Gay Times, February 1993

BEFORE the Calcutt report into press self-regulation was even published, the press was in a state of hysteria about It. “Big brother bullies want to gag our free press”, snivelled The Star, “Whatever jargon the establishment uses to try and justify this, it means one thing in plain English — censorship. It’s an ugly word in a democracy.” 

The Sun, too, went into a frenzy of noble righteousness: “A free and unshackled press is an essential branch of liberty,” said a front-page editorial, “but our lords and so-called masters want to take an axe to it. In the name of YOUR freedom, they plan ominous legal curbs on newspapers. THEY will fine and harass us. THEY will censor us and gag us. THEY will decide what we can print and what you have the right to know.” 

The editor of The Sun, cocky and arrogant as ever, declared that he would defy any privacy law and was prepared to go to jail as a consequence. “We won’t pretend we savour the prospect of a month in the Scrubs. But we’ll damned well serve our time with our heads held high,” he said rather unconvincingly. 

After the report was published, they went totally haywire. They misrepresented its findings in the same way that they misrepresent everything else they don’t like. Sensible debate seemed impossible.

Sir David Calcuttt had anticipated chose objections: “I don’t doubt that recommendations will be met by claims that they will result in censorship and gagging of the press, that they will prevent responsible investigative journalism and that they would only serve as a shield for the wicked,” but he goes on to say that it is apparent that the press is quite incapable of regulating itself and that his aim is to help the press “to operate freely and responsibly and give it the backing that is needed in a fiercely competitive market, to resist the wildest excesses.” 

He is scathing about the ineffectiveness of the Press Complaints Commission: “It is, in essence, a body set up by the industry, financed by the industry, dominated by the industry and operating a code of practice devised by the industry and which is over-favourable to the industry.” 

Calcutt recommends the setting up of a statutory tribunal which would draw up a code of practice and have legal powers to enforce it. Undoubtedly this code of practice would have included sexual orientation in its clause about discrimination — and would at least have provided gay people with some form of redress. Unfortunately, the tribunal idea has been rejected by the Government as “dangerous”. 

Other recommendations in relation to eavesdropping, illicitly recorded conversations and photographing people on private property and a right to sue newspapers over invasions of privacy are still being considered. Some of these proposals would protect individual gay people, but they would not shield our community from the barrage of anti-gay propaganda that issues daily from the tabloids, 

It Is. I agree, potentially dangerous to be talking about any limitation on the freedom of the press, but Calcutt is convinced that none of his proposals would fetter the papers in their justifiable investigations into corruption or criminal activity. And let’s not forget that it was the slimy. irresponsible tabloids that created this threat of “censorship” in the first place They have suddenly developed amnesia about all the cruelty, the humiliation and the pain they have inflicted on innocent people over the years. 

As a smokescreen they try to convince us that they have been scandalously “used” by the Royal Family, but what they forget to tell us is that they have made a fortune, and temporarily arrested their falling circulation, by the use of these stories from supposedly manipulative Royals. They say that if privacy restrictions had been in effect, they would have been unable to tell you about the David Mellor affair or the Paddy Ashdown affair. They would have been unable to bring you the details of Charles and Di’s marriage break-up or the toe-sucking activities of Fergie.

But I have to ask if democracy would have been damaged if we had not known that David Mellor liked to make love in a football strip, or that the Prince and Princess of Wales liked to make smutty and juvenile telephone calls to their respective sweethearts? 

It could be argued that the break-up of the marriage of the heir to the throne is of public interest, but are all the other salacious and personally humiliating details necessary? In the case of Paddy Ashdown, the country as a whole let The Sun know that their estimation of Mr Ashdown had not been lessened by the knowledge that he had an affair with his secretary; it was entirely his — and his family’s — business. At the time there was a feeling in the air that The Sun had made us all into sordid voyeurs, peeping through the bedroom keyhole. Mr Ashdown resumed his career, and one is tempted to ask how exactly this crude attempt at character assassination (immediately prior to an election) served the democracy of which the press are suddenly so protective. 

Ah yes, goes the self-serving arguments of those in the press who make a fat living from tittle-tattle, but if public figures seek publicity to further their careers, they can’t be selective about it. They can’t turn the spotlight off when they feel like it. 

But this doubting Thomas has to ask: why not? Just because a person seeks public office, it does not mean that he or she is inviting the nation to become spectators at their bedside (Madonna, of course, is an exception) Why shouldn’t some areas of private life be sacrosanct? Why should (t not be permissible for those who are in the public eye to have some degree of privacy? Why shouldn’t they be able to bathe nude in their own swimming pool without the accompaniment of prying telephoto lenses? Why shouldn’t they be able to hire a rent boy or girl in their off-duty hours, safe in the knowledge that if he or she decides to blab the details, the newspapers aren’t going to splash it on the front page? 

Calcutt puts it this way: “I conclude that while, prima face. everyone is entitled to protection of their privacy, those persons discharging public functions must be prepared to expect the level of privacy to be reduced to the extent, but only to the extent, that it is necessary for the public to be informed about matters directly affecting the discharge of their public functions.” 

Calcutt recommends that if legislation is enacted there should be a defence of “public interest”. Defences would include “preventing, detecting or exposing the commission of a crime or other seriously anti-social behaviour: or for the purpose of preventing the public being misled by some public statement or action of the individual concerned; or for the purpose of informing the public about matters directly affecting the discharge of any public function of the individual concerned”. 

A newspaper that had traduced the privacy of an individual, and was subsequently prosecuted, need not fear injustice if their actions were in the pursuit of genuine investigative journalism and not just titillating copy. Take the case of Frank Bough, for instance. The poor man, by virtue of frequent TV appearances as an announcer, was deemed worthy of having his predilection for SM sex made subject to a front-page expose in The News of the World, not once, but twice. What had he done to deserve such humiliation? What public interest had been served by his being brought low in such a callous way?

We turn to Patsy Chapman, editor of The News of the World, for an explanation. “Did it really harm him?” she asks in an interview with The Guardian (January 13th). “He’s back on television now. If it did harm him, then tough titty.”  Tough titty indeed for Frank, and maybe tough titty for Patsy if this is the contemptuous manner in which she treats her victims. 

The press has been warned often enough about its nasty ways. David Mellor, when he was Heritage Secretary, fatefully told them that they were “drinking in the last-chance saloon”. Within weeks, full particulars of his sexual peccadillos were on the front page of The Sun and every other tabloid They did not cease their pursuit until he had resigned from the cabinet. Revenge may be sweet, but it also tends to be self-defeating, as newspapers might well find out.

I don’t care much about the Royal Family and politicians, although I do believe that there should be a limit to what the press can do to them in the way of personal humiliation. What I do care about are the thousands of other lesser mortals who have been through the tabloid scandal mill. Why did they think it necessary to “out” Gorden Kaye. star of the ‘Alio. ‘Alio series? Why should they follow Coronation Street’s Roy Barraclough to his holiday destination, simply to pose the question “Are you gay?” and then print his affirmative reply as a front-page lead? What business is this of anyone else’s? Neither man had committed any crime, neither was a threat to the safety of the nation. 

What about Canon Brian Brindley, who was set up some time ago by a man posing as a “friend and admirer”, who was. in fact, a NoW journalist with a tape recorder hidden in his coat. The poor priest was plied with drink at a dinner party and then encouraged to talk about his sexual fantasies which, as it happened, concerned other men. From then on, this blameless man became — to the NoW — ”The kinky Canon”, “the camp Canon” and “vile Brindley”. Brindley was ruined and had to resign from his post as business manager of the General Synod. His Bishop said at the time: “That a journalist should go into the Canon’s home with a concealed tape recorder, cajoling him into fantasising about his private life is deplorable. More deplorable is the fact that a national newspaper should print a story based on material obtained in such a deceitful manner.” 

The News of the World replied to the criticism by printing all the accusations again, with embellishments. Tough titty, it seems for Canon Brindley. too. If Calcutt’s report is implemented, such tactics would be outlawed unless it can be proved that there is a definite “public interest”. 

However, the proposed maximum fine of £5,000 for breaking this law seems small, considering that a juicy photo taken by the paparazzi can fetch hundreds of thousands of pounds on the open market. Calcutt acknowledges that recourse to the present libel laws is only for the rich. After a stream of successful libel actions against newspapers, the number of reckless accusations and spiteful “exposes” has decreased. 

It’s highly unlikely, for instance, that there will be a repeat of the Elton John farrago. You will remember that in 1987, The Sun made seriously damaging accusations about Mr John’s gay private life. It was a pack of lies. When Mr John threatened libel action. The Sun added more lies to the catalogue It was a serious mistake which taught The Sun an expensive lesson — it was obliged to pay Elton John £1 million and apologise in grovelling fashion on the front page. Not many of us have Elton John’s financial resources and so it is important that there should be something just as effective for the man in the street. 

Another canard that is being peddled by the papers is that privacy laws in other countries don’t work. We are told that in France, where a privacy law has been in effect since 1970, the press is gagged and unable to criticise its politicians. Most people in this country don’t read French newspapers and so have to take such statements on trust. 

The truth is different. Although French tabloids might be frustrated that they cannot copy their British counterparts’ penchant for mocking people’s private lives (Paris Match, for instance, was fined £84.000 for printing the Fergie photos), there is nothing to stop them exposing corruption or crime, which they frequently do.

GAY TIMES March 1993

President Clinton’s first big test as new-man-at-the-top not only deprived him of the “political honeymoon” that US Presidents traditionally enjoy, it almost resulted in death by a thousand cuts. Bill Clinton imagined that it would be simple: an executive order lifting the ban on gays in the military would demonstrate that he intended to keep his campaign promise.

Unfortunately, he uncorked a bottle containing what one commentator described as “the primeval force of homophobia”.

The President’s first month has been a roller-coaster ride, not only for him but for gay people throughout the world. Writing in the London Evening Standard (January 27th) about the debt Clinton owes to the gay community, Jeremy Campbell said that its repayment would involve “a Copernican revolution in the way Americans regard homosexuals, and perhaps a medical assault on Aids reminiscent of the Manhattan Project”. Yes, indeed, if we have a US President who is prepared to fight actively for gay rights, then we have a world leader who can make homophobia as unacceptable as racism already is to civilised people.

We still have to see how deep that commitment goes. Clinton is, after all, a politician, and the “primeval forces” which have held sway for centuries are not going to give up easily. Indeed, the religious Right and other conservative forces have long recognised that homosexuality is a powerful rallying point for their hate-mongering; President Clinton has presented the grotty televangelists and raving Republicans with a big stick, and they have not hesitated to clobber him with it.

The British papers were confused about how to respond. “Defeat is certain in battle over gay soldiers” crowed The Daily Mail, more in hope than certainty, while The Times was more circumspect, venturing only that “Clinton offers compromise on gays”. The Daily Express said simply “Clinton wins gay battle with forces”.

In fact, the President has not yet “won”, he has called a moratorium so that tempers can cool and thought be given to the whole issue. Before the end of that cooling off period, a huge display of gay anger and determination is going to pass in front of the White House in the shape of the March on Washington.

The reactionary elements in the British press loved what it liked to imagine was the humbling of the President over something so “peripheral”. “The gays are spoiling Clinton’s honeymoon,” said The Sunday Express while The Sunday Times jeered: “Silly Billy: gay fiasco leaves him humiliated”.

 

Then a group of Labour MPs put down an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons congratulating Clinton on his stand and calling on the British Government to lift its own ban, which — they say — is in breach of EC anti-discrimination legislation.

That opened the way for the papers to give the whole argument a domestic flavour. “Should the British Army accept gays?” asked The Daily Mail in a double-page spread (January 26th). The paper solicited the opinions of twelve “commentators”, ranging from Denis Healey (“Clinton is quite right to lift the ban on homosexuality in the forces, and I think we should do the same here.”) to General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley, former C-in-C Allied Forces Northern Europe (“Any armed forces where people live close together are ill-advised to permit that type of behaviour.”) to Quentin Crisp (“I don’t know why gays want to be in the armed forces. They seem to look for something they’re denied and then insist on having it. It’s perfectly understandable that some Army people object to gays.”). Crisp is described as a “campaigning homosexual”, though it is not clear whether he is campaigning for homosexuals or against them.

The Mail on Sunday invited “Falklands hero” Simon Weston to comment on the matter (January 31).

Like so many other opponents of the change, Weston creates a hypothetical situation to show how “horrific” it would be to have to work alongside a gay soldier. “Imagine the situation. You are out in the cold — in Bosnia for example — and you cuddle up for warmth to get vital body heat. Well, I know men who would rather die of hypothermia than be cuddled by a man who flaunted his homosexuality.” Mr Weston tells us that the Army is so hung up about homosexuality that there is actually a rule that forbids two men from even sitting on the same bed.

These kinds of feeble and stupid arguments from men who seem to be afraid of themselves just aren’t good enough to justify the denial of human rights to a whole section of the community. Or, as psychologist Dr Andrew Stanway put it in The Independent on Sunday (January 31): “Macho men are often unconsciously defending themselves against their own fears of having homosexual tendencies. When someone protests too much it pays to stand back and ask why they are complaining.”

In The Guardian (January 23rd), Dennis Sewell, a retired cavalry officer, disposed of all the objections that have been put forward by “a phalanx of retired Generals”. He says that most of the arguments “are mustily reminiscent of the creaking timbers once used to bar women’s access to many of Britain’s traditional institutions.” He says that when voices are raised against gay men being allowed into the hallowed enclave of the army barracks, the excuse is usually that such accommodation is cramped, “as though soldierly sodomy would be quite acceptable to them if only it were practised in more commodious apartments.”

However thin and insubstantial their protests might be, the anti-brigade continues to shriek in more and more offensive ways. Take this, written by George Tyndale in the Birmingham Sunday Mercury (January 31): “As one US General pointed out, there may well be men who indulge in bestiality in the services too, but they are not encouraged to bring their goats into the barracks. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from ancient Greece where the Spartans raised regiments of homosexuals to fight together … Just imagine how much more terrified an enemy would be if it knew it faced a force of Marines who were not only trained killers but also queer to a man. Plus the fact that hand to hand fighting with an Army of Aids carriers is not a pleasant prospect. And there is another point. In warfare, whole regiments can get wiped out, can’t they?”

As Mr Tyndale has a little chuckle to himself over this “joke”, perhaps we ought to come back to the real world and look at what happens to real people who are suspected of being gay in the modern British forces.

In the Liverpool Daily Post (February 2nd), Amanda Williamson reported on the case of “David” who joined the RAF in the hope of a “glittering career”. His dreams came crashing down when the Provost and Security Services (the RAF equivalent of the CID) suspected that he might be gay. “They went through every item of clothing, read his letters and even ripped open his mattress.” He was followed on and off the base and when rumours began to circulate, he received death threats from his fellow servicemen. He eventually cracked under the strain and suffered a nervous breakdown. “It was a humiliating and traumatic experience; not only for me but for members of my family. I felt like I had been branded a criminal and was made to feel that I was suffering from some terrible disease … I felt that my whole life had fallen apart and I contemplated suicide several times,” he says.

In the end he was given an “administrative discharge” which at least spared him being labelled a criminal.

