GAY TIMES January 1995

“Just how widespread is homosexuality in the priesthood?” wondered John Junor in The Mail on Sunday. Given the to-do we’ve had about `pervy priests’ over the past few weeks it’s a legitimate question.

It depends, of course, where you look for evidence. According to Mr John Root, in a letter to the Church of England Newspaper (November 18 1994) the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) once told Time magazine that 30 per cent of C of E clergy were gay. However, he says: “by the recent ‘Heart of the Matter’ programme the proportion had dropped to 20 per cent. Somewhat similarly a LGCM leaflet said that 10 per cent of the population was homosexual.” The letter-writer wants to know how LGCM came to the conclusion that 20 per cent of vicars are gay, “is it propaganda masquerading as fact?” he asks.

It’s a difficult issue, but if the outing of clergy in both Catholic and Anglican churches continues at the present rate, we should soon have the definitive answer. There won’t be a single priest, vicar, canon or bishop left in hiding.

First we had Father Liam Cosgrave who popped his clogs in a Dublin gay sauna. Two other priests who were enjoying the facilities at the same time administered the last rites. The owner of the sauna informed the press that he had at least twenty priests on his membership list.

Then, The News of the World’s hard-working “investigative reporter”, Mazher Mahmood, opened his cheque book to yet another rent boy (“burly six-footer, Dave” — a “young boy”, according to Mahmood, of only 26!). Dave obliged by “outing” Father Gerard Cobham, of Liverpool (November 13th).

The following week Mr Mahmood was gleefully telling readers that one of his previous victims, Canon David Haslam (see last month’s Mediawatch), has had his licence to officiate at services suspended (“Gay canon fired over rent boys”).

But it took OutRage!’s outing of ten bishops to really make the establishment’s arse tighten. “Homosexual terrorism,” fulminated The Daily Telegraph (December 1st), condemning the gay group’s “pernicious tactic” of naming closet cases.

The Guardian also thought that OutRage!’s actions were “persecution by another name”. The paper went on to say that the Church is entitled to keep its “traditional position” in condemning homosexuality as sinful. I wonder if it would be arguing the same thing if the church revived its “traditional position” on stoning adulterers or burning witches? (And besides, wasn’t The Guardian one of the two newspapers which published some of the names? Do I detect double-standards?)

What these self-righteous papers don’t understand is that gay people have been on the receiving end of persecution and “pernicious tactics” for centuries. The catalogue of abuse is endless — and not all from the church. Much of it has originated from and been perpetuated within the pages of the press. Such defenders of the closet shouldn’t be surprised when those who cannot, or will not, stay concealed get angry and frustrated at those who remain hidden in order to enjoy privileges that are denied to others. Such closet cases only perpetuate the idea that homosexuality is shameful. How can such dissembling and deceit help young people who want desperately to be honest and open?

The only problem I have with OutRage!’s tactics is that they can’t always confirm that what they say is true. This fact was immediately seized on by The Daily Mail (“Fury as gay militants ‘out’ bishops but say they have no proof”, December 11th). Now The Sunday Times (December 4th) tells us that OutRage! intends to kick down the closet doors of 50 MPs “most of them Tories”. I don’t object to that — except that I don’t think OutRage! knows with any certainty the names of 50 gay MPs. The danger is that if even one of those named is not gay, and they make a fuss about it, the whole outing ploy is immediately discredited. Accusations of witch hunting then become legitimate.

OutRage! must be sure of its facts before employing outing. It is one of the most effective weapons the gay community has ever had, and it would be a shame to lose it through indiscriminate and unjust over-use.

Meanwhile, Richard Ingrams (Observer, December 4th) said that OutRage! had been engaged for some time in a “one-sided war against the Roman Catholic Church”. He said that such attacks were no less than “homofascism”. Oh please! With a fuhrer in the Vatican who could give lessons in iron control to any totalitarian regime, I don’t think the Catholic Church has much to teach us in the way of morality.

Conor Cruise O’Brien wrote in The Independent (November 26th) about the Pope’s “offensive” assertion (in his book ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope’) that he loves the young. “It is the vocation to love that naturally allows us to draw close to the young,” writes the pontiff. O’Brien says: “This form of words seems to imply that the Pope has altogether forgotten that the complacent institution over which he presides has deliberately covered up for priestly paedophiles, transferring known malefactors of this type from parish to parish, diocese to diocese, and knowingly allowing them to combine paedophilia with their pastoral functions.”

Indeed, in Ireland — where the present paedophile controversy brought down the Government — Catholicism teeters on the brink of losing its traditional vice-like grip. It was unfortunate that the newspapers constantly referred to Father Liam Cosgrave (he of the sauna) in the same sentence as Father Brendan Smyth (the revolting “paedophile priest”). Both cases were presented in the British press as “scandals” of equal magnitude, but that was not, according to Beatrix Campbell (Independent, November 22nd) the way the Irish saw it “People knew the difference between Fr Smith and Fr Cosgrave. The paedophile priest had committed crimes against children. The gay priest had committed no crime…. The funeral of the gay priest was attended by hundreds. Mass was said by his bishop. He was much loved.”

Ms Campbell says that in their grief people were feeling that it was “not OK that he should go to a sauna secretly and die secretly.” She feels that the British can hardly even understand this. “The English no longer know what matters. One sex scandal is the same as another. English sexual politics is about reputations, not about what is going on between men, women and children.”

This may be looking at life through slightly rose-tinted glasses. John Lyttle (Independent, November 23rd) went to Dublin to find out what gay life is really like since the law was reformed. He finds optimism, but Dublin isn’t the same as the rural backwaters, as calls to the gay switchboard illustrate. Susie Byrne, one of the volunteers says she has just spent time “mopping up a young couple who attempted suicide. They thought their parents would never accept them.”

When OutRage! released inflated condoms into Westminster Cathedral during a Mass, its actions supposedly “offended” Catholics. “A church is not the appropriate place for such a demonstration, especially when it is being used by people who want to pray,” said Fr. George Stack in The London Evening Standard (November 28th). I hope those same praying individuals will contemplate the meaning of the protest. Pope John Paul’s unyielding opposition to condoms is evil in the extreme. It is costing the lives of innocent people through Aids. It is causing overpopulation in countries that are already starving. There is no justification for it, and if members of OutRage! can kick the Church out of its inhumane complacency, then I wish them well in their efforts.

It seems that the love affair between the newspapers and Sir Ian McKellen is over. Since he stood on an Edinburgh stage and tore a page out of the Bible which referred to homosexuality as “an abomination”, he has been relegated to the Tatchellian status of “fanatic” and “extremist”.

“Sir Ian does the gay cause more harm than good by such petulant protests,” advised John Smith of The People (December 4th). “Homosexuals have a valid point to make about all kinds of discriminatory issues. But they will make little progress if, like Sir Ian, they continue to come across as a bunch of precious poofs.”

We are not fooled by Mr Smith’s cod concern for our welfare. We know from a thousand previous comments how profoundly he hates us.

Readers of The Daily Mail are less mealy-mouthed about their contempt for gay people. “Sir Ian McKellen will need to tear more than Leviticus 18:22 from the Bible if he wants to deny people God’s view on homosexuality. They can still turn to Genesis 19, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:18-32 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11”, wrote Mr Lancaster of Bristol. Mr Hanks of Herts says: “Seeing Sir Ian McKellen publicly ripping a page from the Bible and urging other people to do the same made me want to ask him if he would have the courage to do the same to the Koran.”

Well, I’d like to ask Mr Hanks if he’d approve of Sir Ian being driven into hiding under threat of death by Christian fundamentalists? Is that what he’s advocating?

Dominic Lawson in The Daily Telegraph (December 3rd) asks where it will all end. “What will the Spastics Society, for instance, make of this from Leviticus 21 xvi? ‘No one of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the food of his God. For no-one who has a blemish shall draw near, one who is blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or one who has a broken foot or a broken hand, or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a blemish in his eyes or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles…that he may not profane my sanctuaries.”

Amazing which parts of the Bible Christians can gloss over as being “inappropriate” and which parts they feel they must protect as “traditional”.

Sir Ian says that he always rips the offending page out of Gideon bibles he finds in hotel rooms and suggests we all follow suit. But why stop at one page? Why not rip up the whole thing, together with the hymn book, catechism, Church Times, Catholic Herald and War Cry? I certainly do.

Book burners! Fascists! Abominations! cry the Christians. They can certainly dish out the abuse, but they can’t take it.

Clifford Longley, for example, in The Daily Telegraph (December 2nd) began his article with a quotation from an unidentified “male homosexual”. “Most of my friends are people I first picked up and had sex with, and we liked one another. Most gay couples have to make some kind of decision about sex after a while. … He was going to work on the subway and getting offers and I go to work in Manhattan and I get offers, and you get tired of saying no all the time. So, we trick out, as we say, without guilt.”

Mr Longley says: “This is the voice of real homosexuality” before going on to say that the Church should not feel guilty about keeping up its restrictions on gay relationships. But like all propagandists, Mr Longley’s argument depends as much on what he leaves out as what he puts in. Who is supposed to have said the words he quotes? No indication. How does he know that this is “the real voice of homosexuality” and not just the voice of an individual homosexual?

Using the same technique of selective quotation, perhaps we have to turn to The Sunday Telegraph to find the “real truth” about Christianity. In its December 4th issue, the paper told of an Anglican minister, the Rev Andrew Arbuthnot, who practises a “healing ministry” for those who have been’ sexually abused. The “laying on of hands” takes on a whole new meaning, as Mr Arbuthnot is required to “lay his hands” on the genitals of the people he is healing. Not only that but he is required to insert his fingers in order to make the sign of the cross.

Mr Arbuthnot is under investigation, but claims he only did it out of Christian duty.

Funny old world, innit?

GAY TIMES February 1995

We are told (Independent, January 7th) that Tony Blair has been dining with Rupert Murdoch, with a view to the Murdoch press supporting the new, “improved” Labour Party. This development should not make us run away with the idea that Murdoch has suddenly embraced socialism. Not at all. If Murdoch gives Blair support he will want something in return — like no new cross-media ownership rules that might interfere with the onward march of News International. And if, come the election, there is any sign that the Conservative Party’s fortunes are reviving, Mr Murdoch will dump Mr Blair like he dumps everybody who fails to line his pockets or further his interests.

What, you might ask, has this got to do with the representation of homosexuality in the media?

Well, while Mr Murdoch may be regarded as unpredictable in his political loyalties, other media tycoons are not. Their loyalty has been, and always will be, to the Conservative Party. As Lord Stevens, Chairman of United Newspapers, publishers of The Daily Express, Sunday Express and Star has said: “I think it would be very unlikely that I would have a newspaper that would support the socialist party. That isn’t what some people call press freedom, but why should I want a product I didn’t approve of? I believe it is in the best interests of United Newspapers in terms of profits and shareholders to support the Conservatives.”

The middle-market, true blue Express and Mail have realised that their natural ally, the Conservative Party, is in deep trouble. Having indulged themselves in a little bit of Tory bashing over the past year, when there was not an election in sight, they now see that it has got to stop. They have to return to the loyal Tory fold. Any honeymoon that might have been enjoyed by Bambi Blair is now over and he is under heavy fire from the Fleet Street propaganda battalions. Nothing that he or any of his colleagues do or say will any longer be taken at face value. Mr Blair is finding out just how nasty and dishonest the press can be when it sees the Conservative Party teetering on the brink of destruction.

