GAY TIMES 83, July 1985

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography “The Reluctant Gay Activist” is now available on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reluctant-Gay-Activist-Terry-Sanderson/dp/B09BYN3DD9/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

It’s inevitable with Wimbledon around there would be surge of interest in Martina Navratilova. Her honesty about her sexuality totally flummoxes the media. Because she’s so successful I can’t help but wonder how much of this prurient interest in her private life has to do with a desire to hurt and humiliate her.

When she’s interviewed the reporter usually starts off with tennis and rapidly steers the whole thing (as in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH) round to: “Her image has been affected by her romantic episodes with women, most publicly with the novelist Rita Mae Brown.”

But THE DAILY STAR started the other way round. Forgetting the tennis, they got right down to the nitty-gritty. “I cherish Martina, she means so much to me — Judy” was their front-page lead for a so-called exclusive interview with Martina’s “live-in friend” Judy Nelson. The snivelling reporter, Allan Hall, tried to present himself a close confidante of Judy’s. He worked hard on giving the impression that Judy had opened her heart to him and only him. After a load of guff about Judy’s children and the break-up of her marriage (all second-hand stuff) he could contain himself no longer. The $64,000 question just had to be put. “Are you Martina’s lover?”

Well, with Allan being so close to Judy, we could expect mystery to be solved once for all couldn’t we? I’m afraid not. “She stormed off” he wrote disconsolately, no nearer the truth than any of the tripe-hounds who pursue the women so doggedly.

Martina has been honest, told them she’s a lesbian – what more do they want? I must say, if I had Martina’s legendary forearm smash at my disposal, I’d be sorely tempted to aim it in the direction of Allan Hall and his colleagues.


TWO opinions on the subject of gays fostering and adopting children. The first, from Peter Simple, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH columnist who is marginally on the right of Attilla the Hun. His technique is to put anything he doesn’t agree with into quotes (“the women’s movement”, “Gay rights” or “ethnic minorities” for instance) trying to suggest that they aren’t quite real, the figment of someone’s imagination. He questions Camden Council’s policy of developing “positive policies in respect of lesbians and gay men interested in fostering or adopting children.”

“Only one question need be asked,” says Simple, “do these women honestly believe that this would be a good thing, or do they want, from political motives, to tease the ‘ordinary people’ they so deeply despise and confuse them so that they cannot tell good from bad?”

How refreshing, therefore to turn to someone who knows what they’re talking about, namely Graham Martin a social worker writing in SOCIAL WORK TODAY. He tells of his experience in arranging fostering for a lesbian couple he calls Joan and Mary. “They served as foster parents for 18 months and were popular, successful and skilful. I came to realise that in fact their sexuality was a minor, almost irrelevant issue.” He says that the ‘dilemma’ of Joan and Mary’s sexuality never arose. “Parents accepted their relationship as the warm, caring partnership which it is.”

He sees gay couples as a “ripe source of recruitment, many couples being childless and likely to remain so, yet they have the same parenting instincts as the rest of the population.” He says that gays are probably quietly fostering in other parts of the country too.

Joan and Mary had been warned that they might be crucified by the “gutter press” if their activities were made public, but they decided to go ahead anyway. Demonstrating an admirable courage which must speak volumes for, their suitability for the job.


A beautifully argued (and equally well-written) piece on Aids by Martin Amis appeared in THE OBSERVER. It compared reactions to the disease on both sides of the Atlantic.

After a terrifying description of what is happening to some Aids victims in New York because of the failings of the health insurance system (“What we have is diseased bag-persons living on the street. No-one will house them. No-one will feed them.”). He offers a rationale about gay lifestyles and why they shouldn’t be made into simple variations on the straight model. “The consoling idea of the quietly monogamous gay couple is an indolent and sentimental myth. With a large number of exceptions, it just isn’t like that. Friendship, companionship, fellowship — these are paramount, but pairing and bonding on the wedlock model is our own dated fiction.”

But he also tells heterosexuals that they won’t be able to regard Aids as “the gay plague” much longer. Soon it will be simply a sexually transmitted disease and it will change heterosexual lifestyles too.

“The liberation of coitus, the rutting revolution, has probably entered its last phase. When the danger is ultimate, then every risk is ultimate, too. It is over.”

Amis doesn’t see a cure for Aids, but the disease will “probably obey Darwinian rules and seek an evolutionary strategy, becoming less virulent, non-fatal.”

But as we know evolution takes a long time and, in the meantime, “Aids victims are in the forefront of the very pinnacle of human suffering.”


In THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH we have Alexander Chancellor writing about the shortcomings of the Post Office. So, what has this to do with homosexuality? You may well ask. We must be careful not to imply for one moment that the Gay Post Office / Telecoms workers bears any part of the responsibility for the appalling deficiencies in the postal serves,” he says.

The piece ends with a rebuke to the Post Office for their failings. Now can someone explain why he introduced the gay group into all this? We’ve already been blamed for the fall of the Roman Empire, the litter on Hampstead Heath and so on — but the late delivery of first-class letters?

I must be careful not to imply for a moment that Mr Chancellor has gone off his rocker.


In the Jehovah’s Witness journal THE PLAIN TRUTH (which contains anything but) there was a letter from a supposed reader (name and address withheld on request) who says “After years of being ashamed, crying and seeking a crutch, I prayed for God’s help. It took over a year . . . now I don’t enjoy going into gay bars. In fact, when I went in there lately, the surroundings made me somewhat sick. I thought of different guys who were gay … I asked God to change me. He has!”

Changed to what? Changed from being simply an unhappy gay man to being a miserable, carping Christian gay man. Some choice.


The Cyprus “secrets for sex” trial (which enabled THE SUN to feature the word “Gay” in three-inch letters on the front page yet again) opened sensationally. It’s the sort of thing the papers love.

I’m looking forward to more details of the fascinating-sounding “splash parties”. And a small tip for those in pursuit of the dirty details — you have to get the posh papers. The limitations imposed on the tabloids by their ‘family’ pretensions must drive their editors wild during cases like this.

The most prurient particulars only come out in papers like THE TIMES and THE GUARDIAN.

And my prediction is that homosexuality will have no real part in this trial at all. But we’ll have to wait and see.

GAY TIMES 84, August 1985

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography “The Reluctant Gay Activist” is now available on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reluctant-Gay-Activist-Terry-Sanderson/dp/B09BYN3DD9/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

First of all, I have to mention what the papers didn’t say—in fact, what they resolutely stayed silent about. I mean, of course, the Gay Pride Carnival. I just can’t believe that the largest single gathering of homosexuals this country has ever seen was totally without news value. But it seems I’m wrong.

So, if it didn’t mention the Pride March, what did the media contribute to our week? Well, on the day before the carnival, THE MIRROR carried a letter from Dorothy G James complaining that breakfast TV had carried an item on gays: ‘Zoe Brown said that homosexuality is natural, but so is revulsion against it,’ she ranted.

Alix Palmer in the STAR patronised Martina Navratilova’s lesbianism: ‘You see?’ she wrote after quoting a romantic anecdote from the Wimbledon champ’s autobiography. ‘Just like the rest of us.’

I suppose that’s better than the reaction of Heather Kirby in THE SUNDAY EXPRESS who said: ‘It isn’t that the subject is shocking anymore, but it is still distasteful to most of us and, although Martina says she doesn’t think her bisexuality is ‘creepy’ frankly that is what I think of some of the titillating anecdotes she seems so happy to share.’

Meanwhile the LONDON STANDARD gleefully told us that Tory-controlled Bexley council has ‘banned homosexual and lesbian couples from adopting homeless children.’ They quote Tory councillor Graham Holland: ‘I was attacked as a child by a homosexual and the emotional scars still remain. We can’t run the risk that even one sexual deviant could adopt a child.’

That, folks, was what the Great British Press contributed to Gay Pride Week.


Christina Monet wrote a feature in THE LITERARY REVIEW about the present interest in Aids on the Broadway stage. There are two plays on the subject ‘As Is’ and ‘The Normal Heart’. Ms Monet tells of the reactions of New Yorkers whenever the dreaded disease is mentioned: ‘decibels dwindle and shudders are audible in squeamish pauses … the latest body, the latest well-known victim amongst ‘them’ — for them is still the perceptual escape which allows the straight majority their compassion at a safe remove—a magnanimous view from a ringside seat, on the other side of the plexiglass.’

Of the two plays she prefers ‘The Normal Heart’ by Larry Kramer (‘far less popular and far more interesting’) which doesn’t dodge the more complex issues, the most contentious of these being the idea that ‘the spread of Aids is a retributive result of the promiscuous gay lifestyle.’

There are no easy answers to this or any other of the ‘moral’ issues involved, but the questions have to be asked even if they do make us squirm with discomfort.

One striking point which Kramer makes is “part of our problem is that our heroes have always been appropriated by the straight community …Proust is for us to share with you, not yours to deny us … our culture supports the legitimisation of promiscuity and pornography and continues to entrench the physical as the definition of gayness. We define ourselves by our bodies. And that’s what’s killing us.”

I hope it isn’t too long before we see these plays in this country, because these are nasty and frightening issues that we, on this side of the Atlantic, seem to be avoiding like the plague.


