexuals will be labelled a sell-out.”

A clever ploy — blame the victim for the crime — but it won’t wash, your Graces. There is still a well of nasty homophobia in the minds of many “good Christians”, which springs from the same kind of self-righteousness which led the Church into persecuting others in the past. The correspondence columns of both The Church Times and The Church of England Newspaper have been filled with letters on the topic. Most have been critical of the report, and seem to indicate that the extremist Higtonite approach is out, and moderation and compassion are in. Sigrid Rutishauser in The C of E Newspaper (10 Jan) likened the plight of gay Christians to that of the injured man in the parable of the Good Samaritan. “Will the priest and Levite recognise their fault and be genuinely sorry they left the man at the roadside? Will they apologise and seek to make amends?” She wonders how Jesus would have “made the story unfold” and then asks pertinently: “How will we?”

An answer from the bishops would be interesting, but I don’t think it will be forthcoming. It seems they aren’t ready to be good Samaritans yet.

Stan Norich writes that he “feels great despair at the publication of the report” and although there are claims that the report “teaches acceptance of gay Christians” it is, in fact, riddled with “deprecatory remarks” such as “gay relationships cannot be commended as a fruitful reflection of God’s purpose in creation”.

The Rev Michael Lewis found another glaring contradiction in the report: “If procreation, hallowed by marriage, is the acceptable thrust of creation, how complete is celibacy and how does abstinence help?”

The Rev Donald Harris says: “Dr Carey tells us the Bible is very clearly against practising homosexuality. What, then, does he make of David’s lament over Jonathan — ‘I grieve for you, Jonathan, my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women (2 Samuel I: 25,26)?”

***

It seems that Lancashire police are trying to tone down their cottage trawls (the official line, as stated by John Bates, chief crown prosecutor for Lancashire and Cumbria, is that “the police had no wish to harass the homosexual community providing they were not causing distress or embarrassment to the public”). Why, therefore, is the Lancashire Evening Telegraph getting all hot under the headlines? In a full-page article, the paper does an expose of “Sleazy lairs where men look for men — sordid sex shock of ‘cottage’ toilets.” They tell of a “rent boy racket” which they say is being run from a public toilet in Blackburn, although the police “have been unable to substantiate the claims’. However, park rangers say that they are certain there are rent boys operating because wait for it — “they have received complaints from old women who have been subjected to obscene suggestions in Wilton Park”. Well, that follows, doesn’t it?

The paper also provides a step-by-step guide to trolling etiquette in the local woods: apparently you flash your car headlights to indicate that you’re hot to trot. “Cars pulled into the clearing, parked up and sat waiting for a signal and response. When the correct contact was made two men would sheepishly wander down the path, to reappear separately about 10 minutes later and return to their cars.” The reporter stopped one man who obligingly told him that the best time was around 4pm.

A police officer says that it’s a matter of priorities, and if there are no complaints, they simply don’t bother. “Public attitudes have changed, and it no longer raises eyebrows,” one officer is quoted as saying.

Still, if I lived in Lancashire, I’d give the cottages in Todmorden Road, Burnley; Blackburn Road, Clayton-le-Moors and Hyndburn a miss for a few weeks until the attention has died down and the local gay-bashers have got fed up with hanging about waiting for victims.

***

The Independent (10 Jan) was the first to report the plans of Tim Luscombe and his London Gay Theatre Company to reinterpret the plays of Shakespeare from a gay point of view. This was too good for the tabloids to miss, and both The Sun and The Star did send-ups on the story the following day.

Their efforts were remarkably similar, both relying on feeble puns — the same feeble puns they used last time there was a “Shakespeare is gay” story. Both papers presented possible gay titles for the bard’s plays. The Sun comes up with Romeo and Julian; The Fairy Wives of Windsor; A Mince Summer Night’s Dream; Julius Teaser and so on. The Star’s efforts included Romeo and Julian; The Fairy Wives of Windsor; A Mince Summer Night’s Dream; Julius Teaser. It was all so hilariously funny that I’m afraid I fell asleep. And in this respect, I can do no better than to quote Hamlet: “How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable.”

That didn’t stop The Times risking an editorial on it (11 Jan) opining that Shakespeare was open to as many interpretations as anyone could think of. “To those who have eyes for them, there are hints of homosexuality to be found in most of the Shakespearean canon … Go for the words and find whatever you want there, with pleasure. The old fellow is a manifesto for all seasons.”

***

Just about every columnist had a go at nominating their “best of the year” awards in January, so I will nominate the best of the “best of the year” as Mark Steyn, television critic of the London Evening Standard, who nominated the Radio Times for the best condom slogan: “If it’s on, it’s in.”

***

There’s a queue of showbiz stars waiting to tell us about their sexuality this month, but first we’ll dispense with “Texan oilman” Steve Wyatt, the gentleman who has been causing such an argy-bargy in the tabloids after it was suspected he was having a “romance” with Her Royal Silliness, The Duchess of York. According to The News of the World (19 Jan) his step-father is “laughing off’ rumours that Steve is homosexual. Commenting on the “gay slurs” Oscar Wyatt says “This whole thing is ridiculous. Steve likes girls. He is a normal, red-blooded male, certainly not gay.”

Thank God for that – Steve Wyatt is one individual the gay community is better off without. And as for Fergie — why doesn’t she get herself a job she knows something about? Perhaps as presenter of The Holiday Programme.

Then came the ludicrous attempt last month by Sheridan Morley to cast doubt upon the homosexuality of Noel Coward. Mr Morley claimed that Noel had had an affair with Gertrude Lawrence. Honestly, the cheek of these heterosexuals and their pathetic attempts to rob us of our finest! The claim was so silly it was shot down within the week. The Independent on Sunday finally nailed the lie when it published a letter from Gertie’s own child Jon Wynne-Tyson who proclaimed: “He was 100 per cent, though not flauntingly, homosexual. I know this to be so not only from his personal admission, but from written and recorded evidence.”

So, yah, boo, sucks to Sheridan Morley.

Next, we have the case of “hunky” John Huntley who, according to The News of the World (5 Jan) “blew his top when he realised his rippling muscles were being used to turn on gay perverts.” Apparently, Mr Huntley — who regularly flashes his arse at readers of The Sun as a Page 7 Fella — discovered that pictures of him undoing his flies were being used in a phone-line advertisement in Gay Times. “I’m quite definitely not gay,” John is said to have “fumed”. “I don’t want people getting the wrong idea.”

All right, calm down John, lovey, we don’t mind you being straight, but try not to be narrow about it as well.

Next in line is Dirk Bogarde, knighted in the New Year’s Honours List and asserting once more that his long-term live-in relationship with his manager the late Antony Forwood, was “platonic”. In a profile in The Observer (5 Jan), Sir Dirk is quoted as saying: “Ours was a totally platonic relationship; Tony was a rather puritanical figure who also happened to hate the idea of homosexuality, but that doesn’t make it any easier to live without him.”

He recalls how on an edition of Desert Island Discs Sue Lawley asked, “So is there nothing? Is there no love in you to give?” He regarded the question as “treacherous”, but as one who seems inordinately fond of public self-examination, Sir Dirk should have welcomed it.

Next in line with a denial is Whitney Houston. In an interview with The People Magazine (5 Jan), the singer says that rumours about her being lesbian are “hurtful and untrue”. “Some sections of the media have gone to town on this angle,” she says. “It’s been very upsetting. The fact is I love men.”

Someone else who loves men is Marvel Comic’s superhero Northstar. According to The Guardian (18 Jan), the muscle-bound member of Alpha Flight Team (his adventures appear in Alpha Flight Comic), “bursts out of the closet” by declaring his sexual identity as he wages a fistfight. “Do not presume to lecture me on the hardships homosexuals must bear,” he thunders, “No one knows better than I. For while I am not inclined to discuss my sexuality with people for it is none of their business … I am gay.”

I wonder who they’ll get to play Northstar in the film version? Certainly not John Inman, the ancient bete noir of the gay community, who has made a comeback as the mincing Mr Humphries in a dire new TV sitcom Grace and Favour. In an interview with The People, the man who has made a living from. chanting “I’m Free” revealed: “Remaining single is a major decision I made some time ago. I’ve put my work before marriage and children because I love being Mr Humphries more than I would a husband and father. I’m married to my career.”

Oh well, at least his fiance wasn’t killed in the war.

Over to Maurice Chevalier who, according to Today (10 Jan) had a series of “surprising relationships” with gentlemen — one of whom was alleged to have been a British soldier. The claim is made in a new biography of the star by David Bret, to be published in March. Mr Bret is quoted as saying: “The first relationship with a man took place when Chevalier was 20. It was an English soldier called Martin Kenny, whom he rescued from drowning.”

***

Nurture or nature — the argument continues. Are gays born or are we created? Having had the hypothalamus theory in August, we now have the twins factor.

According to a report in The Guardian (18 Dec) research carried out in America “found the genes men inherit may account for as much as 70 per cent of the probability that a man will be gay”. This conclusion was reached after a study of 167 men and their brothers at Tufts University, Massachusetts.

The report says that three groups were studied: “56 pairs of identical twins, who develop from the same egg in the womb and thus share the same genes; 54 pairs of fraternal twins, born simultaneously from separate eggs and as genetically similar as any siblings; and 57 pairs of adoptive brothers, who had’ nothing in common genetically.”

The scientists discovered that the more genetically similar each subject was to his brother, the more likely he was to be gay himself. 52 per cent of the identical twin brothers of gay subjects were also gay, compared with 22 per cent of fraternal twins and only 11 per cent of adoptive brothers, So, that settles it, we are mainly the product of our genes.

But wait. Another study of twins carried out by Thomas Bouchard at the University of Minnesota, and reported in The Observer Magazine (15 Dec) appeared to have reached a different conclusion. “There are traits,” says the article, “that have been found to be purely influenced by the environment, such as homosexuality. In the case of female twins in which one of the pair grew up to be lesbian, the other was always found to be heterosexual. In male twins, however, a few pairs were found in which both were homosexual. This could be coincidence or it could imply that homosexuality in men has a more complex causation.”

Well, back to the drawing board troops.

***

Garry Bushell is a member of Mensa — an organisation for people who declare themselves to have above-average IQs. In Mensa’s latest journal he says that homosexuality is a “sad, dead-end perversion” and that people working in TV are promoted “solely because of their sexual preference”.

Which all goes some way to proving that you can be brainy and barmy at the same time. Mr Bushell has now slithered back to The Sun after a brief sojourn on The Star, which took Bushell to court in an effort to make him work his full three months’ notice. They failed and now Mr Bushell is regaling Sun readers once more with his fetid opinions. He probably thinks of it as two media giants fighting to secure a glittering prize. In fact, it is more like two dung beetles fighting over a turd.

GAY TIMES January 1992

Woodrow Wyatt wrote in The News of the World (1 Dec): “We’re badly served by our broadcasting and Press commentators. Most are too stupid or too lazy to examine the facts behind the issues.”

Which brings me on to the newspapers’ coverage of Aids since the death of Freddie Mercury.

Britain’s “ignorant and lazy” newspaper commentators gave Freddie Mercury 24 hours to rest in peace before they proclaimed him the filthiest, vilest, most corrupt creature that ever walked the face of the earth. And why did they all think this? Because Mr Mercury was supposed to be a “promiscuous homosexual”. They were all agreed that Freddie deserved all he got.

“Freddie’s life was consumed with sodomy. He died from it,” opined Peter McKay of the London Evening Standard (28 Nov), while Joe Haines in The Daily Mirror wrote: “He was sheer poison, a man bent — the apt word in the circumstances — on abnormal sexual pleasures, corrupt. corrupting and a drug taker… Mercury died from a disease whose main victims in the Western world are homosexuals. For his kind, Aids is a form of suicide … his private life is a revolting tale of depravity, lust and downright wickedness.”

John Junor was, of course, on the front row of the gloating mob (Mail on Sunday, 1 Dec): “If you treat as a hero a man who died because of his own sordid sexual perversions aren’t you infinitely more likely to persuade some of the gullible young to follow in his example?”

The Daily Star (27 Nov) gave Dr Adrian Rogers space to exploit the tragedy for his own sick purposes: “How can people like this receive adulation at the same time as doing harm?”

Julie Burchill made some kind of point in her column (Mail on Sunday, 1 Dec), but it was so convoluted and contradictory that I’m not quite sure what it was. She managed to cloak her condemnation of Freddie under a veil of pretend concern for his family. She said that the only heroic thing he did was to keep quiet about his illness until the end. She thinks that although he was one of those blameworthy homosexuals (“We revile the West for taking this and other venereal diseases to the South Seas — yet must never mention the fact that homosexuals brought Aids over here”) he bore it “as though it were any other illness” and kept quiet about it.

Brian Hitchin, editor of The Daily Star, and someone who purports to.be a member of the human race, went one further on December 3rd, when he suggested that people get involved in Aids work simply so they can meet the Princess of Wales: “It seems to me Princess Diana’s morbid fascination with Aids has hung a Royal Warrant over the disease and endorsed it as an acceptable and fashionable way of dying.” Is this man sane?

In fact, so much in agreement were the columnists on this particular issue that it was occasionally difficult to tell their products apart. Look at these two examples, one from Bernard Dineen in The Yorkshire Post (25 Nov) and one from Cliff Graham in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle.

Dineen: “Anyone who doubts the extent of homosexual promiscuity should examine gay periodicals such as The Pink Paper … Its advertisements make clear that caution is not in fashion. Yet any attempt to reveal the facts about gay promiscuity provokes an outcry from activists.”

Graham: “You should examine some of the gay magazines. The advertisements make it clear that caution is not in vogue. Yet if anyone dare to write about gay promiscuity he or she is shouted down by the activists and branded a ‘homophobe’.”

Dineen: “These shrill activists do a disservice to their fellow homosexuals by their pretence that they represent ‘the gay community’ when in fact there is no such entity.”

Graham: “The activists pretend to speak for the ‘community’ when there is in reality no such thing.”

Dineen: “Their pretence that Aids is some sort of badge of honour — recklessly living for today without thinking of tomorrow —is sinister and perverse.”

Graham: “By pretending that Aids is some sort of badge of honour these people anger ordinary people.”

I wonder if these two gents know each other? Or is the bigoted mind so narrow that it thinks only on one track using the same universal vocabulary of hate?

Martina Navratilova, of course, opened another bag of worms when she commented on the case of Magic Johnson, the American basketball player who has declared himself HIV positive. She spoke bitterly of the sympathy he received from the public that would have been totally denied to her if she had made the same declaration. In The Sunday Times (17 Nov) Barbara Amiel reported a “key moment” when Johnson appeared on a chat show and stated he was “far from being a homosexual”. “The audience cheered in response. Cheered! Why?” she asked, “I don’t think the homosexual community would be wrong in seeing that as the reaction of a society which still has a phobia about homosexuality … the studio audience reacted to Johnson in the way they might to any hero of theirs who reports that in spite of some adversity he is still one of them.”

Ms Amiel is of the opinion that while “Aids is caused by a virus, the epidemic is caused by a lifestyle — promiscuity.” She says that putting the emphasis on condoms instead of self-restraint is the wrong approach. She should try telling that to the person who acquired HIV through a single sexual contact.