Not only that, but the price war is beginning to bite in a big way. The papers know that one way to attract and hold on to readers is to get tough, swing to the right, provide simple solutions to complicated problems. Anyone reading the Tory press over the past month would have been left in no doubt that they’re all trying to out-tough each other. Tabloid machismo is back in fashion.

And it is not just in the arena of politics, but also in social policy that the papers are getting increasingly reactionary. The Daily Express and The Daily Mail are full of fifties-style photographs of idealised family groups. You’ve seen them — dad, mum, and the kids sitting round the fire, dad smoking his pipe, mum doing her sewing — everyone in their rightful place and all is well with the world. In this fantasy world there is no room for you-know-what.

On December 24th The Daily Mail even treated us to a gruesome group photograph of the Jakobovits family. It decorated an extended interview with Lord Jakobovits, the ex-Chief Rabbi and proponent of the genetic annihilation of gays. The title of the piece, “Why we must all fight to rescue the family”, should have been warning enough of the reactionary stuff to come. For who is the prime enemy of the family? You’ve guessed it.

Lynda Lee-Potter, who was conducting the interview wrote: “His trenchant view that homosexual behaviour is always wrong has made him the victim of abusive attacks and hatred, but he is unrelenting.” She quotes Jakobovits as saying: “I have every sympathy but I cannot condone it. The urge I can understand, but to give in, to perform marriage ceremonies between males, or between females is horrendous. It debases the sanctity of life in every way. I think that the act itself should be regarded as illegal in the same way as incest is illegal. The state has legislated on incest and I would like the same attitude to homosexual acts. It is just as much an affront… It’s a perversion. It’s also a violation of nature and a violation of the natural law and the moral law. Moreover it frustrates the whole meaning of marriage. I think the majority of citizens still feel a sense of outrage over this.”

Meanwhile, in The Daily Express (December 22nd), Bernard Ingham, Mrs Thatcher’s ex-propagandist, who has a face as sour as his opinions, wrote: “Homosexuals are still a minority. At most they probably number no more than one in 100, which is still too many.”

Then came the first of two controversies over gay kisses on TV. The BBC’s children’s programme Byker Grove featured one boy, Noddy, giving another, Gary, a peck on the cheek. It lasted one quarter of a second. The Sun (December 15th) said — as it usually does in times of national crisis — that “protests from parents jammed BBC switchboards”. Mary Whitehouse was pulled out of her dotage to screech, “They should not touch this issue on a children’s programme.” In an editorial, the paper said that the BBC was “defiling teatime” by showing the kiss and giving “kids as young as five the impression that homosexuality is normal or something they should try.”

The Daily Mail invited greasy Tory MP Harry Greenway to say “disgraceful” and then followed up with other dimwits like Nicholas Winterton and Stephen Green venting their homophobic spleens in the most extreme fashion.

Over in The Sunday Express, Brian Hitchen — who considers himself the ultimate macho journalist — wrote: “What will happen next? Normal Gary could give naughty Noddy a whack in the mouth. But don’t hold your breath. This is the BBC we’re talking about. They don’t have people like me writing the scripts.” Are we to understand from this that Mr Hitchen would approve of a 15-year-old boy being smashed in the face because he happened to be gay? Would Big Brian like to do it himself?

The Sunday Express’s new female columnist, Janie Allan (who is basically Hitchen in drag) was writing about “why Britain has gone wrong” — a favourite theme of right-wing ratbags. Ms Allan’s rather predictable conclusion is that our present state of decay has been brought about because we are no longer a Christian nation. She says. “Today, awash with misguided liberal compassion, Britain seems to regard the Ten Commandments as the Ten Suggestions.” She says that it is fashionable to “defy God openly” and cites the case of “Sir (Lady?) Ian McKellen, honoured by a Monarch who is Defender of the Faith, [who] encourages everyone to rip pages out of the book of Leviticus which refer to the sin of homosexuality. The sad Sir Ian knows he has nothing to fear from the Defender of the Faith.”

In the hands of these ranting journos, Christianity becomes just like a branch of the Nazi Party.

There was also a spate of “children must be protected from gays” stories.

The Daily Mail (December 12th) reported that “Mother wins a ban on gay propaganda” and claimed that a woman in Shropshire had obtained an injunction stopping youth workers from contacting her son, aged 15, because she says they are trying to “influence” him into a homosexual lifestyle.

Although this purported to be a straightforward news story (can there be such a thing in The Daily Mail?), the paper said: “The mother’s battle reflects widespread fears that, following the lowering of the age of consent to 18, immature youngsters are increasingly being pressurised to accept themselves as homosexual.” Is that news reporting, or is that opinion masquerading as fact? Where is the evidence for this supposed “widespread concern” (and concern within a tiny minority of loony MPs and religious bigots does not count as “widespread”.)

The story was expanded by The Sunday Telegraph (December 18th) which headed its version: “My boy was lured away by gays and youth workers”. The story began with an interview with the boy’s mother who is trying to convince herself that her son isn’t gay — never mind what he thinks about it! She says, “I have always made it clear that I thought homosexuality on television was disgusting. And I have always told my son that he should respect women and only have sex when he really loved a girl.” She says that if he is heterosexual “all well and good” but if he is gay “I don’t know how I’ll face up to it.” This is obviously a woman with a big problem about sexuality. The court should have been issuing injunctions to protect the boy against her.

On December 22nd, The Daily Express told us that social workers at Islington Council “sent a 14-year-old boy in their care to a gay group” which turned out to be Hackney Outreach Project, described as “a confidential environment for gay young people with counselling for sexuality, Aids and equal opportunities”. The boy also apparently visited a West End night-club in drag and returned to the children’s home with unexplained cash.

The message from these stories was clear — gays are trying to “recruit” children through support, counselling and information groups. This was most directly put by Valerie Riches of the ludicrously named “Family and Youth Concern” religious group. According to The Sunday Telegraph, she “makes the bitter but logical observation” about homosexuals that “since they can’t procreate they have to proselytise”.

Having lost the argument during the age of consent debate, the religious right has now come up with this new line of attack. It is sinister and worrying, and it could herald a new campaign to defame and undermine the work of gay groups offering support to young people. This is an area we need to keep an eye on.

The Daily Express (December 17th) gave space for the certifiable bigot, Terry Dicks MP, to say “Don’t help Aids victims”. He was referring to the handing out of National Lottery money to charities and demanding that none should go to Aids research or education groups. Mr Dicks, I understand, considers himself to be a good Christian.

Then came the second “gay kiss” brouhaha, this time a lesbian smacker on Brookside. “Steamiest lesbian shots hot up soap” declared The Daily Express, while the Mail said: “Brookside flirts with new storm of protest as Beth meets her latest, and most passionate lesbian lover.”

There was a rather different reaction to this kiss, though. No one said that they felt sick when they saw it (even though Channel 4 caved in and excised the scene from the Saturday afternoon omnibus edition). This might be explained by a remark made by a Brookside spokesperson who made the point that the kiss was “so hot and sexy that it will appeal to both men and women”. For let us not forget that lesbianism is a big turn-on for straight men. (Indeed, on January 8th, The News of the World told us of a Government minister, Gerry Malone, spending an hour watching a “lesbian sex show” in which “naked girls played sex games with whipped cream”.)

Perhaps Brookside’s gay story-line is not quite as politically correct as it seems. Maybe, after all, it is not there to increase understanding, or for lesbians to identify with, but for straight men to get off on. Could it have been a coincidence that a large photograph of the kiss appeared on page three of The Sun, in a space traditionally reserved for straight male wank-fodder?

The Daily Mail (January 3rd) then tracked down the Romanian soldier who is claiming political asylum in Britain on the grounds that he is gay. The reporter found that 25-year-old Ioan Vraciu had “centrefolds of naked girls” decorating the walls of his bedsit. When questioned about this, the young man said that they were there as a cover for visiting friends who didn’t know he was gay. The Daily Mail’s reporter had clearly concluded that Vraciu is not gay. The other inescapable conclusion was that The Daily Mail didn’t think he should be in this country at all, whether he is gay, straight or hermaphrodite. In its opinion, no foreigner should be here “sponging” off the state — even if being sent back means he’ll have his throat cut. Remember, righteous right-wing “Christians” don’t believe in “compassion” — particularly if it costs them money.

A story in The Daily Telegraph (December 27th) headed “Bleak outlook for the gay community” summed up the situation wonderfully. The fact that it was referring to the situation in Romania seemed irrelevant.

All in all, it was a depressing month in the papers, and I fear that as the political battle hots up we are going to see homosexuality increasingly used as an instrument for cranking the country further to the right. How much further right can the Mail and Express go, you might ask, short of putting swastikas on their masthead?

Watch this space and you’ll see.

GAY TIMES March 1995

It was Nicholas de Jongh, theatre critic of The London Evening Standard, who kept the “outing” pot boiling this month, with a revelation that was deeply satisfying to those of us who want vengeance on the hypocrites who hurt innocent gay people.

The subject of the outing, John Osborne, the playwright, was, unfortunately, dead and so could not be made to squirm for his sins. Immediately after Osborne popped it, de Jongh observed that the playwright’s homophobia was so vicious and spiteful that it probably represented a classic case of repressed homosexuality. One of Mr de Jongh’s columnist colleagues on The Standard immediately objected to the theory. She said it was unfair to assume that those who voiced strong anti-homosexual sentiments were hiding their own gay feelings. Any denial, she said, just seemed to reinforce the accusation. Undaunted by this criticism, Nicholas tracked down Anthony Creighton, an actor who claimed to have been Osborne’s lover for many years, both before and during his first two marriages. The subsequent interview occupied two pages in The Standard (January 24th) and contained documentary evidence of Osborne’s abiding love for “Mouse” (as he nicknamed the diminutive Creighton).

Here we have John Osborne, the man who had written so extensively and contemptuously about “fairies” and “poofs” turning out to be one himself. The anti-gay lobby in the press must be quaking in their boots at the thought of which other of their cronies might be carrying an invisible closet on their back. It also gave the opportunity for Osborne’s enemies to get back at him. “Johnnie was an actor with a big chip on his shoulder, who could turn a few fine phrases. And he knew a good act when he found it. Bless him. But angry? Butch? Forget it dears. He was just a silly old tart,” wrote Peter Tory in The Daily Express (January 21st).

Lynda Lee-Potter in The Daily Mail (January 27th) rushed to interview Osborne’s last wife, Helen, who told touching tales of the playwright’s final years and exclaimed of the Creighton claims: “It’s absolute tosh. There’s no truth in it whatsoever. He was not John’s lover and hadn’t seen John for more than 30 years. He’s just a pathetic old man.”

Petronella Wyatt, writing in The Sunday Telegraph (January 29th) had the answer to that one: “Miss Lane seems to think that a homosexual affair is like a heterosexual one. Or at least that it is as easy to tell when your husband is having sex with a man as it is when he is having sex with another woman. But that cannot be the case, even when the wife and the husband and the `other man’ are living in close proximity.”