Back to the correspondence columns, and it’s THE OBSERVER who gave space to the Rev John Carpenter of London SW2 to say: “The Bible, in unequivocal terms, pronounces a homosexual as bad as a prostitute. They are under divine wrath and divine curse …no wonder that the noose of nuclear disaster is tightening round the necks of this generation which promotes perverted sex. Any Observer reader who may innocently get involved with this demonic sexual perversion may be warned, ‘Come out of her my people that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.’”

We can take comfort from the fact that this kind of hysterical ranting from the church preceded every major social change which has benefited mankind. The church vigorously opposed the abolition of slavery, arguing that the Bible condones the keeping of slaves (which it does). The South Africans, the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazis and the Ayatollahs all use religion as a justification for their actions, they all claim God is on their side.

And if homosexuals are going to burn in hell, these stinking preachers will have to move over and make room for us.


In soap opera, as in the everything else, there are double standards as regard gays, Apparently, it’s OK in Dynasty but out of the question in The Archers.

Jack Barton, producer of the everyday story of (straight) country folk, says there won’t be any gays in Ambridge. “These people wouldn’t be tolerated in a small village,” he says in justification.

I know for a fact that this isn’t true, as do so many rural gays, but the truth is no match for homophobia. I think it’s time Mr Barton was written out of the script.

Meanwhile THE SUN ran the headline “I’m straight, says Dynasty’s gay Steve” over an interview with “handsome hunk” Jack Coleman who plays ambisexual Steven Carrington. “The episode in which it was revealed that he was going to marry Claudia caused the most controversy. When it was shown in a gay video bar in San Francisco there were hisses and boos… one outraged homosexual wrote ‘It’s maddening to imply that homosexuality is just a passing thing’.”

I like the silliness of it all, but I was slightly affronted when Jack Coleman produced his ‘real life girlfriend’ so that the Sun caption-writer could say “She’s his proof,” and then quoted the actor as saying, “My responsibility is to be credible whether I’m playing a gay or a killer or what.”

Let’s face it, the only credible story line that could be introduced into Dynasty would be the revelation that Joan Collins is really a drag queen who has a fetish for men with wooden hair.


THE SUN, by the way, got a nasty smack on its botty from the Press Council over its scabrous editorial in support of Rugby council’s anti-gay discrimination policy.

After the ruling, Sun managing editor Ken Donlan spit his dummy out long enough to snivel: “I object to the aggressive attitudes by gay magazines and newspapers.” The editor, Kelvin McKenzie stamped his feet and said: “The gay community and their pressure groups are harassing the press.”

It seems the naughty boys at Bouverie Street don’t like to take the sort of medicine they prescribe to other people. If that’s the case—tough titty.

GAY TIMES 85, September 1985

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography “The Reluctant Gay Activist” is now available on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reluctant-Gay-Activist-Terry-Sanderson/dp/B09BYN3DD9/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

We’ve been well represented on telly this month starting with a modest little American documentary called Greetings from Washington (C4), a simple record of the 1979 Gay Pride march there. Then we were given a chilling glance of what life was like for gays in pre-1967 Britain in the Dirk Bogarde film Victim (C4). It is difficult to believe that only twenty years separates us from those terrible times.

Those intervening two decades are supposed to have been the “permissive” era and in Twenty Years On (ITV), David Frost chaired a lively, if superficial, discussion about the whole thing, including contributions from Denis Lemon, Richard Kirker and Germaine Greer. There was cheering news that a Gallup poll revealed that 82% of the British public thought that “homosexuals have rights”.

What seemed to be emerging was that people don’t feel happy with ‘movements’—be they gay or women’s—but they have no trouble accommodating individual people’s needs and feelings.

Germaine Greer popped up again presenting a religious programme called Choices (BBC1) in which sexuality—and particularly homosexuality-was discussed from a ‘spiritual aspect.’ Instead of the usual stereotyped responses from the fundamentalists, we had a rational (as far as reason can enter into religion) debate which came down firmly in favour of progress. Perhaps, though, this had something to do with the composition of the participating panel than a real change of heart amongst orthodox religionists.


The most pervasive image in the papers last month was that picture of Rock Hudson—gaunt and enfeebled. Day after day the same sunken-eyed, hollow-cheeked face looked out from headlines which ranged from “Rock Hudson Dying of Cancer” (SUN) to—when Aids was confirmed—”I saw Rock Wed Man” (NEWS OF THE WORLD), and the floodgates opened once more.

Poor Rock Hudson. The vultures have swooped in to pick at his bones before he’s even dead. “Our gay nights out with AIDS victim Rock” gloated THE SUN whilst THE STAR ran a three-day series purporting to be “the truth about Rock Hudson” which told us nothing but that Rock Hudson is gay and dying from Aids.

All the old clichés were wheeled out “Living a lie”, “secret torment” “bizarre lifestyle” and so on. Oh how they wallowed in it. John Junor in THE SUNDAY EXPRESS said: “There is rightly much public sympathy for Mr Hudson. Might there not have been more if when suspecting, as he must have done, the nature of the ailment from which he was suffering, he had not gone out of his way, as do homosexuals who offer blood, to place other and innocent people in danger.”

Innocent? What is Rock Hudson supposed to be guilty of? As far as the vile Junor is concerned he is guilty simply of being gay.

But who will be the next victim for them to “expose”? The rush to deny gayness has been rather undignified. Burt Reynolds is the hot favourite—he is reported to be suffering from some unnamed illness but insists it is not you-know-what. And the sneaky William Hickey in THE DAILY EXPRESS carried a little piece about Rudolph Nureyev. Apparently, the ballet star has had pleurisy and pneumonia. “He just overworked himself so was vulnerable,” his London agent Tony Barlow was quick to point out. But we got Sickey’s message.


Also, anxious for the world to know that they are not gay are George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham. “Gay? I’ve never been in love says George” in THE STAR. THE SUNDAY MIRROR carried much the same kind of thing from Wayne Sleep “Don’t Call Me Gay—why bachelor Wayne sleeps alone.” THE MIRROR said that Boy George had a “secret lover”—none other than Jon Moss, drummer of Culture Club. But what does Jon have to say about this? Very little, but his spokesman says: “This is so ridiculous.” Thanks a bundle you guys.


But back to Aids and how is this for five-star hypocrisy? THE DAILY TELEGRAPH carried an editorial that chided newspapers for, “a tendency to hysteria and myth”. It then goes on to say: “Moreover the scarcely concealed glee in some quarters about divine retribution for perversion is at best lacking in any Christian compassion, and at worst morally repugnant.” But wasn’t it this same newspaper that only recently wrote about the temptation to “gloat over the sufferings of homosexuals”? Now they say: “Homosexuals are seen as carriers of a deadly disease, and a threat to society at large. In this climate, a typical response … is for the gay community to retrench even further into a stereotyped politicised minority. Nothing could be more detrimental to better understanding nor be guaranteed to bring this controversy to a more bitter and fruitless end.”

Isn’t this rich coming as it does from Fleet Street which has consistently ignored the real needs of homosexuals and continues to present us as “bizarre” and “weird”. I think it’s what’s called a no-win situation.

Take THE SUN which carried this gem: “The sickest joke among America’s 12 million gays goes like this. Son: Mom, I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is I’m gay. The good news is I’m dying.” I would stake my arm that such a “joke” did not emanate from the gay community—more likely from the sick minds festering in the Sun offices.

Meanwhile, THE DAILY MAIL tells us that “Aids is spreading through Europe as rapidly as in America, says the World Health Organisation.” Does the Government listen? “The country is sitting back waiting for half a million people to be infected, instead of the 10,000 or so that we have at present,” said Professor Julian Peto in THE OBSERVER. “We are heading inexorably towards an Aids crisis like the one in America today.”

To demonstrate this Government’s strange priorities, I quote Dr Richard Tedder, consultant virologist at the Middlesex Hospital in the same OBSERVER feature: “We are planning to spend £10 million a year screening all the blood in the transfusion service, which will prevent about 50-100 patients from receiving affected blood. Why are we not spending £100 million on trying to prevent the 10,000 infected people from spreading the disease by sexual contact and other means?” Dr Jon Weber of St Mary’s Hospital said the Government was showing “incredible complacency.”

Maybe the first shot in a gigantic threat to us all was fired in THE TIMES. Dr John Griffin said that there should be “compulsory” screening of male and female prostitutes and “Laws aimed at trying to ensure that Aids sufferers do not pass on the infection are being considered in Sweden”. Then he says: “If the morbidity and mortality due to Aids is to be contained, it could well be necessary to take swift action in a number of controversial areas.”

What these “controversial areas” might be is not clear, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to know what our enemies would like to see. The Government, which is starving researchers and educators of funds, is no friend of gays. We are vulnerable and our only hope is responsibility and a united voice in the face of hostility.


William Hickey reports that Lord Snowdon “chose author Charles Castle to write the first biography of his bachelor uncle Oliver Messel” but told him that he must not mention the interior decorator and stage designer’s homosexuality.

Well, that’s one little volume I won’t be soiling my hands with.


THE LONDON STANDARD says, “A million people who work with children are to be subject to new police vetting to make sure they do not have records of sex offences, Home Secretary Leon Brittan announced today.”