The press has been trying very hard this month to reconstruct the “gay plague” mentality without actually using that phrase. There have been several articles reassuring heterosexuals that they are not at any significant risk. The Sunday Express (1 Dec) told its (straight) readers that they were 25 times more likely to die falling from a ladder than from Aids. In The Daily Mail (2 Dec) Geoffrey Levy told us: “In the West, Aids always has been and always will be a disease primarily contracted by, and circulated among, practising, promiscuous homosexuals.”

In The Independent (2 Dec), William Rees-Mogg was once again attempting to twist and manipulate the Aids tragedy into a tool for his ceaseless evangelising. He maintains that Aids will continue to spread because people are not monogamous. He admits they never have been and probably never will be. He even admits that this “promiscuity” is often motivated by “the search for the ideal partner”. What’s this — are we at last getting down to the nitty-gritty of why it isn’t good enough simply to say “Thou shalt not”? Have we found someone who has recognised that human life is not that simple and human relationships not that convenient?

But Moggy is not being suddenly human — he’s just riding his religious hobby horse again. He wants us all to be good Christians and then, it seems, we’ll be cured of our pesky need for love and intimacy.

It took an editorial in The Independent (17 Nov) to put things in a bit more perspective. “Heterosexual smugness will be the real killer,” it announced. “Only when we rid ourselves of the idea that Aids is a ‘price’ to be paid, that some victims … are ‘innocent’ while others are ‘guilty’. But we need to be rid of the idea now: It cannot be said too often that Aids is a disease and it is possible to get it from a single unprotected encounter. Apportioning guilt to people with potentially fatal infections is not just morally repugnant; it is also foolish.”

***

November 24th –  The countdown to Armageddon began when The Independent on Sunday’s front page announced OutRage!’s plan to distribute “OK to be Gay” flyers at a London school on the following Wednesday. The loS dredged up Stephen Green of the Conservative Family Campaign to say: “Homosexuals always want new recruits because homosexuality is not something you’re born with, it’s acquired behaviour.”

Monday 25th — two days to Armageddon: The Daily Mail reported that Education Minister Tim Eggar “completely condemned any campaign which promotes homosexuality”. The National Family Campaign (a tiny bunch of religious fanatics who inflate themselves by use of such grand sounding titles) said that OutRage were “trying to indoctrinate and corrupt young children”.

Over in The Independent, a major feature by Neil McKenna, looked at what it is like to be a gay school child in 1991, Not much better, it turns out, than it was in 1891. An equal opportunity adviser with a Labour local authority was quoted as saying: “Sexual orientation is effectively swept under the carpet — there is an atmosphere of hysteria which is very different from how teachers and schools approach racism and sexism.”

Talking of hysteria, enter the profoundly loony Paul Johnson. He’s still trying to push his self-invented concept of “liberal fascism”, He said in The Daily Mail that “liberal fascists” (or “moral terrorists”) use “jargon to create loaded images”. Presumably he means jargon like “liberal fascists” and “moral terrorists”. He also elevated Peter Tatchell to the status of public enemy number one: “We should tell the Peter Tatchells among us that, if they want to play extremist games, they must take a one-way ticket to the USA.”

Under that reasoning, Paul Johnson ought to bog off to Iran, where he could wallow unfettered in the righteous cruelty of which he seems so fond. He might even get to stone a few gays to death. He’d like that.

Armageddon minus one found The London Evening Standard also taking pot shots at the re-demonised Peter Tatchell. It reported: “Leading gays join in attack on Tatchell school tactics.” Matthew Parris, ex-Conservative MP and now leading gay rentagob for the right-wing press, said: “I disagree with some of OutRage!’s aims and most of its tactics.”

Robin Squire, a current Tory MP and Stonewall supporter, said: “OutRage! have been associated with stunts which are more likely to provoke a hostile reaction than a sympathetic one. It is acknowledged that I believe in using Parliamentary and constitutional means to achieve our aims, but I think OutRage! stirs up intolerance, and I do not welcome this.”

The Times carried an interview with Margaret Jay, director of the National Aids Trust. Of the leafleting campaign she said: “I think children ought to be told that there are various, equally acceptable ways of expressing sexuality. The difficulty lies in expressing one form in isolation. I am not saying that children should be encouraged to explore homosexuality, but they should be taught that different forms of sexual expression are acceptable and, yes, gay sex education must be included. You have to start young, in primary schools … Sexual education is much broader than that and it should be mandatory in schools and not left up to the discretion of individual governing bodies.”

Well, at least here is one person who can see the wood for the trees. But back to the real world of screaming “moralists” and political axe-grinders.

Wednesday 27th: judgement day dawned. The birds sang. Did they know that today the world as we knew it was likely to end in cataclysm? Did they have any inkling that at lunch time, Haverstock School was going to be leafleted by OutRage!?

Somehow the world continued to turn, and we eventually managed to reach Thursday 28th without the country being consumed in civil disorder and mayhem.

“Lesson in liberation flops” crowed The Daily Mail, although its story did not support the headline. It quoted one 16-year-old girl as saying: “They have a perfect right to be here. Our school is very good at teaching us not to be racist or sexist, but I feel we ought to be taught more about this.” However, a mother who kept her children at home said: “I have nothing against gay people but…” (oh yes, always a ‘but’) … “but I don’t want them approaching my kids at the school gates.”

According to The Daily Star the children were given “gay sex pics”. An onlooker, Edward Atkinson, was quoted in their story as saying: “What they’re preaching is straight from the devil.” This was the same Edward Atkinson, pictured in The Independent, with a poster reading “Do Not Offend The Lord Our God Any More. He Is Already Much Offended”. He was handing out leaflets aimed at indoctrinating children in the ways of religious bigotry.

According to Today “Furious parents kept their children at home yesterday when gay extremists confronted school pupils with explicit leaflets promoting homosexuality.” That one sentence contains just about every distortion you could possibly wring out of this particular story.

The Sun said there was a “storm”, although the TV film of the demo revealed a pretty calm and placid scene. According to the papers, parents were beside themselves with fury, whereas the children seemed quite unconcerned. The Daily Telegraph quoted children as saying: “Homosexuals at school are too frightened to talk about it. Maybe this demonstration will change that,” and “There’s nothing wrong with homosexuality.”

It seems the kids at Haverstock School have little to learn from OutRage’s leaflet. Perhaps the “gay extremists” time would have been more effectively employed leafleting frenzied parents or, better still, journalists as they left their offices for the wine bar.

They might have cornered Richard Littlejohn who writes a knee jerk column in The Sun. He said, somewhat predictably: “Peddling such propaganda in the wake of Freddie Mercury’s death is rather like telling people drinking and driving is perfectly acceptable on the day of a multi-fatality motorway pile-up caused by a drunken motorist.”

Such cynical distortion is a trait Littlejohn shares with that other master of deception, Bernard Ingham. Now this is a man whose opinions of propaganda and disinformation we have to take seriously. He is, after all, an accredited expert having spent ten years creating exquisite lies for Mrs Thatcher.

And to show that twisted minds think alike, he made Littlejohn’s point again in The Daily Express: “After Mr Mercury’s death, Dr Patrick Dixon, director of Aids Care Education and Training hoped that ‘we may be able to protect a generation by convincing children in the classroom that Aids is for real”. Oh no you won’t — not if OutRage have anything to do with it.”

Peter McKay of The Standard declared that: “Now we’ve got to endure the ululations of gays who say we are not tolerant enough of the sexual practices that are killing them. Well, forget it boys. Sort it out for yourselves.” We’ll sure miss your help, Mr McKay!

John Smith of The People said that OutRage! was telling the children “fibs”: ‘To start a campaign which implies that our schools are packed with secret homosexuals silently screaming to come out of the closet is just another gay fairy story.”

This kind of belligerent, heterosexual chauvinism was most clearly illustrated in a letter to The Standard, from Essex person Kerstin Griffiths: “If we wish to preserve the family, schoolchildren should be taught only about normal, healthy relationships between man and woman, husband and wife, the happy way of life for the vast majority.”

Leaving aside the issues of wife-beating, child abuse, divorce rates. one-parent families etc, then Kerstin’s point is that if you’re straight, you’re great.

I’m afraid the evidence under our noses tells us it ain’t necessarily so.

GAY TIMES March 1992

Members of the MG Sports car club receive a magazine called Enjoying MG. A few months ago, it carried a couple of ads from gay men in its personal column. It now emerges that this small event caused the editor an inordinate amount of hand wringing, and in the February edition of Enjoying MG, club secretary, Roche Bentley, is rueful: “The girls in the office asked me what we should do (about the ads) so I deliberated for two days and then asked the girls for their opinion. The girls recommended that we should accept the adverts and with misgivings I agreed. I think the adverts were even successful and one ‘outdoor guy seeking young man’ actually got several replies through his box number.”

The regulation bigot was, of course, on hand to complain about the ads, and accused the club of “promoting homosexuality”. On receipt of this one and only protest, Mr Roche went into reverse: “In these modern times when it’s okay to be gay is being pushed at us from all sides, when people who should know better are bombarding children outside the school gates with pro-gay literature and when I expect that soon someone will try to get a bill through parliament making being gay compulsory. I feel we should stop, take a stand and say No, no more, I don’t want to offend club members who are gay but on the other hand there are specialist magazines and clubs where gays can make new friends.”

For someone who doesn’t want to offend his gay membership, Mr Roche is making a pretty good job of doing just that. Doesn’t he realise that it is precisely because of petty discriminations such as this that demonstrations are organised? Doesn’t he understand how infuriating it is to hear such thoughtless “jokes” as the one about homosexuality being made “compulsory”? And yes, there are specialist magazines in which gays can advertise, just as there are for heterosexuals. However, for gay MG enthusiasts who want to meet others, what better medium can there be than Enjoying MG?

Come on, Mr Roche, don’t buckle under to the first homophobe who writes you a letter. Ask the girls in your office again, they seem to have more sense than most.

***

So, there I was, see, banged up by the old Bill in Kennington nick and not enough snout to see me frew the day. Ooer, you’ll have to excuse the occasional lapse into prison argot, but it seems so natural to me after taking part in OutRage!’s recent “arrest-in” outside Parliament and being “held by the police” (as they say in the papers).

It was an interesting — not to mention surreal — experience to be involved in one of these brazen publicity exercises, and then to see how the media actually responded to the bait. The day after the demo most of the papers carried some mention of it although, of course, the tabloids concentrated on the fact that Jimmy Somerville and Derek Jarman were among those who put themselves forward for imprisonment. The Guardian (7 Feb) carried a melodramatic photograph of Mr Jarman being driven away in a police van, while The Independent had a picture of us martyrs lying in the middle of Charing Cross Road. The Sun summed it all up in one sentence: “Pop star Jimmy Somerville and former Labour candidate Peter Tatchell were arrested on a gay rights march in London yesterday”. This minimalist account of the affair was positioned immediately underneath a large story (with pictures) headlined “Murderer Nilsen Gay Lover Dies”. You’ll understand the connection between the two events — or at least, the connection which The Sun hopes its readers will make.

The day before the demo, Auberon Waugh was writing in his column in The Daily Telegraph (5 Feb): “In addition to civil disobedience, OutRage! plans a teenage ‘kiss-in’ in front of Parliament, ‘soliciting’ in Piccadilly and pickets of the Defence Ministry to protest against the ban on homosexuality in the armed forces. Never mind that heterosexuality is also forbidden within the armed forces, as every sailor has discovered who ever tried to kiss a Wren on board ship. Never mind that heterosexuals are similarly forbidden to solicit in the streets.”

Sorry to have to trouble you with the facts, Auberon, dear, but there is no such thing as “soliciting” for heterosexuals, unless a prostitute is involved. And I wonder whether you have heard of “married quarters”, which are situated on just about every military base. These quarters have been established almost exclusively for the practise of heterosexuality and straight sex is had there quite legally between soldiers and their wives (and frequently between soldiers and their colleague’s wives). If a gay soldier did the same thing with his boyfriend, he would be expelled from the service with dishonour and deprived of his pension rights.

The Daily Telegraph took up the cudgels again (8 Feb) when Martyn Harris —who actually attended the demo — told of his experience in a column headed “A wiggle on the wild side”. “At this very British demo, all law-breaking had been arranged beforehand with the police … Serious homosexual grievance in Britain is as otiose as the ‘rage’ in OutRage!, but today’s harmless gesturism is probably as useful as a focus for these likeable, rather lonely people, as it is a spectacle for everybody else.”

Otiose, by the way, means “futile, serving no useful purpose” and is a word that could be applied to about ninety per cent of what is written in the Telegraph’s opinion pages. Martyn Harris, though, provides an excellent example of that rather sad smugness that some heterosexuals feel when they encounter homosexuals. They behave like rich tourists visiting the Third World and begin to patronise the citizens of this other, infinitely inferior, country. It obviously reassures them about their “normality”.

Another example of this curious self-congratulation occurs in the person of Mary Kenny, an honorary member of the journalistic old boy’s network that dominates the “opinion” pages of the right-wing press. In her column about OutRage! (Sunday Telegraph 26 Jan), she adopted a tone of what I suppose she considered ridicule: “What strikes me about the poor dears in OutRage! is — forgive me for being lookist as the Americans call discrimination on the grounds of appearance — how plain and unprepossessing they seem. Dreary little creatures in anoraks. Anoraks!”

Ms Kenny’s coma-inducing opinions were set on their head when costume designer Sandy Powell got all dressed up in a sexy rubber dress to take part in an OutRage! demo, delivering what The Sun described as “a hard-hitting speech on gay rights” during the British Film Awards ceremony organised by the homophobic Evening Standard.

OutRage!’s demos are supposed to echo the tactics of the suffragettes, and I have a feeling that in their day Mrs Pankhurst and her followers had to endure similar kinds of condescending newspaper coverage. It’s all part of the establishment’s way of maintaining a status quo favourable to them. But it won’t work. OutRage! is discomfiting the reactionaries — a sure sign that it’s working.

***

Is there an equal opportunity policy in the afterlife? If there is, it seems to have been breached by Britain’s spiritualist mediums. According to Psychic News (“the world’s only independent spiritualist weekly newspaper” — 1 Feb): “A Sussex lesbian said that some mediums are too prejudiced — or coy — to pass on messages from ‘dead’ gay lovers and friends.” It seems that Sue Dimond, who claims to have the ‘gift’ herself, feels sadness “at the way some spirit communications are distorted to lose any gay references.” She says that “more young gay men than ever are visiting Spiritualist churches seeking comfort after friends pass of Aids.”

My only experience with a medium was with that doyenne of the celestial switchboard, the dear departed Doris Stokes (“You’d like to speak to Oscar Wilde? One moment, dear, I’ll put you through”). I was working on the Woman’s Own problem page at the time, and she was writing a weekly column. The whole thing was as raw and repellent as uncooked tripe, but people lapped it up, and Doris became very rich. Meanwhile, we agony aunts were left to clear up the debris. Far from putting people in touch with their dead loved ones, all Doris did was stand in the way of the healing process of grieving and acceptance.

If any bereaved gay man is thinking of visiting a medium, I would strongly advise against it; get in touch with the Gay Bereavement Group instead, for some real help. You won’t need a seance, just a telephone.