Benedict Nightingale in The Times (January 28th) also found it hard to accept that Osborne was a “nancy boy”, but he said that it was inevitable that his oeuvre would now be “ransacked for give-away hints”. Nightingale said that if Osborne had, in his plays, “translated homosexuality into straight terms” he wouldn’t have been the first to do so. He tells of Terence Rattigan writing The Deep Blue Sea after a former male lover committed suicide. Because of the law and theatrical censorship Rattigan eventually transformed the lover into a judge’s wife in despair at her failing affair with a young pilot. He also comments that Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is seen as a “camouflaged account of [Wilde’s] own double life” with its telling talk of “Bunburying”. Noel Coward, too, hid camp sensibility in many of his ostensibly heterosexual plays.

Adding to the fun, Tom Lubbock, The Observer’s radio critic, even detected a gay sub-text in One Foot in the Grave. “What puzzles me about this symbol of true-British grumpiness,” he said “and what seems to escape the notice of both the audiences and the other characters, is that Victor Meldrew is surely, obviously, ‘wife’ not withstanding, an outrageous old queen. No?”

Despite the understandable resistance to the news from some quarters, it is generally accepted that Nicholas de Jongh’s initial assessment of Osborne was correct. As Chrissy lley put it in The Sunday Times (January 29th): “Osborne’s prurient fascination with homosexuals, yet outward show of loathing for them, was a classic projection — away from himself, by reviling other people. He found most disturbing in others what he found most disgusting in himself.”

Which brings us to another outing-related topic, that of the Bishop of Portsmouth, one of those named in the OutRage! action last November. The Right Reverend Timothy Bavin has decided to resign his post and join an order of monks. He says, rather unconvincingly, that his decision has nothing to do with his outing. In The Daily Telegraph (January 31st) David Allison of OutRage! is quoted as saying “Instead of deciding to spend more time with his God, it would be far better for the bishop to remain in the Church and help win acceptance for gay clergy. His decision gives comfort to all those who want to drive homosexual clergy out of the church.”

Many of us consider the Bishop’s decision weak and cowardly. It seems even more so when set against the decision of the Reverend Simon Bailey, a young parish priest in Dinnington near Sheffield, who is staying resolutely at his post despite the fact that he is gay and has Aids. He was the subject of a recent Everyman TV programme and his story was also told by his sister, Rosemary, in The Independent on Sunday (January 15th). His decision must have been a hard one, but he says that he was determined not to take the easy way out: “The obvious answer is to resign, so that all the issues would go away. But, of course, they wouldn’t. They remain here and they remain in the church. The church’s reaction is usually to resign and go away. I’d really rather face the issues.”

And in the unlikely setting of a Yorkshire pit village homosexuality and Aids have been brought to the community and, despite expectations, the parishioners have responded admirably. But they responded admirably only because they were not relieved of the obligation to do so. By backing down and running away, Bishop Bavin has let the Anglican homophobes off the hook.

***

Before leaving the issue of outing (which I imagine will flare again quite soon if Peter Tatchell’s threat to “assist” a few MPs from their closet is carried out), we may once more see examples of that strange double standard that the press specialises in. Every newspaper in the land, without exception, condemns outing. “Homosexual terrorism” they call it. “Spiteful witch-hunting” they call it. That’s when OutRage! does it. But what are we to make of the front pages of The Sun and The Daily Mirror (January 19th) which both ran the headline: “Peter Lilley Nephew is Dying of Aids”. Or The People and the News of the World (February 5th) which announced on their front pages “Gay peer dying of Aids”.

Is this not outing par excellence? How come we don’t have thunderingly righteous editorials in The Times about “tabloid terrorism” or The Guardian lecturing us about “persecution by periodical”? Oh, but of course I forgot, when Fleet Street does it, it isn’t outing, it’s “investigative journalism”.

***

The Daily Express (January 17th) published an ICM opinion poll to find out how attitudes to “sex and life” had changed in the years between 1969 and 1995. The same questions were asked this year as were asked 25 years ago. One of them was “How do you feel about people who fall in love with members of their own sex?” In 1969 24% said “revulsion and disgust” while in 1995, 54% said “tolerance”. To the question “Have you ever felt any attraction towards a person of your own sex?” 12% answered yes in 1995, while in 1969 only 2% had answered in the affirmative.

Meanwhile, another ICM poll on a similar topic, this time for The Sunday Mirror (February 5th), revealed that 11% of men and 10% of women “fantasise about making love to a member of the same sex”.

Then The Independent (January 23rd) told us that a Mintel survey had found that “61% of 16-24 year olds feel homosexuality was acceptable compared with 48% in 1989.”

Progress, it seems, is slow but sure.

***

Natalie Wilson and her partner Denise are now probably the most famous lesbian mothers in Britain. For some reason, probably financial, they took the story of their baby (achieved with the help of artificial insemination and a gay male friend) to The Sun. When the baby was born, the paper returned to do a follow up and this was duly published on January 18th. The women appear to have co-operated quite happily with the paper and the report was, in the main, factual.

But if these women thought that by giving their story voluntarily to a tabloid they could somehow keep control of it and preserve their dignity, they were sadly mistaken. “It is a grotesque parody of decent family life,” thundered a Sun editorial over the page from the photograph of the happy couple and their baby Ellesse. “A child cannot flourish emotionally and spiritually in a home where the bedroom is shared by two women (or two men, for that matter). That is not what Nature intended.”

And what of the gay man who provided the sperm that made the whole thing possible? It seems he chose to give his version of the tale to The People. The resulting feature (January 22nd) had a photograph stretched across the front page of “outrageous Silvio Gigante” in full make-up and wearing some kind of dish cloth round his waist. “What a tosser!” was the charming accompanying headline. So, was The People any more sympathetic to this naive trio? “Wherever possible children should have a mother AND a father, which is the family unit nature intended. To come into the world via a yoghurt pot and syringe with the help of a gay man is not natural.”

The Daily Mail (January 18th) chose to emphasise the fact that the women were both out of work and living on benefits (and, presumably, the occasional hand-out from News International). They also brought the Jesus-in-jackboots brigade goose-stepping out to comment. General Synod member Rev David Holloway said: “Some children born this way resent their mother’s lover as they grow up. Others are tempted to turn to homosexuality because of the role models they are given.” (The fact that every study ever conducted into this phenomenon has proved the opposite to be true is of no interest to Holloway or his ilk.)

Mary Kenny, on the other hand (Daily Mail January 23rd) thought that far from causing an affront to “family values”, the women were actually paying them a compliment. By aping the traditional concept of “Just honey and me/ and baby makes three,” Denise and Natalie were demonstrating “an historic rejection of ‘gay values’”. She says: “Today, the trend among self-declared homosexuals… is the yearning to be ordinary, respectable, even suburban — to be seen as ‘normal’ and in so many cases to share in the most acceptable way of everyday family life, complete with children. In that sense, the yearning for ordinariness is part of the rejection of the exotic difference of ‘traditional’ homosexuality.”

You’ve got to give Mary Kenny some credit for her amazing capacity for self-deception. Either that, or her ingenuity in taking the needs of some gay people and presenting them as a total sea-change in homosexuality. Given that her audience (Daily Mail and Sunday Telegraph) is, for the large part, totally ignorant and uninformed about homosexual lifestyles anyway, she is unlikely to be contradicted, however barmy her theories. Ms Kenny is, of course, a fanatical Roman Catholic, and this shines through in everything she writes. It does mean, however, that if the truth doesn’t correspond with her beliefs, then that truth is not true and has to be subjugated. I can’t make my mind up whether she is a ruthlessly clever propagandist or just pathetically deluded.

GAY TIMES April 1995

Ever since right-wing newspapers discovered that they could make easy political capital from lesbian and gay issues, journalists have become skilled at angling stories to fit their agenda. They have been assisted in this by ruthless Tory councillors who comb council minutes looking for instances of Labour’s support for gay rights. Once discovered, these often-trivial matters are fed to the press who then invert, distort and inflate them.

One of the favourite techniques for bashing the Labour Party with the gay cudgel is to suggest that if gay people get a slice of the public pie — however small — then it must inevitably be at the expense of heterosexuals. The latest instance of this came when Avon City Council decided to make a grant of £2,320 to Bristol Young Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Group. “Gays win, Scouts lose” was the baldly stated headline over the story in The Daily Telegraph (March 2nd). Couldn’t be clearer than that, could it? The lesbians were getting money that rightly belonged to the Scouts.

The Daily Mail, which more or less invented this trick, headed its version of the story: “The lesbians cash in — Scouts lose grant as ‘politically correct’ councillors fund a women’s group instead” (March 2nd).

All the ingredients were there. First of all, everything rests on the assumption that the very idea of giving public money to gays is “scandalous”. It then moves on to suggest that gays have somehow stolen the money from the Scouts (which is, of course, a worthy organisation for ‘normal’ people). How did they manage this? Well, with the connivance of “Socialists and their left-wing lackeys — and the Liberal Democrats who support them in a coalition” (this is a direct quote). Another essential element in the scenario is the “outraged Tory councillor”. In this instance it is Mr Michael Roe who says: “The decision shows what a myth it is for people to speak of ‘New Labour’ because when they control the tax-payers’ money, they pursue politically correct ideals”.

So, what’s the truth behind all this? Well, the Scouts have done very well out of Avon Council over the years. Six years ago their grant was £28,000. This has been steadily eroded by what a Labour councillor, Betty Perry, claims are Government cuts. All the same, the amount of money given to the Scouts over the years amounts to hundreds of thousands of pounds. This makes the grant to the lesbian group seem like small beer indeed. I’m not saying that the Scouts are undeserving. It would be good if everyone could get what they need, but it isn’t the Labour Party that capped Avon council’s spending.

No, this story was a clever concoction of mischievous half-truths put together by a local Tory councillor and a journalist with a political agenda. The angle they created for it ruthlessly exploited the lives of lesbians and gay men, with no regard for the possible consequences on them.

And this wasn’t the only example of the if-gays-win-straights-must-lose approach. The Sunday Times (an increasingly despicable rag) told us that “BBC spends £4m on gays and women” (February 19th). The story stated that “the Corporation is set on creating its own politically correct world out of touch with reality” simply because it wants to be fair to women, the disabled and its lesbian and gay employees.

The paper said: “The policies mean that black and disabled people should be represented in every department, lesbian and gay staff are invited to enrol on free self-defence courses and anybody who feels harassed about anything can ring a free helpline.”

How terrible! The BBC actually wants to treat its employees fairly! This is something that The Sunday Times seems incapable of understanding. But, of course, “licence-payers’ money” is being used to finance this “nonsense” and so, once more, homosexuals are portrayed as sponges that soak up heterosexual taxes.

The Sunday Times, of course, is owned by Rupert Murdoch whose own television interests would be greatly enhanced if the BBC didn’t exist. His newspapers let pass no opportunity to defame the Beeb. One has to ask: is this journalism or is it commercial propaganda? The very existence of this story — and many others like it —shows that a once-great newspaper has been reduced to filling its pages with distortion in order to promote its proprietor’s financial interests.

Next up with The Trick was The Mail on Sunday which returned to the gays in the military “scandal” (February 26th). “Forces won’t give in to ‘gays’” was its front-page headline, reviving the habit of placing the word gay in quotation marks. In an editorial the paper said that the idea of homosexuals being allowed to serve openly in the forces was a “threat” that “must be fought”. It quickly got on to the “they’re stealing our money” gambit by saying that if those gay service people who have been unfairly dismissed from the forces were to be compensated, “millions could be paid out to those who knowingly broke quite sensible and long-standing rules designed to uphold military discipline.”