That sounds like bad news for all those gays who work in “sensitive” jobs with young people. For my personal experience is that you don’t have to have a criminal record to find yourself on the police computer listed as gay.

GAY TIMES 86, October 1985

“Truth is the greatest enemy of fear and ignorance. Truth will surely conquer Aids, maybe within a relatively short space of time.”

Brave words—but from which paper? Believe it or not, it’s THE SUN. But, of course, this editorial rhetoric is nothing more than the usual empty cant. The Sun has no more regard for the truth than it ever had.

If The Sun had wanted to tell the truth about Aids, why did it headline “Cough can spread Aids”? Leading experts were quick to point out that there was no evidence to support such a wild claim. Professor Michael Adler said on The Jimmy Young Programme (Radio 2): “When you see me dying and everyone at the Middlesex Hospital dying who are looking after Aids patients then you can come back to me and say that I am wrong.” Even THE DAILY MAIL carried that. Did the Sun? No, it did not. Instead it said: “And whilst there is no proof it can be passing by kissing, the theory that it might be passed by mouth has not yet been ruled out by experts.”

We must also look at whether the SUN is reflecting reactions to Aids or it is it attempting to create them? Take the story it carried headed: “Aids scare empties pub.” It claimed that “terrified tipplers deserted their local after the landlord sent out a special invitation to gays.” But is it true? Well, we have only tie SUN’s word for it. Could it be that this detestable rag is trying to encourage a leper mentality towards gays?

Miriam Stoppard tried in her “Where There’s Life?” programme (ITV) to calm fears by talking to Aids victims in a sympathetic and sensible way. It was a moving programme, but it cut no ice with The DAILY EXPRESS’s TV critic. “Thanks doctor … but it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he wrote, “despite what they try to tell us on television, maybe they will permit a sceptical public to take their own simple precautions.”

For “simple precautions” you can read mindless persecution.


Columnists in the British Press are overwhelmingly right-wing reactionaries. They all have a great deal in common, being pro-South African government, anti-women, pro-Thatcher and very anti-gay. Their attitudes seem to have been fixed when they were young and immature and are now impervious to change. Now that they’ve got Aids as a subject they can get all that phoney moralising off their chests.

“Stop this public posturing!” demanded John Akass in the DAILY EXPRESS. He was referring to the “powerful homosexual lobby” and the “gay publicity machine”— some-thing I’ve yet to see operating—and telling us to “change down to neutral” in our demands for equality.

As a regular consumer of the Fleet Street press, I can assure John Akass that any positive mention of homosexuality would be very hard to find. There’s plenty about homosexuality to be sure —you could almost say they’re obsessed with it —but all of it is either critical, mocking, censorious or titillating. Aids, says Mr Akass is the homosexual’s “private sorrow, their own exclusive sorrow. They deserve pity. What they do not deserve is air time and space for advertising” But where is all this pro-gay propaganda?

Never mind, facts need not get in the way of the message, and so we move to the outrageously inflated and pompous George Gale, also in the EXPRESS. “We are constantly invited to feel sorrow for individuals who suffer from the disease and for the homosexual community in which it particularly flourishes,” says the self-satisfied windbag. “Those who choose unnatural methods of sexual gratification choose thereby to put themselves at risk …It is more important to protect the lives of those who might innocently or accidentally catch the disease than to protect the reputation of those who have caught the disease through their own self-indulgence.”

Then we turn to the other self-appointed moralist, the Catholic martyr herself, Mary Kenny. She was writing in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH about the appointment by Manchester City Council of two officers to look at the question of discrimination against homosexuals. According to the blessed Mary there is no such thing as anti-gay discrimination. “In many artistic spheres, queers (as they are still called in the theatre—’queer as a coot darling’) are widely believed to be more gifted, more sensitive than straights.” She then goes on to say: “If prejudice against homosexuals is now a special problem in Manchester, it may be because ratepayers feel resentment towards councils who spend resources on ‘sexual orientation officers’.”

I wonder if Mary could be so hot under the halo because Manchester happens to be a socialist council? Or perhaps she’s just let her persistent smugness get the better of her.

Now we go to THE DAILY TELEGRAPH to greet the very wonderful Peter Simple, who took space to congratulate the Salvation Army on their campaign against the liberalisation of the anti-gay laws in New Zealand. “Let it stand firm. I am sure it will.” Mind you, in the same issue he was also congratulating the South African government for ‘standing firm’ against international opinion that it should dismantle apartheid.

On the ‘lighter side’, THE STAR’s Peter Tory says he’s had a message from “our delicate-natured Los Angeles correspondent Orville” who has exclusively revealed to him what the term “a friend of Dorothy” means. The incredulous Mr Tory, always first with the news says: “So there you are. Just another little lesson in the increasingly gay ways of this funny old world.”

If Mr Tory would like another ‘little lesson’ perhaps it could be in growing up.


Paul Johnson got his two-pennorth in with an article in THE SPECTATOR some weeks ago but is worth mentioning. It begins by castigating the press: “Since the Press Council was created, the conduct of Fleet Street, far from improving, has been worse, than ever. Never would I say that Fleet Street has been held in such contempt by the public, and justly so.”

One can’t argue with that. The thrust of Mr Johnson’s article concerns gay matters. Paul Johnson doesn’t like homosexuality. “The great majority of Christians and Jews, for example, continue to regard it as evil and many believe criminal sanctions should be restored.” And how does Mr Johnson know what “the great majority” thinks? He doesn’t make clear, but he goes on say that and says as much as he despises the press and resents its intrusion into people’s lives, he’ll make an exception for the coverage of Aids “It is clear then that the Aids outbreak and other consequences of homosexual promiscuity, are matters which the press must explore and discuss, distasteful, difficult and contentious though they are. All kinds of precautions, including the re-imposition of the criminal sanctions abolished in 1967… are areas for debate.”

In the following issue, Julian Meldrum wrote to the editor, suggesting that only person who should be locked up is Mr Johnson. I’ll echo that.

I don’t want to deny anyone the right to their opinion, but I must say that reading some of these columnists is just about the equivalent of putting two fingers down your throat.


The Tory press has often used homosexuality as a means of “tarnishing” the image of the Labour Party. The habit is well illustrated by an article in THE DAILY EXPRESS headed “Gay Lib poses new threat to Labour hopes”. The article said that “Labour is facing an embarrassing new storm, this time involving the gay rights movement at next month’s party conference.”

Apparently, because there are a couple of gay rights motions likely to get on to the agenda, we are going to inflict as much damage on the party as Arthur Scargill, Tony Benn and the TUC conference put together. This is the gleeful hope and opinion of the Express’s political editor John Warden.

It didn’t stop the TUC conference overwhelmingly passing their resolution in favour of gay rights. THE SUN reported this by quoting only one speaker at the debate which was, of course, Frank Sweeney who said: “Gay people are absolutely vile. They corrupt anything and everything they touch.” Not a single word of support was reported.


THE BOOKSELLER carried an article by Charles Clark, copyright adviser to the Publishers Association, which he submitted to the PA’s Freedom to Publish Committee. It concerns, of course, Gay’s the Word and HM Customs and Excise. He says the case against the Customs would make “hilarious reading” if the proceedings did not, as they do, concern a hundred individual charges against the eight directors of GTW. “But,” he says, “The publicity surrounding the behaviour of the Customs in their action against GTW may well provide the PA and the Booksellers Association with the right opportunity to press the Government for a review of the Customs’ powers, procedures and practices.”

No doubt HM Customs are kicking themselves for opening this particular can of worms.

GAY TIMES 87, November 1985

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography “The Reluctant Gay Activist” is now available on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reluctant-Gay-Activist-Terry-Sanderson/dp/B09BYN3DD9/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

The reporting of Aids continues at screaming pitch. The treatment given to the subject varies enormously and as you’d expect it was THE SUN that scraped the floor of the sewer. “I’d shoot my son if he had Aids,” was the headline over one of the most malevolently mischievous pieces of “journalism” I’ve yet seen. Given the criticism there has been over the deliberate panic created in the press over Aids, there can be no justification for giving three-quarters of a page to the opinion of some crazy clergyman to say (in large quotes): “If it continues, it will be like the Black Plague. It could wipe out Britain. Family will be against family. Nobody will trust anyone else and gun law will prevail.”

These are the words of Rev Robert Simpson of Barmston, Humberside. How THE SUN managed to find such a lunatic and why they decided to give such prominence to his opinions can only be put down to an evil desire to add to the hysteria. It was journalism of the most base and irresponsible kind, and there is nothing we can do about it—the Sun sails on impervious to criticism.

THE STAR, in its turn, ran one of those brave editorials saying: “Above all, the public must have a great deal more information about Aids, its effects and the risks of infection. Too many people are relying on rumour and stage door gossip about show-biz stars.” Which is rendered laughable by the fact that on the front page of the same issue is a story headed “Terror in Tinsel Town” which quotes from well-known medical experts like Linda Evans, Cher and pig-ignorant Joan Rivers, who seems to have little knowledge of the subject but an awful lot to say about it. “I have friends with Aids,” she screeches, “But I can tell you, there’s no kissing, no touches.” I wish she’d do us all a favour and shut her cavernous trap for a while.