***

Weeks before “The Lost Language of Cranes” was broadcast on BBC2, we were being warned that it would cause uproar. “The tabloids have been sniffing, scenting outrage on the wind,” wrote Nicholas de Jongh (Guardian 6 Feb) who had visited the set during filming. The London Evening Standard was predicting that the film was “set to provoke controversy” with its “startling” portrayals of “tenderness between father and son and their respective lovers.” The Independent (8 Feb) conjectured that the BBC would be “battening down the hatches for a storm in the tabloids”.

As it turned out, the tabloids showed little interest in the film. No tales of switchboards being jammed or mums-of-three being fearful for their kiddies. All we got was a review in The Daily Mail on 10th Feb (“Much too seedy for a Sunday”) and Garry Bushell in The Sun (12 Feb), whose nervy knee was jerking alarmingly (“What sort of mind squanders public money on such filth? TV is riddled with a cancerous Pink Mafia who are determined to glamorise their own perversion, no matter what viewers think.”)

Indeed, Margaret Forwood in The Daily Express (13 Feb) was so enthusiastic, she hoped it would be made into a series (“I longed to know what happened to them all next”). It was left to The Times to take up the cudgels on behalf of the poor, offended viewer: “The film raises other important issues, not least whether BBC should be screening such a literally naked portrayal of gay sexual love.”

Nancy Banks-Smith in The Guardian thought that “Scenes shot for the cinema seem offensive in your own home. Personally I resent films where I have to spend periods examining my own fingernails. Not to look seems like a terrible waste of all that backlighting poured like syrup over spotted dick. But I bore up bravely until the credits when I saw the singer was Van de Bent.”

Meanwhile Mark Steyn in The Evening Standard thought the “male members of Eileen Atkins’ family emerged from the closet at a more frequent rate than the Docklands Light Railway.”

It was left to The Independent to invite a married gay man to comment on the programme (11 Feb). He said: “I thought the treatment was basically soapy and twee and was pretending to be ‘serious’ adult drama. The son was cute.”

And reasonably hung too. Brave old aunty Beeb.

***

The Paddy Ashdown affair demonstrated once again how much “the tabloids” have become the barometer of our society; everyone was up in arms about what “the tabloids” had done to the Liberal Democrat leader. Only “the tabloids” could have sunk so low or, as Joe Rogaly said in The Financial Times (7 Feb): “Anyone who read one of Britain’s tabloids yesterday would feel the need to wash his or her hands; if you read them all only a hot bath in mild acid would suffice.”

It seems that “the tabloids” aren’t just newspapers anymore, they have become a sort of alternative reality, espousing opinions that no-one admits to sharing, and abiding by a morality that everyone seems to spurn. Except, that is, Bernard Ingham who was complaining in The Daily Express (13 Feb) that it is only to “champagne socialists” that “tabloids has become a dirty word.”

Peter Jenkins in The Independent (6 Feb) said: “The real story here does not concern Mr Ashdown’s private life five years ago but how within two days of a burglary, a private and confidential document was on sale to the News of the World, which was prepared to pay money to confirm the story. The ready market for such wares encourages such crimes. It does great harm to the cause of a free press because it encourages the courts to issue gagging writs that can be used to prevent the exposure of serious misdemeanour in high places. It invites politicians to consider press laws that would seriously infringe the freedom of speech … It deserves to go down in the annals of scandal not as the ‘Ashdown scandal’ but as another blemish on our popular press.”

The editors of these rags tell us that they are simply reflecting the feelings and opinions of the vast majority of people in this country. That may be true, but it may also be true that they are so wildly out of touch that they have become ridiculous parodies of themselves. The problem is that we in Britain concede a unique power to them — a power that they frequently abuse. The Press Complaints Commission’s effectiveness is to be assessed in July, and if it is seen to have failed in its aim to control the press, then legislation could well follow. With this in mind, one can’t help feeling the popular papers are in self-destruct mode. And the tragedy is that they’ll take the serious papers with them.

Everyone (except, perhaps, The News of the World) seems to agree that when Mr Ashdown closes his bedroom door, the press have no right to peep through the keyhole. But what might have been the reaction if it had been another man in his life rather than a woman? Would the sympathy and forgiveness have flowed so freely then?

One man who knows how badly politics and homosexuality mix is Humphry Berkeley. He was the Tory MP who, back in 1965, introduced into the House of Commons the landmark Sexual Offences Bill, which was eventually to become, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act. It may not seem like such a brave thing to do now, but in those days attitudes were very different.

Mr Berkeley wrote movingly about his experiences in The Daily Telegraph (1 I Feb): “At the time of my Bill, James (now Lord) Prior was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Edward Heath, the Tory leader. Many years later he wrote in his autobiography: ‘Seldom have I known a more unpopular Member than Humphry Berkeley, yet the consequences of his efforts will be felt when most of us have been forgotten … he introduced a Private Member’s Bill to change the law on homosexuality. For his pains he was vilified by a group of old Tory backbenchers.’”

Shortly after he had introduced the Bill and made a stirring speech in support of it, a General Election was called and he lost his seat. There is little doubt that he was defeated because of his decision to introduce the Sexual Offences Bill.

But Berkeley is still glad that he took his stand, and February 11th 1966, the day he introduced the Bill, remains, he says “the proudest day of my life — despite the fact that it was the day I signed my political death warrant.”

Cheers, Humphry!

***

The rush of heterosexism which usually accompanies St Valentine’s Day in the newspapers was tempered a little this year by The Guardian which carried a loving feature by Diana Souhami about the relationship between Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas (“They fell in love, saw life from the same point of view and lived as a couple until parted by death.”) Gert and Alice were two people simply made for each other and their partnership of over forty years was the epitome of true love.

“They became intractably related to each other. A classic duo,” wrote Ms Souhami. “They called each other Pussy and Lovey in front of strangers. They wrote notes to each other inscribed DD (Darling Darling) and YD (Your Darling). They regarded themselves as married.” In her letters, Gertrude made many references to the conjugal bliss she shared with her “Mummy Woojums”. Such as this dinky little verse: “Little Alice B is the wife for me/ Tiny dish of delicious which/ Is my wife and all/ And a perfect ball.”

Although to many people they must have appeared an odd couple, to each other they were all that was needed. “They were indomitable and a sight to be seen. They loved driving around in ‘Auntie’, their Ford car, looking at paintings and Roman ruins, eating delicious food, talking to everyone, making the best of who they were. For much of the time they seemed like two biddies on a spree … They practised the art of enjoyable living in an unpretentious way. And they were so emphatically and uncompromisingly themselves that the world could do nothing less than accept them as they were.”

Which just goes to show that, whatever heterosexual chauvinists say, gay people can sometimes hit the heights with their relationships. Oh, and if any spiritualists manage to get through to Alice B Toklas, could they please tell her that I love her recipe book — especially the chocolate truffles which are divine — and I hope she and Gertrude are back together again in paradise.

 

GAY TIMES April 1992

Alan Amos, the Tory MP who resigned his Hexham seat after being arrested in the back of a car with another man on Hampstead Heath, considered what he had done to be merely “childish and stupid”, and not enough to warrant his complete ruination, and so naturally he chided the tabloids for their “squalid reporting.”

That was his great mistake and gave the press the green light to go to town on him: “He should not try to put the blame on the Press,” said The Sun. “So far as we know, no newspaper lured him into a public haunt of homosexuals. The blame is entirely his own. And the shame.”

The Star said that it was his own choice to “wander at dusk at a place which has been turned into a no-go area for decent families by perverts practising what many people would call another dirty, dangerous and anti-social habit. His downfall must be sad for him. But he shouldn’t try to tar us with his own muck.”

The Daily Telegraph had the same opinion: “Even in a relatively liberal and sexually enlightened age, conduct that may be acceptable as long as it remains wholly private becomes intolerable when it is exposed to the public gaze. Mr Amos cannot blame his tragedy on the messengers.”

All the-same, the unctuous and sweetly innocent “messengers”” are doubtless at this very moment seeking out other closeted gay candidates for similar treatment. Indeed, it was in order to pre-empt a Sunday newspaper “expose” that Hexham’s Liberal Democrat candidate, Jonathan Wallace, decided to come out voluntarily. “I’m gay and proud of it,”” he said, but that did not spare him having to endure The Star’s “hilarious” front page headline “Hold on to Your Seat!”

All this prompted Rupert Morris to muse in The Guardian (11 Mar) about “the last taboo for a Tory MP – homosexuality.” Mr Morris was of the opinion that Hexham Conservative Association had been spineless in giving in to pressure from the tabloids: “The association should have rejected Amos’s resignation and stood by him.”

Unfortunately, in such uncertain times, a politician would have to be extremely brave to take a principled stand on homosexuality. They know the prejudices, of their voters only too well, “It’s disgusting. I’ve never heard anything like it,” one old Hexham gent is quoted as saying in The Telegraph about the gay goings on in his town. Apparently “to the old timers, the subject of homosexuality is taboo.” Mr Brian Tilley, assistant editor of the Hexham Courant said: “One old chap told me this morning that he thought (homosexuals) ought to be shot.”

In The Daily Telegraph, Elizabeth Grice asked: “Is the single man an electoral liability?” During her investigations, Ms Grice detected in local Conservative Associations “a renewed intolerance towards unmarried men (of course, for ‘unmarried men’ read ‘potential homosexuals’). It seems that all candidates are now carefully screened before they are nominated to ensure that they will not bring “scandal” into the Party. We shall never know how many able politicians this country has been denied because they were perceived by local selection committees to be gay. Never mind their abilities, think what the News of the World could make of it.

Indeed, I remember writing to Labour’s Dr Jack Cunningham last year after it was revealed that he had instructed local Labour Associations to weed out prospective candidates who might provide front-page “shame” fodder for The Sun. This seemed to refer almost exclusively to homosexuals. Cunningham didn’t reply, but I expect the policy is still in place. In effect, it means that Rupert Murdoch dictates who can be a Labour Party Candidate. And the Liberals? A small insight was given in a letter to The Daily Telegraph from Edward Bishop, who had been a Liberal candidate in an election in the early sixties. He told how he was advised to announce at a fund-raising garden fete: “I feel you would like to have a married man as your candidate, and who knows but that I will find her here today…”

Who told him to make that announcement? Why, none other than that paragon of family values, Jeremy Thorpe.

By the following Sunday there was a little more sympathy around for Amos and The Sunday Times even came up with another of its unconvincing conspiracy theories. “Members of a pro-smoking pressure group are suspected of a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign against Alan Amos … a Forest supporter claimed that private detectives had been hired to follow and investigate Amos.”

Finally, Simon Hoggart in The Observer commented that Mr Amos was “the first MP to resign in order to spend more time with total strangers.”

***

Now that we have the ‘sympathetic’ Mr Major in charge, is it safe once again for the conscientious lesbian or gay man to vote for the Tories? The newspapers are giving us conflicting messages. According to the Sunday Telegraph “The Prime Minister has signalled his support for equal opportunities for homosexuals, fuelling expectations of a free vote by MPs on reducing the age of consent for male homosexuals if he is returned to power.

The “signal” came in the form of nothing more than a supportive letter to the chairman of the relaunched Conservative gay association now called TORCHE. In just five lines which manage to avoid any mention of ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay’ or even ‘homosexual’, Mr Major wishes the group well and hopes that it will become a valuable forum for discussion of these issues”. Mr Major speaks nobly in the Daily Express of his anger at “bigotry, prejudice and dishonesty” but, in the end, words are cheap and what he wants in relation to equal rights for gays is not necessarily what the rest of his party wants.

Indeed, many Tory colleagues violently disagree with him on this topic. The Sunday Telegraph reports that “Ministers are still nervous about alienating supporters by moving too fast on homosexual laws.”

Less mealy-mouthed is our old friend Geoffrey Dickens, Tory MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth, who is reported in The Daily Star says that he would fight any attempt at lowering the age of consent for gays “tooth and nail.” He says: “They don’t have a snowball’s hope in hell of getting this through… There is a small minority of paedophile homosexuals who want to corrupt and ensnare youngsters. They must be stopped at all costs.”

He is supported by his ever-so reasonable back bench colleague Terry Dicks who said: “Anything we can do to prevent lowering the age of consent for homosexuals will be done.”

In the Sunday Telegraph, Tory councillor CT Waring of Worcester draws attention to the newly published book that purports to debunk Kinsey’s research into homosexuality. He states – with more hope than certainty – “The truth is that the number of homosexuals is thought to be one in 100, many of whom choose to live celibate lives; not the one in 10 of popular propaganda. Many are becoming concerned at the power of this tiny minority, who seemingly have access to the highest in the land.”

In the same issue, Stuart Milson of the Tory Monday Club chides Mr Major, asking how he would feel if his own children, on their way home from school, had been picketed by ‘gay’ activists… “I wonder, too, whether Mrs Major would have approved of ‘gay’ education for her children when they were of primary school age.”

***

At the last election, Norman Tebbit played the anti-gay card. The Tories and their compliant press fostered the image of the Loony Left as homo-loving maniacs who poured “our” money into the pockets of lesbians and gays, the destroyers of family life.

And come polling day, their efforts paid dividends. Posters were put up all over London asking parents whether they would want their children to read books like “Young, Gay and Proud” and “How to be a Happy Homosexual” – which is what, they claimed, would happen if Labour got into power.

This time round there is a different atmosphere. The Loony Left – at least in London – has been cured and Mrs Thatcher and her sinister “Victorian values” seem like a distant memory. But the well-established myth of the Loony Left is too potent a weapon to discard completely, and in some parts of the country its piffling grants to gay causes still provides juicy headlines for right-wing rags.

“Cash for lesbians” said the Brighton Evening Argus while The Sunday Express kept the pot boiling with “Black lesbian karate group paid £500” by Newcastle Council. In Bristol, the Evening Post reported a “row” over a £1000 grant for lesbians. “Most Bristolians living ordinary lives will be out of sympathy with this kind of grant,” said the Tory leader of the council, managing to make lesbians sound like some exotic species from another world.

The Dorset Evening Echo was pleased to take the opportunity to tell its readers about “Anger at support for gay helpline” – a measly £100 and you’d think the sky was falling on Dorchester. Meanwhile, down Plymouth way, The Sunday Independent was quoting more raging Tories, objecting to another £1000 grant for a lesbian event.

Yes, indeed, the giving of “public money” to lesbians and gays still has a lot of mileage in it.

GAY TIMES May 1992

Most depressing sight of the month was Jason Donovan on TV reading his statement outside the High Court, insisting that the verdict in his libel trial had nothing to do with homosexuality, and everything to do with protecting his reputation for honesty.

Behind him, gay protesters held up banners reading “Gay is not libel” and “Being Gay is No Shame”. Unfortunately, the jury didn’t agree with them. Neither did the tabloids. “£200,000 — Glad Not To Be Gay” said The Daily Star (4 Apr); “Too Hunky to be Gay” said The Sun; while The Sunday Telegraph (6 Apr) was pleased to announce “Jason’s libel win gives gays a straight answer”. This kind of reaction cut deeply into the feelings of gay people around the country. Just who had been insulted by what? I know I felt a deep sense of affront when I saw the newspapers crowing at what they saw as another slap in the face for the queers.

Those same papers, though, were unanimous in their opinion that £200,000 was a ridiculous amount to give. The judge, Mr Justice Drake, almost begged the jury not to do it. He rightly pointed out that compared to the sufferings of those who are maimed and crippled in accidents, and who often receive very little compensation, being labelled a homosexual pales into insignificance. Judge Drake argued that it was “very debatable” whether it was defamatory to call someone “a queer” in this day and age.