According to The Mail on Sunday, if such people receive reparation: “war widows, crippled service personnel and those who gave unstinting service to their country might feel bitter”. Well, so they might — and some of them might even be gay themselves. But surely anyone with a just cause for compensation should receive it — why should gays be excluded from the fight for justice? The paper then went on to say that if this leads to the legalisation of homosexuality in the armed forces it will “be a triumph for political correctness”.

Finally, The Sun — an old hand at this game — couldn’t let an opportunity pass and told its readers (February 27th): “What a scandal it would be if a penny of tax-payers’ money is handed over to these men. For Queen and Country was never meant to mean that.”

***

On the anniversary of the age of consent debate, Nigel Nelson, The People’s political editor had been retailing the details of a persistent rumour that a Government minister is gay (February 19th). “I gather that the path of true love might not be running smoothly between this minister and his gay lover,” he wrote. “I hear the politician formed a close relationship with an airline steward called Karl last year. So much so that he was prepared to set his fly-boy up in a London flat, a necessary addition to his domestic arrangements as he is supposed to be happily married.”

Mr Nelson says that something seems to have gone wrong in the relationship as the pair haven’t yet “got their pad together”, but he invites Karl to contact him — presumably to provide the scoop of the century.

I don’t know what we are to make of it all, but if you are into conspiracy theories, the minister — whoever he might be — could be little more than the victim of a political plot aimed at destroying his career by rumour-mongering. Whether the rumours are true or not, there is little about this affair to enhance public perceptions of homosexuality.

***

More statistics are emerging that give an insight into attitudes towards lesbians and gay men in this country. The Daily Express ran an excerpt (February 8th) from a new book called “Teenage Religion and Values” which is based on a survey of 15,361 British schoolchildren aged 13-15. It revealed that “Despite the emergence of gay rights and a general increase in tolerance, the young have a conservative attitude towards homosexuality: two in five think it is wrong and just over one in five aren’t sure. Fewer than two in five find it acceptable. Remarks from those we spoke to crossed the range from: ‘It’s disgusting, the idea makes me feel sick’ to ‘It’s all right if they do it out of my sight’.”

Meanwhile, MTV, the satellite youth channel, interviewed 3,000 young people in nine European countries, including the UK, about their attitudes. It was reported in The Independent (February 14th) that: “In some areas, the British were less tolerant than other Europeans. The UK had the lowest percentage (59 per cent) who found homosexuality acceptable, a figure equal to Spain but far lower than every other country.”

One of the reasons the younger generation seems to be inheriting its parents’ hang-ups about sexuality is surely because proper sex education is discouraged. This was well illustrated by the case of biology teacher, Vincent Pedley, who had — during the course of his sex education lessons — discussed oral sex and told pupils that masturbation was normal. He did not deny this but said that his remarks had been taken out of context. For this he was sacked by the governors of the Jewish comprehensive school where he worked. They said that such matters should be “left to religious teachers” (Daily Mail, February 17th).

Mr Pedley subsequently took his case to an industrial tribunal which agreed that he had been unfairly dismissed and awarded him maximum compensation. The tribunal said that the governors and the headmaster were “liars” and had “fabricated” elements of their case against Mr Pedley. Perhaps they need a bit of moral education themselves.

However, this kind of thing is inevitable when children’s education is put into the hands of Holy Joes. Then sex education becomes the one school subject where truth-telling is discouraged.

***

Michelangelo Signorile — the American who is credited with the invention of outing — wrote of the “alarming breakdown of safe sex among gay men” which is indicated by recent research in the USA (Guardian, March 1st). Signorile asks us to make a separation between “political rhetoric” and health education.

He maintains that we must face up to the complex motivations and thought processes that attend decisions about safer sex. When that unadorned cock is probing our arsehole, being well informed about safer sex is no guarantee that we are going to make a responsible choice. Signorile even admits to having had unsafe sex himself quite recently.

Signorile’s main point, however, is that most of the onus for safer sex has, until now, been put upon those who are HIV-negative. The message has been: if you don’t have HIV, then you must take precautions to ensure that you don’t get it. Signorile says that perhaps more emphasis should be put on the responsibilities of those who know they are HIV-positive. He tells of conversations he has had with HIV-positive men who “regularly engage in unprotected sex, rationalising that the other guy is responsible for himself and must know what he’s doing.”

He quotes clinical psychologist Walt Odets as saying: “Many HIV-positive men quite understandably have different ideas and feelings about life and live with different values and objectives from HIV-negative men. Despite what we would like to believe politically, many positive men are not taking responsibility for protecting negative men from HIV and do not see why they should.”

Although this could be seen as in some way “blaming” HIV positive people, Signorile is simply trying to face up to the truth of the situation. He says: “The gay community has the power to alter the course of the Aids crisis if we face this challenge and change the things that are in our control. That responsibility now rests with our Aids organisations as well as with each of us as individuals.”

It’s a hard message, but this is a merciless virus, and we need to be ruthless in fighting its onslaught.

GAY TIMES May 1995

It was inevitable that the outing volcano, which has been rumbling for a couple of years now, would eventually erupt. It happened last month. Out spewed all the drivel, the bollocks, and the shite that the media has been dying to get out of its system all this time. Thousands of column inches and hours of air time on TV and radio were devoted to it. And, unusually for the British media, there was only one opinion: outing is the worst threat to civilisation since Hitler. In fact, if you took the hysteria seriously, Peter Tatchell might well be Hitler reincarnated. Or, at the very least, Damien the Antichrist. He was certainly accused of dealing death when one of his alleged “victims”, Sir James Kilfedder MP, dropped dead on a train. The extra stress, the papers claimed, had brought on the heart attack.

But no one mentioned the life-long stress closet cases have to endure.

The whole thing had been brought to a head by the Bishop of London, David Hope (he of the “grey” sexuality) who called a press conference to reveal to the world a letter he had received from Peter Tatchell. The letter was a gentle, courteous and completely non-threatening request for the Bishop to come out with dignity.

Bishop Hope used the press conference to present himself as a desperate man under intense pressure. In truth, it was a shrewd move from a consummate church politician. The image Mr Hope was aiming for was that of the persecuted innocent. This was summed up by a photograph of him on the front page of The Times (March 14th). He is shown thrusting a large golden cross before him, as if trying to render unto ashes the demon Tatchell.

The press conference offered an opportunity for the Bishop to give reassurance to those young people struggling with their sexuality; he could have told them that it was OK to be gay. Instead, he moaned about “greyness” and “intimidatory tactics”. His moral cowardice shone like a beacon.

The papers in the meantime needed a hook for their story, and it came when someone labelled the letter “a blackmail note”. From then on, every variation on the blackmail theme was employed — even though the letter contained no such thing. Calls were made by some papers to make outing illegal (not, though, by The News of the World — how would they make a living without it?).

For a month, Peter — the first “enemy of the people” to live in a council flat — became the only man in the country whose name could not be written without the addition of an insulting adjective or abusive tirade. “An odious, nasty, vicious rat,” said Norman Tebbitt in The Sun; “Rabid,” said Nigella Lawson in The Telegraph; “Fascistic, cruel, wicked and evil,” said Cruella Currie in The Times; “Revolting,” quoth Richard Littlejohn; “Reptilian,” was the opinion of John Junor. The Daily Mail thought Tatchell “an insidious bully” while The Independent voted him “the least attractive character in public life”. A couple of papers even suggested that they wouldn’t grieve if he were assassinated.

Poor Pete was not even safe from those gay public figures who consider themselves to be on the “respectable” end of gay politics. “Brutal, savage and fascist,” was the opinion of the actor Simon Callow in The Daily Express. “He’s so palpably vengeful. He’s a fanatic, a person intoxicated by his own importance.” (Careful of the pot-and-kettle syndrome, Simon)

Michael Cashman — ex-soap star and a Stonewall high-up —also thought OutRage!’s tactics were “revolting”. He apparently told The Daily Mirror that Tatchell and company see themselves as “the sex police of the gay world” and said that victims of outing were “thrown on to a bonfire of discrimination fuelled by fear, hatred and ignorance.”

The media encouraged this gay in-fighting, of course. It gave them justification for their gay-bashing and helped them further avoid addressing the real issues. Even The Guardian, which can usually be relied upon to give both sides of the story, was reluctant to come off the sanctimonious bandwagon that the rest of Fleet Street was riding.

Of course, this concentration of hatred upon OutRage! and Peter Tatchell was a simple projection of the generalised disgust felt for homosexuality. It put me in mind of the correspondence which has been raging all month in The Daily Telegraph about how “that lovely little word gay” has been made to mean something distasteful by homosexuals. The correspondents don’t have “anything against” homosexuals, of course, just the word that describes their disgusting existence.

And so it is with outing. Those who oppose it couldn’t give a stuff about the misery and oppression that the closet represents. They just want to make sure we stay in it so they can be spared uncomfortable feelings. Heterosexuals don’t have closets, and they have no right to foist them on other people. Moreover, respected gay figures have no business justifying the cowardice of powerful closet cases.

In an early day motion, Labour MPs called for the media not to collude with OutRage! in its campaign. That might be hard for newspapers to do — especially if OutRage! comes up with something they just can’t ignore — but it wouldn’t surprise me if we heard nothing more of OutRage! or outing in the straight press for a considerable time to come.

GAY TIMES June 1995

The Daily Telegraph was pleased to announce on its front page (April 22nd) that Labour defence spokesperson David Clark had confirmed that his party would “lift the ban on gay soldiers” within months of coming to power. This simple re-statement of established and public policy was seized upon as though it were brand new and became a rather transparent attempt by the Tories to make yet more political capital out of homophobia. What a scandal! What a disgrace! The politicians had a field day: “Left-wing clap-trap,” said Sir Nicholas Bonsor, chairman of the backbench Tory defence select committee (Sunday Times, April 23rd); The Defence Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind said the idea was “foolish” and predicted “a breakdown in discipline”.

The Tory papers were quick to offer support to their political allies. “In battle your life can depend on the man at your shoulder,” said The Sun. “You can’t work as a fighting team if you think he might be worried about breaking a nail.”

The Daily Mail gleefully pointed up the similarities between the Labour “danger” and Clinton’s early debacle over the same issue, as did The Sunday Telegraph (April 23rd). Lord Henley, a Junior Defence Minister, said gays in the military “would be a key election issue” – perhaps a forewarning of Tory tactics to come.

Edwina Currie, stepping out of line and refusing to exploit anti-gay feeling for party political gain, wrote to The Daily Telegraph in support of equality for gay soldiers. “Generals and Admirals do have a duty to maintain good discipline and morale. That turns on what a man or woman does, not what he or she is. Bad behaviour comes from anybody, gay or straight… If such people want to put their lives at the service of their country, we should be proud of that fact and be sure that they are welcome.”

This, of course, gave the old reactionaries who make up the Forces high command an opportunity to parade once again all the tired old anti-gay chestnuts. Wing Commander D W Sutcliffe joined in The Daily Telegraph’s extended correspondence on the topic. “For most Service people ‘outed’ homosexuals are, variously, figures of ridicule, contempt or revulsion: they are neither accepted nor acceptable and become an isolated and divisive influence within a necessarily united organisation.”