THE DAILY MAIL carried a ghastly piece about American hysteria. It wasn’t so much an ‘objective report’ as a cover for the anti-gay feelings of the author, George Gordon. “America is gripped with fear, loathing and hysteria over the relentless increase of the killer disease Aids. What is terrifying its leaders is that the national mood is only a twitch away from focusing that hysteria on a human target—the millions of openly homosexual men who until now flaunted their gayness before the straight society.”

He goes on carping about the progress made by gays but is cheered to know that this is all being rapidly reversed. Then he says: “America is a deeply religious country, in which the fear of fire and brimstone is never far from the sophisticated surface”.” This, it seems. gives the born-again maniacs carte blanche to go on the rampage against those they see as the ‘originators’ of Aids. “The tolerant society is fast disappearing,” says Gordon, “Women, children and heterosexual men are catching Aids, and whether it is from contaminated blood or contact, it comes down to two primary sources—junkies using dirty needles and homosexuals.”

He tells us that Rock Hudson’s death, far from creating sympathy for gays has “aroused an awareness and revulsion that has swept the country.” George Gordon’s article ends: “The gay parades are over. So too is public tolerance of a society that paraded its sexual deviation and demanded rights. The public is demanding to live disease-free with the prime carriers in isolation.”

Now just a moment —let’s just look at what this man is saying. “Disease-free lives”? Humanity has never been free from disease and it never will be. What he means is gay-free. And that has implications that don’t bear thinking about.

NEW SOCIETY summed it up when they said that the Aids story is really one of “selfishness and fear”—which brings me on to the arch-practitioner of those two vices, John Junor, editor of THE SUNDAY EXPRESS. “Curious isn’t it,” he said of Rock Hudson, “the way he is being turned into some kind of folk hero? Elizabeth Taylor gushes about how much she loves him … others take their hats off and lower their eyes to the ground and talk about his courage … Mr Hudson may have had many qualities. In my view neither courage nor decency was amongst them.”

There are other human values too, like compassion and sympathy, I’d say Junor had them in about the same measure as a hyena.

At the more sensible end of the scale, NEW SOCIETY carried a large piece about what they called “the worst public health problem since polio and TB were defeated.” The author said, after looking calmly but not very hopefully at the state of research: “There is only one way to stop this disease from decimating the gay population, and possibly killing thousands of heterosexuals too: by altering people’s sexual behaviour.” The article is worth looking up and reading in full—it was in the issue dated 18th October.


THE latest gay play ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ had rather extreme love-it-or-hate-it reviews. Jack Tinker in THE DAILY MAIL loved it: “A triumph which packs its punches far and wide”. John Barber in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH agreed, saying he thought the play “the funniest as well as the most exuberant and perceptive and painful for years about sexuality, inversion and the disorders of modern love.” Irving Wardle in THE TIMES thought it “a revelation”.

But THE SUNDAY TIMES’ John Peter thought it “an entertainment for consenting adolescents. A long run might push homosexuality back into the ghetto from which it had a lot of trouble emerging in the past decade or two.” Michael Billington in THE GUARDIAN said it was “rather like Neil Simon re-written by Barbara Cartland.” Milton Shulman in THE LONDON STANDARD: “Such a soppy ending would have been derided as sentimental bathos had anyone dared write it about a romantically besotted heterosexual.”

Whatever the critics thought about it—and they’ve been wrong many times before—the preview audience on the night I was there were on their feet clapping and cheering riotously.


The Labour Party passed its gay rights resolution. The DAILY EXPRESS, SUN and MIRROR all quoted the single opposing speaker to the exclusion of everyone else. Meanwhile the SUNDAY TELEGRAPH told of the “increased commitment” to gay rights of 10 of the 32 London Boroughs and a growing number of Northern councils, like Manchester. “Council officers say the spread of the deadly disease Aids… has sharpened rather than undermined their commitment to helping the homosexual community.”

The LONDON STANDARD reported the issue of the GLC’s “Charter for lesbian and gay rights”. It quotes Ken Livingstone as saying: “Any statement about our grant for the gay and lesbian community was taken up by the gutter press who systematically tried to distort and twist what we were doing.”

THE DAILY MAIL is angered that Hackney council is giving gays “the same rights as married couples over council homes”. “The risk of encouraging people to claim homosexual relationships was obvious” it quotes. All these authorities just happen to be Labour-controlled. So, just to demonstrate that I am not biased I can report that THE DAILY EXPRESS told us of the Government’s contribution to the welfare of gays: “Government secretary Kenneth Baker is pledged to cut grants. Schemes thrown back include the GLC’s Lesbian and Gay Centre … Lord Elton promised that the clampdown would not affect genuine (sic) voluntary groups.”

Thanks a bundle Mrs T.


Some favourite gay films have found their way on to the telly in the past few weeks: ‘Victor/ Victoria’ and ‘La Cage aux Folles’ gave an exuberant portrait of the funny side of gay life, whereas ‘Fox and His Friends’ and ‘Nighthawks’ could easily depress the hell out of anyone. According to THE SUNDAY TIMES, Channel 4 has relented on its ban on Derek Jarman’s ‘Sebastiane’ and will broadcast it after all with only one minor cut.

Sarah Kennedy led a heated debate on gay rights in her ‘Daytime’ programme (Thames TV) in which the literally hysterical homophobes in the audience humiliated themselves with an incredible show of hatred and irrationality.

An ‘Open Space’ slot on BBC2 entitled ‘Plague on you’ was given over to an attack on Fleet Street’s coverage of AIDS. Ex-Fleet Street editor Derek Jameson and that puffed-up windbag George Gale of the Express condemned themselves with their own words. Jameson came over as a coarse, vulgar and thoughtless chump, as you’d expect, and Gale turned out to be an intellectual of the Adrian Mole variety, with about as much depth as a pancake. Lovely stuff.


Robert Baldock did a report on the Hippodrome’s gay night for NEW SOCIETY. It read rather like an anthropologist’s description of some newly-discovered tribe. I suppose this is explained by the conclusion he reaches about the ghettoisation of gays for profit. “The fact that there needs to be a ‘gay night’ at all indicates how hollow has been the social integration of the homosexual,” he writes, “… what 2000 years of homophobia did not succeed in doing, several years of freedom (under surveillance) have achieved: the domestication of the gay and the consignment of gay life and culture into a gilded cage … Sexual liberation has liberated people to make money out of sex. Gay separatism is a profitable business. The Hippodrome, despite the air of tolerance, is no welfare centre. ‘Tolerance is intolerable’, says Jack Land, the French, Minister of Culture, it is only a subtle, unadmitted form of racism.

GAY TIMES 88, December 1985 – January 1986 (Double Issue)

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography “The Reluctant Gay Activist” is now available on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reluctant-Gay-Activist-Terry-Sanderson/dp/B09BYN3DD9/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Lock your doors, bar your windows and watch out for the Hypocrites. They’ve escaped and are running amok in Fleet Street. Primary among them this month is a creepy Mancunian slob by the name of Bernard Manning who purports to be a comedian. With the collusion of THE SUNDAY PEOPLE who gave him two full pages to do it, he launched a vile assault on gay show business personalities like Kenny Everett, Russell Grant and John Inman under the headline “Ban the Panto Fairies”.

It seems Mr Manning doesn’t like homosexuals. “They ought to keep themselves to themselves,” he says. He also says that gays should not be allowed on “television, on stage, in clubs or in pubs.” But the main thrust of his ‘argument’ is that gays shouldn’t be allowed to entertain families because they are likely to “corrupt the children.”

This is rich coming from someone who for years has made a living out of uttering the most filthy racist abuse imaginable. Each time he opens his mouth his own unarguable corruption spews forth. A more worthless and degraded individual it would be difficult to imagine. Why then did The Sunday People give him column inches to expound these views? This is something that must remain between the editor and his conscience—but when the Hippodrome had the cheek to put Manning on as cabaret at one of their gay nights the discerning audience booed the bastard off the stage.

I am pleased to say that Manning did not escape totally unscathed. Alix Palmer of THE STAR wrote: “I once went to his grotty little club in Manchester and found he was the same in the flesh as he had been on television: a nasty, sweaty, blubbery teller of fartling jokes. He also keeps a bust of Hitler on his mantelpiece.”

Now we turn to the pages of that august journal THE SPECTATOR for our next hypocrite. The Spectator, for those fortunate enough not to have seen it, is the haunt of many a Conservative intellectual and thinker (if such a creature isn’t a contradiction in terms). A regular column called ‘High Life’ is written by ‘Taki’, the pen-name of a Mr Theodoracopoulos. He recently decided to “break his silence” on Aids: “Gutless politicians … are afraid to come straight out with the fact that extreme promiscuity has led to the Aids epidemic. In an age when pornography, expletive language is in every movie and rock disc and full frontals on television … the yellow-streaked pols are refusing to say that Aids is a disease caught by men who bugger and are buggered by dozens or even hundreds of other men every year.”

In the following issue a correspondent pointed out that Taki’s opinions weren’t original. In fact, he’d pinched them almost word-for-word from a column in the New York Post by Norman Podheretz. Not able to write his own bigoted column he plagiarises other people’s.

