GAY TIMES 95, August 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=

We have another wonderful parade of prejudice, spite and bigotry this month from the pages of our delightful press. So, take a deep breath everyone, get the sick bags to the ready and we begin with that dear but troubled soul, Auberon Waugh. Writing in THE SPECTATOR on the subject of Martina Navratilova, lesbianism and ugly women (one and the same thing according to the egg-headed Bron) he says he has no trouble in explaining why the crowd don’t like Martina. “Perhaps she would have been able to grasp the reason if she had been able to see herself play as himself. He then goes on about lesbianism and mentions an article which appeared in THE TIMES defending attempts at challenging heterosexism in schools, written by Rosalind Stott. “Poor woman,” says Waugh, “one wonders how she came into the world and how she was reared.”

One could ask the same of Auberon Waugh, of course, and justifiably say that whatever mode of family produced an abomination such as he should be stamped out immediately.


Mary Kenny (not ugly at all—not on the outside anyway) does her bit most weeks in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH to reinforce the association in the popular mind between socialism and homosexuality. She tells how she overheard a “group of mums” talking about a deputy head who they perceived to be gay – “a raver: a nancy-boy” said one mum. “Caddie Fan” said a Welsh lady, this being apparently the expression used in Wales to describe an effeminate man.” Ms Kenny tells us that this man taught his pupils to sing the songs of Noel Coward and eschewed the little boys “rough ways and gang games.” She concludes that “Bernie Grant … the black radical who proposes that children should be taught about homosexuality from an early age” will be disappointed that gays won’t always deliver the socialist message he would desire.

In fact, Mary Kenny’s article read like the crudest, most insulting kind of propaganda. She produces no evidence to support her rather convenient anecdote and, for those who have primed themselves to see, it is an obvious attempt to reinforce the idea that socialism and have somehow combined in an unholy alliance to undermine everything that is precious to cosy “groups of mums”, as though they were the only people in the world.

Mrs Thatcher’s personal P.R. couldn’t have done a better job.


First the good news: ghastly old duffer “Sir” John Junor has retired as editor of the obscene SUNDAY EXPRESS. The bad news is that he will continue to write that hate-filled column of his each week. His gratuitous abuse aimed not only at our community but at individuals within it, is familiar to us all and will, no doubt, continue. However, you have to credit him with a spark of originality in his own bigotry for he has many admirers and imitators. One of them popped up in THE WORTHING GUARDIAN using the pseudonym Hawkeye. “Some newspapers have got themselves into a fine lather,” says Hawkeye, “because a disco run by Richard Branson is selling a “sex drug” to heighten sensation. But what bothers me is that the press has not seen fit to comment on the fact that this disco is for homosexuals. It is a pick-up joint where the promiscuous meet each other for unspeakable purposes. But so used have we become to accepting perversion that it doesn’t even rate a comment—even when Mrs Thatcher’s ‘Mr Clean’ is profiting from it.”

This ignores the fact that the paper that broke the “story” in the first place, the MIRROR, made great play of the fact that Heaven is a gay disco. But anyway, Hawkeye was a little late with his tirade as J J had written almost precisely the same thing the previous week but substituting the word “poofter” for homosexual. And hadn’t J J also written of his hatred for Martina Navratilova because she “wears Y-fronts instead of frilly knickers and aftershave instead of perfume”? And hadn’t he also written about Cecil (“sexually as straight as a corkscrew”) Beaton’s portrait of Mick Jagger’s bottom, saying that “no-one but a poofter would want to have it in his drawing room.”?


The OBSERVER tells us that Junor is to offer his services to the Conservative Party to tell them “how to get the message over effectively”. I would think he means his “continuing services”—his whole journalistic career has been spent in the service of the Tories, and it is openly acknowledged that his knighthood was bestowed by Mrs T. for services in this respect. Oh aren’t you just thrilled that we have such a free and impartial press in Britain?