Of course, all this talk of “discipline” doesn’t seem to apply to heterosexuals in this context. They can behave as badly as they like to gay colleagues and apparently the boss will look on approvingly. After all, the poofters deserve it, don’t they? Or, as Mark Lawson wrote in The Independent (April 25th): “You would really have to want to be a soldier, wouldn’t you, to sign up despite the opposition and hostility which you know you must face… Lord Henley and Malcolm Rifkind are concerned about attacks by vigilante heterosexuals… but if that is the objection, then surely the politicians should make clear that they are worried about gay soldiers being killed by their own side rather than their alleged inability to kill the other side.”

Wing Commander James Jay told The Daily Telegraph (April 27th) the “young men and women in the confined and restricted locations are very vulnerable.” Vulnerable to what, one might ask? Sniper bullets? Being sent on life-threatening missions by blood-crazed generals who couldn’t give a damn about individual soldiers? Not at all – they must be protected from “revolting homosexual perversion” which might “influence them morally”. All of a sudden our tough-guys and gals are portrayed as pathetic, insecure creatures unable to say a simple “no thanks”.

Lt Col Patrick Winter (Daily Telegraph, April 26th) thought he would feel safer “fighting alongside a heterosexual and not with someone who could well be more concerned with protecting his male ‘partner’ than protecting me”.

It’s all so tiresome and predictable, but at least this time the Brigade of Bigots didn’t have it all their own way. A group of MEPs, headed by Carole Tongue, wrote to The Independent (April 26th) saying that “No party must shirk from enacting the appropriate law, which would send an unequivocal message to the British people of tolerance, of belief in equal citizenship and opposition to prejudice and bigotry.”

And Mrs M G Corfield wrote to The Telegraph, “As an ex-WAAF, I know that homosexuals served with valour during the last war. My husband’s commanding officer was homosexual, and had great courage, discipline and integrity.”

However, by May 5th, the Labour Party was showing signs of cold feet. Speaking in a parliamentary debate on the RAF, David Clark appeared to be backtracking on the clear, unequivocal statement which had (he says erroneously) been reported by The Daily Telegraph. “A Labour government will establish a commission, if the problem is still there, to study the experiences of other nations and to adopt the best practices,” he said, adding that the chiefs of staff would be included in the commission.

It puzzles me why anybody would want to join the military in the first place, but given that many people do, there should be equal opportunities for all. Good luck to those sacked gay personnel who have challenges to the law pending in the courts.

***

I have spent most of my working life in the field of mental health. During that time, I have met many psychiatrists and been able to observe them closely. My conclusion is that most of them are badly in need of the treatment they prescribe for other people.

My cynicism was increased last month when Professor Charles Socarides came to town. This is the psychiatrist who still believes that homosexuality is an illness that can – and should – be cured. “A dread dysfunction, malignant in character”, he calls it. He was invited to Britain (from America) by the Association of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, who wanted him to express his views to their members.

A rapidly convened group calling themselves Fags and Dykes Gone Mad protested about the lectures. They were duly cancelled, not on the grounds that such dangerous guff really isn’t acceptable any more, but because the organisers were afraid of “heckling and fire alarms being set off”.

The Daily Mail was quick to reproduce one of Professor Socarides contentious articles. It did this, it said, in the name of free speech. Just because the Prof’s views are “politically incorrect” doesn’t make them wrong, declared the paper. Of course, as we all know, The Daily Mail is a bastion of free exchange – you can say anything you like in its pages, so long as it is right-wing, reactionary and deeply unpleasant. Yes, indeed, The Daily Mail provides free speech for a wide range of people – so long as they are extremists and/or thugs

Anyway, Socarides feels that society is under threat from homosexuality. He says that “the forces allied against heterosexuality are formidable and unrelenting”. He thinks that, far from being a small and persecuted minority, homosexuals are actually causing society to come apart at the seams. Such power we have!

Commenting on the significance of the invitation to Socarides, Susie Orbach in The Guardian (April 29th) wondered whether it was actually a deliberately inflammatory gesture aimed at getting the institutes which provide the training for NHS psychotherapists to dismantle their anti-gay policies. She says that “British psychoanalytic training and teaching is retrograde about sexuality… and by stirring up controversy through the vehicle of its most reactionary propagandist, the various institutes will be pushed — as they were two decades ago in the States — into confronting and dismantling their prejudiced position.”

One of the most interesting elements of this case is the fact that Socarides’ own son, Richard, who has a high-level job in the Clinton administration, is himself gay. It does not dampen Socarides’ determination to increase the torment of those most at war with their sexuality (which is what happens if you keep promising “cures” which just don’t work). But Richard refuses to be drawn into outright condemnation of his father. Quoted in New York’s Out magazine, Socarides junior says his father: “has a genuine fondness for his gay patients. I mean he does it from a wanting-to-help place and thinking this is helpful and this is a good positive thing for people.”

This says something quite profound and touching about father-son relationships in that the two men couldn’t be further apart (Richard the gay civil rights lawyer, Charles the fanatical homophobe). Yet neither is prepared to publicly condemn the other.

But the rest of us owe Professor Socarides no filial loyalty and he — and his odious, discredited theories should be opposed at every turn.

***

The Press Complaints Commission has a new chairperson in the form of Lord Wakeham. Speaking at the Scottish Press Fund, His Lordship promised that self-regulation would be strengthened to such a degree that those “illiberal liberals” who constantly demand statutory restraint of newspapers would be silenced.

Sorry your Lordship, but we’ve heard all this before from your predecessors. Haven’t the tabloids already had three warnings to sharpen up their act? Haven’t they already been told twice that time is up in the last chance saloon? And yet they are as bad as ever. Naturally, with their popularity at rock bottom, the Tories are in no mood to provoke an already aggressive press pack. They hope they can stem public alarm about the activities of the popular press with talk of a beefed-up PCC.

Wakeham promises that he will work “harder than ever before” to build up confidence in the Commission. Well, he’s going to have to work very hard indeed to convince this punter that someone like Piers Morgan — the editor of The News of the World — is going to take a blind bit of notice of him or the PCC. Why should he when the paper is adding so significantly to the profits of Mr Murdoch’s empire? It isn’t going to be the “illiberal liberals” who succeed in getting a privacy law, it’ll be the likes of Piers Morgan with their contempt for civilised values.

Even Woodrow Wyatt — who is a columnist on The News of the World — was moved to write in The Times: “That anyone is entitled to privacy in their own homes, in their cups or in their beds, is a concept wholly alien to The News of the World. The News of the World has as good as asked for a privacy law. The Government and the Opposition should no longer hesitate to produce one.” Lord Wyatt’s contempt for the paper does not prevent him continuing to contribute his weekly column to it.

That other great defender of free speech and democracy, The Sun, doesn’t like the idea of legislation to curb its intrusions, either. It made the point that such a law would only be useful to the rich and powerful and would, anyway, stop them investigating crooked politicians and businessmen. This is crap. All legislation which has so far been proposed has included a “public interest” clause which legitimises investigations into corruption and anti-social activities. There would be careful provision to protect journalists and newspapers which are genuinely acting for the good of society, and not just peeping through bedroom keyholes.

One improvement, though, is that Lord Wakeham has said that the PCC will now accept third party complaints, which may open the way to more successful protests about the general abuse of gay people in newspapers. We’ll be seeking out opportunities to put it to the test.

***

Lily Savage has been collecting glowing reviews as she trolls around the nation’s theatres, raising laughs galore from a grateful populace.

The Independent on Sunday’s Ben Thompson caught up with “the partially reformed Birkenhead scrubber” in Southend. There he discovered that the theatre shows contained a level of “scabrous piquancy” which is “unattainable in the bite-sized chunks in which television usually serves her up.” Indeed, TV viewers never get the best of Lil — the medium isn’t big enough for her.

Latest Lily-ism to set me rocking was her description of her own face: “like a ferret licking snot off a nettle.” But Thompson noticed that she continues the “subversive tradition of making gay jokes acceptable to a non-gay audience” and that the drag manages never to lurch into misogyny. The act, he says, “comes across not as a mockery of womanhood but rather a tribute to it.”

Long may she reign.

GAY TIMES July 1995

When allegations of child abuse arise it is essential that they are rapidly and thoroughly investigated and the culprits — if any —brought to justice. No one is arguing with that. And so, when children’s homes operated by Islington Council in north London were said to be hot beds of paedophilia, prostitution, drug-taking and violence it became legitimate — essential, even — for newspapers to probe and ask questions. The London Evening Standard did just that, and its investigation revealed a terrible catalogue of ineptitude, neglect, fear and political manipulation resulting in the dreadful exploitation of children in Islington’s care.

According to the paper, this evil had been going on unchecked for years. The Standard claimed that the council’s equal opportunities policy — applied, they said, with Stalinist zeal — made it impossible for staff to complain about the nefarious doings of certain people, simply because they were from racial and sexual minorities. If anyone blew the whistle, went the argument, they would be accused of racism or homophobia and their careers would be ruined. Political Correctness, we were told, ruled the roost in Islington and common sense and the protection of children went out of the window.

The London Evening Standard was furious when its initial reports were dismissed as “gutter journalism”. But they have only themselves to blame. Newspapers have published so many stories about Labour local authorities which have turned out to be unfounded that they should not be surprised when nobody believes the ones that are true.

Eventually Ian White, director of Oxford social services, was commissioned to investigate the alleged horrors of Islington child care policies. His report was published to a predictable howl from the right-wing press about the insidious ethos of “political correctness”. Or, as The Sun put it: “A left-wing council’s obsession with being ‘fair’ to gays may have led to child sex perverts being employed as care workers.” The paper said that “Gay men were given preferential treatment. Their references were not investigated.”

The Sun, as always, needed a scapegoat, and they found it in the shape of Margaret Hodge MP, who was leader of the council when all this alleged abuse was going on. Ms Hodge is now a high-up in “New Labour”, a fact which The Sun was keen to exploit. “Margaret Hodge is the face of the sanitised New Labour,” it editorialised (May 24th). “She smiles, wears smart suits and is close to Tony Blair. But this woman once led the hard-faced harridans of London’s loony left. She presided over a regime which recruited homosexuals and left the door open for perverts in the name of gay rights… Remember her smug words if you are ever tempted to vote Labour.”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, here you see the let’s-make-political-capital-out-of-the-poofs technique in full operation. And believe me, you are going to see a lot more of it before Mr Major eventually chucks in the towel.

And if you need more evidence, just look at what right-wing propagandist Norman Tebbit said about the matter in his column in The Sun: “Many of us who know Islington’s Labour council suspected for years that its equal opportunities policy for gays and lesbians was used as a cover by perverts to prey on children in care… It is an appalling catalogue of corruption, all going under the sick banner of equal rights for sex perverts.”

The Daily Express agreed. In an editorial (May 24th) it said: “Left-wing town halls, which pander to the gay lobby and race industry, have become a joke. For children in the care of Islington Council this fashionable obsession proved little short of tragic. Social workers there were allegedly able to corrupt boys and girls for whom they were responsible because of doctrinaire disinclination to investigate complaints against them. Political correctness discounted suggestions that gay social workers could be paedophiles.”