In The Independent (January 30th), Heather Mills reported on the case of “Sara” who “believes her days in the Wrens are numbered. She says she has already undergone hours of interrogation by the Special Investigations Branch, her letters have been opened, her calls intercepted and she has been followed off base.” Sara’s offence is simply being a lesbian.

The investigators were even rougher on Paul Crone, aged 23, who was “beaten and kicked during three days of interrogation until he signed a statement admitting he was in breach of service law by being homosexual.” He was then discharged from the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

Ms Mills reports on Rank Outsiders, a support group for former armed forces homosexuals. The group says that persecution and inhumane treatment continue, despite the concession by the Government last summer that gay men in the forces would at least not face criminal charges. The chairman of Rank Outsiders, Robert Ely, knows what he’s talking about, he was discharged as a bandmaster from the Parachute Regiment after nearly 20 years’ service.

But even those who are most virulently against lifting the restrictions have to admit that eventually it will happen.

Matthew Parris, in The Times (January 28th) does not doubt the sincerity of their misgivings but says: “One day reasonably soon (five, ten, 15 years?) a British Government will just do it. The world will continue in its orbit and we shall wonder, years later, what all the fuss was about.”

Bernard Levin, also in The Times (February 2nd) put it another way: “There is never so great a resistance to any measure than when it is about to be given up.” He says: “One day, the toughest and most seasoned brass will look back in wonder to the days when no known homosexual was permitted to serve his country in its armed forces because, and only because, he was a homosexual.”

This whole episode has demonstrated very clearly that something seismic is happening in relation to gay rights. I used to say that we would never be equal in my lifetime, but now I’m not so sure.

***

An investigation of Edinburgh’s so-called “Gay magic circle scandal” in Scotland on Sunday (January 24th) revealed a pathetic case of police homophobia posing as legitimate investigation. On the basis of rumour and innuendo, which were fuelled by a dislike of homosexuality, two policemen concocted a wild conspiracy theory involving much of the Scottish legal establishment.

With no evidence to back them up, the policemen claimed that justice was being perverted by a “gay mafia” (yet another one), operating within the Scottish Crown Office and in other places. Scottish gays began to feel under siege from the ever more lurid stories which kept appearing in the press. The tales of a “seedy homosexual low-life world spiced with closet homosexuality, blackmail, corruption, suspicion and death” sounded like something from the imagination of some 1950s tabloid hack and nothing like the far-from seedy gay community in Edinburgh. The words “criminal”, “corruption” and “gay” became interchangeable in some minds.

Even though sensible folk realised how ridiculous was the idea of a hidden Establishment conspiracy, it was alarming to see how readily the idea was embraced by those who should have known better. There was no “magic circle”, no conspiracy and no gay mafia.

An independent report published by the Scottish Office has ridiculed the whole theory, but it is obvious that the idea persists of homosexuals operating on similar principles to the Masons: that we are able to recognise each other, perhaps by secret signals, then give each other favours and surreptitiously band together to subvert the lives of “decent” people. If a scapegoat or an explanation is needed, then out comes the gay conspiracy theory.

Those in power will play on this ignorance if it suits their purpose. Certain members of the Lothian and Borders police force thought that their wild accusations would be accepted without question, and that perhaps these could be used to deflect attention from their own incompetence. Indeed, Sir William Sutherland, the chief constable, admitted that homophobia exists in his force. “I would have to say that the force does reflect society —there may be some officers who feel [anti-gay], but I don’t think it is a fair criticism of the force as a whole.”

I hope he’s right. This should be a salutary lesson in where unbridled prejudice can lead.

***

Vanity Fair magazine (March) carried an excerpt from the forthcoming book The Secret Life of J Edgar Hoover, which claims that the man who ruled the FBI with an iron fist for 48 years, was really a transvestite who liked to attend “homosexual orgies” dressed in frills and flounces. Worse still, organised crime bosses allegedly blackmailed him over his preferences and were able to prosper as a result.

Once again, the gay conspiracy theory gets an airing from The Daily Mail which claims Hoover was a member of “a high-society homosexual clique”.

There is little doubt that Hoover (or “J Edgar Poofter” as The Sun would have it) was homosexual, but gays could not expect favours from him. Quite the reverse, in fact. As Peter Tatchell wrote in a letter to The Independent (February 9th): “Hoover was, it seems, a classic example of a repressed gay man who could not come to terms with his own sexual orientation, and who used homophobia as a smoke screen to cover up his own homosexuality. To compensate for his sense of guilt and shame, and to deter suspicion and gossip, Hoover made a point of ostentatiously persecuting other homosexuals. His purges of ‘faggots’ (his word) from the State Department and armed forces during the McCarthy era wrecked the careers of thousands of lesbians and gay men. Some ended up in prison; others were driven to suicide.”

***

Richard Ingrams continues to use his Observer column to snipe at gays. On January 31st he was writing with predictable displeasure about the Radio Four gay programme. “There will be many regular Radio Four listeners, whose inclination is thought to be tolerant and broad-minded, who will be irritated if not angered by what looks like a deliberate exercise in provocation.”

Provocation of whom, Mr Ingrams? Bigots? Red-necks? Ex-editors of Private Eye? I know that Radio Four enjoys an extremely strong listener loyalty. Many people think that it belongs to them personally, and they get upset if the channel tries anything new. Well, they’ll just have to learn that there are gay Radio Four addicts, too. And we haven’t had any space of our own for the whole of the seventy years BBC radio has been broadcasting.

***

What’s this? The Daily Telegraph reviewing gay holidays? Yes, indeed. Keith Bernstein reported in the travel section (January 30th) about an all-gay cruise (on board the ship Crown Monarch). It sounded as though everyone had a great time but, Mr Bernstein wanted to know, “Why an all-gay cruise?” A Volvo salesman called Paul answered that one: “I wouldn’t go on a straight cruise, It would be just a bunch of blue-rinsed old ladies, and I would be continually lying. They would be saying to us (he and Michael, his partner of four years): “Oh where are your wives? On this type of cruise I know everyone will be gay. This is our world.”

The accompanying photograph featured four — how shall I put it? — hunks. As good a reason as any for gay Telegraph readers to be grateful to the travel editor.

GAY TIMES May 1993

However much the churches of England and Rome try to pretend that homosexuality is a peripheral issue, and of little relevance, it refuses to go away. Just as one “scandal” dies down, another comes to take its place.

In March this year, the Bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball, resigned his post after it was discovered he’d been up the cassock of a novice monk. The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a statement expressing sadness and embarrassment at the incident, but failed to take much account of the young victim’s feelings. That was a mistake the tabloids were quick to pounce on and both The Sun and The Star editorialised mightily about the Archbishop’s insensitivity to the damage which Ball’s attentions might have done to the youth.

I’m sure the young man’s feelings — rather than Murdoch’s bank balance — were the reason The Sun decided to print the novice’s story. For several days the paper wallowed in all the dirty details, revealing when, where and how the abuse had taken place — just the sort of thing the young man might want to keep in a scrapbook to show his children and grandchildren.

Meanwhile The News of the World (which, like all the tabloids, thrives on the combination of the sacred and the sexy) was bringing us: “Gay sex priest in inquiry”; which concerned a cleric in Paisley, Scotland, who is accused of taking part in a “rent boy scandal’ and better still: “We’ll sue over sex beast” —the tale of a Catholic priest who had “systematically abused a whole family of five children’ — boys and girls alike.

The Guardian told us that in Australia, the Reverend David McAuliffe, an Anglican priest, resigned his ministry after a “dispute over celibacy”. It turned out that Mr McAuliffe was playing both ends against the middle, by living in a relationship with another man while assuring the Church (they claim) that he was celibate.

Then The Observer carried an article about a new book, Chosen, which looks at the whole issue of homosexual Roman Catholic clergymen. The author of the book, Dr Elizabeth Stuart, estimates that “between 20 and 30 per cent of Catholic clergy may be gay” and that many of them live furtive lives “coupled with periods of self-loathing, with many priests taking years to come to terms with their sexuality”.

Another thorn in the side of the Vatican is Father Bernard Lynch, who has just published a book, A Priest on Trial, in which he illustrates most vividly how far the Catholic Church is prepared to go to silence critics of its policy on homosexuality. The Church describes gay people as “disordered in their nature and evil in their love”, but Father Lynch’s tale shows us just how easily over-powerful religious institutions can degenerate into wickedness and corruption.

Straight priests, too, made their contribution to the Pope’s woes. The Bishop Casey “scandal’ rocked Ireland all over again when The Sunday Times decided to carry excerpts from the memoirs of the woman he impregnated and hid away. The Daily Mirror told us that the bishop of Santa Fe has been accused of having sex with five teenage girls. The list of transgressors goes on.

The backwash from all this prompted a new round of hand-wringing among the believers. The Independent even revealed that British Catholics, headed by Cardinal Basil Hume, are “modifying the Vatican’s stance by announcing that homosexuality is not sinful”. His Holiness the Pope will not be amused.

On the other hand, Reverend Tony Higton, the well-known Essex vicar who is very fond of hellfire-and-damnation and who has a worryingly obsessive bee in his bonnet about homosexuality, ranted and raved in The Christian Herald about how the Archbishop of Cant, Dr George Carey, had let the Right Rev Ball off with a mere caution. He claimed that Carey had “minimised the seriousness” of Bishop Ball’s sin. “I want to dissociate myself from this double failure,” Higton wrote, “and to express outrage and sorrow at such damage to the cause of the gospel and credibility of the Church.” He was particularly harsh on church people who recommended that Bishop Ball should be forgiven and allowed to stay on in his job; presumably he would have liked to have seen him burned at the stake. He said that bishops had been “mealy mouthed” about homosexual practices for years, and that he cannot understand clergymen who don’t share his point of view. Well, isn’t that the very definition of a bigot — a word that could have been coined expressly for Mr Higton?

But, it appears, hateful Higton is pissing in the wind as far as the rank and file parishioners and clergy are concerned. They, it seems, still have some vestiges of Christianity left in them; tiresome things like kindness, forgiveness and understanding — apparently alien concepts to Mr Higton, who might be happier as padre at News International.

The Rev David Steven, of Mansfield Woodhouse, wrote to The Church Times “The real loss to the church at large and to the diocese of Gloucester in particular, is that those whose duty and joy it is to forgive have been deprived by the bishop’s resignation of doing so most effectively. We have allowed the world to set the agenda, and have discovered that not only can we not choose our bishops, but we cannot choose to forgive them either.”

Over in Rome, the Pope’s response to the growing number of his straying flock, was to issue instructions that they must “keep to their vows and remain celibate”. The old duffer doesn’t seem able to recognise that institutionalised celibacy is for most people —priests included — an unnatural state. The Independent revealed that 100,000 Catholic priests have left the church worldwide in the last 25 years because of the celibacy rules.

It has been shown repeatedly that many gay men enter the priesthood in an attempt to avoid dealing with their sexuality. The reasoning is that if they devote themselves to the church, their homosexuality will go away, or they will at least be able to ignore it. And now we’re seeing where such reasoning leads — child abuse, recrimination and “scandal”.

For The Church Times, the Bishop Ball case raised fundamental questions about attitudes to homosexuality. The paper said, in an editorial: “The suggestion is heard that if a homosexual disposition were seen as a fact rather than a reproach, then people who had it would be able to make realistic choices about their lives, and would understand the risks they took in entering professions which still deplored it; and those professions themselves would examine their thinking honestly. But that general degree of truthfulness is still a long way off.”

In the end it came down to those passages in the Bible which the self-righteous quote with such relish. Mr John Wilkinson wrote (Church Times): “… even we ordinary Christians are bound to condemn homosexual practices, however lovingly we seek to differentiate between the sin and the sinner. Speaking as one of those many heterosexuals who do not reject or persecute people of homosexual tendencies, but endeavour to express charity and compassion toward them, I still find myself brought up short by the plain unambiguous prohibition: “Thou shaft not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is an abomination’ (Leviticus 18.22).”

Nothing more to be said, is there? Unless, of course, you are the Rev Derek Whitehead who replied to the previous correspondent thus: “Come with me into the next chapter of Leviticus, where haircuts and trimming the beard (v. 27) and tattooing the skin are also condemned. In the following chapter disrespect to parents (19.9), adultery (v.10) and incest (vv. 11-12) — not to mention homosexual acts as well — all incur the death penalty. Is Mr Wilkinson in favour of such measures? Leviticus says we must be, and surely we may not pick and choose which texts of the scripture we will accept as authoritative.”

The Rev Whitehead says that the New Testament states (in Jesus’ own words) that the divorced and remarried are all adulterers. If Leviticus and Mark are run together (“and why not, since they are both the unchanging word of God?”) all re-marrieds and divorcees should be in the condemned cell.

It is regrettable that while homosexuality remains a matter for “scandal’ and outrage in the church, abuses will continue. By encouraging men to deny their sexuality — a force more powerful than religious observance can ever be — both Anglican and Catholic establishments are saving up tragedy for innocent people.

***

“It’s not been the best of weeks for the “we are all at risk” brigade,’ wrote Richard Littlejohn in The Sun. “Kenny Everett and Holly Johnson, the latest celebs to declare they have the Ads virus are both notorious homosexuals.”

It was certainly a great week for the “they’ve brought it on themselves” crew, though. Kenny Everett quickly put paid to tabloid speculation about his health by confirming that he has known for four years that he is HIV positive. The papers were reasonably kind to him at first. “Brave Kenny,’ they said, “he keeps on joking despite the tragic news.”

Of course, tabloids weep crocodile tears all the time. The sympathy won’t last and Kenny Everett and Holly Johnson’s reputations will soon go the way of Freddie Mercury’s. They will become demonised and pilloried because of their sexuality.

Holly Johnson’s interview with The Times was hijacked two days in advance by The Sun, which said: “For the man who told the world to ‘Relax —make love, not war’ — and boasted of the joys of promiscuous gay sex, it was the ultimate punishment.”

It was also a gift to the tabloid homophobes, just the ticket for another spot of gay-bashing. Everett’s and Johnson’s admissions, together with the Channel Four programme which suggested that the African Aids epidemic is largely a myth, gave new impetus to the idea that there is no Aids without homosexuality, and no homosexuality without Aids.

In The Daily Mail, the clarion call was taken up by Dr Gordon Stewart, Professor Emeritus of Public Health at Glasgow University and a former World Health Organisation adviser on Aids. He argued that HIV is not the sole cause of Aids: “The onset of Aids is hugely encouraged by high risk behaviour — by which I mean promiscuous homosexual behaviour or aberrant sex or drug taking — among people with HIV. If they avoided this behaviour HIV patients would not invariably get Aids and they would certainly live for much longer.”

He blames the emergence of “gay lib” for the spread of the virus and says: “We should take the sentimentality out of Ads and recognise that the disease is, with a few exceptional cases, directly caused by the behaviour of the victim.” He recommends that research money should be slashed as should money being “poured’ into caring for those affected by HIV.

Meanwhile, Anthony Daniels “a practising GP” was writing in The Daily Telegraph that whenever a popular figure such as Kenny Everett is shown to be affected by HIV “he is rightly the object of sympathy and compassion”. He says that anyone who argues that the disease is some kind of divine retribution is a “moral imbecile”. This all seems well and good, but as the article progresses, we soon realise that Dr Daniels is not in the business of sentimentality either. He tells us that our sorrow should not “blind us to the epidemiological facts which demonstrate clearly that, in this as in other Western countries, Aids is overwhelmingly a disease of certain categories of people, namely homosexuals and those who take drugs. Thus, most sufferers can be said to have contributed to their own downfall.”