This, by the way, is the same Mr Theodoracrapolous who was recently released from prison after serving a sentence for drug offences so you’ll recognise his qualifications to moralise at the rest of us.

Taki? More like Tacky!


Not only the national press is engaged in the growing anti-gay propaganda campaign, the local papers are doing their bit, too. Just look at some of the stuff that has appeared in local rags around the country over the past few weeks.

“An attack on a South Wales gay society was made by Ogwr councillors yesterday. They were branded “perverts”, “drug takers” and a corruptive influence on the young by Tory councillors, while a Labour councillor described homosexuality as an illness which should receive medical attention.”—SOUTH WALES ECHO.

“Sick, evil and inferior are what a Bromley doctor has been accused of branding GAYS”—under a huge front-page headline reading “Gays are Evil” in the BROMLEY LEADER.

The PLYMOUTH EVENING HERALD told us that “an offensive gay club poster” had been hounded out of the local Citizens’ Advice Bureau by the Mayor of Looe, Mr John Enever. “I don’t mind as long as they’re counselling, but when they talk about gay clubs, I’m afraid I take exception.”

“Row over poofs and queers,” was the giant front-page lead of THE SOLIHULL DAILY TIMES, reporting Tory council leader Bob Meacham saying: “We took a liberal attitude to poofs and queers and now we’re knee deep in them. God has sent Aids to get rid of them.” THE COVENTRY EVENING TELEGRAPH reported him as saying: “The disease is evidence of divine retribution on a par with the fire which hit York Minster last year.”

These are crude and extreme attacks but they are becoming more frequent and local papers are giving them more prominence. It’s up to us all to ensure we don’t let these slanders go unchallenged. If we remain silent you can be assured that the Bible-thumpers won’t. We mustn’t allow our enemies to occupy both the editorial space and the letters columns. It doesn’t take long to write a letter—but it takes a long time to counter hatred and persecution once it takes hold.


And still Fleet Street criticizes those who try to help gays. THE DAILY MAIL slagged off Lambeth Council for organising a lesbian and gay conference. What the conference was about was of no interest to THE MAIL. All they cared about was that it cost £4000 of “ratepayers’ money”. They talk as if gays are somehow excused from paying rates. Are we not entitled to some small return from our massive contributions?

Meanwhile the bluer-than-blue SUNDAY EXPRESS said: “Gay city snub for cash crisis scouts.” Gay city? Where could that be? San Francisco? West Hollywood? No indeed—it’s Birmingham. “Cash starved scouts should not be considered for rates relief, but homosexual and lesbian groups should, according to Birmingham City treasurer Paul Sabin,” the paper reported. Proper tugs at your heart strings, doesn’t it?

The DAILY TELEGRAPH headlined: “Islington flats offer open to homosexuals.” But when you read the report underneath you realise that gays have no more chance of getting a flat than anyone else. But what’s the truth when there’s a message to get across?


A new threat to the Government’s long-delayed public education campaign on Aids comes from the strange British attitude to sex. When Thames TV put out an hour-long special on Aids, it included a clip from an educational video aimed at gays. Gay sex acts were discussed. The following day, James Murray, TV editor of THE DAILY EXPRESS reported that “viewers raised a howl of protest about a report on the gay plague Aids. Homosexuals interviewed in the programme used basic words to describe what they did to one another.”

But who were all these howling viewers? We have to take Mr Murray’s word that there were any because the one he quotes doesn’t have a name.

On the same theme, THE GUARDIAN told us (in a two-day “Aids Extra”) that the Gay Medical Association has had printing plates for a “safe sex” leaflet seized as ‘obscene’ by the Metropolitan Police.

How on earth are we ever going to get an effective campaign under way when we aren’t even allowed to talk openly about sex? People’s lives are at stake but the precious two-faced sense of “propriety” has to be protected at all costs. The Sun will gleefully print lurid details of rape cases and parade pictures of naked post-pubescent girls, but they won’t help gays save their own lives because that wouldn’t be “normal.”.


Speaking of THE SUN, it has carried negative gay stories almost every day for the past few weeks. One said, “Barmy Bernie in ‘race and gays’ threat” in which their new hate-figure, Bernie Grant leader of Haringey council was criticised for wanting to protect black people and gays from being murdered and abused. The Sun presumably wants the violence to continue and even increase. Does Mr Murdoch’s excuse-for-a-newspaper applaud mindless thuggery then? It seems so.


If you think things are bad in this country, you should thank your lucky stars that you don’t live in Queensland, Northern Australia. That blighted land is ruled over by Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, who the TIMES rather charitably described as “profoundly Conservative.”

Sir Johannes has recently introduced legislation that banned “sexual perverts or deviants and child molesters” from public houses.

The Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, described the detestable old fart as “a, Bible-bashing bastard” and the Australian press called him “a real raving ratbag.”

But this is mild stuff. Gay Times—being a family journal—could not possibly print what I’d like to say about the Premier of Queensland.


However, raving rat-bags are not confined to the deep North of Oz. Take our own dear John Carlisle, “the hanger and flogger MP from Luton, North” (as THE GUARDIAN termed him). He wrote to Ken Livingstone about the GLC’s Charter for Gay Rights, describing it as “a stain on the people of London pandering to sick and depraved people.”

Ken Livingstone replied: “Dear John, perhaps if you studied it in more detail you could come to terms with your sexuality instead of denying it. Yours Ken.”


THE DAILY MAIL carried the encouraging headline: “Gays axe Christmas”. It referred to West Hollywood’s progressive policies. Sounds like my kinda town!


As this will be the last Mediawatch column of 1985 I’d like to thank all those readers who’ve sent in cuttings and to have a single Christmas wish: that there be a controlled nuclear explosion in the vicinity of Fleet Street.

GAY TIMES 89, February 1986

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography “The Reluctant Gay Activist” is now available on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reluctant-Gay-Activist-Terry-Sanderson/dp/B09BYN3DD9/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Realising that he has latched onto an easy source of cheap publicity, Bernard Manning has renewed his attack on gays. A report in THE SUN told us that he had appeared on the Joan Rivers Show, which is being made by the BBC for transmission in April. Manning is reported to have made crude and cruel jokes about Aids and said that “The idea of homosexuals sticking their tongues down each other’s throats is disgusting.” A member of the studio audience told THE SUN: “Manning turned the air blue. If it had not been a TV show, I would have got up and walked out.”

A few days later THE STAR picked up the story and, after asking Joan Rivers for a comment, made it the front-page lead. She obliged by calling Manning a “fat pig … tremendous hypocrite … and even a secret homosexual.”

Manning didn’t like that last one. “To say I’m a secret homosexual is going too far. That makes me very angry. My mother is 85 and that sort of thing could really upset her.”

Oh deary me. Diddums do it. But you can’t have it all ways, Porky darling, if you’re in the insults game, you’ve got to be prepared to get as good as you give.

Jean Rook, who is not ashamed to designate herself The First Lady of Fleet Street, commented on the spat between Manning and Rivers in THE DAILY EXPRESS. “The ugly-tongued pair were made for each other,” she said. “They should walk off hand-in-trotter. Into their bloody sunset.”

Given her own dexterity with the poison pen, it might well be a case of the kettle-calling-the-frying-pan-calling-the-dish-rag smelly.


Another moaning minny (if I might borrow a phrase from a well-known megalomaniac) is Geoffrey Dickens, Tory MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth. He’s the one formulating plans to get Britain’s gay clubs and pubs closed down, ostensibly to “stop the spread of Aids”. Now, according to THE SUN, he’s had a “death threat” from someone in Amsterdam. The letter said: “Educate yourself about Aids before pursuing the closedown. You drive the gay community underground and we’ll take you with it.”

It ended with a Latin phrase roughly translated as “watch out for the hangman’s rope.”

But if Mr Dickens makes such dire threats at a whole community can he really complain if they hit back – even if it’s only with a letter? I understand that Mrs Thatcher averages ten death threats a week – and that’s only from Michael Heseltine.

Dreary Dickens goes on to say: “I haven’t got it in for the gay community.” The question is: has someone got it in for him?

Let’s face it, Geoffrey Dickens is one of those pathetic politicians (Peter Bruinvels is another) who think that by having their names in the papers all the time they can fool their constituents into believing that it’s the same as actually doing something useful. They rush at each opportunity to an ever-eager SUN with an extreme quote about Aids or gays or child sex or prostitution or whatever the latest media craze is. Because journalists describe them as “raging” “angry” or “furious” it gives the impression that they actually give a toss about the issues they’re blabbing about.

I’m afraid that like Bernard Manning, these men are just cynical media manipulators.


“London rape duo ‘homosexual’ link” was the nonsensical headline in the LONDON STANDARD over an equally silly story. According to police who are hunting two men responsible for 27 rapes of women in the capital, the perpetrators “could be homosexual”. The police don’t explain why two gay men should be involved.

Donning my Holmesian deerstalker I have done a spot of deduction on this case. Because these men are obviously callous, brutish, insensitive, amoral and as cunning as sin, it leads me to conclude that one is a policeman and the other is a journalist.


Channel Four’s BROTHERS achieved one ambition for the gay community. At last we have a sit-com with gay characters you can like and admire. Although American in origin, it has tried to tackle the issues without fudging too much. The gay angles are sympathetic and strongly drawn. The gay characters are as rounded as can reasonably be expected in such a setting.