But it is surely The Daily Mail that is playing the “political correctness” card for all it is worth. It accused just about everybody who doesn’t share its neo-fascist view of the world of being politically correct. It fingered the police as being PC for (a) wanting to curb the yobbish sexism of its male officers and (b) advertising jobs in the gay press. The BBC’s drama department is also stands accused of PC because, apparently, it doesn’t commission plays from a right-wing perspective.

Then the paper’s star columnist, the fanatically anti-gay Richard Littlejohn did his bit to exploit the Islington affair (May 26th) by linking it with the appointment of a gay “New Labour mayor” in the neighbouring borough of Haringey. According to Littlejohn, Mr Alan Dobbie has “announced plans to tour schools explaining to children ‘what happens behind the bike shed— and to talk about safer sex. Mr Dobbie later insisted that his visits to schools would be nothing more than ceremonial, but he was quoted as saying: “Parents’ little treasures know more than their parents think, so it’s important to tackle the issues that are sometimes embarrassing to talk about at home.”

Mr Littlejohn fumed: “Even if some children find it difficult to discuss sex at home, what makes him think that parents want their `little treasures’ to learn about it from a 28-year old politically-motivated, tub-thumping homosexual.”

But before we run away with the idea — which is being promoted for all it is worth by the Tories and their press toadies — that New Labour is the gay-lovers’ party, let’s not forget that it was a New Labour council in Ealing, west London which was recently accused of refusing to allow a long-standing “out” gay councillor to become deputy mayor. The Ealing Gazette (May 12th) reported: “Last week we revealed that Cllr John Gallagher had been unceremoniously dumped at the eleventh hour, despite being seen as the heir apparent for the job [of deputy mayor] for the last six months… some party insiders believe that one of the reasons why Cllr Gallagher was dropped was because he was gay… The Gazette has been told that the move was made after advice from Labour’s London regional office, which advised that having a homosexual mayor at the next election in 1998 could lose the party support.”

The Daily Mail even managed to entice New Labour star David Blunkett into showing his true colours in an article entitled “Labour and the lunacy of political correctness.” Mr Blunkett (who you will remember voted against equalising the age of consent for gay men) says that he has been dogged by political correctness all his life. He repeated all the discredited mythology about not being able to use the word “black” (as in blackboard or black mark) and “man” (as in chairman and spokesman). He doesn’t seem to know that most of it is lies — lies repeated so often that they have now entered the public consciousness.

Barmy Blunkett then went on to say that medical advice to avoid exposing the skin to excessive sunshine because of the risk of skin cancer is more “political correctness” and that “surely enjoying summer is one of the last things we should have to feel guilty about.”

This confirms it — the man is crackers. The rate of skin cancer in this country is accelerating at an alarming rate. What does Blunkett want — even more people dying from the horrendous effects of melanoma?

The concept of political correctness is a useful one for the Right. It gives a rationale (albeit spurious and senseless) for their endless bigotry (or, as The Independent put it: “The phrase `political correctness’ is spat from the lips like a gob of expletive. They are not words with meaning at all but mere invective.”) PC relieves people of any guilt they might have about harbouring racist opinions or homophobic impulses. To have hostile feelings towards these traditionally unpopular minorities is now, it seems, OK because suppressing them or challenging them is the realm of the “fanatic” and “extremist”, the “mind-controller” and “Marxist”.

Where it might lead can be seen with these latest attacks on equal opportunities policies. The message is clear: “Homosexuals shouldn’t be employed in jobs where they might come into contact with children.” From there it could easily move to “Homosexuals shouldn’t be given special privileges” and then to an atmosphere where the exclusion of sexual orientation from equal ops seems reasonable.

The problems in Islington were not caused by its equal opportunities policies, but by the bad management of those policies. If managers were afraid to discipline gay, black or disabled workers when they did wrong, then there is surely something amiss with the disciplinary process. It is not the fault of those black, gay or disabled workers who are entirely innocent of any misdemeanour that an ethos of fear had developed.

Sneering about “political correctness” means that the issues of injustice and unfair treatment in employment don’t have to be addressed. The catalogue of racist insult and anti-gay abuse that some local authority employees have to put up with is sickening. The Commission for Racial Equality reports that twice the number of young black men are out of work than white. The British Crime Survey reported 32,000 racially motivated incidents and 26,000 acts of vandalism against blacks. And recent reports from Stonewall and Social and Community Planning Research paint a dismal picture of large-scale discrimination against gay people in employment.

Nobody should have to spend their working lives on the receiving end of the contempt of bigoted colleagues. No one should be denied employment because of their colour, sexuality or a disability — so long as they are the right person for the job. And no one should be denied promotion because their boss is “non-politically correct” (i.e. a racist bastard who hates “poofs and cripples”.)

In an article in The Guardian (June 1st), Herman Ouseley, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, asked: “Who are the gurus of political correctness? Where are they? And what areas do they represent? The answers are: unknown; hardly anywhere; and virtually none.” He says: “The advocates of the ‘political correctness’ plot rely on trivia, silliness and political excess to exploit people’s fear and intolerance.”

Political correctness has recently been defined in The New Concise Oxford English Dictionary as “the avoidance of forms of expression that exclude, marginalise or insult racial or cultural minorities.” This seems to me like a noble purpose, but the way it has been perverted into something sinister by the right-wing press is contemptible.

It does, however, give us a glimpse at what is to come as the election draws closer. Attempts to move the gay rights agenda forward will be increasingly presented as nothing more than “political correctness gone mad”.

***

The arguments being put forward by those opposed to gays in the military are curiously sad and mean-minded. John Keegan, the defence editor of The Daily Telegraph, wrote (June 8th) that whichever liberal way society at large might be drifting in the matter of homosexuality, the military remained implacably opposed. “Generals and admirals are adamant. So are sergeants, aircraftmen and Wrens. They do not like serving with homosexuals who reveal their orientation. They go even further. Despite a service ethic amounting almost to omerta against splitting on comrades to those in authority, they undoubtedly do split on homosexuals.”

Isn’t this something of a pathetic argument? If there was no sanction against being gay in the military what would there be to split on?

Keegan says that “Once the knowledge [of a serviceperson’s gayness] got about, once juniors felt under threat, once equals or seniors developed a simultaneously watchful and protective attitude, administrative action ensued as if by the action of an unseen hand.”

But that unseen hand has a name: bigotry. It has another name: injustice.

Fortunately, much of the excuse-making garbage pouring out of the Tory press was balanced by more enlightened features in the liberal papers. Both The Guardian and The Independent were unequivocal in their demands for change, and The Indy (June 8th) gave us the thoughts of Andrew Sullivan, editor of The New Republic in the US and a conservative gay man, who sees the political ground shifting. Gay rights, he asserts, are no longer the province of the loony Left, but have intruded into even the most reactionary of institutions. “A new political language has been born,” he says. “It is the language not of separate cultural existence, but of equal human dignity. It echoes with the resonance of the noblest of causes in our recent history. And it will surely, eventually, win.”

GAY TIMES August 1995

Right on schedule, the dead-beats in the “popular press” provided their expected response to the-present surge of gay-targeted television. Garry Bushell (Sun, July 5th) thought that Gaytime TV was more about “fantasy” than reality. “How many kids will be suckered by the glamorous myth?” he wanted to know. “How many will die horribly from the repugnant realities of a promiscuous gay lifestyle?”

A more generalised — and concerted — attack on what it regards as “Filth on Four” (or “sleaze TV”) was made by The Daily Mail. Over the past few weeks, the Mail has been running an hysterical campaign against Channel Four and its chief executive Michael Grade — whom the breathtakingly barmy Paul Johnson dubbed “Britain’s pornographer-in-chief’.

On the tail of the righteous indignation about the alleged bad taste of some of Channel 4’s output, (particularly The Word, and the showing of the supposedly blasphemous film The Last Temptation of Christ), came the launch of Dyke TV. Whatever the merits or demerits of Dyke TV (and, as no one has seen it yet, it is difficult to know whether it’s worth defending) it unfairly got carried away on the “tide of filth” conjured up by the unsavoury imaginations of Paul Johnson and his colleague, Mary (“batty old crone”) Kenny. They were joined in their onslaught by the aged former TV critic Philip Purser in The Daily Telegraph. This lumping together of what might well be serious gay telly with the juvenile offensiveness of The Word is annoying but predictable when religious extremists are charged by the religious press to make propaganda.

The ludicrously over-heated, over-stated fulminations of The Daily Mail’s posse of moral enforcers amused the nation for a few days. (Mr Johnson really is a national treasure. In former times we would have had to pay money to go and laugh at him at the asylum.) The problem is that very few people outside of the National Viewers and Listener’s Association agreed with him. “Asking those two blinkered individuals Paul Johnson or Mary Kenny to review Channel 4’s output is rather like asking Linda McCartney to host a guided tour of Smithfield Market” wrote one dissenting reader to The Mail’s correspondence column (June 22nd).

In the same issue, Barbara Sexton, who modestly describes herself as “an overtly feminine, intelligent, attractive, talented, youthful, compassionate, fortyish lesbian” let the Mail know that its readers aren’t all Mary Whitehouse clones. Ms Sexton objected to the paper’s depiction of lesbians as “the narrowest of cliques”. She explained that for 30 years she’s been exposed to heterosexual films, plays and columnists. She’s listened to straight love songs and had to accept that while heteros can be affectionate in public, she can’t. She congratulated C4, and particularly Caroline Spry, its lesbian commissioning editor, for helping restore some balance. (Ms Spry had been spitefully done over by The Daily Mail a few days earlier.)

But then the action switched from the TV programmes themselves to the advertising that pays for them.

There had already been a bit of a brouhaha over Guinness threatening to launch an ad with a gay flavour (“Bottoms up!” was The Sun’s “hilarious” headline over the story). Much comment followed about the unsuitability of Guinness ads as a vehicle for “that sort of thing”.

“Why in heaven would Guinness dream of running a TV campaign depicting blokes of uncertain gender, but almost certainly homosexuals, drinking its esteemed libation?” asked The Daily Telegraph (June 23rd). “… for Guinness to risk being branded, even by louts and hooligans, the poofters’ potion, would seem like madness incarnate.”

Everyone seemed in agreement — the ads were not such a good idea. Guinness will now probably agree — why pay to run the ads when they’ve already generated the desired controversy without spending a penny?

On a more sinister note, The Times (June 14th) reported that in the USA “the Christian lobby” has organised a boycott of Unilever after its products were advertised during TV programmes which the American Family Association say promote “sex, violence and profanity”. The “depraved” show singled out for most flak was the police series NYPD Blue which the AFA says is “pro-homosexual” and “promotes decadence and depravity, teenage pregnancy and random violence.”

When the Christian Right in America organises a boycott, the companies have to take it seriously. Both Burger King and K-Mart Stores suffered significant drops in profits after they were targeted. And, as the AFA says, once it organises a boycott among the one million members it claims to have, it can take a generation to dismantle.

Whether our own rather quaint born-agains could rally enough support to influence the advertising policy of multi-national corporations is another matter. When C4 showed Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ, Tesco, Mars and Peugeot all objected to their advertisements being shown during or close to the movie. It isn’t clear whether these objections were the result of any direct pressure from religious groups or whether they simply represented a desire not to be associated with controversial programmes.

Certainly the Catholic newspaper The Universe organised a huge protest around the film, telling its readers that if they failed to complain about it they would be committing “a sin of omission” for which they would have to seek forgiveness. The Guardian Diary mocked the afflicted by revealing that one man rang Channel Four threatening to blow up the building if the screening went ahead. When the duty officer asked for his name and address, the man dutifully gave it. Presumably he was forbidden by his religion to lie, and so received a visit from the police. No charges were brought.