He could have added that the gay community actually considers it a privilege.

Yes, after all these years of campaigning and agitating, suggesting someone is gay is still considered £200,000 worth of “slur” in the minds of “right-thinking people” (which is what libel juries are supposed to be). Of course, Jason isn’t the first to win money for the “slur” of being called a homosexual. We have only to look back to 1959 when Liberace managed to extract cash from The Daily Mirror because it had implied he was homosexual. Even more recently, the footballer Justin Fashanu sued The People on the same grounds, and won. He later “came out” in a splash front page story in The Sun. There were rumblings from The People that they would take Fashanu to court to get their money back, but they never did.

Nicholas Farrell in The Sunday Telegraph wrote: “Until 1861 a man could hang for engaging in homosexual relations, and as recently as the early 70s, many doctors still regarded homosexuality as an illness to be treated by electric shock therapy. Sex in private between consenting males over the age of 21 may have been legal since 1967, but how far have attitudes really changed. To judge from the High Court jury, not much.”

Perhaps the most telling comment on this whole sad affair came from the unlikely source of Julie Burchill in The Mail on Sunday (5 Apr) when she wrote: “Someone should tell Mr Donovan that there is no shame in any person being a tough, proud homosexual — but a good deal in being a straight-as-a-die prima donna. Compare La Donovan’s thin skin with a quote from the super-camp Julian Clary last week: ‘I want a reaction, and I don’t care if it’s adoration or rejection, so long as it’s not wishy-washy indifference.’ Who’s the real man here?” Well, Julie Burchill, I guess.

For gay people, though, there is little consolation in all this. If Jason really does not consider it libellous to suggest that someone is gay, then he should donate any damages he receives to a gay charity. After all, it is we, the homosexual people on the receiving end of the insult, who should be compensated. He doesn’t need the money. We do.

***

Julie Burchill is rapidly becoming the most prominent commentator on gay issues in the straight press. In the April issue of Cosmopolitan she was writing in her usual splenetic style about “the Aids brigade”. I read the article three times and I’m still not sure what the crux of her argument really is.

I think the gist of what she is saying amounts to this: Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Di and the rest of the “great and goody-goody” crew who have made Aids their priority are jumping on some kind of bandwagon, which makes them feel good and humane without their having to take any risks.

They are involved in Aids causes because — says Burchill — it’s a safe charity, and a selfish cause (“I don’t want to get it, so let’s look after numero uno”). She makes the point that while Africa is decimated by the plague, we in the West are only concerned about worthless showbiz personalities who die to a fanfare of trumpets. “Aids plague in Africa, not many dead gets two inches on the inside page,” she writes, while: “the death of Freddie Mercury is a front-page screamer and a pull-out souvenir.”

There are lots of other interesting points which get lost in a sea of clever-dick remarks and convoluted similes. However, the message comes over loud and clear that Julie has reached the conclusion that gay men are the ultimate oppressors of women. This, I think, is her problem. It is because she imagines all gay men hate women (or, worse still, patronise them) that she has got this bee in her bonnet about Aids. She thinks women who “hold homosexual men in high regard are sexually dysfunctional”. I have the sinking feeling that Julie, like all her other journo chums, thinks Aids and homosexuality are synonymous. Aids, as far as she’s concerned, is still the gay plague.

I agree that the Aids establishment is not beyond criticism, and yes, she might well have a point about the motives of some of its supporters. But the real bottom line is that while she is fascinated by gay men, she resents that fascination almost to the point of psychosis. She hates us because we tell her something about herself which she doesn’t want to know. She tries to explain away her obsession with us by making allusions to the empty, arty-farty showbiz lives that she thinks gay men lead. She thinks our lives are empty because she imagines they don’t have women in them. She even quotes the American feminist Marilyn Frye: “Gay men generally are in significant ways, perhaps in all important ways, more loyal to masculinity and male supremacy than other men. The gay rights movement may be the fundamentalism of the global religion which is patriarchy.”

Julie Burchill should think more carefully about her motives for writing about Aids in the way she does. Or would that be too painful for her?

***

A CFC is a kind of filthy emanation which poisons everything it touches; sensible people wish to banish it from the world. CFC stands for Conservative Family Campaign, so now it all makes sense.

During the election campaign The CFC (prop. Stephen Green) was issuing press releases like confetti.

Nearly all of them concerned homosexuality. At the CFC’s prompting, The Sun reported (26 Mar): “Social workers are telling ten-year-old kids in care that gay sex is part of growing up.”

The story concerned a little magazine called Who Cares? (“the only magazine for young people in care”) which is published by the National Children’s Bureau. It devoted its latest issue to exploring the needs of young lesbians and gay men in care. The CFC presented this as “an abuse of any innocence these children may have left” with Chairman Green announcing: “To encourage them to experiment in homosexual activity is wicked.”

I’ve seen the issue of Who Cares? and I can honestly say that it is sensitively written and presented. The editor is obviously aware of her duty and what is required of her under the law. She writes: “The Government’s Section 28 says that no one must ‘promote’ homosexuality. The Children Act says ‘the needs of gay young men and women must be recognised and approached sympathetically’.” She hopes that the magazine satisfies both requirements.

It obviously doesn’t satisfy the CFC which was back on the offensive in The Daily Express (23 Mar) saying: “Labour and Liberal Democrat policies on gay rights would put children at risk from homosexuals.” Mr Green “condemned” the politicians concerned saying that any changes in the law would “endanger children”: What The Daily Express failed to extract from the CFC’s press release was revealed by The Independent (3 Apr). The CFC had actually said that Neil Kinnock and David Steel have supported “the child sex movement” (which is the CFC’s term for the gay movement).

The disturbingly maniacal Mr Green revealed to the Independent that “he’s nearly raised the £11,000 he needs to publish a book on homosexuals provisionally entitled Emotional Orphans.” The book will explain “how homosexuals may achieve heterosexuality” which he says is a “painfully difficult process”.

Perhaps he’d be better employed in writing a book about how CFC members can be turned into human beings.

***

When the Tories thought the election was going to be a close-run thing, they didn’t hesitate to use gay issues as a means of scraping up a few extra votes. The insufferable London Evening Standard got the ball rolling with a story they had been sitting on until the time was right to use it. They had discovered that “loony left” Haringey council in London had allowed a seven-year-old boy to be “handed back to his mother’s lesbian lover”, a woman with a string of criminal convictions.

It was indeed a sad case, and there is little doubt that on the evidence presented, the boy should not have been returned to the violent household which his mother’s lover kept. But while armed robbery, drug-taking, attempted murder, pick pocketing and grievous bodily harm might well be good enough grounds to make the women unsuitable parents for the child, their lesbianism was not.

The other Tory papers picked up the story with relish: “Outrage as boy is handed over to lesbian criminal” said The Daily Mail (I Apr) with The Sun announcing: “Lefties put boy in care of lesbian jailbird”. Note how the words “lesbian” and “criminal” become interchangeable in these circumstances: which is the more horrid prospect for the small boy to cope with?

Unlike the other propaganda rags, at least the Standard carried letters criticising its suggestion that lesbianism was a reason to deny a woman the care of a child. “Had the council’s social workers recommended giving the child into the custody of the mother’s male rather than female lover, and had that male lover had a record of violence and criminal convictions, the decision would have been just as bad even without the ‘lesbian’ angle.”

A lesbian mother, Michelle Saunders, also wrote in telling of her “outrage” at the story. “I have a six-year-old son who is very well-balanced and has a wonderful relationship with my lover, who is like a co-mother to him. Should anything happen to me I would want her to be given custody of my son, it makes sense and is, I feel, best for him.”

The Standard’s leader writer was unmoved by this: “The first responsibility of the councillors and social workers was to a vulnerable child, not to the homosexual community.”

The Sun linked this case with another, featuring the ever popular they’re-corrupting-our-children-in-schools angle, and editorialised under the banner “Gay Peril”: “A mother thought her daughter was in a maths class. At the time, 15-year old Niki was being given a lesson in lesbianism by a gay teacher … This is the same authority which put a seven-year-old child in the care of an admitted lesbian. What are they trying to do? Build a gay world?”

Yes, the Tory press had decided that if The Bogeyman couldn’t frighten the punters then maybe The Lesbian could.

The “lesbian lessons” to which The Sun referred made headlines after a mother withdrew her daughter from school. Mrs Polycarpou, carped: “How can this be normal? I am a Greek Cypriot … now we must seriously consider leaving the borough if not the country.”

Commenting on this case, The Daily Telegraph’s only liberal-minded columnist, Kate Saunders, wrote: “The infamous Clause 28 … tends to be supported by those who believe there is such a thing as classical sex — one proper, heterosexual way of doing it, which should be drummed in like a correct French accent. Failing to discuss homosexuality reinforces prejudices, and worsens the isolation and anxiety of people with homosexual urges.”

Then The Sunday Express (5 Apr) revealed that two gay men had adopted a 14-year-old girl with Down’s Syndrome from — of course — a Labour Council (which they did not name) in what the paper said was “the first case of its kind”. The paper wheeled out the grotesque Rhodes Boyson MP to say: “I do not believe that any child should be fostered or adopted by lesbian or homosexual couples. It makes no difference whether they are handicapped or not — it does not give them a fair start in life.”

The two men in the case met while working in a centre for the mentally handicapped, so it could not be claimed that they were not well qualified for the job. And, as if to underscore the abysmal ignorance of Rhodes Boyson, The Guardian (8 Apr) carried a piece on fostering by Meg Henderson, who wrote: “Advertising campaigns to recruit fosterers for the growing number of children in care produce ever fewer replies. It seems that in bad economic times, children come off worst, and as the extended family is largely a nostalgic dream, social workers have to pick up the pieces.”

Given this, it appears that the two gay men have probably rescued this little girl from a lifetime in an institution. Does that count for nothing?

With the Tories making such a fuss during the election campaign over the exploitation of Jennifer (of ear-ache fame), one wonders how they can justify using these two children in such a manipulative and cruel way to score cheap points for themselves.

GAY TIMES July 1992

And so, the Government is, after all, going to allow a vote on the gay age of consent. According to The Daily Mail (1 Jun) “The battle will really take off at the introduction of the next Criminal Justice Bill in about 18 months’ time, when attempts to amend the law will then be made by both Labour and Tory MP campaigners.”

The first shots have been fired, though, and the first heads raised above the parapet. Sir John Wheeler has already made it clear that he favours reform and will press for it, but a less likely spokesperson emerged in the shape of Edwina Currie. “I think the law is plain wrong, a great injustice founded on ignorance, cruelty and prejudice,” she is quoted as saying in The Mail on Sunday (25 May).

Mrs Currie is no stranger to controversy, and she must be inured to the kind of abuse which is coming her way because of this stand. “Mouthy Edwina Currie has set herself up as a sage,” ranted a Daily Star editorial. “She’s now campaigning for the homosexual age of consent to be lowered to 16. Take a spot of advice, Edwina. Stick to rotten eggs.”

This thoughtful approach was expanded by The Star’s bloated editor, Brian Hitchen, in his column (26 May): “With her latest outburst, the pushy MP is demonstrating that it isn’t only her jaw that’s becoming un-hinged.” After calling her a crackpot and a bird-brain, the grotesque Mr Hitchen goes on: “How can she possibly support such a hideously revolting idea which will contribute to the corruption of so many sick and weak-minded young kids?”

If Edwina has the courage of her convictions and sticks with this, she can expect a lot more of the same. And so can the rest of us. The Sun said (2 Jun): “Some Tories want change in 18 months. Others would wait a little longer. The Sun suggests we wait until the orchids are blooming in Bootle. We can be sure that even if the age were brought down to 16, the gay lobby would not be satisfied. They would want to follow the Danes and the Dutch down to 12 or 13.”

The Daily Telegraph (30 May) editorialised: “Many at some stage have a difficult choice to make. If homosexuality at the age of 16 is to be declared by Parliament as in all respects indistinguishable from heterosexuality, that choice becomes harder; the law ceases to direct the young or to express the preference-of most of society.” The Sunday Express (3 I May) thought the same: “If MPs place heterosexuals and homosexuals on the same legal basis they will imply that there is no moral difference between the two.”

The point about “protecting the young” was made over and over again. Lynette Burrows in The Sunday Telegraph (7 Jun) based her objections to any change on the idea that adolescent boys are easily persuaded to give up their heterosexuality by “predatory homosexuals who would gain most if they were allowed to recruit from among them.” Notice how the concept of “recruitment” is used by Ms Burrows as though it were an accepted fact rather than a dubious opinion.

She goes on to say: “One must conclude that the basis for the relentless self-advertisement of many homosexuals is related to this desire to recruit new partners. Many are dedicated to the untrammelled appetite for sex that is not moderated by the average female desire for relationship and stability and often results in degradation and disease. It is, nevertheless, a life-style that can easily be portrayed to a vulnerable teenager as the answer to all his problems of identity and sexual longing.”

But this kind of corruption is not limited to homosexuals, a fact which Ms Burrows in her anxiety to propagandise, seems to have overlooked. Lynn Barber (Independent on Sunday, 25 May) has not missed the point, though. She relates how she was seduced “at the age of seventeen by a man twice my age and although my school friends envied me for having captured an SOM (Sophisticated Older Man), I dimly realised at the time, and more clearly in retrospect, that he was really a DOM and there was something distinctly fishy about his relish for my school uniform.”

Lynette Burrows is unmoved: “It is as though the Government were to interrupt its campaign against smoking with an announcement that it was considering whether to reduce the age at which children could buy cigarettes. It leads one to ask, quite simply, is the Government mad?”

This kind of sneaky, selective and downright untruthful kind of argument will resurface over and over again in the coming months, and if the matter ever comes before Parliament, you can expect to see both the tabloid press and the right-wing broadsheets becoming ever more hysterical and reactionary. There are, indeed, many similarities between the stand the newspapers are taking now, with the one they took in the sixties, at the time of the debate on the original Sexual Offences Bill. This time they also have Aids in their armoury of bombast.

But there are also differences. Nowadays there is an organised gay voice (or “the powerful homosexual lobby” as the tabloids would have it) which can make itself heard much more effectively than in those previous times. We also have some supporters in the press. Barbara Amiel in The Sunday Times (7 Jun) wrote that although she does not think that homosexuality is “normal” she can see the injustice of an unequal age of consent. She says that she is tired of the debate on gay rights being so diametrically split between those who think gays can do no wrong and those who imagine they can do no right. “What seems most difficult for human beings to achieve is fairness and equilibrium,” she wrote, “Our legislators and intellectuals either fall off the right or the left side of the issue. This all puts me in mind of the United States, where until 1973 the American Psychiatric Association ruled that homosexuality was a mental illness, but now classifies those people who dislike homosexuals as mentally ill … And before we all become infected with the mental version of middle ear disease and lose our balance, could we simply get a uniform age of consent for human beings of all inclinations.”