He wants to know why so much effort has been put into turning those with HIV into “immaculate victims who cannot be said to have brought the disease upon themselves” and says that “praise and blame are ineradicable categories in the way we think about human conduct and the cant term non-judgmental is …well, judgmental.”

And so, it seems, we’re back to square one. The Sunday Telegraph reported that “Virginia Bottomley has ordered a dramatic cut in the Government funding of the Terrence Higgins Trust” so the argument that “gays have brought it on themselves” seems to be permeating even into the Department of Health.

It’s only a matter of time before the tabloids take it up again. And we can expect no sentimentality in that area — and no compassion or sympathy either.

***

What a to-do in Glasgow over reported “gay romps” in a clump of bushes in Kelvingrove Park. So enraged were the district council when they heard about the gallivanting that they promptly burned the offending shrubbery to the ground.

This harsh, and environmentally unfriendly, action irritated the Scottish Wildlife Trust — not because they were concerned about the loss of habitat of the Greater Cruising Gay, but because wrens used to nest in the bushes which the barmy burghers burned.

Anne Smith, a columnist on Scotland on Sunday was amused by all this. “One of my English friends immediately fantasised a flat-capped, horny-handed councillor bellowing: “We’ll ha’e nae nancy boys in Glasca. This is a man’s toon. Pu’ it doon!’” she wrote.

She expressed her admiration for the “stamina and resolute gayness of the gays who could hang out among those wet and windswept bushes in the dark looking for love and points out that now one bit of cover has been removed, they’ll simply move to another somewhere else in the park; it takes more than a conflagration to stop determined trollers.

So, what will the council’s next move be? To burn the whole park down, perhaps? But why stop there? “The Council will probably have to pull down Queen Street Station, all the public toilets and one or two bars in the city centre,’ says Anne Smith.

So why are the district councillors so “het up” about a few trysts in the undergrowth? “They call it political correctness,” says Ms Smith, “but we social historians are not fooled; we know how many Calvinists make a trend.”

***

It seems that “outing” is still in fashion in the USA. According to the London Evening Standard’s American correspondent, Jeremy Campbell, “a dossier is being readied on the private lives of members of the Congress who support gays in the military. There is a $10,000 reward, offered by a professor of history, to the first person who outs a four-star military officer, male or female, a Supreme Court Justice or an American cardinal.”

In the meantime, according to Campbell, “gay militants are ransacking the archives for evidence of homosexual leanings among the “deceased revered icons of American history”. So far the finger has pointed at Abraham Lincoln who “shared a bed for three years with a shopkeepers Joshua Speed” and Daniel Webster, whose letters to his bosom buddy, James Bingham, are peppered with terms of endearment such as “lovely boy” and “Dear Beloved”. In one letter he urges Bingham to “accept all the tenderness I have”.

In another missive, Webster wrote to James Bingham: “Yes James, I must come to you. We will yoke together again. Your bed is just wide enough, we will practice at the same bar, and be as friendly a pair of fellows who ever cracked a nut.”

Well, that seems clear enough, except that Campbell pours cold water on the theory by rolling out an historian by the name of James Rotundo, who says: “love letters written to famous men by famous men in the 18thand 19thcenturies should not be judged by our modern preconceptions… manhood is a cultural construction, an invention of society, and it is not the same from era to era. The meaning of manhood changed three times in the 19thcentury alone.”

Philip Larkin said sex was invented in 1963, Jeremy Campbell seems to be arguing that homo-sex is of even later vintage. But he’s not going to get away with it. As we all know, some great historical figures have been gay and no amount of ‘theorising’ is going to take these heroes away from us.

***

Playwright Denis Potter lunched a scathing attack on the Murdoch empire in Channel 4’s Opinion programme. The point he was making – that Murdoch’s papers and TV stations debase all other media, as well as the customers they serve – is a point I’ve been making for years.

However, I did admire Mr Potter’s invective. I would have been proud to have created his description of Murdoch as “that drivel-merchant, global huckster and so-to-speak media psychopath…a Hannibal the Cannibal” or his description of Kelvin McKenzie as “that sharp little oaf who edits the Sun. The best, though, was saved for Garry Bushell who became “that sub-literate, homophobic, sniggering rictus of a lout.”

Does that bother our Gazza? Not one iota. The Sun revealed that its prize columnist, who spends most of the time in his TV column talking about the death penalty and pinko poofters, is now “having his opinions studied in more than 30 universities.”

What they don’t reveal is that he is held up in the groves of academe as a shining example of how low British journalism can sink.

However, we mustn’t spoil Gazza’s day. “I’m not surprised,” he said, when told of his popularity among students of the media. “Cream always floats.”

Regrettably cream is not the only thing that always floats, as anyone who has been to a sewage works will tell you.

GAY TIMES June 1993

There was much anticipation about how the British media would cover the great March on Washington. The BBC was uninterested, with the exception of the World Service which carried several reports on the day.

Predictably, the tabloids ignored it completely. They aren’t interested in a million gay people and their supporters having something to say, only in individual homosexuals who are in trouble.

The broadsheets did better. The Guardian devoted much of its back page (April 26th) to the March and the fact that President Clinton had diplomatically absented himself from the capital on the big day. The Independent gave it a third of a page, together with a picture. The Sunday Times gave similar space. The Daily Telegraph managed four paragraphs but The Times only two,though more was to follow on subsequent days.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of it all was an editorial in The Independent (“An aggressive step in the wrong direction”) in which the paper linked the march with recent findings of the Battelle Human Affairs Research Centre (“only one per cent of those surveyed considered themselves to

be exclusively homosexual”). We have come to expect better than this from The Independent which said: “Mr Clinton has already done the homosexual community a great service by being – uniquely among US presidential candidates – happy to be identified as supporting their cause”. It goes on to said it would be foolish and unwise to alienate the president with such “injudiciously aggressive tactics”.

That was too much for many of The Independent’s faithful lesbian and gay readers. In the letters column, shell-shocked Indy fans protested. First off the mark was John Coblenz, who wrote: “Does your leading article imply that homosexuals have become an insignificant part of society, therefore the group’s importance must be degraded? … If you were to substitute the word ‘Jew’ or ‘African-American’ for ‘homosexual’, I rather doubt that a leading article of this nature would have appeared in your newspaper. You seem to be recommending that the American homosexuals should grin and continue to bear society’s prejudice. I doubt whether the late Martin Luther King would have favoured such advice.”

In the following issue, Alan M Stacey wrote: “Shows of support of this huge size send their own unique message to politicians, as well as being invaluable moral boosters for campaigners, and they undoubtedly have been a key factor in the success of previous great civil rights movements.” He also pointed out that the Battelle report was not accepted uncritically by everybody. Indeed, Mr Ted McIlvenna, president of San Francisco’s Institute for Advanced Study in Human Sexuality described it as “not only scientific hogwash but almost a homophobic diatribe”.

In the preliminary findings of the Institute’s own report, which began in 1970 and includes almost 90,000 people, four per cent of men were found to be exclusively homosexual and a further six per cent predominantly homosexual.

Rory Lambe, another correspondent to The Independent was more outspoken: “Bill Clinton has failed the gay community. He made promises in which he is now soft-pedalling. Why should he not be made aware of this as forcefully as possible? Being nice to bigots does not make them nice, it only makes them feel they are going to win.” He also attacked the one per cent statistic. “According to reliable surveys,” he said contemptuously, “we should be under a Labour government, Statisticians only know what people are prepared to tell them. I doubt whether the majority of gay people will ever feel safe enough to be open; thus,they will never appear in these surveys.”

However, the numbers game turned out to be an important tactic for the enemies of gay rights. The Battelle figures gave new fervour to the Religious Right in America. “Finally the truth has surfaced. Homosexuality is a behavioural oddity, certainly not entitled to special protective status,” said the triumphant Rev Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition (The Sunday Telegraph, April 18th). This report is truly a lethal weapon when placed in the hands of crazies.

Then came the official count of numbers on the March. Reporting form New York for The London Evening Standard (April 29th), Peter McKay (“the world’s worst columnist” – Private Eye) said: “The National Park Service, which is rather expert at estimating numbers and has a well-established methodology for doing so, including the use of aerial photography, put the number at around 300,000.”

This comment formed part of an article containing so many distortions that I imagine it had gay people all over London jumping up and down with fury. “What did they want anyway?” asked the stupid McKay. “Gays… are not lynched, burned out of their homes or made to sit at the back of the bus… Discrimination on the grounds of sex and race is largely outlawed. Laws give them the same protection against violence as everyone else. The March was really about demanding complete acceptance for a way of life which, rightly or wrongly, many people found repugnant. Blacks weren’t asking for special treatment. Just to be treated like everyone else.”

Peter Tatchell managed to put some of this right with a letter to The Standard: “Homosexuals arelynched. It’s called queer-bashing… In extreme cases anti-gay violence has involved bombings, arson and shooting.” He went on to catalogue the statistics of prejudice which are familiar to readers of this magazine, but obviously totally unknown – or uncared about – by Peter McKay.

A glance at The Guardian (April 15th) might also have enlightened McKay. It reported: “Half the 50 states still classify a homosexual relationship between consenting adults an offence punishable by law. Petitions to ban or reverse laws protecting gay rights are currently being organised in California, Colorado, Michigan, and several other states. Acts of violence against homosexuals were up thirty per cent last year.”

Meanwhile Vanity Fair (May issue) carried a major feature on the movers and shakers in America’s revitalised gay and lesbian movement – the individuals who are using Mr Clinton’s openness to get their feet under White House tables. A very different crowd to the previous generation of street activists and confronters, these new gay leaders are the politicians, the business people and wheeler-dealers who are power-broking the rights of America’s gay community. “The gay movement is in vogue,” says one activist. “Now that the press is on our side, more people are coming in. This is the thing of the 90s.”

Most important of these increasingly powerful spokespeople is David Mixner, “a strategic planner for some of the largest corporations in America” and a personal friend of The Clintons. It was Mixner who was instrumental in getting the gay groups to support Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. He helped raise millions of dollars for the Democrats, but not everybody is enamoured of his style. “David is dangerous,” one lesbian leader who works closely with him is quoted as saying. “He’s out for himself and he tramples everyone else.”

“But,” The Guardian commented, “at this cathartic ‘new moment’ in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights, it is Mixner’s type of insider, pro-establishment leadership which could eventually make or break gay America’s attempted transition from fringe to centre-stage. As Luther King and his heirs discovered, victory is to be found in the middle ground. And ready or not, the movement’s moment has arrived. It is theirs to lose.”

The question of who is really qualified to speak for a community as diverse as ours, is likely to be constantly asked, but never answered.

***

Christian conservatives are mobilising around the world behind an anti-gay banner. They have declared war on lesbians and gay men and they are ruthless in their campaign to defame and damage us. The Observer (May 2nd) reported on the deteriorating social situation in Poland since the ayatollahs from the Communist Party were replaced by those from the Catholic Church. “It is like something out of Khomeini’s Iran,” wrote Catherine Field, “homosexuals beaten up on the streets; chemists allowed to stock contraceptives, but too frightened to sell them and doctors and nurses terrified of even uttering the word abortion.”

The Catholic thought police, she says, are “peering into almost every nook and cranny of Polish life”.

In New York, Pat Robertson, the fanatical evangelical leader and shrewd manipulator, has moved in to take over the city’s schools. The Independent (May 4th) reported that in February, the chancellor of New York’s school board, Joe Fernandez,was voted out of office for advocating a teacher’s guide which suggests (among other things) that first-graders should be taught respect for homosexuals. The guide was 443 pages long – three pages of it were devoted to the gay issue. That, however, was enough for the whole thing to be misrepresented to the extent that everything else was forgotten.

 

Elections to fill the 280 places on school boards were the platform the Religious Right needed to their hate campaign. We will have to wait and see if New York – traditionally liberal – succumbs to the blandishment of right-wing politicians posing as clergymen.

In this country, the Education Secretary John Patten has launched “a crusade to ensure that schoolchildren are taught about sex within a framework that promotes family values”. As we all know, that simply means denying children truthful advice about sex and foisting on them some entirely unrealistic, unwanted and, at times, dangerous “moral framework”. Naturally, the circular insults homosexuals: “There is no place for teaching which advocates homosexual behaviour or presents it as the norm.”

Mr Patten is a committed Catholic and has undertaken to bring his beliefs with him into politics. And like every zealot, he is determined that we’re going to have his ‘good news’ whether we want it or not. It is disgraceful for a man in such a powerful position to be imposing his personal beliefs onto vulnerable children. If I had kids, I’d be up in arms at the prospect of them being indoctrinated with hate-filled religious dogma.

But “morality” cannot be imposed. Writing in The Guardian, Susie Orbach said: “As the fragmentation of our society becomes more obvious and the suffering pierces the boundaries of acceptable behaviour, we may resort to cheap moralising as an attempt to regain coherence. But such a response is hardly a solution. We need to be braver and take on board what troubles us about the society we have created. We need to rethink it, to confront the pain, the despair, the exclusion felt by so many, rather than trying to stitch it back together with moralistic bandages.”

Please take note, Mr Patten: ill-considered moralising by politicians doesn’t solve problems, it creates them.

***

How the tabloids twittered with joy when they heard that funding for Aids organisations was to be drastically reduced in what the Government described as “a change of strategy”.

“At last the great myth about a nationwide Aids epidemic is exposed,” said The Sun (April 19th). “It’s bad enough that so much of our money is being wasted on a lie. But when so many worthwhile causes are being starved of cash it’s an insult,”

The paper returned for another go on April 30th: “Aids is a big con trick – and you’re paying for it”. And again, on May 4th: “Ever since the disease was identified eleven years ago homosexual activists have spared no effort to distort the truth. It was in their interest to claim that Aids wasn’t just a gay plague. The real scandal is that ministers, officials and almost the entire medical establishment tamely toed the gay line.”

But perhaps, it is too soon for such triumphalism. Professor N Day, of the Institute of Public Health, who is preparing the report which is the basis of the idea that the Aids threat to heterosexuals is over, refuted that interpretation in a letter to The Sunday Times (May 2nd). “The new report will not point out that rate of increase of new Aids cases due to heterosexual transmission is now slowing, or that the number of HIV infections acquired heterosexually from a partner outside the recognised risk groups is ‘tiny’. The highly effective HIV surveillance system now in operation is demonstrating that infections due to heterosexual transmission are likely to be several times more numerous than infections due to injecting drug use, and that some 80 per cent of those infected heterosexually are not aware of their infection… To suggest that the risk of acquiring HIV infection heterosexually in this country is close to zero is at the very least misleading, and in public health terms, hazardous.”

But while the papers continued to crow about the end of the Aids era (except for poofs and junkies – and they don’t count), Adam Mars-Jones in The Independent was sounding a dissident note. Wasn’t the point of the Aids campaigns of the eighties to slow down the rates of infection? “This would be a good time, surely, to say: ‘See how efficiently we spent your money on preventative medicine, where the bargains are’,” said Mr Mars Jones. “Or would that just make it ridiculous to be economising now? The logic seems to be: if our actions have made a difference, then the alarm must have been false… A strange kind of psychological denial is becoming widespread. It’s not: I can’t cope with it, so I’ll pretend it isn’t happening, but: I can’t cope with it, so I’ll pretend it’s already in the past and I’ve learnt all its lessons, what it all meant… Except Aids is far from over… there is more Aids in the future than in the past. We are not after Aids.”