Individual episodes walked a tightrope of bad taste, pulling back at the last minute from being offensive in order to let the gays win in the end. Naturally it is necessary to introduce the bigotry for it to be knocked it down.

The only thing that fails to convince is the fact that the gay brother, Clifford (Paul Regina), moons around making out he can’t find a “special (man) friend”. And yet he is handsome, well-built, charming, witty and everything anybody could want. His older, heterosexual brother, Joe, on the other hand, has managed to get himself several girlfriends during the course of the first series—one of whom made such violent love to him that the pictures trembled on the walls.

Never mind, I’m told that another fifty episodes have been commissioned and surely such a divine creature as Paul Regina cannot retain his virginity for that long. I’d make the pictures tremble with him any day.


The attitudes of the medical profession to gays is becoming increasingly important as the Aids crisis deepens. The idea of doctors displaying Manning-type tendencies when Aids is on the agenda is frightening. It was interesting, therefore, to see a comment in The BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL on the subject. “When Oscar Wilde was sentenced to a prison term for a homosexual offence it is said that the harlots danced for joy in the streets—while when he was travelling to Reading Goal bystanders on a station platform spat in his face. Since then the attitudes of the public in general and of doctors in particulars have changed—or have they?”

The question was prompted because for the past three years the BMJ has been carrying a small, discreetly-worded advertisement for the Gay Medical Association. Nothing unusual you might say, but the editors were shocked by the vituperative letters they received, demanding the ad’s withdrawal. “Am I to construe that the BMA and the editorial committee support the activities of such a band of homosexual perverts?” said one,  while another ranted: “… you may well be condoning and facilitating behaviour that … is wrong in that it is both perverted and immoral.”

A debate was forced at the Annual Representative Meeting of the BMA, with a motion demanding the removal of the advertisement. I’m pleased to say it was rejected—but one wonders just how representative of the medical profession in general these letter-writers were?


Paranoia bloomed briefly last month when Dr John Seale (“a Harley Street specialist” according to THE GUARDIAN) put forward the theory that the Aids virus was man-made for use in germ warfare. The Guardian could find no evidence to support such a theory. However, the London listings magazine CITY LIMITS took the story up and revealed that “More home-grown CIA ‘plant’ theories were mooted by some in the US gay movement itself … In Christopher Street, New York, the most serious ‘conspiracy’ theory has been researched by a team of journalists working on The New York Native—a gay newspaper … Their theory is not that the virus was ‘manufactured’ but that the State Department has been involved in a massive cover-up about the nature of the disease. They suggest this is because it involves the possible infestation of US cattle and any speculation along these lines would threaten the whole US agricultural budget.”

Well, it’s food for thought.


On the Aids front again, sombre features were included in THE SUNDAY TIMES and the NEWS OF THE WORLD. The NoW two-page spread reported on the work of “New York specialist in the disease” Dr Joseph Sonnabend. He told horrific tales of cases he had treated and the rejection and vilification of the victims. “This disease has brought out the very worst in human beings. A complete lack of compassion. Sufferers are just walking the streets in total despair. People are terrified to be in the same room as them.”

Sonnabend puts some of the blame for the panic on the powerful Aids Medical Foundation which he helped to launch and from which he has now resigned. “It started spreading social messages I found horrendous,” he said. “It suggested the disease could be passed on by prostitutes and was going to eventually wipe everyone out. The truth is there is no sign of the disease spreading outside the groups at risk—homosexuals, drug addicts and people who had transfusions with infected blood.”

Dr Sonnabend assures us he is not anti-gay but, he says, there can be no doubt that Aids has “spread amongst homosexuals because of the promiscuous lifestyle of some.” The NoW made much of this with a banner across the top of the feature reading “Promiscuity and depravity have spread this.” However, the paper admits that things are changing and Sonnabend says: “Aids in America is beginning to decrease. Homosexuals are being more careful. …I believe Aids will eventually disappear.”

I sincerely hope he’s right. But in the meantime the people who’ve fallen victim already are dying in terrible circumstances. THE SUNDAY TIMES did a follow-up report on the story of John Coffee, a young American haemophiliac who, when he discovered he had Aids, offered himself as a guinea pig for research. He endured all kinds of treatments and therapies, some of them extremely painful. His wife continued to kiss and cuddle him until the end proving, as she said, that “Aids is a difficult disease to catch.”

GAY TIMES 90, March 1986

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography “The Reluctant Gay Activist” is now available on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reluctant-Gay-Activist-Terry-Sanderson/dp/B09BYN3DD9/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Greta Schiller’s documentary film BEFORE STONEWALL (distributed by The Other Cinema if you want to request your local film society or alternative cinema to screen it) was well-received by those papers that deigned to review it. It tells of what life was like for gay people in America before the days of gay liberation. One of the speakers describes how difficult it was to Come Out to parents in the 50s. You could expect all kinds of extreme reactions, he said.

Unfortunately, things don’t seem to have changed much during the intervening 30 years. Not for readers of THE SUN, anyway. They were invited, if they had a gay child, to tell agony aunt Deirdre Sanders how they coped. This is a sample of the response: “Mary discovered her son David was homosexual … from a phone call from one of the boy’s ex-lovers. She says: ‘I didn’t want to touch David. After he’d gone I sterilised every cup, plate and piece of cutlery he’d used. I wish he’d got killed when he fought in the Falklands war. At least he would have died with honour.” And there is a whole page of similar reactions from perplexed parents. One father hasn’t spoken to his gay son for seven years.

Nowhere in this catalogue of misery is a positive reaction described. There is no account of the parents who have accepted and enthusiastically embraced their gay children, even though we know such people exist and are probably in the majority.

Nowhere does the article suggest that perhaps it is the parents who are over-reacting and being unreasonable. The blame for the unhappiness is placed squarely with the children.

I can’t help wondering, though, whether the fact that all the parents are regular readers of The Sun has anything to do with their dismay. If these distressed people have only The Sun’s version of what gay life is like to inform them, it’s no wonder they’re hysterical.

The Sun also reaps a rich harvest from its own campaign of misinformation in another article “My misery posing as an AIDS victim”. Leaving aside questions about the value of such a piece, we are invited to follow “Sun man” Peter Cliff around the country as he tells all and sundry that he has Aids. It hardly needs saying that taxis refused his fare, hotels closed their doors on him, restaurants declined to serve him and barbers wouldn’t cut his hair.

Once again you have to ask where the hysteria arose. How did people get such exaggerated fears in the first place? Much of the blame must lie with those yobbish journalists who presently hide behind a barbed wire fence in the east of London—the Wapping liars. “Media-bashing” they call it now when people criticise their rotten ways. I call it credit where it’s due.


THE front page of the DAILY EXPRESS for February 3rd carried the headline: “£140m spree on the rates.” The story said: “A Daily Express investigation has revealed details of plans to heap money on dozens of way-out organisations set up during Mr Livingstone’s five-year reign of chaos. They include groups for gays and lesbians, anti-police ‘research’ groups and ‘arts organisations’”

Page five of the same issue. “The GLC plans to hand out a colossal £100 million to wind up five chaotic years of Labour rule. The cash will go to gays and lesbians, police ‘research’ teams… etc, etc.” And the page after that: “A short-list of some of the recipients of the GLC’s largesse … London Lesbian Line, Black Lesbian and Gay Centre, Greenwich Black Women’s Collective …” and so on ad nauseum.

Have you got the message yet? That’s right —the DAILY EXPRESS is a toilet roll.


A new and worryingly nasty breed of Aids stories is beginning to emerge in the press. THE SUNDAY MIRROR tells us that “Kissogram girls have packed in pecking the punters—because they are terrified of catching Aids”. THE SUNDAY PEOPLE followed up its scandalous Bernard Manning interview with an even more slanderous attack on gays.

They report “panic” in Trinidad after “Homosexuals, some suffering from the deadly disease, jabbed contaminated syringes into carnival revellers.” The paper says that gays were seen to draw blood from themselves and then jab it into people at random in the crowd. And who is supposed to have seen this happen? Well, “a woman,” apparently, and a “customs official.” No names, no pack drill. The “woman witness” is quoted as saying: “Some of the gays are boasting all over town that they want to spread Aids around so that ‘straights’ will know what it is like to die slowly.”

The article begs many questions, not least of which is how does a casual observer know who is gay, who has got Aids and who hasn’t?

The story reads rather like one of those First World War propaganda pieces about the beastly Hun who were purported to have bayonetted babies. The new enemy? Homosexuals. You and me.

It is my belief that this story cannot be supported by evidence. I have written to the editor of THE SUNDAY PEOPLE to this effect and if he doesn’t come up with a satisfactory answer, then I shall complain to the Press Council. If any Gay Times readers want to add their voice to this complaint, I can provide copies of the article.


THE DAILY TELEGRAPH told us that “Aids panic sweeps Irish jails”. On inspection it seems that, just as they did in England, the prison officers are using Aids as a means of drawing attention to the squalid and overcrowded conditions in their prisons. In the same edition we are told that “Lifeguards patrolling South Wales beaches have become the first to be given protective masks to safeguard against catching Aids during mouth-to-mouth contact.”