Maureen Messent, in her column in The Birmingham Evening Mail (ironically called Straight Talk) was unequivocal in her support. “I’m disheartened that, in 1992, Britain is Hitleresque in its conviction that to be gay is evil. Please don’t quote the Bible at me either. There is nothing like the mention of homosexuality to bring out the bigots … I’ve often been troubled by the lip-smacking lubricity masked as modesty that emanates from the anti-gays. Homosexuals, after all, do not waste their time denouncing – as they have every reason to denounce — the sordid goings-on in the heterosexual community. Dozens of little children done to death annually are not murdered by homosexuals, remember. They’re mostly the victims of their heterosexual parents.”

This opportunity to change the law is something that so many people have worked hard to create; it has taken years for us to get here and we mustn’t let the bigots snatch away our chance of equality. Now is the time for us to get mobilised. We have to prime our MPs and start persuading those who can’t make up their mind that the just thing to do is to change the law.

***

After his “victory” over The Pink Paper in the libel courts, Duncan Campbell expressed his feelings about the case in The New Statesman (22 May). In the course of the extraordinary article he managed to transform his own disappointment and anger with the PP into a withering attack on all things gay. “The conduct of The Pink Paper and the inability of the so-called ‘gay community’ to deal with or contain the poison it has spread has perpetuated needless harm and suffering. It has made me sorry to be gay,” he said.

Mr Campbell draws attention to The Pink Paper’s often “malicious” activities ‘against those for whom it bears a grudge. He tells how the paper’s journalists would routinely circulate missives defaming him to Garry Bushell and Richard Littlejohn on The Sun and how The Stonewall Group, Ian McKellen and Michael Cashman were all targeted with “repeated and untruthful attacks” in May, 1990. These, he says, are “the latest in a long list of my friends” the PP has “sought to pick off.” In the letters that followed the article, Eric Presland supported Campbell’s assessment of the “nature of The Pink Paper”. “I work with a gay theatre company, Homo Promos, which recently sent a press release about a fundraising record sale to The Pink Paper, among others. A few days later another member of the company was rung up to be told in no uncertain terms that, he had been ‘spotted’ having a drink with Duncan Campbell . . . The Pink Paper (and its sister paper Boyz) would never again carry information about Homo Promos.”

Mr Presland points out that for a small community theatre company to lose “two of its four possible outlets to its target audience is quite serious.”

I do not wish to see The Pink Paper go under, but nor do I want to see its continued use as a platform for personal vendettas. For these reasons, I will not be contributing to its appeal fund.

***

Having just returned from a visit to America, I’m rather Rossed-out. The newspapers and the television in the States are obsessed with H Ross Perot, the rat-faced Texan millionaire who making a bid to become President. The American people seem stunned by their daring in supporting such an unknown quantity. They are behaving like rebellious teenagers telling Daddy Bush that they don’t love him any more and that they’re running away from home. The trouble is that nobody seems to know what Mr Perot’s policies are, and nobody seems to care either. He says “you ain’t seen nothing yet” and, indeed, we ain’t.

All we know so far is that he doesn’t want homosexuals in the White House (“I put a very strong store on strong moral values. I don’t want anybody who is a point of controversy with the American people — it will distract from the work to be done”), nor will he tolerate men with beards or those who “cheat on their wives”.

And if you think that even Americans wouldn’t be barmy enough to elect such a palpable divvy you haven’t seen the hysteria he is generating over there.

There is always the possibility, of course, that he might just break the mould and make it into the White House (which would certainly put an end to my career ambitions there, on several counts), but I have a feeling that when America finds out just what sort of a vicious creep Mr H Ross Perot is, their love affair with him will turn out to be short lived.

But you never can tell. Today (10 Jun) reported on “The Turning Point for Gay America” in which Margaret Hall described events in Springfield, Oregon (population 45,400) where a referendum resulted in a ten per cent majority wanting to “forbid legislation which protects homosexuals from

discrimination.” In Springfield it will no longer be an offence to bar someone from promotion or deny them a tenancy or mortgage because of their sexual preference. Any gay activity or service depending on public funds will be banned. In November the whole of Oregon will be given the opportunity to make the law statewide. A similar thing is happening in Colorado, and in New Jersey a right-wing group is suing the State, demanding it drops its gay rights laws. In Alabama there is a move to stop public-funded universities from allowing gays to organise on campus.

Meanwhile, The Sun (30 May) informed us that “A top woman officer has been booted out of the US army after admitting she is lesbian.” Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer, who was decorated in Vietnam, served in the National Guard for 26 years and commanded the military’s reserve nursing staff in Washington state, is quoted as saying: “What does the Pentagon think I’m going to do? Sneak up on my nurses and seduce them in the operating theatre?” Ironically, Margarethe, that probably is what they think you’re going to do.

Today says that these events make many observers feel that it is the dawning of a new age of bigotry in the States. But one has to ask whether the old one ever really ended.

Nobody said the battle for gay rights was going to be easy or quick or without setbacks. However aggressive our opponents may become, it’s no longer possible for them to simply hate us out of existence. We’re here and we aren’t going away, and even stinking bigots who think hatred is “moral” can’t change that. Not even billionaire bigots.

***

We’ve all heard the arguments about how men are able, at 16, to get married and have children and, at 17 or 18, to join the army and kill people, as well as driving a car and drinking themselves stupid, but they may not have gay sex until they’re 21. To that list you can now add the ludicrous anomaly pointed out by The Independent’s diary (28 May).

The new video, The Gay Man’s Guide to Safer Sex has been given an 18 certificate by the Board of Film Classification — but the activities portrayed on it cannot be enjoyed by men until they are 21. “You can look, you see, but you’d better not touch,” warns The Independent.

***

So now we know where the new Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, stands on the question of homosexuality. He’s against it. On a radio phone-in he said that in the last days of the Greek and Roman empires “Jews were living in a society where homosexuality was the norm in certain sectors and we stood out against it then and we stand out against it now.”

This little outburst was followed by the Jewish Lesbian and Gay Helpline being banned from a charity “walkabout’ to be held on July 12th. The Jewish Chronicle (22 Jun) reported that the ban had brought forth a “concerted protest” to the Chief Rabbi from student and youth groups, as well as a delegation of Reform and Liberal rabbis, and a Zionist organisation called Honoar Hatzioni.

The Independent followed up the controversy with a feature (9 Jun) by Anne Sacks (no relation, I take it?) entitled “I’m Jewish, I’m gay and I’m shunned.” It gave a good insight into the problems of those Jews who want to be honest about their sexuality but who find themselves in a society which just about worships “the family”. But as Jeffery Blumenfield, director of the Jewish Marriage Council pointed out: “The Jewish community has not yet woken up to the fact that the family can take many forms.”

***

“Gay Sex Orgy at The Palace” screamed the front page of The Sunday Mirror (24 May) in an echo of the bad old days when this kind of hysterical headline was a daily occurrence. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but it wasn’t even true. However, you have to turn inside to find that the three footmen who were discovered bathing together weren’t actually having sex at all but were simply horsing around. “They were not actually having full sex” admits the Mirror’s informant, “but they were clearly enjoying themselves in other ways.”

On that basis, I suppose, the rugby player who last month flashed his pineapple-decorated willy at the Prime Minister was, in fact, having sex with Mr Major. Why wasn’t that splashed on the front page?

GAY TIMES June 1992

One of the most insidious arguments being propounded by the press at the moment is that “too much money is being spent” on Aids. “I am a woman with multiple sclerosis,” wrote a correspondent to The Sun (4 May). “Why is all this money being raised for Aids? Apart from some exceptions, this is a self-inflicted illness. What about people like me who don’t have a choice in what they get? How about a concert to raise money for motor neurone, Parkinson’s disease and MS charities — or have we been forgotten?”

The same point has been made over and over again: “Aids is a terrible thing, but often self-inflicted,” wrote “name and address supplied” to The Daily Express (24 May). “There are many other diseases in dire need of funds … etc, etc.” Or, as Garry Bushell put it (Sun, 22 Apr) “It is wrong to whitewash Freddie Mercury’s life, wrong to spread the myth of heterosexual Aids and criminal to divert funds from less trendy but more pressing concerns like cancer research.”

Mr Bushell and all those others who imagine that Aids research and education projects are awash with undeserved money may not have seen the small item in The Guardian (30 Apr) which revealed that “MPs criticised health districts for diverting money meant for Aids care into other projects.”

Another example of this resentment at the spending of even paltry amounts on trying to educate gay people was illustrated by a front-page spread in the Chatham News (24 Apr) which screamed “Gays’ night out on an NHS handout”.

This concerned a disco organised by Medway Gay Health Forum — with a £450 grant from the local health authority — as a vehicle for disseminating safer sex information. The paper’s only apparent concern was not that gay men should be educated about HIV but with “The amazing party with £450 backing from health authority” and “a fancy dress competition in which men dressed up as women”. The reporters who covered the event falsely claimed to be representatives of the health authority’s press office.

The distortion continued on April 28th when Diane Nicholls, a columnist on The Chatham Standard wrote (under the heading “What next: a benefit for syphilis?”): “If the health authority has £450 to spend on a shindig perhaps it might consider an event at a Medway School on Friday night. Little Hannah Barnes will be celebrating her sixth birthday. Her family is supporting her courageous fight against inoperable stomach cancer. A charity is paying for them to go on a dream trip to Florida and friends have organised a benefit evening for their pocket money. Now, help for brave Hannah would be real magic.”

The homophobic logic which says that any money spent on Aids could always have been used better elsewhere is gaining increased currency. But using the same reasoning, I suppose there are people suffering from other diseases who could more usefully spend the money being “wasted” on a trip to Florida — what about an electric wheelchair for someone crippled by arthritis?

Any old journo can draw up a sentimental and ill-informed list of priorities, but it is the health authority that has to decide —based on real information and consultation — where the money can be most effectively spent. And even in cold cash terms, they know that if the “sex-education disco” prevents only one person becoming infected with HIV, it will have paid for itself a hundred times over.

The editor of The News, Gerald Hinks, defended the sensationalism of his front page by saying that the money had been used to “preach to the converted”. Meanwhile, over in the Chatham Standard, a series of vox pop interviews conducted in the Rainham shopping precinct indicated that the local population are far more enlightened than their papers give them credit for. The opinion was unanimous that the disco had been a good idea. In fact one housewife even managed to say: “There’s too much homophobia around.”

I hope the editor of the paper was listening.

***

An article about gay cartoonists, written by Adam Mars-Jones, appeared in The Independent Magazine (11 Apr). The article — reporting a conference in America entitled “The Wacky World of Lesbian and Gay Cartoonists” — told of arguments among delegates about whether heterosexuals or closet cases have anything to contribute to gay culture. This debate was provoked by the news that the editor of Gay Comics intends to allow such people to contribute to future issues.

The article prompted an interesting letter the following week from Neil Patrick, who was angry at the contention that “gay culture is about liberation”.

“According to mainstream gay thought,” wrote Mr Patrick, “gays must toe the party line on all things gay, liking only such approved things as Derek Jarman films and The Golden Girls. A homosexual who does not distance him or herself from the heterosexual community is deemed a closet case and a hypocrite …Gay culture is not concerned with ‘finding general truths’, it wishes isolated truths; it wishes alienation for its members from the rest of the population.”

I have some sympathy for Mr Patrick’s thinking. We are seeing a rapid rise in this country of the awful political correctness that presently afflicts the American gay community. Our diversity — perhaps the most delightful thing about gay life — is being chipped away by those who want some kind of gay Israel.

Well, I for one am not emigrating to some ghastly queer ghetto where thought is controlled, where heterosexuals are never forgiven and where Keith Alcorn is king.

***

The Sunday Telegraph (26 Apr) reported that “John Patten, the Education Secretary, is being challenged by a leading pro-family pressure group to have the courage of his religious convictions and halt the Government’s plan for compulsory Aids education in schools.”

The “pressure group” in this instance is called The Family Education Trust and it claims that the Education Department’s advice to schools about HIV education will simply “alert young people to perverted practices of which they might not otherwise have been aware.”

So, who are The Family Education Trust? It turns out to be the “educational wing” of Family and Youth Concern. And who is Family and Youth Concern? Enter our old friend Valerie (stop-that-immediately-you-filthy-creature) Riches. “Children should be told the truth about Aids,” she says, “if they don’t have sex and don’t take drugs, they won’t get it.”

Is this woman in her right mind? Tell teenagers not to have sex and expect them to take any notice? Is she living on the same planet as the rest of us? Mrs Riches is pressing to meet John Patten to demand that children are told about sex in her way — no condoms, no fornication, no fun.

Given Mr Patten’s contention, as expressed in The Spectator, that society doesn’t believe enough in hell and damnation, she might just get her way.

***

Sir Ian McKellen gave an interview to Vanity Fair magazine (April issue) saying that his most important role in life is that of gay activist. “That’s the only thing I’ve ever done really,” he is quoted as saying, “That’s what it can say on the gravestone. That will be the obituary.”

This did not please John Junor who, in The Mail on Sunday (10 May) wrote of Sir Ian: “As an actor he has always been overrated. As for his tombstone, I don’t give a damn what it says on it. I just think it is damnable that he will go to his grave as a knight.”

Junor, who grows smaller with each of his columns, has long since been rumbled as a miserable old twat who said all he had to say years ago. He has spent his whole working life squawking the same narrow-minded and childish Tory propaganda. His own knighthood came not from any talent, but from licking the least pleasant parts of Mrs Thatcher’s anatomy. As for his epitaph — what about: “Here lies a silly old bigot who was no use to anyone, least of all himself’?

***

The Sunday Telegraph has been, and continues to be, the vehicle for some of the most virulent of anti-gay propaganda. But since it escaped the clutches of Peregrine Worsthorne, the paper has also been carrying regular features and news items that would interest rather than appal homosexuals. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear — in these days of plummeting circulations — that there is a deliberate editorial policy to try and attract a gay audience.

The May 10th offering was a big feature highlighting the influence of gay men in shaping the musical theatre. “Any historian of the New York or London stage will readily tell you, without homosexuals the modem musical would not exist,” wrote Douglas Kennedy. He quoted Leonard Bernstein as saying: “To be a successful composer of musicals you either have to be Jewish or gay. And I’m both.”

Mr Kennedy points out that three forthcoming West End shows are all inspired by gay icons. The Blue Angel is associated with Marlene Dietrich, just as Sunset Boulevard is with Gloria Swanson and Grand Hotel with Garbo.

The Telegraph feature tries to explain what it is about musicals that particularly appeals to the gay consciousness. It proposes that in the straight-laced fifties it was a coded way for gay men to express themselves without being too blatant. Writer William Goldman put it this way: “The homosexual on Broadway had to dissemble: he wrote boy-girl relationships when he really meant boy-boy relationships. They were like mulattos in an all-white neighbourhood.”

I’ve often thought that it would be fun to form an all-gay amateur operatic society so that we could put these shows on in the way that they were meant to be seen. It would also give all those queens who long to play the Shirley MacLaine part in Sweet Charity a chance to shine. As for myself, I fear nowadays I’d have to make do with the Hermione Gingold part in Gigi. “Ah yes, I remember it well.”

***

The Daily Star happily reported (12 May) that “Parents may soon be able to abort their babies simply because tests show they may grow into homosexuals, junkies or drunks.”

The story concerned a TV programme in America in which it was claimed that scientists would soon be able to identify the genes which predispose people to “undesirable” social traits — and therefore to “eliminate” such individuals before birth.

The moral arguments surrounding this issue were taken up by Myles Harris in a Comment feature in The Daily Mail (13 May). Mr Harris asked: “What price will we pay for these medical miracles?”