***

In a speech to the Newspaper Society, our disastrous Prime Minister asked the press to be “kinder and more tolerant” in its dealings with society. Perhaps he could also give this advice to his cabinet, which is rapidly turning rabid in its right-wing leanings.

The speech, however, was taken to indicate that his Government is backing off imposing any statutory controls on the press. Simultaneously, the Press Complaints Commission issued a new “Code of Practice” which it says is tougher than previous ones, and will render any further parliamentary action unnecessary.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t alter the fact that the scabby tabloids have ignored previous ‘codes’ completely. There is nothing in this present version that will make an iota of difference to that.

GAY TIMES July 1993

Scotland has had another month of conflict over homosexuality. While religious fundamentalists try to turn back the clock to the Middle Ages, the police and the gay community have both learned salutary lessons about what happens when mistrust and suspicion reign.

The first controversy was sparked by the submission of a report by the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland to the Highland Health Board, which is preparing a report on Aids in the Highlands. Written by “Wee Free” minister Donald Boyd, the document calls for — among other things —the recriminalisation of homosexuality, compulsory HIV screening for “selected people” and a study of the role of unisex clothing, hairstyles and “thoughtforms” in promoting homosexual behaviour.

At the press conference launching the document, Dr Boyd was closely questioned by a crowd of cynical journalists and was, within minutes, struggling to make sense of his own rantings. According to The Scotsman (May 21st) he was asked whether “women wearing trousers would create a disposition towards homosexuality”. The manic minister said it was a legitimate question worth asking. One journalist made the point that if he was suggesting that homosexual promiscuity should be criminalised in order to stop the spread of Aids, shouldn’t heterosexual promiscuity be similarly forbidden?

“There was a long silence. ‘It’s never been criminalised has it?’ In Calvin’s Geneva, he was reminded. Boyd struggled, initially arguing that homosexuality was a greater health risk, and then finally insisting that there were differences, and heterosexual promiscuity should not become criminal.”

I would love to have been at that press conference to see Boyd squirming as his infallible fundamentalist logic was so easily dismantled by a group of merciless unbelievers.

You’d think that Boyd could be safely written off as a nutcase, with nothing worthwhile to add to a serious debate, but his words hit the target with at least one newspaper commentator — John Macleod of  The Glasgow Herald (May 25th).

Macleod wrote a long article in support of the Presbyterians, an article which provoked a large response among Scotland’s gay community.

“There is a myth of homosexuality,” wrote Macleod, “a crafted image of gentleness and civility. The reality is a culture of perversion, obsession and hatred. It is murder, like that of Joe Orton, battered to death by his gay lover. It is homosexual rape, today such a hazard in Kelvingrove Park that Glasgow University Union now buses students home. It is paedophilia…it is serial killing, like Dennis Nilsen…It is simple yobbery, like the lesbians who abseiled from the gallery in the House of Lords. Streets at night swarm with homosexual prostitutes… Homosexuality is unnatural, antisocial and wrong. And if it is madness to say, then the Free Presbyterians and I delight in madness.”(Note: John MacLeod was later ‘outed’ as gay in Scotsgay Magazine (No.30) by Garry Otton, its media correspondent).

These are only random selections from an article which paraded every myth, slander, distortion and prejudice that the homophobic squawking classes have ever invented about us. Macleod wallows in what he sees as his moral superiority, and seems incapable of seeing the anomaly of a supposed Christian preaching hate.

The response to the article was equally robust. I received several copies of it from readers in Scotland who were outraged by its extremism. Many of them had written to The Herald condemning the paper for having carried such stuff.

“Moral fascism” said Paul Trainer of Scottish Aids Monitor, while in the correspondence column of The Herald, the Deputy General Secretary of the Scottish TUC said that Macleod’s sense of logic was “taking a long, long lunch” and that his article was “naive and dangerous”. Dr David Kinloch of Strathclyde University said that Macleod was “obsessed by the spirit of factionalism” and his article fired “the ‘culture of hatred’ he erroneously detects among homosexuals”. Dr Kinloch says: “That spirit if indeed it can be dignified by such a word is no different from that which is alive and well in Bosnia today.”

Eventually The Herald granted a right of reply to a gay Church of Scotland minister (May 28th). It was given — as a genuine right of reply should be — the same space and prominence as the original article, but was undermined by the fact that the author asked to remain anonymous. “The charge of being anti-social, indeed, ought to be reversed,” wrote the clergyman. “When Macleod writes as he does in his usual provocative and bellicose tone, he helps reinforce the intolerance and prejudices that give rise to ‘gay-bashing’ and, ultimately, to far more vicious and sinister abuses of the homosexual community, such as the incarceration of ‘pink triangle’ homosexuals in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Just how anti-social are we, indeed? ‘The streets swarm at night with homosexual prostitutes’. If it were true, God help us all, but the man doth protest too much. His claim is risible for its patent untruth.”

In the end, the unnamed vicar shames Macleod and his Wee Free fools: “His moralising miasma further poisons the atmosphere of a world surely broken enough in social fragmentation.” The gay minister says that if Macleod is going to preach, he should “preach a sermon on reconciliation” and suggests as the text 1 John 4:18. “Perfect love casts out fear.”

But it would be wrong to conclude from this that The Glasgow Herald is a homophobic newspaper. On May 29th it invited Bob Cant, a well-known figure in Scottish gay circles, to describe what he would like to happen on an imaginary “Eighth Day”, when every fantasy can come true. Mr Cant let his imagination run riot: “A Scottish Parliament has just passed a law against homophobia and has asked me to promote a national celebration day to promote the law,” he fantasised.

To ensure that everyone who wanted to go to the celebration could get there, there would be free planes and trains for anyone prepared to declare themselves gay. “Counsellors would be on hand to assist any known heterosexual trying to pass as gay for the day.” MPs and public personalities would be made honorary homosexuals; football matches would have compulsory half time entertainment of gay male choirs singing Jimmy Somerville’s greatest hits and a specially commissioned Ode to Male Bonding. Police would stop any excessive and disgusting displays of heterosexuality. Newspapers would have to hand over their front pages to lesbian and gay groups, TV stations would be forced to broadcast The Wizard of Oz, Now Voyager, My Beautiful Laundrette and other gay classics. “After that, Back to Normal would take on a whole new meaning”, he said.

But fantasy sometimes spills over into real life, and there was nothing funny about the “Magic Circle/Fettesgate” affair which stunned Edinburgh last year. Duncan Campbell tied up some of the loose ends of this saga in an article in Scotland on Sunday (May 23rd). He says that the events of Fettesgate could only have happened in the “hothouse atmosphere created by Edinburgh’s role as national capital and seat of legal power”.

Campbell says that the explosion of white collar crime in Edinburgh during the 80s had been spectacular. When the police failed to make much headway in investigating it “detectives threw aside professional training and caution, and looked for a different explanation – an imagined conspiracy of gay lawyers. One critical mistake of the ‘Magic Circle’ myth was that these frustrated detectives stopped looking for who was bent, meaning a crook, and started looking at who was bent, meaning gay.”

He says it became a self-sustaining fantasy, fuelled by sensation-seeking tabloid journalists and gay crooks alike. He admits that a small band of gay criminals became very influential among Edinburgh’s small gay community, and like most leeches, they took a great deal of shaking off. “The Pink Triangle (the gay centre in Broughton Street – since renamed) became a centre for petty crooks who happened to be gay, with their retinues of sleazy hangers-on and young men.” Honest gay campaigners, such as Ian Dunn, did their best to clean the place up. He asked the conmen and fraudsters to stay away from the centre, but with little effect.

Most of the dubious characters involved in trying to hijack the Edinburgh gay scene are now in jail and the gay community breathes a sigh of relief.

Campbell says that there was no widespread anti-gay conspiracy in the Edinburgh police force. Nor was there an anti-police gay conspiracy in the legal and prosecution services. The whole “Magic Circle/Fettesgate” imbroglio turned out to be paranoia gone haywire.

One aspect of the whole affair which seems to have passed without much mention is the part played by The Sun newspaper. Spurred by its obsessive homophobia, it gladly fanned the flames lit by liars and thieves. It paid Derek Donaldson, one of the leading protagonists in the mess, £10,000 for a story which he had duped out of William Nimmo Smith, the QC appointed to investigate the matter. Donaldson was a petty crook with a string of previous offences. Just the sort of person The Sun would be glad to deal with. He is now in prison.

The corruption of the Murdoch rag in rewarding criminals and deceivers seems to have been forgotten. Its repeated slandering of the gay community has gone unchallenged. There has been no apology for headlines it ran suggesting that the “gay conspiracy” fantasy was true, and only minimal subsequent reporting of the inconvenient facts of the matter.

For all the lying and cheating that has happened in Edinburgh over the past two years, The Sun can take its share of the blame, but it walks away laughing.

***

Jonathan Keates wrote in The Observer (June 6th) “One of the current favourites in the demonology of right-wing journalism is the so-called proselytising homosexual,” (regular readers of Mediawatch will, however, have been familiar with this particular mythical beast for many years). “As in the case of the Abominable Snowman, Bigfoot and similar hominid ghouls with which our imagination peoples the earth’s waste places, nobody has actually seen one, but they all know someone who might have. Quite how the proselytisers go about their work is thus never specified, neither are the feelings of the proselytes themselves, gobsmacked on the road to a gay Damascus.”

He continued: “The notion that it is possible to convert to homosexuality, as though to unleaded petrol or monetarism, is grasped with the same desperation as that other faggot-basher’s canard, that all queers, stewed in guilt and misery, pine to return to a world in which the horrors of family life, divorce, rape, wife-beating and child abuse are somehow rendered respectable in a context of heterosexual orientation.”

Mr Keates must have been reading an article by Colin Welch in The Independent (May 24th). Welch trotted out every out-dated, discredited, illogical, irrational bit of bilge that has ever been invented to insult homosexuals. “Does the gay community exist?” he asks, and at once you are alerted to the fact that we are in for another round of the same old guff. “If there is any prejudice, I am sure that it is not against homosexuals as such but against homosexuality organised, aggressive, imperialistic. It asserts ‘rights’ that are offensive to many.”

Mr Welch asks if all homosexuals agree with Peter Tatchell all the time – how did he come to be such a prominent spokesperson, anyway? Who elected him? That’s a reasonable question, but it becomes swallowed in the usual smugness and ignorance that afflicts these ten-a-penny bigots. “Do all homosexuals think that they should be free to use public money and institutions to proselytise? …Homosexuals have described to me their sexuality as a grievous burden and handicap, not to be lightly or eagerly transmitted onwards…They are not gay at all, but sad!”

Well, this is all very original, I’m sure. I haven’t read anything like it in the British press for…ooh, it must be three weeks now.

The worrying thing is that such drivel should appear in The Independent, the newspaper we have come to regard as a safe haven from this sort of stuff. Yet there was a little redemption in The Independent on Sunday (May 23rd) which carried a scathing attack by Neal Ascherson upon those newspapers, and their commentators, who are trying to convince their readers that the Aids crisis is over. At last someone has had the guts to stand up and say it: The Sunday Times, Michael Fumento, James le Fanu, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Professor Gordon Stewart and several other journalists, have been conducting a campaign to undermine efforts to convince the populace that Aids concerns everyone. They have created a theory that there is an all-powerful, omnipresent “Aids industry” which is selling lies about the disease “in order to protect gays from hatred and contempt”.

Mr Ascherson explained it thus: “All stories about sex sell newspapers…and stories about sex which tell readers what they want to know sell even more newspapers.” What it seems readers want to know is that they can “aspire to have a naughty, normal sex life without being made to feel guilty and without having to take lessons from a pack of mincing poofters.”

He maintains that the concept of an ‘Aids industry’ was invented by the people and newspapers named above, simply so that they could shoot it down. Says Ascherson: “The campaign against the ‘Aids industry” is not just nonsensical or an evocation of prejudice in order to pander to it…The defeat of the campaign against the ‘Aids industry’ will be a victory over boorishness and also a sign of the times.”

It seems that the Wapping liars and their clones have been found out again.

***

Just in case anyone should think that I never have anything positive to report about Christian attitudes to homosexuality, there are two little items which might help correct the balance. According to The Daily Telegraph (May 18th) “An attempt to ban Church of Scotland Ministers from blessing homosexual relationships in church was defeated by 534 votes to 328 at the Kirk’s General Assembly.” Apparently, the motion had been put after the Rev Margaret Forrester blessed a lesbian couple at her church in Edinburgh last year.

Meanwhile, The Church Times (May 28th) reported: “The decision last week by the Government of the Irish Republic to decriminalise homosexuality and set 17 as the age of consent (it is 21 in the UK) has been broadly welcomed by the Church of Ireland. The Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Donald Caird said there had been calls for many years for decriminalisation, and it was the correct course of action.”

That is a major obstacle out of the way of the reform, and that can be nothing but good news.

***

The Sun (June 10th) reported that “Gays force Cher to sell up”. Apparently, the superstar is “worried that she will be blacklisted by gays” if she stays in her luxury home in Aspen, Colorado – the state that banned pro-gay legislation.

Of course, it could be that Cher has a conscience and is selling up because of loyalty to her friends. But we couldn’t expect The Sun to understand anything as noble as that.

GAY TIMES August 1993

Right-wingers in America are claiming that representations of April’s “March on Washington”, which attracted a million gay men and lesbians, were “whitewashed”. A group called Accuracy in the Media and the equally right-wing Washington Times say that the nation’s newspapers and network television “bleached” the event.

Where were the bare-breasted lesbians “some with rings through their nipples” and men in leather trousers and studded harnesses? Excised from reporting also were the self-proclaimed “fierce dykes” who screamed that they wanted to make love to the first lady. Nowhere to be seen were the T-shirts proclaiming “Every tenth Jesus is a Queer”.

Only the most “reasoned” spokespersons were allowed air-time and only “normal” looking participants were shown marching down the Mall towards the White House (“Gap-wearing middle-managers having a day out” as The Economist described them).

Lesbian and gay organisations in the states dispute that this is what actually happened, but we could expect no such restraint (or censorship, depending on your point of view) from our own tabloid press. Thanks to the activities of a murdering maniac, this year saw unprecedented coverage of Pride and, as far as the tabloids are concerned, their reportage was as coarse, hostile and stereotyped as ever. The link between the serial killer and Pride once more gave them the opportunity to present the gay community in London as a “seedy” den of vice, peopled entirely by pathetic night-creatures. “Police hunting the serial killer of five homosexuals are working undercover in London’s bizarre gay pubs and clubs”, said The News of the World (June 20th) and within the space of four paragraphs the paper included all its favourite canards: “the kinky, twilight world”, “the macabre, seedy pubs and clubs where gays into sado-masochism hang out”, “the dark sinister world” and “weird lifestyle” of “people living on the edge of real danger”.

The Sun treated us to a mangled version of “Gays hanky panky code”, while The Daily Mirror (June 17th) said that “Regulars at the Coleherne pub…stand in the bar, where photos of male buttocks and leather-clad bikers adorn the walls” and quotes a “rent boy” as saying “It won’t stop me. I’ll just be a bit more wary.”