I’m also told by a little bird in C4’s advertising department that a well-known burger chain has specified that its advertisements must not be shown during any of the up-coming gay programmes.

It is, I suppose, feasible that a company trying to foster a “family” image (and how menacing that word has become since it fell into the clutches of the fundamentalists) would not want its products associated with ‘alternative lifestyles’. But that doesn’t make the snub any the less insulting. Is the burger-buying money of gay people not welcome at these outlets?

Perhaps we ought to think about organising “counter-boycotts” whereby we deliberately switch to brands that are resisting pressure from the Jesus-in-jackboots brigade. I’m going to buy my Persil from K-Mart from now on, not from Tesco! And if ever I’m desperate enough to fancy a burger, it’s got to be a Burger King — and definitely not the other kind.

Let’s keep an eye on who is advertising on gay TV and, if we can, support them. It’s also important to let them know you’re buying their products — and why.

***

The farce that was the Tory party leadership election was almost hypnotic in its silliness. John Redwood didn’t stand a chance from the moment the TV news showed that film of him feebly pretending he knew the Welsh national anthem. What a berk! Who could have voted for a man who looked as though he was about to flare his nostrils and cry “No, stop messing about!”

Mr Redwood, right-winger though he is, said that he would not have precluded gay people from his Cabinet, although he would have preferred that they were “out” and honest about it. This sudden tolerance is strange coming from someone who had previously shown all the signs of being a blue-nosed tut-tutter.

There are two possible explanations why he made the comment. The first is the proven success of Chris Smith’s strategy: come out voluntarily and then The News of the World can’t do it for you. The second — and more likely —is that there are already gay people in high office in the Tory government and Mr Redwood wanted to ensure that he could have retained their services had he won the vote. Certainly The Independent (July 3rd) quoted — but did not name —what it claimed was a gay minister as saying that he was worried about Mr Redwood’s “puritanical streak”. Either The Independent made up this quote or there is at least one gay man in the Tory Government.

Mr Major has already declared that homosexuality would not be a bar to office in his government, and, having retaken the leadership, he is still happy to have a known gay man in his cabinet.

The problem is that none of these gay ministers is “out” to the country at large. Presumably if The Independent knows who they are, then the whips do too, and so it would be no big surprise to the Party if the men were to be “exposed” by the press.

But if these individuals, or any other gay MP, is reading this, I do commend you to come out and come clean. Although I recognise that Tories are not primarily motivated by generosity of spirit, you would be doing a great service to the gay community. And don’t forget, coming out could be self-serving, too, which is much more your style. Your Prime Minister has told you that he is gay-friendly, so there is nothing to fear from him. The choice is stark: take the plunge or take the consequences. Next time Rupert Murdoch wants a political canon ball to fire, it might well have your name on it.

You’ll notice that The Daily Mail is figuring large in this column recently. It seems the arena of anti-gay abuse has shifted quite markedly from the yob tabloids to the middle-market. Anyway, The Mail carried a story about “an explicit gay sex leaflet” which it claimed had been “sent to youth clubs” by the Terrence Higgins Trust. This leaflet, we were told, had “provoked furious protests” from parents. Well, one parent anyway — a Martin Clarke of Sittingbourne Kent. Mr Clarke says that the pamphlet (containing the dreaded four-letter words) was “seen by his daughter at her dance class”. Shame! Indignation! How could they do this to a little child?

You needed to read to the end of the article to discover that Mr Clarke’s daughter is actually 20 years old and is the teacher of the dance class. And you have to read even further to discover that the pamphlet was distributed to youth club leaders, not members. So, in fact, no little kiddies saw it at all. Still, the leaflet was then “banned” by Kent County Council who had taken the objections at face value. Talk about weasel words — The Daily Mail’s tongue has more forks than a canteen of cutlery.

Not to be out-done in the let’s-bash-Labour-with-the-gay-cudgel stakes, The Sun has “a watchdog” called Leo McKinsty to report on “political correctness and public waste” in local authorities. As you’d expect, his attacks are almost entirely on “left-wing” Labour councils. On June 30th he was droning on about Islington library stocking The Aids Trainers’ Directory — a list of courses on HIV and related issues —which he says is “no medical text but a monument to political correctness in 1990s Britain.” (Yawn.) He says that he is “totally opposed to anti-gay discrimination but this is discrimination in reverse … these courses amount to no more than indoctrination in extreme PC values …” (zzzzz!).

GAY TIMES September 1995

When, two years ago, American geneticist Dr Dean Hamer claimed that he had discovered a “gay gene” there was uproar. Some gay activists grabbed the findings with glee saying that they finally demolished the “morality” arguments put forward against us by our most implacable opponents on the religious Right.

At the same time the fundamentalists were fulminating about why money was being wasted on such research and that, anyway, it changed nothing. The ex-Chief Rabbi, Lord Jakobovits, even saw it as a God-given opportunity to rid the world of homosexuality by employing genetic manipulation.

Now the tables seem to have turned again. One of Dr Hamer’s research assistants has cast doubts on his methods and, according to The Independent, her accusations have resulted in the US Government ordering its Office of Research Integrity to investigate.

You can almost hear the whoops of joy from the born-agains and sighs of regret from the manufacturers of “Thanks for the genes, mom” T-shirts.

Hardly able to contain itself, The Mail on Sunday (July 9th) rapidly commissioned an article from Mark Almond, a lecturer in modern history at Oriel College, Oxford, which was headed: “Exposed: flawed work of the gay geneticist who misled the world”. Mr Almond says that he knew all along it was all a lot of clap-trap and had never believed for a moment that there could be such a thing as a genetic imperative for homosexuality.

Now just a moment. Has the Office of Research Integrity concluded its investigation? Has it, in fact, even started it yet? Or are The Mail on Sunday and Mark Almond being a tad premature in their celebration of the supposed “discrediting” of Dr Hamer’s findings?

Given that, at the moment, we have only one woman’s doubts to go on, what justification could the paper have for declaring Hamer’s work “flawed” and “misleading”?

Let’s just get the facts before we jump to any conclusions.

Ah, the facts. As Mark Almond says in his article: science is about facts and facts alone, and yet facts are a commodity with which he himself seems curiously careless. He says: “Since the ‘proving’ of the gay gene, exhaustive research by reputable scientists to verify Dr Hamer’s findings has proved fruitless. None has been able to reproduce the gene or find any trace of it.”

Mr Almond has obviously not seen The Times on July 3rd (six days before his own article) which reported that a study at the Institute of Behavioural Genetics at Boulder, Colorado, had, indeed, “confirmed the [Hamer] finding”.

Dr Stacey Cherry studied 33 pairs of homosexual brothers, a significant proportion of whom carried the same gene on the X chromosome that was identified by Dr Hamer. Some had heterosexual brothers that did not share the same gene, and no trace of it was found among 36 pairs of lesbian sisters. Another study conducted by Dr Michael Bailey of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois concluded that “for males, homosexuality is roughly 50 per cent inherited. The figure in females is much lower”. Dr Bailey says that there are probably also “environmental mechanisms” at work — such as the timing of the hormone surges in the womb — rather than social or psychological factors.

So where does this leave Mark Almond? He says that because Dean Hamer is himself gay he has “an ulterior motive” for ensuring that his research would prove his hypothesis. He says that gay scientists working on such projects have a “hidden agenda” and their work cannot be trusted. But what about lecturers in Modern History who write about science but don’t declare their religious motivations for doing so? Oh yes — nowhere in the article does Mark Almond directly declare his real reasons for being so opposed to the gay gene theory, but you can easily read between the lines when he says that: “scientists should not play God… The decline of religion has led people to look to science for the moral authority they once got from priests. But unlike religion, science is not about faith — it is about facts”.

It’s no good, Mr Almond, we’ve got your number. If anyone has a hidden agenda, I think it might well be you.

But before we leave those who are trying to use homosexuality as a means of justifying their own hateful dogmas, we have to return to Paul Johnson (“Can we take this man seriously?” asked The Daily Express on July 26th). Mr Johnson has extended his campaign against the “pornographic” Channel 4 from The Daily Mail into the pages of The Daily Telegraph. His attack this time is upon Sir Michael Bishop, Chairman of Channel 4, whom he accuses of waging “a crusade against Christianity” by broadcasting “15 solid hours of sex-pervert propaganda known as Dyke TV”.

Mr Johnson (for some reason nicknamed “loony bins” by Private Eye) becomes increasingly hysterical as the article proceeds, lashing out at all and sundry and eventually issuing an Old Testament-style curse on Sir Michael: “It is relevant to ask why [Michael] Bishop should so strongly back what have become Channel 4’s distinguishing characteristics — tastelessness and propaganda for homosexuality. His self-compiled entry in Who’s Who… reveals the fact that he runs British Midland Airways. Which airline one travels on is always a difficult question. Airliners are fragile things and an awful lot can go wrong with them. And Almighty God is not mocked with impunity. Personally I would not travel by an airline run by a man who chairs a television pornography channel notorious for its anti-Christian cynicism.”

The fact that this passage is itself blasphemous seems not to worry the bizarre Johnson one iota. He should think about getting a lightning conductor for his own roof before he starts threatening God’s wrath — in the form of an air disaster — on innocent people.

But we leave Mr Johnson’s fanatical campaign against “plummeting television standards” with a quote from Jaci Stephen in The Guardian (July 31st): “These are important issues which programme-makers need to discuss, but to do so in an atmosphere of hysteria and contempt inhibits them from examining TV’s role in a vastly changing world. Rejecting people by a system of spiritual cleansing is one that, heading towards the 21st century in a complex society, ultimately leads to intolerance, hatred and violence for all those who do not fit the requirements of what is being held up as the ideal and the norm.”

***

The papers continue to out people — albeit at the moment only those of a deceased nature. Perhaps the one that caused most fuss was Jane Austen (“Austen a lesbo” as The Sun so delicately put it). The claim was made in an article in the London Review of Books by “self-confessed lesbian” Dr Terry Castle who, according to the Daily Express (August 1st) “has spent years reading the letters and novels of the life-long spinster.”

Naturally there was “outrage” from Austen fans who imagined that this “sex slur” was the worst possible slander that could be levelled against their heroine, but Dr Castle topped it by inferring that Jane had a Sapphic relationship with her sister, Cassandra.

Only if you read beyond the headlines will you find that Dr Castle isn’t suggesting that “they necessarily had a sexual lesbian relationship in the modern sense” but they were “clearly very close and very tactile. They definitely had a strong homoerotic dimension.”

One of the defenders of Jane Austen’s “reputation” says in The Daily Telegraph (July 31st): “You can have our response in two words” — but does not specify what they are. Another excuse-maker says that the reason Jane Austen never married was because “she saw her destiny as a writer quite early on.” The only problem with this is that thousands of other writers seem to have found no difficulty at all in reconciling marriage with their “destiny”.

One biographer of Austen, Elizabeth Jenkins, similarly pooh-poohs the theory, explaining that the sisters’ rather over-enthusiastic bed-sharing was simply the result of a lack of central heating.