THE OBSERVER reports that “A recent study by NBC and the Wall Street Journal… showed that three-quarters of all Americans polled believed that Aids would spread beyond the ‘at risk’ groups … a third gave credence to the idea that it can be caught from being sneezed on, donating blood or sharing a needle.”

So how do we challenge this frightening and stubborn ignorance? GUARDIAN readers get the occasional opportunity. After carrying a feature on Aids in pregnancy, several readers wrote at length challenging some of the usual assumptions. Richard Wilding wrote: “Once again your newspaper repeats the common but erroneous statement ‘one third of all homosexuals in this country now carry the Aids virus.’ Nobody knows how many people (gay, straight, male or female) carry the Aids virus … Among gay men in this country, one third of those tested (repeat one third of those tested) have been found to be antibody positive. It does not follow from this that one third of the entire male gay population of Britain are antibody positive, let alone Aids virus carriers.”

Of course, THE GUARDIAN is virtually alone in making space for such debate. The others continue untroubled in their campaign of distortion.


To compensate for Dire Deirdre (er … that’s Dear Deirdre) THE SUN’s horrendous agony aunt, we have Marje Proops in THE MIRROR offering advice to a young lesbian. The woman was “intensely happy” with her female lover but couldn’t get satisfaction from their sex life together. Marje says: “I think you may feel some guilt about being a lesbian, but that will fade as you meet more couples like yourselves. That’s bound to be the shape of your circle of friends. Then gradually you will feel a sense of belonging to a homosexual group … Sexual responses, whether it’s between a man and woman or between gays of either gender are all to do with loving and giving and caring. You love your partner. When you have learned to trust your own sexuality, that love will make you warmly responsive.”

Isn’t that nice? I couldn’t have put it better myself. It’s good to know we have at least one friend in the newspaper business. Thanks, Marje.

GAY TIMES 91, April 1986

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography “The Reluctant Gay Activist” is now available on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reluctant-Gay-Activist-Terry-Sanderson/dp/B09BYN3DD9/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Two gay departures from our telly screen last month. First of all, the curiously lifeless drag queen disappeared from EASTENDERS and Channel Four’s gay-ish sitcom BROTHERS ended its run. My favourite line from that show came when Cliff, the gay brother, had been beaten up by queer-bashers. His other brother explained: “Homophobes do not like homosexuals. They are not homosexuals.” To which camp and razor-sharp Donald retorted: “Don’t be too sure.”

Well, now we have to turn to this month’s parade of homophobes and gay-bashers, and a motley crew they are, too.

We start with Bernard Manning (who is now making his farewell appearance in this column). Did you see the much-trumpeted appearance on the embarrassing Joan Rivers show? It had obviously been heavily edited because gone were the jokes about Aids and sticking-tongues-down-throats. But it was still offensive enough to leave the other guests sitting on their settee looking extremely unhappy and unamused. Perhaps Mr Manning should be given more air-time—his own vileness would ensure a rapid end to his seedy career.


The annual attempt to get an ordinance passed in New York to outlaw discrimination against gays was commented upon by two British columnists. In THE TIMES, John O’Sullivan deigned to concede: “Tolerance yes, rights no.” He wrote: “The central question can be simply stated: is discrimination against homosexuals so widespread and damaging that it can and should be prohibited by legislation with all its potential for perverse and unintended consequences?” He concludes that “Most people hope their children will grow up heterosexual. If they can influence their sexual development in that direction, they will do so.”

This argument totally ignores the fact that there is no hard evidence to show that sexual development can be controlled one way or the other, so what form these “influences” would take doesn’t bear thinking about.

The same subject was tackled in a much less restrained manner by the ranting redneck George Gordon in THE DAILY MAIL. Mr Gordon has featured in this column before, assuring us that “the gay parades are over” but now having to concede that this proposed ordinance has brought gays out into the streets again.

“The bill will add sexual deviance to the list of categories—race, creed, gender, marital status and national origin—protected under the city’s anti-discrimination laws. The big question is why?”

Mr Gordon tells us that the idea is “an insult to the Jews and Hispanics and anyone else on the anti-discrimination list and it is totally unnecessary as legislation unless one feels that the cause of homosexuality, repugnant to the majority of the population, needs some sort of special encouragement.” He goes on to say (and quotes others as saying) things like: “The idea is almost a poisoning of young minds” and “I have a duty and a right to protect my children from sexual deviants. If their teacher was gay, and in my mind that means a carrier of Aids, I would want to yank him straight out of the class… they are trying to force me to accept a lifestyle I find revolting.”

George Gordon is a bigot of the first order and I’m sure he feels at home in America. He isn’t merely anti-gay, he is unhinged on the subject. But much more worrying is that THE DAILY MAIL should give so much space to such a slanderous attack.


Who was it that said statistics are the lowest form of information? I can’t remember, but they’ve got a point.

NEW SOCIETY told us that during a survey of 1500 teenagers, one of the questions asked was: “Are homosexual relationships right or wrong?” According to the magazine “56 per cent of boys questioned and 37 percent of the girls thought homosexual relationships were wrong.”

But surely if you look at that another way it means a gigantic 63 per cent of girls and a respectable 44 per cent of boys thought that gay relationships were perfectly OK? Given the relentless anti-gay propaganda they are exposed to, I’m astonished that any came out on our side.

Statistics have also exercised the already troubled mind of Peter Simple, the strange columnist in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH. “When the great hullabaloo about homosexuality erupted 30 years ago the figures generally accepted by homosexuals themselves was five percent. This has now risen to 10 per cent and shows signs of rising further.” But hasn’t Mr Simple said all this before? He says he is “bored into the ground by ghastly homosexual pressure groups.”

So long as he is bored six feet into the ground, I’ll be happy.

And still with THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, we were given the result of a Gallup poll on the subject of Aids. “Almost one in three adults in Britain believe it is unsafe to associate with anyone suffering from Aids, even without intimate physical contact”. But didn’t that mean that the majority didn’t think it as unsafe? And given Fleet Street’s mischievous campaign of misinformation, I find that quite amazing.

The statement: “The Government would be spending more money on Aids if the disease didn’t affect mainly homosexual males,” drew a 53 per cent agreement rate.

Which shows you can fool some of the people some of the time.


And speaking of the long-awaited Government education campaign—did you see it? Despite the fact that something like 85 percent of the victims are homosexual men, the word homosexual was mentioned only once. The ‘frank’ advice about sexual practices referred to “rectal sex”. The trouble is that an awful lot of people haven’t a clue what rectal sex means, let alone what “lipid membranes” or “T-helper cells” are.

The advertising manager of this magazine, Terry Deal, was quoted in THE GUARDIAN as saying that the Government was “shirking its responsibilities for telling people the specific truth about Aids and was going to use general information about the disease to counter the untruths which had appeared in the popular press.”

Alexander Chancellor summed up the dilemma in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: “If the Government fails to deal with the sexual realities it will be rightly attacked. If, on the other hand, it emphasises them unduly, it will be no less fiercely criticised.”

NEW SOCIETY was less mealy-mouthed. “Cowardice over AIDS” it said. “Anyone with an ounce of empathy will relate to the terrors of the gay community. Even now, in London, one in three homosexual men presenting themselves at clinics for sexually- transmitted diseases have the virus. Anything that lessens the spread, whatever temporary trauma it causes the Mary Whitehouse brigade, must be justified.”


THE LONDON STANDARD published a letter from Elizabeth Bridgett of London El. “I am inclined to pay heed to the theory that Aids is one of the last great apocalyptic plagues, bearing in mind the Bible’s contention that the Creator doesn’t like sodomy very much.”

Oh, so the superstitious brigade have changed their tune have they? At first it was “homosexuals” who were being punished, until the flaw in the argument was pointed out: lesbians are homosexual and Aids is almost unknown to them. So now it’s been boiled down to a specific act: sodomy.

But it seems to me that the wonderful old “Creator” doesn’t like a lot of things, if recent events are anything to go by. He certainly can’t like children very much when He sends earthquakes to flatten maternity hospitals and increases the incidence of infantile leukaemia.

Mrs Bridgett and her ilk can keep the Creator. He’s not very nice if you ask me.


After last month’s SUN feature about gay parents, Deirdre Sanders printed a letter from the parent of a gay man who wrote in protest: “Gay people need love and understanding from their family, not to be condemned as monsters. I’m sure there are a lot more families like ours which are prepared to support their child with help and understanding.”

But days later dreadful Deirdre was at it again: “My gay dad-in-law threatens blackmail”—casting the gay man yet again as the villain.

I don’t suppose people read agony columns to hear about well-adjusted individuals. But then again, I don’t suppose many well-adjusted people read The Sun.


When two people love each other, surely it is a cause for celebration? Love is good and valuable and worthwhile whatever the sex of the people involved. There can be no doubt that there was love of a sort between comedy duo Les Dennis and Dustin Gee. In an interview in THE MIRROR about life without Dustin, Les Dennis says: “It was a double grief in losing my closest friend and what we had professionally.”