He made the point that although the new knowledge might well be used to screen out genetic diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, there was a possibility that disease had a part to play in the overall scheme of things — a part that we don’t understand yet. And as for the other “antisocial” individuals who might be banned from living — who is going to play God and decide what is a desirable social trait and what is not? “The endless random variations involved in sex among younger members of our species ensures that we are all as alike, but at the same time subtly different enough, to survive any changes that the environment may throw at us.”

Indeed, it has already been argued among some scientists that homosexuality has an important role to play in the successful evolution of human life. Fascistic geneticists tamper with it at their peril.

***

The Independent on Sunday (26 Apr) reported a Government minister saying that he is “proud to be called a bigot”. Need we be worried? I think not, as the culprit is the lamentable John Selwyn Gummer, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Religious Mania. Mr Gummer is surely retained in the cabinet only as light relief.

Gummer is of the “Jesus in Jackboots” fraternity, and seriously proposed the other day that the reason the Common Agricultural Policy failed was because witchcraft is so prevalent among foreign farmers. I kid you not. His black magic speech was not widely reported because … well, I suppose the afflicted should not be mocked, even by Fleet Street …

However, Labi Siffre took Mr Gummer’s ramblings seriously and answered them in a letter to the loS (3 May). Gummer’s description of Jesus (“He called us to believe in Him: not to argue whether He got it right or not”) could well have been applied to Adolf Hitler, said Mr Siffre, who then went on to say: “Gummer’s abdication of intellectual and moral responsibility has been the root cause of injustice, bigotry, atrocities, misery and suffering for thousands of years.” Mr Siffre says that Jesus supplied the complete answer with his entreaty to “treat others as you would like them to treat you”.

He goes on: “Based on Jesus’s ideas, it would seem that if a man can be a priest then a woman can be a priest; and that if heterosexual love is valid, then homosexual love is equally valid. Thus, at one stroke, Jesus has solved the two most contentious issues currently facing the church.”

It’s unlikely that Mr Major’s very own Witchfinder General is listening — he’s probably got other voices whispering in his ear.

***

The Sunday Telegraph (10 May) reported that flags were flying at half-mast in the gay districts of San Francisco on the day that Marlene Dietrich died. As is usual at such a time, twenty-four hours were allowed to elapse before the newspaper muck-raking began in earnest; Marlene was given a clutch of respectful obituaries before the papers began the usual lap of dishonour.

According to The Sunday Times (10 May) Marlene was a drunk who started on the whisky at 7am. The article is accompanied by a photograph of an old lady in a wheelchair who is patently not Marlene Dietrich which hardly lends the story credibility.

In The People on the same day, Bernard Hall, the star’s former secretary was telling of Marlene’s lesbianism: “I have never found men sensitive enough to give me much pleasure, darling. Now women … that is a different matter altogether,” he quotes her as saying.

They also carried a photograph, which was taken through the window of her apartment by someone purporting to be cutting the trees on the street outside. She was terrified by this incident, which represented a gross invasion of privacy and is perhaps one of the factors that led to her final bout of depression and decline.

I hope they’re proud of themselves.

GAY TIMES August 1992

Wimbledon faded into insignificance in the face of a much more deadly game being played out in the Aids arena. It began with a front-page story in The Sun (23 Jun) headed “Aids Maniac on Killer Spree”. It alleged that a 24-year old Birmingham haemophiliac had “deliberately infected four girl lovers”.

How The Sun could have known this man’s motivation when, at this stage, it didn’t even know his name, is a mystery. But the agenda was set. Here was a near-perfect tabloid story, with all the classic ingredients on which our disgusting popular press thrives: Aids, death, maniacs, perverts.

The following day The Daily Star named the man at the centre of this tragedy. On its front page was a photograph of Roy Cornes who was transformed overnight from being “just one of the lads” into being an “Aids monster” and an “Aids pervert” and, indeed, “public enemy number one”. The ball of blame had been lobbed squarely on to his shoulders, forcing him into hiding as the press hysteria mounted.

Day after day they discovered new information about Mr Cornes’ private life. His wife had been a prostitute and he had been “unremittingly promiscuous”. By the judicious use of these tasty titbits of salaciousness, the papers were able to distance their readers from Mr Cornes’ life, just as they do from those of gays. Mr Cornes, it seemed, had been swirling in a cesspit not dissimilar to that inhabited by the tabloid-version homosexuals.

The idea that there is an “underbelly” of life in Britain in which aimless young heterosexuals swirl around was best illustrated by an article in The Daily Mail (26 Jun) which explored the “sub-culture revealed by this week’s Aids scandal”. Their reporter, Sandra Parsons, nominated the Stirchley area of Birmingham – where Cornes originated – as the cesspit, describing it as “the kind of place you drive through with no other thought than perhaps momentary relief that you don’t live there.”

Ms Parsons revealed that in this soulless, hopeless “shabby world” where “reckless, rampant promiscuity” exists on a “shocking scale” there is what she called “a third route of HIV transmission” (after homosexuality and dirty needles).

The local MP assured the reporter that “these young men and women are not peculiar to her Selly Oak constituency – counterparts can be found in every city.”

And so, it seemed, the complacency which The Sun and other papers had encouraged among heterosexuals was misplaced. Peter Mandelson in The People (28 Jun) put it this way: “One thing the so-called Aids ‘time-bomb’ Roy Cornes has taught us is that there is no such thing as high-risk categories of people exposed to the virus. Anyone can catch it. For years, Aids has been regarded as a homosexual disease. No more.”

Richard Littlejohn in The Sun (25 Jun) was not so easily convinced, “Champagne corks must have been popping in gay bars all over Britain this week,” he wrote. “The news that one girl has died of Aids after heterosexual intercourse and three other women have been infected by the same man has put the disease back on the front pages. The homosexual lobby will seize on these unfortunate women to ‘prove’ that Aids is not exclusively a ‘gay plague’ … I am not among those who have ever claimed that Aids is exclusively a ‘gay plague’. But homosexual sex – along with intravenous drug use is the predominant method of transmission. That’s why it was disturbing to read that homosexuals are trying to persuade schools to distribute pamphlets to 12-year-olds promoting their sexual preference. Why not just hand out dirty needles at the school gates?”

Then came the call for legal sanctions to be introduced to curb the “deliberate” spreading of Aids. Thought-free leader-writers rushed into print with cries for punitive measures to be taken against those with HIV. “The idea that anyone can freely go round spreading Aids as an act of revenge sends shivers of horror through the country,” said The Star (23 Jun) which had obviously come to believe its own fantasies. “A new law should be rushed through to make this evil act a crime.”

The Sun went even further: “Dame Jill Knight believes that individuals who behave as Cornes did should be detained in a mental hospital. There are also suggestions that they should be castrated. These are proposals that merit urgent study.”

The Independent, fortunately, refused to be swept away on this tide of hysteria: “The harsh reality is that matters of sexual behaviour are notoriously difficult to regulate. Those who indulge in casual or promiscuous sexual behaviour should be aware of the dangers. And ministers should not be bounced by one tragic case into wholesale changes in the law.”

The minister responsible for all this, Virginia Bottomley, also resisted the mad clamour from the ignorant fools in Wapping and ruled against the introduction of any such law.

It was then left to The News of the World to lob the ball back into our court, when it alleged that Cornes had not infected his girlfriends by means of “normal” intercourse but by “dangerous kinky sex” (28 Jun).

“Three ex-lovers say he persuaded them to perform an unnatural act, usually indulged in by homosexual men”. Yes, but what “act”? Surely it was beholden on The News of the World to tell their readers what this “act” was so that they could avoid it. Would The News of the World name it? Not likely – after all it’s a family newspaper. They couldn’t possibly say anal sex or buggery or sodomy or bum-fucking. That would be far too honest and straightforward.

No, you had to look elsewhere to find out what they meant. Geraldine Bedell in The Independent (5 Jul) took issue with the idea that anal sex among heterosexuals is rare and unusual. She revealed that The Kinsey Institute’s 1990 New Report on Sex “reviewed seven studies over 40 years to estimate the number of women who have experienced anal sex at least once. ‘Our conservative estimate is that 39 per cent have done so’ adding that between 20 and 43 per cent of married women had tried it.”

However, The NoW’s revelations were enough for heterosexuals to breathe a sigh of relief; they were off the hook again and the blame was back with us. The Sunday Telegraph (28 Jun) wrote of the “self-righteousness of homosexuals whose spokesmen have effectively intimidated the media and officialdom into censoring a grim truth: though Aids is not a ‘gay plague’, it is nevertheless the gay community’s promiscuity which created the principal vector for the spread of Aids into Western society. Though many victims showed great dignity in the face of death, some in the gay community did not. One of these quite deliberately made it his business to spread the infection, coupling with gay men in one city after another, then flaunting his Kaposi’s sarcoma and saying, ‘This means I’m going to die. And so are you.’”

The Daily Express cried: “If Aids is as serious a threat in societies like ours as we are constantly assured, then we must start treating it seriously – no matter what offence that gives to those, the homosexual lobby for example, who might find such an approach unwelcome. Aids has no rights.”

Further ammunition was given to the peddlers of the “gay plague” mentality with the revelation that of the 700 people being treated for Aids and HIV infection at St Thomas’s Hospital in London, none had acquired it from “normal, heterosexual intercourse”.

The London Evening Standard (9 Jul) said that “Unless the Health Department shows less fear of pressure groups and more determination to eradicate Aids by targeting those most at risk, the killer virus may eventually spread to the general population. The gay community, though understandably chary of such moves, should surely welcome them because it is their lives that would be saved first if the spread of the disease were contained. Aids should be made a notifiable disease at once.”

The gay community has been agitating for some time for educational resources to be redirected at those groups most affected. Such ideas were previously labelled “special pleading” by “the powerful gay lobby”. It seems that The Standard is just beginning to catch up.

The papers unanimously called for the lifting of the “veil of secrecy” which they say covers Aids. Why is there no large-scale testing programme, they wanted to know.   Why is Aids not a notifiable disease, like measles, mumps and food poisoning? Why do “irresponsible” Aids agencies recommend that people in “high risk groups” think twice before taking HIV tests?

The answers to these questions are to be found in their own pages. Who wants to take an HIV test, find out they are positive and then, possibly, one day find themselves, their families and loved ones splashed across the front pages of filthy newspapers? What happened to discretion and confidentiality?

On 24 June The Sun editorialised: “This morning we identify Aids victim Roy Cornes as a public enemy. We name him without a scrap of hesitation. We are doing the job that health chiefs in Birmingham, who knew about his activities should have done.”

Why should they have done? This is an issue of public concern, of course it is, and a full discussion of Aids in the public prints is long overdue, but why must it be personalised and sensationalised in this way? Why do they insist on fostering the idea that HIV infection is a “scandal”? Why do they continue to recklessly promote panic and ill-grounded fear with headlines like: “Whose Child Will Die of Aids Next?” (Evening Standard, 24 Jun)

Before these questions could even be discussed, the unwelcome glare of the tabloid searchlight turned from Roy Cornes and on to its next victim, Peter Curran, “a £90,000 a year eye surgeon”. Mr Curran was alleged to be HIV positive and to have conducted 140 operations after his status was known. The News of the World broke the story on 5 July, in a foolishly fear-mongering manner. “He has already made funeral arrangements. And he has started writing his own obituary … But he still carries out several operations a week. Many of his patients are children.”

The Royal College of Surgeons made it quite clear that there was absolutely no risk to any of the people involved, and a spokesperson said (Evening Standard, 9 Jul): “Mr Curran would have had virtually no hands-on contact with patients in the operating theatre because of the high-tech nature of micro instruments and lasers used in eye surgery.”

It was pointed out in the same article that doctors are far more “at risk” from patients than patients are from doctors. After all, it’s the patients that bleed during surgery! Imagine the uproar if everyone going into hospital for an operation was required to have an HIV test. Would the insurance companies discriminate against them in the way that they do against homosexuals who’ve been tested?

All this was lost on the press. Once more the clamour arose, and the demonising began all over again. Mr Curran was transformed from a saver of sight, a giver of life, into a monster of depravity. “Secret Life of ‘Aids’ Surgeon” said the front page of The Daily Express (9 Jul). “Eye specialist vows to work on as gay lover speaks out.” And once more we had the sad spectacle of someone’s private life dragged out for public scrutiny and derision.

The story was sold to The Express by Stuart Carstairs, a 26-year-old “rent boy” whom Mr Curran invited to stay at his home after he became unemployed. The paper condemns Mr Curran for paying male prostitutes £40 a time for sexual favours. I wonder how much The Daily Express paid Carstairs for his treachery? More than forty quid, I’ll wager.

The Sun “urged that all Aids victims should be named”, although their reasoning for this – as with most other things in Sun editorials – was unclear. What is clear is that if this kind of panic-mongering goes on much longer, The Sun will get its wish and the result will be that Aids will go underground.

The British popular press has behaved abominably throughout the Aids crisis, and it shows no sign of maturing. As the infection relentlessly spreads, newspaper attitudes and tactics will become an increasing menace not only to those who are ill, but to the whole fabric of society.

Now the Government has appointed Sir David Calcutt to conduct an inquiry into press behaviour generally, and to decide whether statutory regulation is needed. Sir David will be receiving a copy of this column and I hope he will understand that I am not advocating any curtailment on the discussion of HIV and Aids, I simply want it to become more responsible and less cruel. It’s time to call a halt to this mob-handed persecution of sick people. Whatever the newspapers say, their behaviour over the past six weeks has done little to increase knowledge of Aids and much to foster the panic which is so dangerous for everyone concerned.

****

This time last year we were being treated to mass righteousness in the British press over the outing “scandal”. “Hypocritical”, “fascistic”, “cruel and vindictive” said the tabloid newspapers about the deliberate naming of gay public figures.

Goodness me, but their memories are short! The front page of The Sun (4 Jul), is headed: “BBC Star’s Sex Secret – new soap man-eater Polly has a girl lover.” It was solely concerned with the lesbian life of actress Polly Perkins. Can anyone tell me what the difference is between The Sun’s front page and an outing poster? Except perhaps that The Sun was seen by about ten million more people?

***

As the Pride festival grows like Topsy, the press coverage of it shrinks even further. This year we got two whole column-inches in the national papers, spread across The Sunday Times and The Independent on Sunday. In its one-paragraph report of the event, The Sunday Times managed to squeeze in the uplifting information that two people had been arrested.

After the traditional invisibility of Pride in the press came the ritual complaints about it. “Your column-inch coverage of Gay Pride 92 was risible,” wrote Andrew Hall to The Independent on Sunday. “Is it really necessary for lesbians and gay men to break the law or expose parts of their anatomy to be ‘newsworthy’?”

The Guardian also got a telling off from a reader for totally ignoring the event, although there was little sign of remorse.

It is astonishing though, isn’t it, that one gay man in court can warrant pages in The Sun, but the extraordinary spectacle of 100,000 homosexuals in one place seems to be of no interest to them whatsoever.

***

The tabloids seem to have a new angle for their “negative images” campaign. In order to discourage children from the idea that being queer is OK, they have begun to search out young people’s ‘‘idols” and get them to deny that they are gay. The most spectacular example of this recently was Jason Donovan. After the court case, which gave the press all the opportunity they needed to further blackguard our reputations, Mr Donovan is moaning (Sun, 7 Jul) that he gets “abused by gays” every time he goes out into the street, “Jason said furious homosexuals hurl insults and throw things at him when they spot him out walking.”