Christopher Howse, in The Sunday Telegraph (lune 20th) wanted to know “Why are so many murders done by one homosexual upon another?” One has to say: are they? The numbers pale into insignificance when compared to the number of men who murder their wives, girlfriends and mistresses. But we mustn’t let pesky old statistics get in the way of point-scoring. “Who is the most famous serial killer in Britain?” he also asks. And before you can say Yorkshire Ripper (a heterosexual woman-killer), Mr Howse has nominated Dennis Nilsen, whom he describes as “a rootless, promiscuous homosexual”.

The Daily Express did the business on the West End pub Brief Encounter: “It’s a lonely place and a place for the lonely — a place where men seek love with one another. Or, indeed, a brief encounter.There are many such meeting points for gays in London and other parts of Britain. They do not attempt to disguise their purpose.” The reporter, Michael O’Flaherty says: “Of course gays have to be careful in choosing a partner, whether or not it is for a one-night stand, they declare ‘But so do you heterosexuals’ (as if we were from the moon.)”

Ah, now we are getting to the nub of the issue: “as if we were from the moon”. Isn’t that what gay people could claim after reading the coverage of their lives in the British press? That we don’t inhabit the same planet as everyone else and that we aren’t, in fact, members of the human race? In tabloid terms we seem to represent all things alien; we become, in their fantasy, bizarre, unknowable, frighteningly different.

The “woman editor” of The Sun certainly seems to think so. Amanda Cable described her experience of being caught up in the Pride parade (June 24th): “I’ve never had anything against gays and lesbians” she began, but rapidly changed her mind when she found herself “wedged in a tube carriage full of lesbians and gays on their way to join the rally”.

According to her account, she was then subjected to a display of groping, swearing and general anti-social behaviour from a group of “shaven headed lesbians” with “hoarse low voices”. These women were, she says, drunk, loud and intimidating and “the most sordid bunch I have ever met”. She describes how a mother needed to put her hands over the ears of her child as a “lesbian boasted loudly about the sexual conquests she was setting out to make.”

Ms Cable concludes that “Their sexuality wasn’t merely flaunted — it was flung in our faces. Perhaps they thought that being gay gave them the right. But the rest of us have rights as well. A right not to be gay and not to have gayness thrust upon us. A right to say not loud but firmly and with dignity: We’re straight and we’re proud and we don’t want to be part of any trendy crowd.”

Notice it again? That nice little exclusive “we”, which seems to indicate that noone but heterosexuals will be reading her article. Once more, gay people are “the others”, something apart. And, apparently, something which makes Ms Cable extremely nervous about her sexuality.

I won’t bother pointing out to Ms Cable that she has 365 days of the year to announce with as much dignity as she can muster that she’s straight. We have one day, in one place, and we have to make the most of it. If we get a little drunk, a bit boisterous and have to get it off our chest while we can – well, is that so terrible?

Well, yes, according to The Sunday Telegraph. In fact, it’s the end of life as “we’ know it. Mary Kenny, the paper’s star columnist, said that the visibility of homosexuals represented “signs of Weimar in England today’, while Ambrose Evans Pritchard reported the Los Angeles Pride parade as being hijacked by radical queers for whom “tolerance is not enough. They want to force themselves on to society, finding new recruits by exposing maximum numbers of people to their way of life.” He concluded that “Perhaps I was really witnessing the exotic rites of a dying civilisation.”

Or what about Frank Johnson in The Daily Telegraph who said, apropos the “twilight world” of newspaper fantasy: “Some homosexuals explain this kind of thing (cruising) by reference to the centuries of persecution that have made them behave oddly. But it is unclear what the politically correct line is, because there are others who deny that they do behave oddly. Suggestions that there is anything odd about anything that homosexuals do are greeted with pious outrage by their various spokespersons. ‘We are concerned,’ they tend to say, ‘about the tabloid stereotyping which suggests that there is something inherently abnormal about gay pubs and clubs with a dress code requiring steel-capped boots, and leather cod pieces.’”

Of course, one could make a similar point about the gentlemen’s clubs much frequented by Daily Telegraph readers, which demand their own rather eccentric dress codes and have subtle exclusion policies for those who fail to observe the rules (which are: be rich, over-privileged, arrogant and feel superior).

Even The Independent was at it (and has anyone else noticed the dramatic swerve to the Right which the Indy has made?). Columnist Margaret Maxwell was questioning what Gay Pride is all about. Having witnessed men wearing “dog collars and leads” as well as “cross dressing, make-up, small leather jackets over hairy chests and padded crotches” she had seen too much.” one was horrified at the dehumanisation involved in much of the S&M imagery (“‘Why should a pet-shop purchase, an article used to restrain dogs, be used on a human being?”) and asks why gays insist on making themselves into “figures of fun” by behaving in this way. She is of the opinion that we should court the approval of the heterosexual majority by refusing to flaunt activities at them which would “make them gasp”. She concludes by saying: “My instinctive reaction to mass gay marches, if I am honest, is to be thankful that I am straight and do not need to buy a dog-collar with studs to please my partner.” (Note to Ms Maxwell: there are heterosexual sadomasochists, too, who wear dog-collars. Still glad to be straight?)

The question that arises from all this is: just how do we want to be represented in the media? And how much control do we have over that representation anyway? As The Independent on Sunday put it (June 20th): “After a week of headlines following the trail of a serial killer in London, the unknowing heterosexual could be forgiven for thinking that homosexuality equals seedy nightclubs equals sado-masochism equals Aids equals murder. Prejudice and voyeurism are no doubt mainly to blame, but some of the wilder strands of the gay movement, which is part social and part political, are not entirely innocent either. Sometimes they seem to define gayness with all the subtlety of a Sun leader describing the attributes of Britishness.”

There is no doubt that most of what the papers reported about Pride was true there were lots of leather-clad clones, drag-queens, bull-dykes and shaven headed lesbians – but there were other things too. The issues which concern gay people, like the age of consent, exclusion from the military, adoption and fostering, and a thousand others, were totally ignored by the tabloids. They were interested only in the fancy dress, the mud-wrestling, the nudity and the apparent decadence of it all. So,do we want to win friends and influence people or do we want to scream our defiance in their faces?

We are told constantly by the Tory press that our openness and our “bizarreness” will inevitably lead to a backlash. If we want equal rights, they say, then we had better integrate. Indeed, a book which reached number one in the American best-selling charts (“After the Ball – How America will conquer its fear and hatred of gays in the 20s” – Plume) warns that we had better stop “fanning the fires of bigotry” if we want to stop being victimised by it. “Gay Pride marches for self-affirmation tend to degenerate before the TV cameras into ghastly freak shows, courtesy of newsmen seeking ‘human interest’ material and gender benders who think the: mental health of uptight straight viewers is improved by visual shock therapy,” wrote the authors Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen. They are firmly of the opinion that we should tone it down and start playing the game by straight rules if we want to attain equality.

This would be heresy to the activists of OutRage!, Queer Nation, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and so on. But it is a question that becomes more pressing as the media embargo on our activities is lifted and our lives are scrutinised as never before.

It could be argued, of course, that the tabloids are incorrigible and that even if we all went to devote ourselves to the services of Mother Teresa they’d make a scandal out of it. But the broadsheets and the TV companies are, in the main, prepared to give us a fair hearing.

We can’t escape the fact that Mrs and Mrs Ordinary out there depend on the media for their information about, and images of, lesbians and gay men. Like it or not, we need them on our side if we are to get the legal and social reforms that are rightly ours. Do we go the American way and pragmatically tone it down while in public, or do we continue on our unfettered way, and bugger the PR?

***

The BBC carried news and analysis about gay issues in almost all its current affairs programmes on radio and TV on the days surrounding Pride. This was not an accident, but was almost entirely due to the brilliant attack launched on the Corporation’s complacency by Peter Tatchell in the preceding weeks. Well done, Peter,

***

Writing in The Guardian’s Face to Faith column (Jun 26th), Kenneth Leech, a “community theologian” asked “Can a Christian be a fascist?” He concludes that yes, they can and many on the right of Christianity are.

“Historically, fascist movements have found their home in the heart of a Christian culture, Catholic and Protestant. There are elements in fascism which have a particular appeal to religious people: the belief in total certainty and total control; the contempt for the mind and the uncritical acceptance of authority from above; the belief that the world is decaying and must be rescued from nihilism and rootlessness; the emphasis on tradition, inequality, stern laws, and warfare against decadence; the appeal to the heroic; nationalism and patriotism; the appeal of security and stability in exchange for freedom and justice; and so on.”

Gay men and lesbians know all about Christian fascists. We have become a rallying point for them, and have to put up with their abuse on a regular basis. But, as one wit put it, “The trouble with born again Christians is that they’re even more of a pain the second time around.”

***

The diary of Kenneth Williams has been widely reviewed and what a depressing document it sounds, with Williams endlessly going on about his hatred of homosexuality and the loneliness it has brought him. Lynn Barber in The Independent (Jun 20th), says, “if you’re ever tempted by celibacy, just read this diary – it will send you screaming in. the arms of any human being you can find.”

But Barber also unearthed one of the few laughs in the book: “Mme Charles de Gaulle being asked by Lady Dorothy Macmillan what she wanted for the future, and her replying ‘A penis’. This caused general consternation until de Gaulle leaned over and explained: ‘In English it is pronounced happiness.”

***

As a treat for Gay Pride, The Guardian (good old Guardian, we love you) carried one of those question and answer lists, filled in by some woman called Lily Savage. When asked: “What is your greatest regret?” she replied: “Swerving to avoid Education Minister John Patten in Clapham High Street.”

We’ll all say Amen to that, Lily.

***

In last month’s Mediawatch I said The Sun had not apologised for carrying provocative and fallacious headlines (such as “Police: Gay judges Do Fix Trials”) when reporting the “Fettesgate” affair in Scotland. I have now discovered that, in fact, the Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint against The Sun (in fact 12 complaints) and the ‘newspaper’ was duly forced to apologise for lying to its readers. It did so at the bottom of page 32 of its Scottish edition in tiny print. My apologies for not knowing about this, but I have a feeling that it was The Sun’s intention that as few people as possible would know about it.

GAY TIMES September 1993

When it was first announced that scientists in America thought they had identified a gene that might predispose some men towards a homosexual orientation, almost everyone agreed that the prospect of tinkering, aborting or generally interfering with the course of nature was abhorrent. Even some of our worst enemies in the press were saying that they would have to rethink their prejudices.

Carol Sarler, The People’s “sassiest new columnist” wrote (July 25) “What do we say of the woman who will opt for an abortion rather than for raising a gentle, caring boy who might — only might, mind you — grow up to love another gentle caring boy?… We say that she is a warped, dysfunctional monster who — if forced to have the child — will make that child’s life hell. We say that no child should be forced to have her as a parent.”

Claudia Fitzherbert in The Daily Telegraph (July 23rd) had a similar opinion: “I have always hoped to have at least one sensitive homosexual son to comfort me in my twilight years… would (the doctor) champion my desire for a homosexual son, and feed my boy the requisite genes in tablet form?”

But it was the religious dimension of the gene theory that fascinated me. Surely, if it proves correct (and there’s still a long way to go before this punter is convinced), most religious objections to homosexuality turn to dust. Not at all. Within hours of the announcement of the “discovery of a gay gene”, theologians were on the radio telling us that it isn’t the homosexual orientation which is wicked, but the sexual acts. God might well have created the gene that lead to a person having homosexual desires in the first place but he also gave that person the free will to desist from acting on them.

Hugh Montefiore, writing in The Church Times (July 23rd) wasn’t so sure. “It is unfair to condemn a whole class of people to celibacy on account of a tendency over which they have no control,” and Clifford Longley in The Daily Telegraph agreed, adding: “As long as homosexuality seemed to originate in psychological factors or in moral choices, it was likely to be regarded as a treatable disorder or as a choice in favour of wickedness. Whether homosexuals like it or not, the most enduring result of this summer’s second thoughts may be a redefinition of what homosexuality is and acceptance that it is, after all, natural for some people.”

Former Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits appeared to be the only person in the country prepared to stand up and say that he thought the idea of annihilating homosexuality by genetic engineering was a good one. He started a real ding-dong by saying (Daily Mail, July 28th): “Homosexuality is a disability and if people wish to have it eliminated before they have children — because they wish to have grandchildren or for other reasons — I do not see any moral objections to using genetic engineering to limit this particular trend.”

The rabbi said that he found suggestions that his opinions echoed the selective breeding ideas of the Nazis “preposterous and repugnant”. Well, so he might, but the fact is that Dr Mengele was researching the idea of genetically eliminating Jews and other “undesirables” when the war ended. Lord Jakobovits should remember that there, but for the grace of the Allied Troops, goes he.

Jakobovits’ breathtakingly evil utterings were quickly disowned by members of the more liberal wings of Judaism. Rabbi Peter Tobias wrote to The Guardian: “Any religion which ceases to treat human beings with tolerance, compassion and understanding, demanding that medical measures be taken to alter their make-up because it conflicts with 3,000-year old scriptural ‘teaching’ has forfeited its right to be called a religion.”

The furore also led to an editorial in The Jewish Chronicle of almost stunning liberality, given the ultra-conservative nature of that periodical. The present Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, said that rulings in Jewish law could not be made on hypothetical situations and, at present, there was no scientific possibility of manipulating genes to eradicate homosexuality, so it was a non-issue.

Mrs Thatcher considered Rabbi Jakobovits the best religious leader in the country and, like her, he now appears as a ridiculous figure issuing loony and ill-considered opinions from the sidelines.

Almost as badly damaged by the ‘gay gene’ was Stephen Green, pitiful chairman of “The Conservative Family Campaign”. His whole life’s work — which consists of proving that gay sex is an evil choice —seemed to come crashing down around his ears. Naturally he wasn’t interest in the findings of science and wrote to the London Evening Standard (August 2nd) to contradict the idea that homosexuality is biologically determined: “How would they explain Joe Orton deciding, after being stood up by his girlfriend, to prefer men because they seemed more sexually available?”

Michael Cruikshank replied to Mr Green thus: “I, and most of the many men I have slept with, believe we were born this way and see it as a circumstance no more unusual than eye colour. Our opinions are slightly more valid than this self-appointed authority on the subject from the Conservative Family Campaign.”

Meanwhile, some real Conservatives were anxious that we should know that Mr Green’s organisation is nothing to do with them. Nigel Meek wrote to The Standard on August 5th to say: “As the secretary of a Conservative Party branch can I apologise to your readers weary of Stephen Green from the Conservative Family Campaign —whatever that is — and his homophobic diatribes. Every organisation has its share of cranks and I find that an indulgent smile and a hasty retreat are the best way to deal with all but the really nasty ones.”

For myself, I’ll go along with Lawrence Russell, an Oxford geneticist, who wrote in The Sunday Times (July 18th) that not only do genes react with external environmental factors in contributing to behaviour, they also interact with one another. “The idea that you can eradicate an unwanted gene to remove an unwanted behaviour… is not on. Genetics isn’t like that. It’s a cauldron of diversification.”

Or, as The Daily Telegraph put it in a headline (July 23rd): “Could gays be part of nature’s master plan?”