And will the next celebrity step right this way, please. Why, it is none other than John F Kennedy, named in a forthcoming biography by Ralph Martin as a possible closet case. The Daily Express reported that Mr Martin believes the assassinated President had a gay affair with his best friend, “bachelor Lem Billings”. This affair was conducted when Jack and Lem were room-mates at college.

The author doubts that Kennedy was gay but says that he was “very unsure of his sexuality.” Rather like a certain Right Reverend gentleman of our acquaintance.

Finally, the recently departed poet Sir Stephen Spender was outed by the London Evening Standard when it reported the up-dating of a biography by David Hughes. “Spender, claims David, never ceased to be a practising homosexual, continuing his dalliances with men even after his marriage to Natasha Litvin in 1941.”

The author cites several anecdotes as “proof” of his contention that Spender was gay. The family say they will take whatever action is necessary to “protect Sir Stephen’s name.”

The interesting thing that emerges from all this is not so much that these people were — or might have been — gay, but that it should still be considered such a disgrace that it has to be ferociously denied — whatever the evidence.

It says much more about the unthinking homophobia that pervades this country than anything Paul Johnson might screech.

***

John Lyttle’s column in The Independent is an intimate examination of one man’s gay life. Mr Lyttle spares us no details as he dissects his reactions to the events that overtake him. On July 28th he was writing about the uncomfortable and confusing feelings he was having about occasionally not wanting to have sex. He was not, he revealed, the unfailing sexual athlete of gay fantasy. Sometimes, he concludes, you just don’t want to do it, and sometimes you just can’t.

This piece of painful honesty drew an extraordinary response from Julie Burchill, who wrote in a letter to the editor: “As an important member of the gay community myself, I object most strongly to John Lyttle’s morbid autopsy of his own sexual failings. Might I remind Mr Lyttle… that we are ambassadors for our sorely ill-used people and should strive to maintain a positive and tranquil appearance at all times. If this means lying about what brilliant sex we have, then so be it. There are enough gloating heterosexuals who will lose no time in pointing our short-comings out to us without we ourselves joining in the free-for-all.”

The London Evening Standard’s Diary seemed to take all this literally, confused at Ms Burchill’s sudden “unsolicited information about her sexual status”. Reference is made back to Ms Burchill’s recent claim that she and her friend Charlotte Raven are “not homosexuals. We are simply in love.”

Of course, Ms Burchill’s letter to The Independent was meant to be ironic. It was intended as some kind of obscure expression of her contempt for gay men and the gay movement, wrapped up in what she imagined was a witty, neatly indirect riposte.

In reality it is so embarrassingly pathetic, I think she must have written it under the influence of Vimto.

GAY TIMES October 1995

When journalists become desperate for news — as they often do in August —­ then gays had better watch out. This year’s silly season victim was Michael Barrymore.

The tabloids had been knocking on Michael’s closet door for weeks, examining every aspect of his private life. Then came the tales of clandestine visits to gay clubs and conversations with Ian McKellen and finally the male “friend” who told the Sunday Mirror about his “sex romps” with the star.

Joan Smith in The Independent described the pursuit this way: “Newspapers are increasingly taking on the role formerly occupied in Roman Catholic countries by the Inquisition. Tabloid hacks confront sinners, put them on trial, refuse to listen to their tearful denials, extract admission (torture by publicity) and finally administer absolution.”

Having thus prised the reluctant Barry­more out, the tabloids immediately started criticising him for “flaunting” his sexuality. “I’m sick to the back teeth of Michael Bloody Barrymore,” wrote Carol Sarler in The People (August 27th). “I’m sick of the sight of him. I’m sick of him coming out all over the shop… but most of all I’m sick and tired of being told how courageous and how brave he has been in announcing to the world that he happens to be gay.”

Richard Ingrams was soon on the bandwagon (Observer, September 3rd): “The trouble with men, or women for that matter, coming out is that they cannot resist referring to it thereafter at every opportunity… You do not mind the fact that they are gay. What you mind is that they are tremendous bores.”

That’s the new angle: homosexuals are bores. In fact, Mrs Angela Vigus of Chislehurst wrote to the Daily Telegraph (August 17th): “I would like to change the word referring to homosexuals from ‘gays’ to ‘bores’… It seems to me that these days much so-called homosexuality is little more than what used to be called exhibitionism.”

Paul Callan (The Daily Express, August 26th) agreed and under the heading “More Bore from Barrymore” wrote: “Am I the lone voice in finding all this baring of the sexual soul by Michael Barrymore tedious, unnecessary, vulgar and even a touch repulsive?”

Lone voice? You must be joking! “Don’t be an out and out bore, Barrymore” said Andrew Neil in The Daily Mail (August 31st); while Geoffrey Wheatcroft in The Sunday Express (September 3rd) said: “Was I the only one who wanted to chuck a heavy object at the screen when he came out [on a TV awards programme]?” And just to prove that great minds think alike, Alex Renton in The London Evening Standard wrote: “Is there anyone out there with anything to say about the Michael Barrymore news beyond ‘so what?’… sexual identity is fast becoming boring.”

But never mind the press gobshites — what about Barrymore? What has the hounding done to him? Will his career survive? Can his natural audience — the blue rinse brigade as he calls them — continue to love him now that they know? Next time the grannies tune into his show, and see Michael flapping his wrists, kicking his legs up with the chorus girls, embracing his male guests and dandling children on his lap, will they be seeing him through the same pair of glasses? Or will his camp behaviour — previously regarded as just a bit of innocent fun (after all, he has got a wife, hasn’t he?) — now make them shudder with revulsion?

And what approach are the tabloids planning for him? Will they leave him alone to get on with it, or are they going to hunt him into obscurity? Their initial reaction, after they’d pushed him over the brink, was reassuring: “It took a lot of honesty for troubled Michael Barrymore to admit he’s gay,” editorialised The Daily Mirror (August 21st). “We hope his honesty will make him a happier person.” Even The Sun said: “Now you can honestly say you’re awight, Michael.”

But that initially sympathetic response didn’t last long and soon The Sun was warning: “Britain’s most popular entertainer seems to have pressed the self-destruct button. He is flaunting his homosexuality in the worst possible way. He camps it up in bizarre gay clubs with young friends, shouts four-letter abuse and is involved in an unseemly punch-up. Michael you are risking the special affection in which you are held by the public. Come to your senses before you throw everything away.”

This is the danger for Barrymore: around every corner someone will be watching. Wherever he goes and whatever he does, someone will know that they can make a quick buck by telling the tabloids about it. All the stories written about his new life from now on will be decorated by the adjectives that low-life newspapers cannot leave out of gay stories: seedy, sordid, bizarre, disgusting.

It has begun already. “Barrymore pinched our bums in pub — brickies in fury at gay star’s chat up,” was the headline in the News of the World (August 27th).

They claimed that Barrymore had made lewd suggestions to two innocent young men in a pub (Paul Wise, aged 43 and Mark Gibbs, aged 30, actually). They were so traumatised that Barrymore fancied them that only a Murdoch pay-out could help them. You have to read to the very last sentence to discover that the reported events took place FIVE YEARS AGO.

Will his constituency of grannies still love him after a few more doses of this?

***

The only gay column in a national newspaper — written by John Lyttle — appears every Friday in The Independent.

And it’s starting to get on my nerves.

Mr Lyttle is rapidly turning into the Percy Sugden of gay journalism. Moan, moan, moan. There doesn’t seem to be any aspect of gay life that pleases him. He hates discos, he hates muscle boys, he hates the drug culture, he hates the gay press (“the new PC thought police”) and he’s decided that there is definitely no such thing as a gay community. He is miffed that he hasn’t had children. He cracks on endlessly that gay life — as promoted by gay organisations and pub-owners — is like some kind of prison from which there is no escape. He thinks that we are all living in a fantasy world, victims of irresistible commercial forces on the one hand and political correctness on the other.

On August 18th it all came to a head when he reported an encounter he’d had with one of his critics in a gay pub. “You’re John Lyttle,” says the critic.

“What I am is off-duty,” bites back John, in best Bette Davis style. The critic (who naturally has bad breath) persists: “About your bloody column… “

During this exchange the gay man who dares to disagree with John is, of course, portrayed as an arsehole, while John is full of good sense, witty ripostes and the kind of condescension that befits a star who has been forced to mingle with ordinary persons.

Actually, I happen to agree with most of John’s gripes about the scene. Like John, quite a lot of my friends have also moved on from the club scene, they couldn’t give a toss whether Old Compton Street is gay, straight or redeveloped into a car park, and they feel that Bournevita is infinitely superior to Ecstasy.

But just because they’ve grown weary of the gay scene does not mean that they consider it intrinsically disordered, and that all those who do want to be part of it are pathetic inadequates. (“Toeing the party, party line where getting pissed, ingesting industrial strength drugs and dancing all night with all your might is deemed a political act”, as Mr Lyttle puts it.) He says there is a danger of getting stuck in fun-mode and making do with a lifestyle instead of a life.

You’re reading too much into it, John. What it means is that you are getting older. Believe me, there is now a whole generation of middle-aged gay men who have been out for the best part of their adult lives and who nightly give thanks that they will never have to go to Heaven or The Fridge, or any other late-night venue ever again. Like just about every other gay man of their age, they’ve had the lifestyle. Now they’ve got the life.

But they don’t want to stand in the way of the next generation having a go. They recognise other people’s right to sow their oats and make their own discoveries just like they did. Pity you can’t extend the same tolerance.

But, John, you’ll be pleased to know that you have a supporter for your views. Polly Toynbee, writing in The Radio Times (August 19th), also thinks that being gay isn’t really as much fun as we like to imagine. Writing about Gaytime TV she said: “My main criticism is that it suggested gay means non-stop partying — an enviable hedonism. My objection to that is not a moral one, nor the danger that they may subvert our youth, but simply that it isn’t true.”

Oh dear. I’d been planning to throw a party next weekend, but I think I’ll cancel. I might get John and Polly knocking on the door complaining that the music’s too loud.

***

On May 17th, 1987, on the weekend before the general election, The News of the World ran a two-page expose entitled “My love for the gay Labour boss”. It concerned Peter Mandelson, who was at the time a “spin doctor” and adviser to Neil Kinnock. Mr Mandelson rode the storm, survived, and eventually became MP for Hartlepool and a senior adviser to Tony Blair.

Now Bryan Gould, the ex-Labour MP who returned to New Zealand a disillusioned man, has published a book of memoirs in which he briefly refers to the unfortunate News of the World incident.

This was enough for The Sun to claim that Mr Gould had “sensationally exposed” Mr Mandelson’s homosexuality — reporting that “it will be seen at Westminster as Mr Gould’s revenge on the man he blames for wrecking his leadership bid in 1992.”

Speaking about the affair in The Sunday Telegraph (August 27th), Mr Gould said: “I had no concept at all of ‘outing’ him. He was ‘outed’, if that’s the right word, and has very happily lived with that for the last eight years. The Sun knows that very well.”

So, there we have it. Mr Mandelson is Britain’s third bona fide gay MP, although he’s not exactly shouting about it. Perhaps we can now claim that our representation in the House stands at two-and-a-half.

Mr Mandelson is, of course, a well-known press manipulator. Journalists are not fond of him, nor he of them. I don’t know how he intends to play this, but I hope he is not going to let the tabloids have a second bite at the Labour-bashing cherry by allowing them to out him yet again just before the next election.