Mr Donovan was pictured in The Daily Mirror (2 Jul) cavorting with a young lady, kissing and cuddling etc. The accompanying headlines said things like “Heterosexual, girl-loving, straight-as-a-die Jason” and “Well, he did always say he’s not gay.” The whole tenor of the article was boorishly heterosexist: “Stripped to the waist, hunky Jason Donovan canoodles with a beautiful, shapely girl. Which only goes to prove what the Aussie pop star always said. He’s a perfectly normal, red-blooded bloke.”

Mr Donovan purports to be upset that he has caused offence to the gay community, but this sort of reporting and posing just adds insult to injury.

The most persistent case of glad-not-to-be-gay is, of course old crepey-neck himself, Cliff Richard, but new to the fold is “Children’s TV favourite Phillip Schofield” who revealed in an interview with the London Evening Standard that he is not, and never has been, a homosexual. “I would never sleep with a man. I have never felt like it, no, absolutely not.”

Alright, Phillip lovey, calm down, we believe you. But I have a feeling that that simple denial is going to follow you around for an awfully long time.

***

The Sun (9 Jul) reported a “study of European values” which proudly revealed that “Brits are more prejudiced against gays than most other Europeans. Nearly a third of people do not like homosexuals – compared to an average of under 30 per cent in most countries.”

But doesn’t that mean that two-thirds of people do like gays? Isn’t that an overwhelming majority? Unfazed, The Sun goes on to tell us that “Most Europeans would rather live next door to someone who is mentally unstable than gays or Aids victims”. Charming nation we live in.

***

Writing in The New Statesman about the evil of religion, Gore Vidal declared open war on the “monotheists” or “sky-godders” who have wreaked such havoc in the world. “Psychopathic hatred of same-sexuality has made the US the laughing stock of the civilised world. In most of the world, where monotheism is weak, private sexual behaviour has nothing to do with anyone else, much less the law. At least when Emperor Justinian, a sky-god man, decided to outlaw sodomy, he had to come up with a good practical reason, which he did. It is well known, Justinian declared, that buggery is the principal cause of earthquakes. But our sky-godders, always eager to hate, quote Leviticus, as if that loony text had anything useful to say about anything except, perhaps, the inadvisability of eating shellfish in the Jerusalem area.”

I’ll be joining Gore’s crusade, too. How about a gay Jihad – let’s take the gloves off and fight back against the evil evangelicals and crazy charismatics who are trying so hard to destroy our lives.

GAY TIMES September 1992

The Guardian (18 Jul) carried a feature – culled from The Irish Times – about Reach, a Dublin-based group for gay Christians. It told several tales of men who had been cruelly humiliated by the Catholic Church when it was discovered that they were gay. Many of them have been tormented for years with the idea that they are “intrinsically disordered” simply because some bigot in the church says so. Others, like Paul Hutchinson, have come to the conclusion that “The Catholic Church is completely hypocritical. It’s all bullshit really.”

Little did they realise that a week later the Vatican would issue a document described in The Church Times (31 Jul) as “a licence for ecclesiastical queer bashing and homophobia” stating that it is perfectly OK to discriminate against lesbians and gays in some circumstances. In a similarly-worded document – rich in the euphemistic language favoured by dictators – the Vatican said that gays were contrary to family life, that it is legitimate to keep us out of jobs in schools, as “athletic coaches” and in the military. We are not automatically entitled to housing, especially when “families” are homeless. Most unforgivable was the suggestion that gay people invite violence and it is therefore understandable, if not condoned.

The poisonous and wicked nature of this document – a real piece of toxic waste if ever there was one -was quickly recognised and condemned. An anonymous letter in The Guardian revealed that priests had refused the last rites to a man dying of Aids, even though he had once been a priest himself.

Patricia Redlich in Ireland’s Sunday Independent (26 Jul) says that the Church has gone “too far”. She says: “We may be hazy on homosexuality, but we have no doubts about human rights. Sexual orientation should not be used to discriminate against any brother, sister, daughter, friend or unhappy husband, who married in order to hide.” She suggests that those sick individuals who are responsible for the document should go on a long retreat and think carefully about their actions

Decal Lynch, in the same paper wrote: “The Church’s risible, indeed twisted attitude to women, homosexuals and other wayward species is not only written down with utmost clarity in black and white, it is practically emblazoned in mile-high neon lettering across the sky. ‘C’est la vie’ said the old folks, and nothing more was heard about it. Younger folk, because they have read a book or two other than the Catechism, seek to reform this amazing monolith in accordance with the romantic ideas of Christianity, despite the ceaseless insistence from Rome that they should go and take a running jump.”

Even the Catholic journal The Tablet (1 Aug) said: “The homosexual is not only a person to whom the Church must minister, but someone who has a ministry to offer the Church. The harshness of the Vatican’s pastoral position is hindering that reciprocal relationship, and driving some Catholic homosexuals out to seek an affirmation of their self-worth elsewhere.”

This was followed up by a letter from Anthony Redmond, who asked: “Is the Church of Jesus Christ not the fountain-head of compassion, concern and love? What do you think Christ would say to the homosexual man or woman? Would Jesus encourage discrimination and persecution? Reading the latest outpourings on the subject from the Vatican, I have to say that I am ashamed to be a Catholic.”

None of this helped the gay Italian writer Giovanni Testori who says he has “suffered his homosexuality rather than lived it”. He gave an interview to La Stampa which was reproduced in The Guardian (3 I Jul). Sgr Testori is of the old guilt-is-good school of Catholicism and gives a maundering, miserable account of himself in relation to Catholic orthodoxy: “I’m full of anguish and pain. Life has always been agony for me, as if it were always the last day, the last night, the last kiss, the last curse.” Oh please – pass the hair shirt and barbed flail!

The latest condemnation of homosexuality has, says Testori, “hit me very hard indeed. But I have faith that the Church will still be charitable enough to take in even this poor despairing creature. I think it is wrong to force the hand of the Church for the sake of keeping up with the times, for these times are full of violence and thoughtlessness. The Church has a sacrosanct duty to try and reimpose strict morality.”

It could be argued, of course, that the Vatican document is itself “violent and thoughtless” but this does not occur to this apologist for persecution. Asked if it is right for the Church to ask the state to back up its condemnation, the invertebrate Sgr Testori says: “Woe betide us if they didn’t! Even if it means that condemnation comes down on my head and I end up with even less peace of mind.”

I have to admit that this kind of self-torture, so common in Catholic gay men, is totally incomprehensible to me. But I certainly worry about the hidden effects of the Vatican’s pronouncement. How are we to know whether a given piece of discrimination is as a result of it? How many Catholic bosses and landlords are at present wondering whether it is their “duty” to carry out the Pope’s wishes against their gay employees and tenants?

There’s only one word for it. Evil.

***

The “Queer Nation” idea seems to, be rapidly running out of steam, mostly because only a handful of over-excited activists thought it had any value or relevance in the first place. But Peter Tatchell is still plugging away and wrote an article headed “Do us a favour – call us queer” in The Independent on Sunday (26 Jul). He rehearsed all the now-familiar arguments about Queer becoming “a proud symbol of the angry and assertive New Queer Politics of the 1990s”. Wishful thinking, I’m afraid, Peter. Queer Politics is a phenomenon of the early I 990s, and by the mid- 1990s it will be history.

The following week Gavin Hart was given right of reply in which he stated what surely must be the majority gay opinion – that the toilsome, harder route to gay freedom is going to be the more effective one. However angry we are, we should have realised by now that it’s not possible to bludgeon or harangue people into agreeing with us. We also know that it’s a fantasy to imagine we don’t need “acceptance” and that gays can somehow function-independently of the rest of the population.

Jason Mitchell explained in a letter to the editor of The IoS that he did not want to live in the Queer Nation because he does not see the world primarily through “the prism of sexual desire” and wants to have “the whole web of experience and emotions that are the essence of life, whether gay or straight.”

The week after that, Derek Jarman was on the defensive saying that the noisy, confrontational tactics of OutRage were essential, and that they carried on the tradition of the Gay Liberation Front, which had opened the way for all the benefits we, as a community, enjoy today.

That’s true, of course, and I’d be the first to acknowledge OutRage’s marvellous work in bringing gay issues and injustices to the attention of a wide public. Much of that success has to be put down to Peter Tatchell’s amazing public relations skills. But demos and zaps are not enough in themselves, there has to be a pincer movement of lobbying and persuasion too.

This is all very different from the other face of “Queer Politics” – with groups such as Manchester’s nihilistic and homophobic Homocult trying to bully us into a separatism that few of us want. It’s the same old story. Whenever someone tries to impose a system of beliefs on others – political correctness in this instance – there is resistance. The gay community is too diverse to share one opinion, and it is a foolish waste of our precious energies to spend time fighting over something which is patently a flash in the pan.

***

Here we go again, are we born or are we made? The Guardian told (3 Aug) of new research in California which seems to suggest that “a cluster of nerves, one which connects the right and left-hand sides of the brain, the anterior commissure, is larger in homosexual men than in heterosexuals.” This follows Michael LeVay’s study which suggested that the interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus was smaller in gay men than in heterosexuals.

From this, Reggie Nadelson in The Independent (6Aug) concluded: “If biology is destiny, homosexuality could not be considered a matter of choice; gay rights would be automatically protected. It would be harder for ‘born-again’ crackpots to condemn homosexuality as ‘immoral’.”

 

But the convenient idea that gays somehow “choose” their orientation in order to be perverse will not die so easily. “‘Born to be gay’ claim is scorned by scientists” announced The Daily Mail (4 Aug), while Dr Thomas Stuttaford in The Times (7 Aug) said: “The anatomists have used the brains of homosexuals who have died of Aids, and Aids is known I to affect 90 per cent of brains with, on average, a 40 per cent loss of neurones of the frontal cortex before death. They imply that to draw firm conclusions from a disease-ravaged brain would be akin to judging how a telephone network operates by studying one in a heavily bombarded town.”

Still, it gave the “what-if” merchants a chance to let rip. Peter (Mr Ubiquitous) Tatchell was quoted in the London Evening Standard as saying that the research could lead to “sinister genetic manipulation”. He says that unscrupulous doctors could be “persuaded to abort foetuses carrying homosexual traits”, which seems feasible, but then he is purported to have said “gay evangelists could use the knowledge to swell their ranks by creating thousands of extra homosexuals.”

I can’t believe Peter would have said such a strange thing, so we’ll put it down to the over-enthusiasm of the reporter.

***

Standing back now from the David Mellor affair, it’s difficult not to reach the conclusion that it was the tabloid press’s intention to “get” the Minister because he had the temerity to instigate a review of their pathetic “self-regulation” procedures. But, as usual, it was a gross misjudgement and has simply resulted in a new clamour for some kind of statutory restraint on the press and its arrogant trampling over people’s lives.

The Mellor exposé was a sleazy tale of half-truth, deceit, greed and revenge. The editor of The People, the paper that broke the story, maintained that his reporters had not bugged the flat Mr Mellor was using for his assignations.

Eventually it came out that although no-one from the paper had directly set up the telephone taps, their reporter had supervised the man who was doing the surveillance to ensure he did the job properly. Of course, he would not have bothered with this elaborate procedure if he had not known that some scum-bag newspaper would pay him a small fortune for his troubles.

And the same can be said about Simon Berkowitz, the man who was alleged to have burgled Paddy Ashdown’s solicitor and stolen the document which confirmed that Mr Ashdown had been having an affair. Would anyone have stolen it if there had been no market for the document?

 

What do we discern from this? That newspapers encourage crime by providing a market for stolen property? That they encourage immorality by paying “insiders” to betray their friends?

The papers have all been claiming this month that any legislation will interfere with their duty to expose criminal activity or corrupt politicians or hypocritical public figures. I agree that it is a dangerous possibility, but who is responsible for it? The press has only itself to blame after years of cruel and repellent behaviour that has turned the public against it: a Gallup poll published in Europa Times indicated that 87 per cent of those questioned favoured a privacy law.

The great shame is that any blanket restriction will affect all newspapers, and the serious press — which undertakes genuine investigative journalism which is truly in the public interest — will also suffer. But private individuals must be protected from press intrusion into their most intimate lives. If their sexual activities are not illegal, they should not be paraded in scandal-sheets. It is not the business of newspapers to judge what is “moral”; they need to put their own house in order before they point the finger at anyone else.

Sir David Calcutt is now accepting evidence and opinions from the public on the issue of press invasions of privacy. If you would like to contribute, either with your personal experience or with other evidence, you can write to: Sir David Calcutt QC, Room 601, Department of National Heritage, 50 Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW I H 9AY.

***

Another individual affected by HIV has been “outed” by the press, this time it is John Currie, the skater (“Ice Star Currie’s Aids Agony” — News of the World, 2 August).

It would have been better, and more helpful, if John had decided to make his condition known voluntarily, but his decision was to remain quiet about it. Surely that choice should have been his own?

The public has no more “right” to know the state of a person’s health than they have to know the details of their sex life.

***

The tabloids love conspiracies, and The Sun was presented with paranoia par excellence last month in a story headlined “Di in Secret Deal with Gays at Palace”. It was based on the rantings of “Privy Councillor and advisor to the Queen” Sir Alan Clark, who is also a former defence minister. He says that Buckingham Palace is “dominated by homosexuals who plotted to win Princess Di’s Royal seal of approval”. Proceeding from this unlikely premise, Sir Alan concludes that Princess Di realised that “she couldn’t operate without a coterie for events like day-to-day briefings. The price they extracted from her was the up-front crusading thing about Aids.”

Sir Alan goes on to say that the gays’ “plan” was to “get prominent women like Diana and Elizabeth Taylor, the queen regent of fag hags, involved.”

It’s like the Stepford Wives all over again. Liz Taylor and Princess Diana are but mere puppets dancing to our tune!

Sir Alan is not, despite my advice, seeking treatment, although there are many who believe he is seriously in need of it.

***

The Observer (9Aug) told us that “Parents across the religious and political spectrum are threatening to withdraw children from lessons in protest at Government plans to make teaching about Aids a compulsory school subject.’”

However, it then goes on to tell us that “Evangelical Christians have agreed to link up with Muslims and Conservative right-wingers in a bid to subvert the law.” I would hardly say Valerie Riches of the Family Education Trust (how many organisations with the, word “Family” in the title does this woman run?) together with The Plymouth Brethren and a handful of ayatollahs represent “the political and religious spectrum”, I would think they represent a very small, but very powerful fundamentalist lobby. It’s the same names every time: Baroness Cox, the Earl of Liverpool… Who the hell do these people think they are, trying to inflict their hate-filled religious dogma on to a whole generation of children? I had thought that when Major came to power some of these dirty-minded cranks would have lost their influence at Number Ten But they don’t give up so easily.

There ought to be another Section 28, this time banning the promotion of bigotry in schools, particularly when it masquerades as righteousness.