***

The police, the armed forces, the church, Parliament — in fact all this country’s major institutions, are riddled with homophobia. But how to go about challenging the attitudes of such powerful organisations when they are so deeply conservative and resistant to change? Do the most effective attacks on institutionalised homophobia come from outside or inside?

Who is best placed, for instance, to change the primitive anti-gay feeling which pervades the House of Commons? Is it Chris Smith on the benches or the Stonewall group in the lobbies? And what part will those other gay MPs play, the ones who keep silent and pretend that they can be “impartial” when voting on gay issues? In The Independent’s “Weasel” column (July 31st) we are told that “In my experience, there are at least as many gay MPs on the Conservative benches as there are on the other side of the chamber: for every Tom Driberg there are several Chips Channons. One man who is now a prominent Tory backbencher used to tell me about a rather louche club near Leicester Square, where he would disappear into a little cubicle at the back with comely young men from Conservative Central Office. Another MP of my acquaintance, who is somewhere to the right of Margaret Thatcher, never saw any inconsistency in membership of the Monday Club and his long affair with a black boyfriend.”

The Weasel says that if a vote on the age of consent comes before Parliament, he will “study the votes of these Honourable Members with great interest”. And hopefully, at a later date, “out” the ones who disgrace themselves.

And then we come to the unpleasant matter of anti-gay feeling within the armed forces. Who will bring about reform: the gay soldiers, sailors and airmen (and women) who are putting their careers on the line by coming out, or gay groups who agitate from the sidelines? Certainly Rank Outsiders, a group for sacked gay service people, is very effective in drawing public attention to the injustices meted out by the military.

Take the case of Simon Ingram, a sergeant in the RAF, whose story was reported in The Independent (August 5th). Simon has been “outed” by a colleague in his squadron and, unfortunately, the end of his career is now inevitable. It seems that he was a well-liked serviceman and talented at his job. Everyone involved in his officially-sanctioned persecution appears to be on his side and sympathising with his situation. The investigating officer even said that he thought the inquiry into Simon’s sex life was “stupid”; an older sergeant went out of his way to congratulate Simon on taking a stand. “Everyone in the RAF has been incredibly supportive,” Simon says, “But the system doesn’t change, my career is in ruins and no one has explained why I am losing my job.”

“No one seems able to acknowledge that Simon has made and could continue to make a significant contribution to the RAF,” says The Independent.

But why did he join the forces in the first place, when he must have been aware of the nature of the beast?“Retrospectively, I guess it’s easy to say that I always knew I was gay… just before I joined the RAF at 19 I was having a kind of detached relationship with another boy. We had sex of sorts, but never spoke about it,” he explained. “I always thought I would be able to give it up, just stop and go and get married and have children and stuff. Before I joined the RAF I had never met an ‘out’ gay man so had no role model or culture to evaluate myself against.”

Now that he does know that he’s gay, he’s got to go.

The police force, too, are having to re-evaluate their assumptions, under pressure from outside. The value of gay/police liaison groups was highlighted recently in the “serial killer” case – and this has been officially recognised in the annual report of the Metropolitan Police. On the inside, gay and lesbian officers have their own support group, but there are still difficult questions for the gay boys and girls in blue.

But how do gay police officers deal with the often unjust (although technically correct) duties which might be assigned to them – notably cottaging arrests, and “vice” squad raids? Surely they must feel a surge of conscience when required to nick their gay brethren for doing things that they’ve probably done themselves?

This was certainly the case for PC Lee Hunt, who was reported in The Sun (August 2nd) as having quit his lob “over claims that he leaked details of police operations targeting homosexuals”.

PC Hunt is said to have “warned another gay about secret vice squad surveillance on ‘cruising’ haunts”.

This other “gay” then went to Mr Lee’s superiors and reported him. “I’m pleased I caught him,” says the unnamed man. “He shouldn’t give away trade secrets.”

I have to say this is one cottager who I wouldn’t mind seeing locked up.

Then we have the church, that other haven of irrational resistance. Who is going to change such a homophobic institution – the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, pressing from the outside, or the gay vicars and bishops who work from within?

The Rev Martin Hazell is a gay clergyman who told The Guardian (July 30th) about his experience of coming out. “I kind of slowly slipped out, but one day I told a group of ministers during a sermon. They responded with real hatred and said it was disgusting.” However, he refused to be “drummed out” and is now Aids adviser to the United Reformed Church. Other gay clergymen, as we know, are so deeply closeted that they become the most homophobic of all.

But resistance inside the church establishment cannot but be cheered on by those gay lay Christians who have banished themselves to the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. When Cardinal Hume issued his latest poppycock – sorry, I mean “statement” – on the issue of homosexuality, it was welcomed by some members of LGCM. Jane Robson, of Plymouth, wrote to The Times (August 2nd) in defence of the Cardinal (who had been attacked by OutRage!for failing to make any real concessions in his statement). She said: “What is astonishing, when one reads the full document, is that he has actually listened to the ‘distress and anger’ of members of groups such as the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. He has firmly stepped back from the hostile anti-gay rights letter issued by the Vatican last year.”

Is Ms Robson gently encouraging change or is she being an apologist for those who continue to marginalise gay people in the Catholic Church?

Certainly in the light of the Pope’s latest hard-line encyclical on sexual morality, to be issued in the autumn (which reiterates, according to The Times, the idea that practising homosexuals cannot be permitted to take communion) it seems that Cardinal Hume may be braver than OutRage!gives him credit for. His “Holiness” has warned that those who don’t toe the Vatican line to the letter will be severely dealt with.

Effecting radical change within any of these powerful institutions is a gigantic task, but the gay community seems up to the struggle. The two-pronged tactic – challenge from within and without – seems to be very effective. But it does seem that many more brave individuals will have to put their careers line – and vigorous pressure groups will need to highlight these injustices – before anyone in power is forced to sit up and take notice.

***

I was interested to see that councillors in Rotherham were prepared to give any consideration at all to a proposal that they should allow “primary school children sex education lessons with the message that being homosexual or bisexual is natural” (Times, July 20th). I wasn’t surprised that they threw the proposal out.

Back in the seventies, I spent five years trying to get Rotherham Council to hire a room to the local CHE group for a disco. Only after this protracted battle did the council yield. I do hope that there is still a gay presence in Rotherham that is prepared to put pressure on the council once again over this all-important issue of comprehensive sex education in schools.

Over in Canada they have similar problems. An article in The Vancouver Times-Colonist newspaper explored the whole issue of gay sex education. “There’s no doubt that homophobia rears its hateful face early,” says Helen Lenskyj, of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. “You hear little five- and six-year-olds use the words fag and queer.”

The paper says that the harmful consequences of this are well-documented. “Homophobia in schools leads to low self-esteem in students who suspect or know they are gay, putting them at risk of underachievement and substance abuse. Some estimate that as many as 80 gay and lesbian teenagers take their lives in Canada each year.”

Teaching kids about homophobia; says the paper would “create an island of tolerance in a sea of heterosexism”. Peter Naus, a psychology professor, says: “My sense is that many educators would like to introduce gay-sympathetic sex education but are baffled by the resistance of school trustees and parent groups.”

Perhaps John Patten should listen to some of these arguments as his department rewrites the draft circular which contains the filthy Paragraph 25.

***

There were a couple of quotes this month which I thought worth preserving. The first, from Little Richard in The Guardian (July 3Ist): “I didn’t know homosexuality was wrong until I read it in the Bible. I’d been going that way for so many years. I enjoyed being unnatural.”

The second was from Richard Littlejohn in The Sun (July 27th): “It was only a matter of time before Lady Di picked up the lurgy. You can’t spend your life snuggling with lepers, cuddling cholera patients and stroking Aids victims without contracting something unpleasant. You wouldn’t catch me shaking hands with her unless I was clad from head to foot in surgical rubber.”

GAY TIMES October 1993

High summer is traditionally the “silly season” for the press. When news is scarce, gay people—famous and obscure — become targets for journalists in search of easy copy. And because there’s so little competition in the news rooms, our sexuality is likely to end up in 200-point type on the front page.

You can almost imagine the relief among journalists, therefore, when a 13-year-old boy accused Michael Jackson of “abusing” him. Within 48 hours of the accusation being made the papers did what they’d been longing to do for several years now — they tore Michael Jackson into tiny pieces. Like sharks in a feeding frenzy they trawled the depths for any fantasy, innuendo or negative comment they could find and ran it all — true or false, they didn’t care. It became so bad that a thousand of Jacko’s fans felt moved to ask the Press Complaints Commission to investigate the treatment their hero was getting at the hands of the papers. They were, of course, sent away with a flea in their ear. “We only investigate complaints from people directly involved,” the PCC said feebly.

In the meantime, all kinds of strange people crawled out of the woodwork to testify in the kangaroo court which the tabloids had set up. They were anxious to reveal what they “knew” about Jackson. According to The Sun (September 6th) one of the singer’s “closest aides” who had worked at the Neverland Ranch was prepared to tell all for the modest fee of £170,000, This fact alone goes some way to explaining the queues of people offering the newspapers all kinds of weird and fanciful stories about Jackson. With so much money around, there are bound to be plenty of unscrupulous people trying to get a slice.

Think back to 1987 when Elton John was being put through a similar wringer by The Sun and remember that at the time the paper was paying liars, pimps and rentboys who were inventing stories that just happened to support their own Big Lie.

Despite his continuing world-wide popularity, the tabloids have been trying for several years now to knock Jackson from his pedestal, and their nickname for him — “Wacko Jacko” — should have told him that one day they’d get him, “Child sex abuse” was the perfect medium for their most savage attack.

The no-smoke-without-fire principle, on which the press operates, has already ensured that Michael Jackson has been found guilty by insinuation. What chance does he have of a real trial when all the “evidence” has already been splashed across newspapers, television and radio?

One interesting aspect of the press coverage of this appalling business has been that no one has said that Michael Jackson is gay. The word has not as far as I have seen — been used at all in connection with this case. This is unusual, as the scummy rags are usually anxious to infer that paedophilia and homosexuality are synonymous. (As The News of the World put it on September 5th under a story about child porn: “Rapist’s Gay Love: Child rapist James, Saunders is having a passionate affair in Broadmoor — with another man.”)

Why are the papers reluctant to say that because he allegedly chose boys as his sexual playmates, Michael Jackson must be gay? Is it because they consider that being gay is even worse than being a paedophile? Or is it that they consider the two things completely separately?

There is no doubt that sexual activity between adults and children is rapidly becoming the number one taboo in our society. The tabloids would have us believe that their present obsession with it stems from readers’ concerns, but the prurient interest in the details of the sexual acts (“he watched Jackson put his hand in a nine-year-old boy’s pants…he was also said to have kissed a seven-year old on the lips and caress a three-year-old” — The Sun, September 6th) seem to hint at something more sinister.

A more considered approach to paedophilia was attempted by Graham Lord in The Daily Telegraph (August 17th), when he wrote about the current spate of men accused of assaulting children. He cites, among other cases, that of a rector who was jailed for four months after admitting “assaulting” a teenager 20 years ago. The Bishop of Sheffield has said that the man should never have been sent to prison. Mr Lord is of the opinion that “we need somehow to deter potential gentle paedophiles” without shaming them. “Monsters who torture and murder their victims should be locked up until they can never hurt a child again.” he said. “But what of the men who are not monsters but simply weak and inadequate?”

He recalls his first headmaster who was convicted of “abuse” and was “so mortified by his prison sentence — and so ostracised afterwards —that he committed suicide. He had never used violence and none of his victims seems to have been damaged. Suicide was a tragic, unjust end for such a man.”

Reviewing a book called Seduction of the Mediterranean — writing, art and homosexual fantasy in The Sunday Times (August 29th), Gilbert Adair said of the Italian boys who became the objects of desire for ex-pat British gay men in the 19th century: “What did they think of all the homo-erotic attention they received? Most of the boys went on to marry and have children, and apparently suffered no loss of face among family or friends for their youthful indiscretions…Today, from our vantage point in a world in which homosexuality is no longer a crime but paedophilia is practically a blasphemy, where nothing could be less politically correct than the sexual exploitation of the underprivileged, it all seems so far away and long ago.”

Certainly Michael Jackson is learning that a calm, rational approach to his alleged relationships is an impossibility. “Child abuse” allegations now seem equivalent to McCarthy’s dreaded question in the fifties “Are you now, or have you ever been…”

Is it impossible now for Michael Jackson to recover from this affair — even if there is no trial, and even if the law finds him innocent? Or will he be for ever the “child abuse monster” of tabloid hysteria?

One thing is sure — if there is a trial, it will almost certainly be televised, and the boy will be mercilessly savaged by ambitious lawyers who think and act as though they’re on a film set. The whole world will be watching, anxious for all the juicy details, and there will be plenty willing to provide the melodrama.

***

It isn’t only superstars who are subjected to terrorism by tabloid, Social worker Terence Dunning found himself the centre of a press-created maelstrom earlier this year when his local authority refused to allow a mixed-race couple to adopt a baby because they were considered “naive” on the topic of racism.

The storm returned when The Daily Express revealed that Mr Dunning is gay. From that moment, the topic of the story changed from adoption rights into the suitability of gay people to be social workers.

Norfolk County Council foolishly called a press conference to try and stem the hysteria which was mounting. Mr Dunning told reporters that his judgement was in no way affected by his sexual orientation. His employers, Norfolk social services, backed him up. “We don’t want to make any judgement about his private life,” they said. “There is no doubt about his ability as a social worker. The director of social services is appalled at the way the two things are being linked.”

The press conference simply provided more fodder for another attack the following day.

The Sun said, in an editorial: “So what are his qualifications for acting like a little tin god? He ABANDONED his wife after 20 years because of his love for another man, He ADMITTED his homosexuality on a TV programme. It didn’t stop him getting promotion and a pay rise. He’s still sitting in judgment on ordinary couples. Terence Dunning’s bedtime habits are of course his own affair. A pity he can’t show the same tolerance to others that he expects for himself.”

Clause 15 of the Press Complaints Commission’s Code of Practice states: “The press should avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to a person’s race, colour. religion, sex or sexual orientation…it should avoid publishing details of a person’s…sexual orientation, unless these are directly relevant to the story.”

So how does the press square its attack on Mr Dunning with the Code of Practice signed by every editor of every national paper?

And while we’re on the subject of Clause 15, can I ask The Daily Star, whose editor Brian Hitchen is chief apologist for the Press Complaints Commission, what it thought it was doing publishing a story on its front page (August 26th). headed “2 gay mums dump 7 kids to go on hol” and continuing it inside the paper with the heading “Dumped by gays”. The two women involved in this story may or may not have abandoned their children (there have certainly been no police charges) but what exactly does their sexuality have to do with it?

The story, as it developed over the following days, turned from being about neglecting children into whether or not lesbians were fit to be parents, The London Evening Standard (August 27th) carried a particularly unpleasant feature about the case, in which Walter Ellis reported from the Surrey estate where the women lived. He told a tale of suburban low-living and the neighbours resentment of the “lezzy house”. One woman is quoted as saying: “I feel that lesbians and gays shouldn’t have children. They live their lives as they want, but they don’t stop to think of the little ones.”

The whole sorry saga was played as a reassurance to heterosexual parents that, however badly they treated their children (and let’s face it, the vast majority of child abuse is committed by heterosexuals), at least they aren’t queer.