But he still has to make sure that nobody gets the impression that it was anything other than platonic. Even though Dustin Gee was gay (“He was quite open with people about the way he was”) Les Dennis still feels the need to say: “There was this awful story about me and Dustin living and laughing together, suggesting we shared a house. It was absolute rubbish. I had a ground floor flat and Dustin had one two floors up.”

How strange that people are so defensive that they have to decry “living and laughing together”. This little rider surely devalues a touching relationship. For whilst the Mirror makes much of the love between Les and his wife, it seems to suggest that Dustin’s kind of love was something less than desirable.

I think it’s sad.


What’s a gay life worth? Not much if a recent court case at the Old Bailey is anything to go by.

According to THE CHISWICK GUARDIAN a man called Peter Fennell, a soldier of Ivy Crescent, London W4, kicked a gay man to death a few feet from a police station. What had the man done to deserve such a violent end? “He touched me… I went berserk”, said Fennell. This brute was jailed for four years, which probably means he’ll be out in two or less.

Haven’t we heard all this before? Or did Harvey Milk die in vain?

GAY TIMES 92, May 1986

Terry Sanderson’s autobiography “The Reluctant Gay Activist” is now available on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reluctant-Gay-Activist-Terry-Sanderson/dp/B09BYN3DD9/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Eddie Shah’s fuzzy newspaper TODAY, carried the text of a speech by Noman Tebbit, chairman of the Conservative Party and, I’m told, an extra in the film “Zombie Flesheaters”. Mr Tebbit says that all the ills of the present day stem from the permissive sixties. “Legislation on capital punishment, homosexuality, abortion, censorship and divorce – some of it good, some of it bad – but all of it applauded as ‘progressive’ as ushered in in quick succession, leaving an overwhelming impression that not only were there going to be no legal constraints but there was no need for any constraints at all. Tolerance for sexual deviation generated a demand for deviance itself to be treated as the norm,”

Commenting on the speech THE GUARDIAN said: “There are two things wrong with what Mr Tebbit is saying. First, the problems are about things that are happening now, not twenty years ago. After seven years of Conservative government it is pretty pathetic to blame the wrongs of today’s world on the Wilson era… Was it really a debasement of standards to legalise homosexuality? Mr Tebbit’s speech came close to being outright anti-gay”

The Guardian believes that Mr Tebbit is “testing popular temperature to see how a general slagging off of liberal values will go down electorally.”

Hopefully it will go down with all hands.


The Press Council’s rejection of my complaint about THE SUN and its notorious “I’d shoot my son if he had Aids” story has taught me a bitter lesson – never make a complaint to the Press Council, My disturbing conclusion is that this complaint might have done more harm than good because now The Sun can crow that it has ‘official confirmation of how responsible and balanced its coverage of Aids has been.

The story complained about was, to my mind, a classic example of the sensationalism, exaggeration and distortion that has led to the present climate of hysteria. The Press Council maintained that the article would not provoke “discriminatory action against people with Aids.” This is clearly nonsense. As Anna Durrell, another complainant about the same story, pointed out, the article implied that the only way to stop the spread of Aids is to kill people who have it.

My advice to people who are angered by the continuing scaremongering in newspapers and magazines is to forget the Press Council and find an alternative way to complain. There are lots of ideas in the “Right to Reply” pack which is available for £2.95 from The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.


To illustrate how newspapers feed off the myths they themselves have created about Aids, let’s look at some of the stories that have appeared during the past month.

The CHISLEHURST TIMES reported that Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World is being held this year in Chislehurst Caves. “Sex Show in Caves Plan” said the headline in the paper and quoted a local councillor, Mrs Joan Bryant, as saying: “Ordinary people have got to use these facilities and I couldn’t be more alarmed. Aids may fester in the drains and sewage pipes.”

The STAR gossip columnist, Peter Tory—a man hardly noted for his sensitivity—reported that: “It is proving difficult to sell the late Rock Hudson’s house.” The reason—you’ve guessed it. “People are just spooked by Aids. I don’t know whether they are afraid of catching it from the door-knobs or what. But they just don’t want to know.”

THE DAILY EXPRESS told us that “Two prison officers wore green ‘space suits’ to flank an Aids prisoner in court yesterday. As well as the protective coveralls, the officers had respirators available, they did not carry them into the dock.”

The “Aids prisoner” in question was, it turned out, simply antibody positive (this was not what the Express said, they don’t seem to have grasped the difference between being antibody positive and having Aids). “He has been treated like a leper while on remand in Leicester Prison. His food was passed to him through a hatch and everything he touched, including reading material, was burned.”

The Express also told of the “scandal” of three “Aids victims” (once more, they meant HTLV-3 positive) being allowed to “mix will other prisoners in at overcrowded, under-staffed, top-security jail.” A spokesman for the prison officers is quoted as saying: “Needless to say, the other prisoners don’t know. You can imagine what would happen if they did.”

The MAIL ON SUNDAY tells us that “insurance firms are considering ways of identifying Aids victims who apply for life insurance.”

The catalogue of appalling ignorance, the frightening over-reaction and cruel prejudice continues to grow. It must have started somewhere. Someone must have fanned this panic. For the culprits I think you need look no further than Fleet Street and Wapping.


Commenting on the Government’s advertising campaign on Aids, NEW SOCIETY says: “Isn’t there something missing here—like homosexuals? They do, after all, account for 90 percent of the 305 Aids cases recorded in Britain so far. Yet the word ‘homosexual’ features only once in that ad and in a negative context: ‘Does Aids only affect homosexuals?’ it asks.  No. If your eye happened to jump over the ‘only’, you would get a message that was the precise reverse of the truth.”


In the face of all the anti-gay propaganda which newspapers carry, I wondered whether they actually have formal policies of homophobia, or does it all stem from the ignorance and prejudices of individual journalists?

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH is quite open about it. When it announced its ‘new look’ a few weeks ago, the editor, Max Hastings, wrote: “The Daily Telegraph’s political commitment to the Conservatives as the only party currently fit to govern the country remains undiminished. So too does our belief in traditional moral values. There will be no sudden discovery of enthusiasm for Gay Lib in the columns of the Telegraph.”

Well, at least we know where we stand there. But what about THE DAILY MAIL which published that grotesque and slanderous piece by George Gordon last month? I asked the Assistant `Managing editor of the paper, Mac Keene, what their policy was about homosexuality and the reporting of Aids. “The Daily Mail does not have what you call a ‘policy’ towards homosexuality or Aids, just as we have no ‘policy’ towards deaf people or towards diptheria. We cover news stories on all subjects factually as they arise.”

Factually? You will remember that George Gordon’s article contained the sentence “If their teacher was gay, and in my mind that means a carrier of Aids, I would want to yank him straight out of the class.”

And now we have ‘Lord’ Frank Chapple, posing as a journalist, writing in the same paper that Aids is a “homosexual-induced epidemic”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘induce’ as “Bring on by artificial means”. Is Frank Chapple inferring that gays somehow created Aids?

I asked ‘His Lordship’ this very question. He replied: “Let me ask you a question. Don’t you think it would be a good idea if homosexuals stopped spreading the disease?”

My answer is yes, I do. I also think that it would be a good idea if those who have access to the mass media stopped spreading clap-trap about a serious and tragic issue.


On telly we have another American sitcom tackling a gay theme. Kate and Allie (Channel 4) concerns two divorced women who set up home together to save money, and as a mutual support system. In one episode this month the two women decided to pose as a gay couple in order to avoid paying a rent increase. (The serial is in a part of America where gays are recognised as having rights.)

The landlady who demanded the increase was very happy that her tenants were gay because so was she, and she produced her lover to prove it. From then on the misunderstandings and embarrassments that stemmed from the initial lie snowballed.

Kate didn’t like the deception because she had come to like the two lesbians and didn’t want to hurt them. And besides, she wailed, although she hadn’t done much with her heterosexuality lately, she didn’t want to give it up.

As is the fashion in these rather syrupy sit-coms, they came clean —and everything turned out right in the end. The two gay women made friends with the two straight women, there was a little homily about tolerance working both ways and they all ended up at the gay centre having a wonderful time.

Although these American series have a constant undertow of schmaltz, they are invariably good-natured. The gay theme was handled sensitively and the gay characters given a full range of expression and dignity.

Our home-grown comedy shows are crude by comparison—they only seem to be able to present gays as mincing hairdressers or silly waiters. Which says a lot about the state of things here.


Now for the case of the invisible gay customers. It happened at Lucky’s, a restaurant/cocktail bar in West London which operates a gay night each Sunday. In an advertising feature in the WEST LONDON GUARDIAN we are told “There’s never a dull moment at Lucky’s … with our new kid’s disco on Sunday afternoon. On Monday and Tuesday nights you can tune in to Lucky’s jazz-band. Wednesday it’s Ladies Night … Thursday, Friday and Saturday disco nights … something for everyone.”

Everyone? What happened to Sunday night? It seems to have disappeared. Along with a very lucrative band of Lucky’s customers.


Writing in NEW SOCIETY, Jeremy Seabrook warns against the dangers of dismissing The Sun as “a ‘comic’ unworthy of serious attention.” He makes a convincing case to explain the Sun’s popularity. “The details of the horror stories are not important; it is their cumulative effect which counts.”

And, indeed, the cumulative effect of their relentless homophobia counts against us very dearly.