***

And if evidence is needed about where ignorance on the topic of homosexuality leads, then you need only look as far as Mizz magazine (18 Aug). In an “it happened to me…” feature, a young lesbian, Karen, tells how she was forced out of the closet at the age of 14. “It was through school that my mum found out … One day I was called into the headmaster’s office. I had been helping the first-years in the remedial class with their reading and there was a rumour that I was molesting the children. This was because I had put my arm around a first former. Her mother had died recently and she was crying. Anyone with an ounce of compassion would have done the same, but they looked on that as evidence against me.”

From that crass bit of conclusion-jumping flowed a tale of misery, violence, emotional torment and homelessness which has been going on for several years now. Karen’s step-father beat her and her mother kicked her out of their home. She was forced to come to London where she survived on the streets by stealing bread from shops. Somehow she has managed to educate herself, and she sounds like a very intelligent and sensitive woman. That she should have been driven to sleeping in cardboard boxes simply because of other people’s wicked ignorance is a scandal. And the next generation is likely to behave in exactly the same manner if Riches, Cox and all the other perverters of piety have their way.

***

I’m surprised that it has taken so long for the press to get round to “The Secret Gay Life of Star Frankie” (Sunday Mirror, 9 Aug). I don’t know who is supposed to be surprised by the knowledge that Frankie Howerd was gay, but apparently the papers find it “shocking”.

Of course, as they tell it, the comedian’s gay nature was part of his “dark side” (which also included alcoholism, professional jealousy and drug-taking). Being gay can never, to these grisly newspapers, be a simple fact of life, it has to be “sordid”, and so Frankie Howerd wasn’t just gay, full stop, he was “promiscuous” and “even propositioned strangers”.

When are the British ever going to grow up about sex?

***

Boorish Paul Johnson, the right wing “intellectual”, wrote in The Spectator that homosexuals should not be invited as “house guests,” because other guests might not like the idea of sharing a house with someone who might have Aids.

 

They might also not like sharing a house with a bigoted pig who makes Christianity sound like a branch of the Nazi party. But then, he’s a Catholic, so I suppose he’s only following orders.

 

GAY TIMES October 1992

Kate Saunders in The Sunday Times (23 August) accurately described the Republican Convention in America as a “freak show”, a gathering of “nutcases from all over America… enormously fat people in fancy dress, gibbering inanely about tax cuts and anti-abortion laws.” And, of course, homosexuality.

However, President Bush’s decision to unleash the ratbags of the Right, in the shape of Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson, may have backfired. The Times (10 Sep) tells us that the Republicans are now backtracking on the “extreme social conservatism” because it alienates so many sensible and moderate voters.

Campaigning in California, the Vice President “dumb” Dan Quayle “displayed a new tolerance of homosexuals, softened his opposition to abortion and redefined ‘family values’ so they no longer exclude the majority of Americans who do not live in nuclear families.

When asked on a TV phone-in about the gay-bashing speeches at the convention, President Bush said: “I don’t think you heard any of that rhetoric coming from me. You didn’t hear it coming from the President.”

The Democrats say that this apparent about-face is political opportunism. Well, of course it is, and it’s so transparent that surely even the American electorate can see through it.

But those ‘conservatives’ and their creepy ‘family values’ refuse to go away. Now that communism is dead they need a new enemy and, boys and girls, we are it: homosexuality is the new improved threat to “the tradition values of America”.

Take, for instance. The Battle of the Boy Scouts. Most readers will already be aware that the Levi Strauss jean company and the Wells Fargo Corporation have withdrawn financial support from the Boy Scouts of America because of their exclusion of the ‘three Gs’ – no gays, no godless, no girls. The Independent (10 Sep) brought us up to date on that particular rumpus by telling us “Gay activists have not been shy in pointing to recent biographical evidence that Lord Baden Powell (founder of the Scouts) was himself a repressed homosexual.”

The “family values” cranks, though, are hitting back. A Republican congressman has vowed to encourage a grass-roots counter boycott of Levi Strauss and Wells Fargo. “Throughout Middle America in the next six months people are going to be wearing a lot more Lees and Wranglers and a lot fewer Levis,” he said.

***

Catholic journal The Tablet published a letter (22 Aug) that should make the Pope hang his head in shame. It as from someone identified just as Francis. “On reading the report of the recent letter…. advising American bishops to discriminate against homosexual people seeking to enter the teaching profession or armed forces, I was dismayed to find that I have, apparently, misspent my entire life”

Francis tells how, during the war, he “fought partly to free the present Pope’s homeland” by spending four life-threatening years in the RAF. He says that he imagined he was doing his duty but little did I know I was simply a potential source of corruption to those around me and thus had no right to serve my country.”

After the war, Fancis became a music teacher and carried on his profession for 40 years “in the hope that I was making the most of the gifts God had given me.” But now the Church – through this statement – has made him realise he has a nature “intrinsically directed towards evil” and that according to the Vatican he is a “grace moral danger” to his pupils.

He asks, not without bitterness, whether he should now return his wartime medals to the Ministry of Defence “with an abject apology”. He wants to know whether those presently studying with him should be sent off to “a suitably heterosexual teacher.”

Francis goes on to say that he hopes a letter is now winging its way to the English Catholic hierarchy “strongly urging them to observe Leviticus 20:13 which recommends that homosexual people should be stoned to death. Nothing seems impossible under the present regime.”

I sincerely hope that the Vatican’s latest insult has encouraged more gay Catholics to move away from a church that treats them with such contempt.

***

The tenth anniversary of the West and Wilde bookshop in Edinburgh was celebrated with an article in Scotland on Sunday (23 Aug). Journalist Sue Innes interviewed Bob Orr and Raymond Rose, the two men who run the shop, and got a snapshot of how gay life has developed in Scotland over the past decade.

Bob Orr sees “positive change in the attitudes of young gay people. He thinks there is much more tolerance in Scotland than there is in England, which is good to think might be true,” says Ms Innes. “But I do not think there is better understanding.”

She may be right if other events in Scotland over the past few weeks are anything to go by. The Glasgow Herald (11 Aug) devoted a page to an extraordinary affair which has become known as “Fettesgate”. Even with a broadsheet page to play with, the article still didn’t manage to get to the heart of the matter. It started with a break-in at the Lothian and Borders Police HQ in which several highly sensitive documents were stolen. From this daring raid there followed a complex string of events that seemed to originate from the “criminal elements of Edinburgh’s homosexual community” which, according to the paper, is “so secretive that criminality can prosper and where many of its members live in constant fear of exposure.”

The Guardian (5 Sep) took the story up, but got no nearer the truth. “The affair is a story of the gay criminal underworld in Edinburgh and the often precarious links between the police and their sources. It is a tale of tip-off fees denied and of possible blackmail against at least one senior figure in the legal establishment, said to be associated with a gay fraudster sentences to six years for his part in A £280,000 bank scam just before the break-in.”

Frame-ups, cover-ups, conspiracy theories and guesswork abound in this complex web of lies and denials. And the situation hasn’t been helped by the leak last month of the police report of criminal cases where charges have been dropped allegedly because of a “gay conspiracy”. It is difficult to know whether the police are trying to blame the gay community for all of this in order to cover their own bungling ineptitude or whether there really is some vast unseen mafia of gay criminals intent on humiliating the police. It’s one of those mysteries that could rumble for years, feeding the paranoia of those in power for a long time to come.

Meanwhile, over in Glasgow, a frightening tale of blackmail was recounted in Scotland on Sunday (6 Sep). Brian McKenna, a gay businessman, was the victim of an organised extortion racket. He paid out £8,000 to a gang of “pimps and rent boys” before he finally “broke down in tears on the phone and told them to do their worst”. Which they certainly did – arriving at his business to demand more, phoning his staff, setting fire to his shop and house, wrecking his car, promising to set up rent boys who would falsely claim that he had paid them for under-age sex. In the end he came out to the city police and asked for help. The police have been magnificent in backing his stand against the criminals.

Mr McKenna and other victims of the blackmailing gang eventually went on Scottish Television to tell how “closet gay men in Glasgow, terrified of being exposed, had allowed themselves for the past 18 months to be blackmailed. Beaten up and robbed by former partners or by pimps who control the rent boy scene.”

Mr McKenna’s neighbours have rallied round him and have already rushed to his aid when one of them spotted a man with a knife breaking into his house. He has now set up a crisis line for anyone else who has suffered as he did (and he thinks there may be 1000 men being exploited as he was).

After this, the air outside the closet smells incredibly fresh.

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Francis Wheen in The Literary Review said that Rupert Murdoch had “made a fortune from selling excrement and in the process, has debauched our culture and corrupted our youth, produced a generation of lager louts, sex maniacs and morons.”

William Shawcross, Murdoch’s latest biographer, doesn’t agree, and although he accepts that Murdoch has a lot to answer for, he says he would “hesitate to ascribe quite such metaphysical force to him.”

Indeed, Murdoch could not have single-handedly caused the deterioration that our society is currently undergoing; Mrs Thatcher should be up there in the dock with him. But Murdoch and his media empire have played a pivotal role in the degradation of decent values. His papers have normalised brutality, they have lauded mean-minded prejudice, they have turned us all into a baying mob, anxious to humiliate and torment our fellows. He has taken his newspapers into the gutter and the others have had to follow in order to survive. Now he is engaged in undermining the broadcasting services.

We have been treated, over the past few weeks to endless displays of his dubious “morality”. The Sun, as usual, led the rat-pack in a disgusting pursuit of the Royal Family and a Government Minister. Not content with revealing the dalliances and indiscretions, they had to pour salt into the wounds by revealing and ridiculing the intimate details of people’s sexual activities. The term bedbug takes on a whole new meaning.

I hold no brief for the Royals, and I believe that we are entitled to know when they are wasting public money, but I do not think that even they deserve to be put into a pit so that we can all point and laugh. There is no escape for them — they cannot even seek therapy to help them recover from the humiliation without The Sun telling the world about it. After all, as Frank Bough so tellingly said, “Aren’t we all entitled to a sex life?”

I wonder how the journalists who have organised this inhuman spectacle would feel if their bedroom preferences were to be splashed across the front page in full colour. With sound effects on an 0898 number? Nobody deserves that, I don’t care who they are.

And I fear it isn’t over yet. When they’ve finished with Di and Fergie, who will be next? Well, perhaps we had a trailer from The People (6 Sep) which reported that columnist Taki Theodoracopulus had said, in an American magazine, that Prince Andrew has a “sexual secret … which wasn’t hard to guess.” He is also reported to have said: “The Queen’s fourth child (Prince Edward) is paid out of the public purse to pursue a theatrical career and assorted bachelors.”

Rumours abound that there are photographs of Prince Edward in circulation that would not displease a Murdoch editor. Who knows, perhaps they are already in the possession of The Sun, locked away in a safe until the time is right to squeeze maximum circulation figures from them. I don’t know what effect such a story would have on the gay community, but we ought to be ready for it. It really is only a matter of time.

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For Women is “the magazine for sensual women” and its glossy pages feature lots of raunchy articles and male pinups. I bought the second issue not because of the full frontals of stripper Rebel Red, but because of an article which explored the “centuries old love (and definitely non-physical) affair between gay men and straight women.” Writer Nancy Culp asserted that “there has always been an undeniable empathy between straight women and gay men. They have so much in common, not least of all the obvious fact that they both love men.”

The feature goes on to explore the way that some straight women become so obsessed with their gay male friends that they want to take the relationship that wishful “step further”. “When does this plain and straight forward fag-haggery stop and something approaching a hopeless obsession begin? Ask a randomly selected group of homosexual men if they have ever experienced this strange phenomenon and a surprising amount might answer in the affirmative.”

She also reveals that just as straight men fantasise about lesbians having sex, a large number of straight women have similar fantasies about gay men. “I’ve never been in love with a gay man,” says one of Ms Culp’s subjects, “but let’s say I am in love with the idea of gay men.” She goes on to say that she longs to accompany a gay couple home and watch them interacting. “I’m into the idea of gay men being really sensitive, but I also like the brutality of them going round f-ing each other stupid.”

The whole magazine would appeal to a gay audience and, indeed, the cross-over becomes ever more obvious in some of the advertisements. The telephone lines offer “Trevor — strip me down to my throbbing muscle” and “Three naval officers to fulfil your fantasy” as well as “Carl and John the Dreamboys duo challenge you to take them on.” Mike Arlen’s Guys — the homoerotic photo magazine— is also offered under the heading “When did you last have 20 nude men for under a fiver?”

It may be For Women, but I think there’ll be more than one bloke leafing through its pages.

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The Guardian and The Independent continue to vie for the gay market. This month The Guardian wins hands down with five major features of interest to gay readers, whereas The Independent managed only one — a report on the emergence of the new “queer cinema” (12 Sep). In The Guardian lesbian and gay teenagers were catered for in a feature by Mark Simpson, while Maev Kennedy dealt sympathetically with the National Bisexual Conference. Madeleine Bunting reported on male rape and finally Bobby Pickering wrote (8 Sep) about the political “coming together of lesbians and gay men” after twenty years of separatism.

The interesting thing about these articles is that they are written for the gay readers rather than about them, making a pleasant change from most other papers, which carry on as though only heterosexuals read their rags; their style of reporting on gay issues is always one of exclusion. The thinking seems to be: homosexuals occur somewhere else, not among our readers.

The London Evening Standard (26 Aug) reported (for its totally heterosexual readership) “An explosive new study into American sexual mores which is likely to be received with horrified disbelief by militant gays.” Apparently, the study concludes that only “three per cent of the population are lifelong homosexuals. Occasional same-sex activity was admitted in just 4.5 per cent of Americans.” From this, it is argued, the “political clout” of the gay lobby will be reduced now that “their” numbers don’t look quite so “formidable”. “Their” success, it seems, came from the fact that “they” tend to congregate in big cities and show “a remarkable talent for gutsy and articulate activism.” But, of course, “they” don’t read The Standard.

Meanwhile Frank Johnson in The Daily Telegraph (9 Sep) was rambling on about how the Liberals (now Liberal Democrats) were the first political party in this country to “come out” in support of gay rights. Not all Liberals approved of the media’s attention to “a few exhibitionists” (apparently accepting the opinion that homosexuals can’t be ‘real’ Liberals, either and Mr Johnson says that he and his colleagues would “troop pruriently round the fringe in the hope of finding a man with a ginger beard and sandals announcing that he was glad to be gay. It is not a period in my career of which I’m proud.” I’m not convinced, Frank.

The other infallible sign that a newspaper thinks it has no gay readers is that it never, ever prints letters in its correspondence columns from openly gay people. After all, “we” can’t be allowed to take up “their” space, can we?

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Were they or weren’t they? Did they or didn’t they? These are the questions surrounding Laurence Olivier, Danny Kaye and T E Lawrence (of Arabia).

Michael Arditti in the London Evening Standard (3 Sep) is certain that Olivier and Kaye did have an affair, even though this is denied by Olivier’s son, Tarquin.

Sheridan Morley (Standard 7 Sep) also says that the affair never happened. But wasn’t it the same Sheridan Morley who recently tried to convince us that Noel Coward wasn’t gay?

Peterborough in The Daily Telegraph (20 Aug) uncovered new evidence to suggest that Lawrence of Arabia was gay, but this was contradicted by a reader who had a friend, Basil Jones, who shared barracks with Lawrence. “I asked him if Lawrence was a homosexual. ‘Certainly not,’ Jones replied, ‘If you share a barrack room that is one of the first things you find out.’ “But, just for the record, he did “believe Lawrence was a masochist.”