Then we have The News of the World (August 22nd), which ran a story about the manager of pop group Take That. The story’s one and only purpose was to tell NoW readers that the man is gay and that his lover died from Aids. The man involved told the paper: “I’ve no comment to make about my private life or my sexuality” — a clear indication that his sexuality was being paraded against his wishes.

What happened to all those reassuring noises about privacy which were being bandied about a little while ago? And what happened to the moral outrage expressed by the “News of the Screws” when a gay group threatened to “out” people a couple of years ago? And what happened to Clause 15?

Then came the case of the “Gay Girl Cop”. This unfortunate woman became involved with someone called Anne Wood-Wilson, who had embezzled thousands of pounds from firms she worked for. When the case came to court, the WPC, who had been having an affair with the woman, was cleared of any charges, but her sexuality became the main element of the story. Why?

The News of the World (August 29th) also outed Sally Becker, the so-called “Angel of Bosnia”, in a completely gratuitous way. What has her lesbianism got to do with the anything, and if she wants to keep it private why shouldn’t she be allowed to?

The Government is issuing a White Paper covering its proposals to tighten up controls on press invasions of privacy. From what has been leaked so far it seems that there will be little hope of stopping abuses such as the ones above. The Press Complaints. Commission is ineffective, serving only to protect the heartless tabloids from the wrath of the public.

***

There is something particularly unpleasant about seeing gay people betraying their own kind. A nasty example appeared in The News of the World (August 8th) when Keith Russell, who is described as a drag queen by night and a salesman by day, recounted how he had placed an ad in Boyz magazine and received a reply from a gay policeman. After meeting the PC, and having sex with him, Russell then went to the NoW and told them all the dirty details.

The paper then did what it does best —baited and humiliated the gay policeman by publishing the letter which he had written to Russell. No doubt his career will now be on the line as the NoW spitefully intended. I hope you’re proud of yourself, Judas Russell. You’re just the kind of person the gay community could do without. And I hope any cash you got from Murdoch’s filthy rag makes you very pleased with yourself.

***

The Sunday Times (September 5th), carried an article about the Rev Pat Robertson, the American politician and religious maniac. Apparently, Robertson is now well on the way to taking over the Republican Party. “He bought a run-down television station and became the most powerful figure on America’s religious Right,” says the paper, and now has a tight grip of the Republican’s “spiritual heart”.

Moderates are alarmed by these developments. “People should have no doubt that Robertson is pursuing his aim to be the most powerful political influence in America by the turn of the century,” said one observer. “If his success continues to snowball it would mean fascist measures, such as death penalties for gays, will eventually be debated by the Republican Party.”

Should we be worried by this, or should we rest easy, safe in the knowledge that Mr Robertson will eventually go into self-destruct mode as such people generally do. Surely even American voters wouldn’t allow such a nutcase anywhere near the White House?

***

The Mail on Sunday (August 8th) told us of “Death threats against a woman who fought to be heterosexual”. The story concerned Jeannette Howard, who claims that she was once a lesbian but has decided “on moral grounds” to give up her homosexuality and become heterosexual. She says that gay people have a choice and can renounce their “pre-pubescent emotional way of thinking”.

She is publishing a book this autumn called Out of Egypt in which she will tell her own story and give full particulars about how we can all stop being gay and become “normal”. She now claims to be a full-time counsellor (although, significantly, she doesn’t mention which organisation she belongs to). She claims to be persecuted by gay people who issue “death threats” to her and accuse her of being a Nazi. Naturally these nasty old gays throw bricks through her windows and have forced her to go ex-directory, etc. etc. The article was short on particulars that might have made it clear where Jeannette

Howard is coming from. There is no mention of religion, but I have a strong suspicion that Ms Howard may have strong leanings in that direction. When I say strong, I actually mean obsessive. Like so many of these “ex-gay” people, I suspect she is driven by a desire to prove the Bible correct on the matter of homosexuality, ignoring all social and scientific progress that has been made since the First Century.

You wouldn’t have suspected any of this from The Mail on Sunday. But then, truth ain’t very important when there is propaganda to peddle.

GAY TIMES November 1993

When is anti-Semite not an anti-Semite? Answer: when it’s Peter Tatchell.

Mr Tatchell’s group OutRage!was accused of being anti-Jewish following a demonstration, outside a synagogue, against the disgusting anti-gay remarks made by ex-chief Rabbi Jakobovits. The most disturbing aspect, though, was that gay newspapers decided to carry the “anti-Semitic” accusations on their front pages.

Anyone who knows anything about OutRage!must realise that it would be the last group to set itself up as racist, sexist or anti-Semitic; its politically correct credentials are impeccable. So how did its perfectly justifiable challenge to the Jewish community end up with headlines like: “Calls of racism by Jewish groups as OutRage!targets synagogue” (Pink Paper, September 24th) and “OutRage!accused of anti-Semitism” (Capital Gay, September 24th)?

In these anxious times, the gay press has a special duty. Like the rest of the press, it must aim to report the news fairly and with balance, and to keep comment and news reporting separate. The rest of the press, as we know to our cost, fails in this duty, which is all the more reason why we should try harder.

At the same time, the gay media has a duty to report events from a gay perspective. Our newspapers and radio programmes must go some way to balance the sometimes ill-informed and hostile reporting of gay life by straight papers. This does not mean that everything gay people do is beyond criticism, of course, but it does mean that honest and well-intentioned efforts in the struggle for gay rights should be reported sympathetically and fairly.

OutRage!feels aggrieved at the drubbing it received from Capital Gay and the Pink Paper and, indeed, Capital Gay’s report of the event could well have been written by any straight journalist with a desire to discredit OutRage!

It was angled to suggest that the direct-action group had deliberately set out to offend and insult Jewish people, when in fact the intention had been simply to raise awareness of the homophobia of leading figures in the Jewish community.

Perhaps OutRage!’s placard comparing Lord Jakobovits to the Nazi Heinrich Himmler was a mistake, but only because its message (that both wanted to use genetic engineering to eradicate homosexuality) was not clear. But it was not intended to upset those who were in concentration camps as has been suggested. Remember, gays wore pink triangles in those camps, too.

OutRage!prides itself on its defence of persecuted minorities, so accusations of anti-Semitism got them where it hurts. But that tactic does not let the Jewish community off the hook. Lord Jakobovits’ remarks were disgusting and sinister, but judging by the ensuing correspondence in the Jewish Chronicle, many Jews agree with him. The Jewish community cannot avoid the nastiness in its midst simply by claiming that OutRage!’s challenge “offended their sensibilities”. What about gay people’s sensibilities? After all, the remarks that sparked this row came not from some barmy fringe group but from the very top of the hierarchy, and when the ex-Chief rabbi speaks, it is with the voice of authority.

This means that all Jews now have a question to answer: do you agree with Jakobovits or not? And accusations that I am anti-Semitic for suggesting this will not wash. Jakobovits’ comments sprang from his interpretation of Jewish law, so unless they say otherwise, we have to assume that the people bound by that law agree. Significantly, the current Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has not distanced himself from Jakobovits opinions.

We’re on similarly slippery ground over the growing threat of violence against gays emanating from the black community. The Independent (October 4th) reported on tensions between the predominantly white gay communities and the black communities in the south London districts of Brixton, Stockwell and Kennington. Increasing numbers of homophobic attacks are being reported, and the suspicion is that they are the result of the macho culture of young black men. This is expressed most clearly in ragga music which, according to The Independent “evolved out of Jamaican reggae and Afro-American rap and has lyrics that pay homage to macho virility”.

One song in particular is blamed for the rising anxiety, the notorious Boom Bye Bye. Buju Banton’s song contains the lethal line “Boom bye-bye inna battyboy head”, which translates as “shoot homosexuals in the head”.

The Indy reports: “Recent incidents include a young gay man followed by a black youth and beaten with a baseball bat; another had his trousers pulled down in the street and was beaten by black youths wielding a shovel; yet another was kicked to the ground and a road sign dropped on him. There have also been reports of assaults on lesbians.”

Someone at The Yard is quoted as saying: “Young blacks are being told in music that killing batty boys is culturally acceptable. It’s gone past fashion. Someone will be killed.”

There’s no doubt that black youths get a very hard time, and in some ways their violent reactions against white society are understandable. But the establishment of a kind of pecking order, with gays at the bottom, isn’t the answer. Black boys might well feel that they’re regarded as the lowest of the low, but then their thinking seems to say “at least I’m better than a battyboy”. It’s a dangerous reasoning and one which the black community has a duty to challenge. And if I say that this violence is a direct result of developments in black culture, am I going to be accused of racism? I’ll risk it, because if we are attacked by members of other oppressed minorities, we must not allow political correctness to get in the way of justifiable protest.

Even discussing political correctness is a minefield. Originally it had a benign and worthy intention – to change attitudes towards groups in society that have traditionally been marginalised or neglected. This I don’t object to. Britain is riddled with racism, sexism, homophobia and disregard for those with disabilities, and any effort to improve the lot of these groups is to be applauded. But then the zealots got to work and the whole thing went too far. Political correctness has become, in some quarters, a kind of religion with its own heresies and blasphemies that will be severely punished. You have to watch your language when talking about minorities because the permissible terminology used to refer to them seems to change by the day.

Those at the forefront of political correctness often fire their cannons with little regard for the target. Many people who are generally sympathetic to the aims of gay activists are alienated by aggressive attacks on their lack of political correctness. An example of this was given by Cynthia Heimel, reporting from Los Angeles for the Independent on Sunday. Ms Heimel had been invited on to an “Oprah-ish TV show” to discuss “Straight women and gay men: a wonderful blendship?” She was a panelist along with two gay men and their straight women best friends. During a commercial break she noticed that the other panelists were having a “fierce whispering tantrum”.

“‘They keep defining me as a gay man,’ said a guy with great socks. ‘Don’t they understand that I’m not just gay. I’m a person too, that my personhood is more important than my gayness?’

“‘I know,’ said a woman, ‘They don’t understand that it’s not about being gay or straight, it’s about friendship and empowerment’.

“Yeah, totally,’ I said, trying to be one of the gang. ‘Hey, nice socks,’ I said to the socks guy. ‘Oh, but they would be, you’re gay.’ The four panelists glared at me. ‘Hey, come on. It was a joke! Ha ha,’ I said feebly. “‘Don’t you see it’s wrong to stereotype like that?’ asked the sock guy’s best friend. “‘But it’s a positive stereotype and it’s true,’ I said. ‘Gay men look good, straight men look like they’ve just emerged from a trash bin.’ I got four cold shoulders. I shrivelled into a little ball.”

Poor old liberal straights. One minute we’re demanding they respect our difference, now we’re demanding that they disregard it. No wonder they’re confused. The Right-wing were quick to pick up this kind of excess and now political correctness has taken over from loony-leftism as the “reason” to resist change and progress. PC has become a powerful propaganda tool for reactionary pundits.

Take a couple of examples, the first from Richard Ingrams in The Observer: “The schedules of Channel 4 are usually a good guide to what is politically correct. So I was interested if somewhat alarmed last week to see a whole hour being devoted to promoting Ludovic Kennedy’s campaign for the legalisation of euthanasia. If I am right, it looks horribly as if euthanasia has now joined abortion, gay rights, doing away with nuclear energy and saving the whales as something we all have to be in favour of.”

Notice how Ingrams has craftily made it seem that all the above listed issues are the province of the politically correct (i.e. loonies) and can therefore be disregarded by sensible people.

And then we have Garry Bushell, writing in The Sun (September 29th) about the gay character in Casualty (BBC 1): “Inevitably Ken is painted as a sympathetic character rather than a sleazy khazi cruiser. This is because TV drama is life as Big Brother Beeb would like it to be rather than how it is, and ‘positive images’ are a must for all minorities.”

Bushell makes out that any attempt to portray gay people as whole human beings with a full range of emotions is nothing but “political correctness”, and in Bushell’s book PC is just one more left-wing conspiracy aimed at undermining the lives of “real” folk. Astute readers will know, of course, that Mr Bushell is peddling a political agenda of his own which is as dogmatic as that of any Socialist Worker, Take this which, believe it or not, appeared in his television review (October 6th): “Most voters want an end to immigration and a real crack down on crime – including the immediate return of the death penalty.”

The right-wing press has been full of stories about the “legions of the politically correct” who, they maintain, are stifling free speech. To hear them tell it you’d think it was no longer possible to criticise anyone with a black skin, a gay orientation or a disability. The only problem with their argument is that their pages are full of abuse for these groups.

I, for instance, was called a “liberal fascist” by a right-wing columnist when I won a Press Council ruling which said that words like “poof” and “poofter” should not be used as terms of abuse in newspapers. “We can no longer say what we like,” said The Sun and The Star. “The politically correct Nazis have stifled free speech.” I have seen no lessening of the newspapers aggression towards gay people since this ruling.

So, we should be careful about those who oppose political correctness – and remember that with their attempts to make it sound like a sinister undermining of “traditional values” they are creating a stick with which to beat reformers and progressives, a weapon to hold back change. At the same time, we should be cautious of those who take political correctness too far. The antics of a few extremists give our enemies a wonderful opportunity to oppose all our efforts to change things for the better.

Extreme political correctness also stands in the way of our vigorously fighting our corner when we are attacked by other minorities. I do hope that OutRage!will not be intimidated by this latest incident and will continue to make our supposed allies in the Rainbow Alliance face up to their homophobia.

***

“Raymond Burr was veritable giant of the small screen,” wrote The Daily Star in an editorial (September 14th). “What a shame that the tough, straight-talking star of Perry Mason and Ironside should turn out to be a gay ‘wife’ who liked nothing better than knitting and making strawberry jam. Ever get the feeling that there are some things you would simply prefer not to know?”

Yes, I do, actually. I’d prefer not to know the stinking opinions of the sleazy Daily Star.

***

For the real master of political correctness you have to go to the Vatican. Yes, his Holiness has done it again. The great dealer in Bull has at last published his enSlCKlicle, Veritatis Splendor(or, roughly translated, I’m a silly old prick). This document was widely leaked by The Times, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

The Holy Father tells us that homosexuality, birth control, sex outside marriage and artificial insemination are all “intrinsically evil”. And, what’s more, if any of the troops dare to disagree, they will be severely dealt with.

It’s tragic that a man with an obvious psychiatric condition should wield such power over so many people in the world. But then again, they have a choice. They can tell him to take a running jump.

***

Mary Kenny, that pathetic apologist for all things Catholic, returned to the subject of gay sexuality in her column in The Sunday Telegraph (September 19th). “Two young homosexual men who ‘came out’ on a local BBC radio programme will not be prosecuted, the Crown Prosecution Service has said, even though one of them, at 20, is technically under-age.”

She says this is a wise decision because sometimes it is better for the law to turn a blind eye to minor transgressions. “By far the most sensible option is to engage in a sensible act of hypocrisy,” she says. And she should know, being an expert on the subject.

Before you get the idea that Holy Mary has changed her tune about gay rights, we have to read on, because the crux of her article is an impassioned plea that the age of consent should not be lowered. “In London there is a thriving rent-boy racket, there are gay culture pubs, clubs, porn, artefacts – you name it you can get it. It is possible that this is something you will never suppress; but it would be darned foolish,” she says, “at a time when Aids is on the rampage, to endorse it, encourage it, and give it the Queen’s stamp of approval.”

Kenny says that gay campaigners should be careful that they are not accused of “wanting to encourage pederasty, of being stalking horses for the cult of ‘boy love’, so assiduously pursued by such luminaries as, the late Michel Foucault, the influential French intellectual (the age he fancied was ‘13 or 14’).” Accused by whom? Well, by Mary, of course, who says that lowering the age of consent for gay men will “endorse a rent-boy culture by giving the law’s approval to teenage gay sex.”

Barbara Amiel in The Sunday Times (September 19th) launched a similarly vitriolic attack on gay rights. “Militant homosexuals want much more than their basic human rights to practice their tastes without legal sanction. They also want admiration and preferential treatment for doing so – as well as the redesign of basic institutions to suit their lifestyle.” She goes on to say that although she is a “profoundly liberal person” (cough! splutter! gag!) she “understands those hidebound conservatives who used to say that if you give these people equal treatment before the law, soon they will demand that homosexuality be taught as a desirable lifestyle in our schools.”

And so her profound liberalism leads her to believe that a lowering of the age of consent will result in the “sin” of “the militant’s demand for privilege and excess”.

These are the first shots across the bows as the age of consent debate gathers pace. We had better be ready for our opponents to trawl the very bottom of the sewer of slander in order to hold back reform. Sick bags at the ready, boys.

GAY TIMES December 1993

Despite Stonewall’s efforts — including its high profile “Equality Week” — the age of consent debate seems to be simmering away on the back burner rather than boiling merrily for all to see. This is understandable, given there is still no guarantee that the issue will be a live one in the foreseeable future. Stonewall stresses the importance of our writing to our MPs, and I would suggest we start now; it may be the beginning of a long and acrimonious correspondence — especially if your MP happens to be Harry Greenway, Geoffrey Dickens or one of those other knuckle-headed backbenchers with the kind of knees that jerk at the merest mention of any liberal or progressive reform.

 

And talking of knees jerking, let’s see how the patella of Mary Kenny is doing this month (Ms Kenny’s knee jerks in a manner that would almost qualify her as a Tiller Girl). Her Sunday Telegraph column is usually silly and irrational, but it was much more than usually so on October 24th when she wrote: “Joan Bakewell in her TV programme about reducing the age of consent for teenage homosexuals… repeatedly alleged that the British were uniquely ‘homophobic’. This is simply not true. Until 1970, for example, the French had a regulation that someone who was openly homosexual could not be a school teacher or civil servant while the Russians executed homosexual men. Why don’t TV researchers ever do any proper research instead of just talking to propagandists?”

Can you believe this woman’s sheer brass neck in calling other people propagandists? Or is she just an ignoramus? There was never capital punishment for homosexuals in Russia, not even under the Tsars. And doesn’t she realise that France liberalised its laws some time ago — unlike our own fair land, which is still — as I’m sure she would approve — somewhere in the Dark Ages.

Perhaps Nigella Lawson was thinking about Mary Kenny when she wrote in the London Evening Standard (October 27th): “The well-worn arguments about lowering the age of consent were, and continue to be, trotted out by the family values brigade.”

Some of the arguments are wrong-headed, she says, while others are “simply mad”.

Ms Lawson is most perplexed by “the argument that says 16 year olds are too young to understand whether they are gay or not. The extension of this argument is that if they fall in with the wrong crowd they will somehow be entrapped in a sexuality which isn’t naturally theirs.” The problem with this, says Nigella, is that if it were true, “half the public schoolboys in the land would have been marching on Whitehall last week.”

If these malevolent commentators really believe that homosexuality is “unnatural, ungodly or generally unthinkable”, how, she wonders, do they manage at the same time to think that there is “something so attractive about it that it will tempt the weak-willed into a life of sad vice.”

Such reasonableness cuts no ice with Rev N J Holloway of Mid Glamorgan who wrote a letter to The Daily Mail setting out his ideas, “There should be no national age of consent,” he says. “In the Bible — His word to mankind — God gives no basis for an age of consent for sexual activity, either homosexual or heterosexual.”

The good Reverend says there is a “state of consent” which is “the holy and honourable state of marriage”. It follows that no-one — straight or gay — should have sex until they marry. And as gays can’t wed they shouldn’t have sex, full stop.

“Many loud voices will be heard championing the cause of the gay lobby,” thunders Mr Holloway. “The voice of the Christian Church should not remain hushed.”

Oh, it won’t. Even as we speak, the god-shouters are organising a campaign of distortion and misrepresentation that would make the editor of The Sun proud. The question is — are we prepared for the forthcoming fundamentalist onslaught? These right-wing Christians are becoming a serious force to be reckoned with.

An article in The Guardian (November 2nd) by Christopher Reed, explored the new and more sophisticated tactics being used by American evangelicals. They have begun to use tricks learned from the communists of old — assuming false colours and infiltrating influential committees and organisations in order to dictate the agendas.

“I do guerrilla warfare,” says Ralph Reed, executive director of Rev Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition. “I paint my face and travel at night. You don’t know it’s all over until you’re in a body bag.”

These American strategies are being enthusiastically imported into Britain by the cannier holy rollers. More and more fanatical Christians seem to be making their voices heard in local authorities, on school governing bodies and even in the Cabinet. This is not paranoia, as the activities of John Patten and John Gummer illustrate. We had better beware and be warned, and start doing a bit of infiltrating of our own.

Which does not mean that everyone is beyond rational persuasion. In The Times Magazine (October 2nd), columnist “P.H.S.” (the journalist Michael Bywater) reported that he had been invited to oppose the idea of a common age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals at a Cambridge Union debate. He seemed a natural choice, having been previously nasty to several prominent gay figures.

He was paired (almost inevitably) with Stephen Green of the Conservative Family Campaign (“a wild-eyed man with teeth and a beard”). On the opposite side were (equally inevitably) Sir Ian McKellen and Stephen Fry.

“Sir Ian McKellen delivers a reasoned and objective address with the famous vocal pyrotechnics held in check until the end, when he recites a list of 23 European countries where a common age of consent is in force,” wrote Mr Bywater. “Then Stephen Fry stands up. The house is unprepared for the astounding display of rhetoric he delivers. He denounces the whey-faced adulterers and hypocrites ‘who have the astounding effrontery to stand up, in a seaside town, and demand a return to “core values’: He exults in his own nature and exhorts the audience to do likewise.”

Then it is Mr Bywater’s turn to speak and, to his own astonishment, he finds himself speaking in favour of the motion. He hears himself declare that he is going to sit with the faggots and advises everyone else to do the same. On crossing the floor he finds no room on the benches, so sits on Stephen Fry’s knee.

The result of the debate — a majority of 600-odd for the motion and about 30 against — is later discovered to be a record.

Michael Bywater says: “I spend the rest of the evening glowing with gay pride, until I recall with a little disappointment, that I am not gay.”

Another angry voice which appears to have changed its tune is that of Matthew Parris, ex-Tory MP and now a writer for The Times. Mr Parris has often been seen as an apologist for the disgusting activities and pronouncements of his former Conservative colleagues, but now even he’s getting pissed off with them. “Try and get anyone, anyone of political stature to speak against homosexual law reform at a debate or public meeting, or on television (and a hundred editors, producers and union presidents will bear me out) it is almost impossible. I could take this inertia from Mrs Thatcher, because she really was right-wing; but from John Major and Michael Howard I cannot, because I know they are not.”

“The argument is won,” he says, “and the government knows it: but still the cowards won’t move.”

He has heard the rumour that John Major has changed his mind and no longer intends to allow a free vote on the issue, He says his hunch is that Michael Howard “has decided to wait for the UK to lose a case at the European Court [of Human Rights], then reform the law and blame it on the EC. If so, it is despicable.”

He says that if the rumour proves to be true, then gay Tories (he claims that there are “millions of us”) “are going to have to decide for how much longer walking over us is to remain the path of least resistance.” He suggests that the European elections might be the place to start to teach the Government a lesson.

The magazine Public Policy Review— a journal that might claim the attention of the “decision-makers” — carried a detailed, five-page article by Mark Lowery, which went into all the arguments for and against reform in depth. The author obviously feels strongly that the law needs to be changed and, hopefully, any of his readers who are in Parliament will feel likewise when they’ve ploughed through his most persuasive and well-researched polemic.

“Equality Week” began with a “lobby” at the House of Commons (covered, as far as I can see, only by The Independent — and they didn’t include a report, only a picture of Sir Ian McKellen looking tired); and it ended with a glorious variety show at the London Palladium. A photographer from The Sun was there, and the next day the paper carried a picture of Julian Clary and Richard (Victor Meldrew) Wilson in their “Sticky Moments” sketch. Unfortunately, The Sun decided not to say what the event had been and referred to it simply as “a charity show”. A classic illustration of how the tabloids use their power to deny readers information about gay matters as well as to distort it when they do include it.

***

Paragraph 15 of the Press Complaints Commission’s code of conduct says: “The press should avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to a person’s race, colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation… It should avoid publishing details of (these issues), unless these are directly relevant to the story.”

Over the past few weeks I ‘nave made five complaints to the PCC about stories which clearly breach this paragraph, all have been rejected. A sixth complaint —which the PCC has yet to decide on — concerns, needless to say, The Sun. On October 20th the paper carried a headline, stretched over two pages, reading: “The Homo Provo”. Its subheading was “25 years for IRA bomber who cruised loos for men”.

The story began: “An IRA terrorist jailed yesterday for plotting Britain’s biggest bomb attack is a gay pervert who cruised public toilets for sex with strangers.”

Now can anyone tell me what relevance his sexuality has to this report of his trial for terrorism? When was the last time you saw a story about a “hetero IRA bomber” — even though most of them are? And as for “pejorative references” —the story contained many insulting quotes, some from a supposed “senior detective” along the lines of: “The IRA are normally very conservative about sexual matters and prejudiced against homosexuals. But they still recruited Kelly who was a practising homosexual for more than 20 years… They are now resorting to using a man of Kelly’s sexual orientation, whom they would not normally touch with a barge pole.”

I see, so instead of seeing it as a case of gays generally being too humane and sensitive to involve themselves with an organisation like the IRA, it seems we are considered “not good enough” to maim and kill innocent people. What kind of perverted, inverted thinking is this?

The kind that The Sun and its stinking crew excel in.

It seems that The Sun can’t make its mind up which is the worse crime — cottaging or attempted mass murder. If that isn’t a “pejorative reference”, then I’ll eat my hat. I’ll keep you posted.

***

Just how many gay people are there in Britain? The vexed question was addressed a couple of times recently. The first was in The People which, on October 24th, carried the results of one of its interminable sex surveys. According to Dr Vermin Coleman, who conducted the poll, “thousands and thousands” of People readers responded to such pertinent questions as “Have you ever bought sexy underwear?” and “Have you ever posed for nude photographs?”

Most interestingly, though, to the question “Have you ever had any sort of sexual contact with a member of the same sex?” 29 per cent of men replied that they had and so did 21 .per cent of women.

Dr Vermin qualifies these findings thus: “The figures regarding homosexual experiences are higher than I expected. But many of you included school encounters. Homosexual experiences between children, particularly those in single sex schools, are so common as to be quite unremarkable.”

Meanwhile another survey conducted by The Oxford Student, was reported in The Sunday Telegraph (October 31st). It revealed that “nearly one in seven Oxford undergraduates claims to have had at least one sexual encounter with a member of the same sex.” That’s nearly 15 per cent! According to the survey most of those were women, but “more men said they were involved in long-term homosexual relationships.”

The paper quoted Dr Glenn Wilson, a senior lecturer in psychology at London University, as saying the results reflected the current insecurity about heterosexual relationships. “A lot of men are frightened to touch women because of cries of rape,” he says. “To avoid this, they must either ask a woman directly if she wants to have sex — a notoriously unsuccessful courtship procedure — or have a homosexual relationship.”

Co-editor of The Oxford Student, Rob Hands, thought that remark was “absolute rubbish”. I’ll go further and say that Dr Glenn Wilson is talking through his arsehole.

Anyway, although these surveys were not scientific samplings, they do call into question the ludicrous statistic, propounded last year, that gays make up only one per cent of the population. I always thought there was an element of vested interest in that one.

***

The Guardian (October 28th) carried an article by Richard Smith — a name familiar to readers of Gay Times— about the present preoccupation of gay men with body culture. “Take a straight person to a gay club these days,” wrote Mr Smith, “and the first thing they’ll comment on is all the muscle on show —the well-developed young men taking their tops off and getting their tits out for the lads. All those bulging biceps can come as quite a shock. Especially if you’d been expecting a load of limp wrists.”

Indeed, for those of us with a less than perfect physique, the present obsession with body sculpting is somewhat alarming. Gay clubs and pubs — which have always been ruthlessly competitive anyway — have now become almost gladiatorial in their philosophy. “Survival of the fittest” hardly covers it.

“Marty Mark, Right Said Fred, Take That and Bad Boys Inc are the first pop acts since Samantha Fox who’ve been sold on the size of their tits,” says Richard Smith, The culture of the gym has become something of a mania with some gay men and it isn’t difficult to see why. Let’s face it: if you ain’t got much muscle upstairs, you can always get your share of attention by developing it downstairs.

This is all very well, but beautiful bodies tend to decay, and what do you do when the passage of years takes its inevitable course and those oh-so desirable tits start to sag?

Peter Burton, features editor of this very magazine, is quoted in The Guardian article: “The Body Beautiful thing has been around for a long time in the States. I spent a lot of time in the Seventies there and it was always a relief to get home to the diversity of British male bodies. I’m 48 and the body’s all over the place, but I’m happy being me.” How many of the muscle boys can say the same?

In The Observer (October 31st), Roger Tredre was also ruminating on the cult of the over-developed physique and the way that male bodies are being used in advertising in the same way that women’s were it the past few decades. “Provocative image of the naked male can no longer be catalogued under homo-erotica,’’ he says. “The truth is that male nakedness has gone mainstream.” He maintains that Britain will follow the Californian model of “male vanity”. Over there you can have “pec implants”.

Half a million men are regularly “working out” in Britain. Daniel Singer — a male model — says in The Observer: “The Americans are more obsessional, but my friends in London are definitely getting more concerned about keeping in shape.”

The article says that the emergence of the male sex object is no cause for rejoicing. Insecure men who have big problems in their life are using exercise and body building as “therapeutic narcissism”. Psychologists are reporting the first signs of conditions usually associated with women, like anorexia and bulimia. “Images of macho men are going to have the same effect on men as pictures of thin female models have on women.”

But there is yet hope for us Lucien Freud types. According to The Daily Mirror (October 27th) “Hunky models are being inched out of the limelight — by wimps.” The Mirror contends that suddenly it’s “in” to be thin. They cite as an example Nick Moss who has modelled for Calvin Klein and who is “all skin and bone”.

The paper says that leading fashion experts think “There is a spiritual look in fashion reflected by these thinner models… Twenty-somethings aren’t going to the gym any more… they’re all going to the coffee shops and they’re interested in losing weight for the new fashions. It’s a new era out there.”

Oh God. Fat, thin, beefy, scrawny —what is a girl to do? The simple answer is to get off this mad carousel and do something useful with your life.