This year’s Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival might well have been wet but the spirits of those who attended weren’t dampened. Coverage in the papers was not entirely absent this year, but it was sparse and very mixed.

The communist MORNING STAR reported the festival sympathetically: “The 8,000 strong Lesbian and Gay Pride parade made its cheerful way noisily from Hyde Park to Kennington Park, their banners telling the story of the width of the gay community.” They also carried a preview of the event explaining the Gay’s the Word triumph. [Note: Gay’s the Word bookshop was taken to court by HM Customs and Excise, charged with importing indecent material. The Court threw the case out and HM Customs dropped the charges after a large-scale campaign of protest.]

But in the mainstream press it was the usual menu of abuse or indifference. With one exception, and you can put this down as a red-letter day. Yes, a national daily newspaper actually said something sympathetic about gays. TODAY carried an opinion piece by Sarah Gibbings headed “Gays deserve better than this.” Ms Gibbings wrote: “They came from all over Britain to show that they refuse to be victims or to be seen as public health threats, and to assert their right to belong to the human race. Most important of all they marched to remind all of us that an appalling disease has been unwittingly brought into our society and to encourage all of us to find a cure.” It. would be carping to tell Ms Gibbings that we weren’t really marching to ask for a place “in the human race” but to tell those bigots who are trying to ostracise us that they ought to try being human themselves, I’m sure they’d find a novel experience.

But we mustn’t get the idea that TODAY is suddenly going to show the other papers a new humanity, for in the very next issue we read: “What is appalling is that classified advertisements in some newspapers and magazines carry ads for new gay partners. As this kind of promiscuous homosexual activity is reported to be largely responsible for the spread of this scourge, surely a ban should be placed on them.”

The LONDON STANDARD gave us their good wishes during Pride Week with a story headlined: “Festival of shame by London gays.” This referred to Hackney council’s contribution to the festivities. The paper’s usual technique of finding the single dissenting voice and giving it major prominence was used. The honours this time go to Councillor Joe Lobenstein, Tory opposition leader in Hackney: “This is the most shameful exercise the council has organised for years,” he ranted. “To highlight the lives of people who live an unnatural and sinful life is to my mind the greatest shame that this borough can embark upon.”

The DAILY MAIL was more than pleased to carry the story the following day, and so was the EXPRESS, embroidering it a little with an earth-shattering revelation that not only was money being given to gays to educate themselves about Aids but that it was ‘proposed’ to give gays priority in the housing queue. It was a proposal that was not part of council policy and never likely to be, but it provided THE EXPRESS with the headline they’d been looking for: “A gay way to jump the housing queue—give them extra points.”

Finally, THE SUN didn’t mention the British Pride march but it managed a paragraph on the American one, telling its (no doubt very amused) readers that the parade was led by a group called “Dykes on Bikes.” Little do they realise that the joke is on them.


Paul Johnson, writing in THE SPECTATOR, wheeled out that corny old point about homosexuals ‘stealing’ the word “gay” and corrupting it. He calls it “a monstrous piece of verbal larceny”. He says that “nothing has done more to turn people against homosexuals than this impudent hijack, and in their own interests they ought to switch to another. Some people, I hear, now call themselves ‘Gaids’, but this is obviously offensive. My solution … is simply to reverse the terms and call them ‘yags’. But what say readers?”

Well, this reader says that Paul Johnson seems to be stuck in some kind of time-warp dated about 1953. I don’t want to think of a new word to describe my sexuality thank you, but I can think of a new word for Paul Johnson. Unfortunately, the libel laws do not allow me to tell you what it is.


The whole of the front page of The Star was taken up by a headline reading “Gay lovers on Royal Yacht—shock as Fergie and Andrew plan honeymoon.” This gave a new twist to those interminable stories about the dreary Royal wedding. It also hounded a man out of his job, but that’s the unfortunate price that gays have to pay in order to provide copy for those great loyalists in Fleet Street. “Navy set to boot out gay Britannia sailor” crooned The Sun, picking the story up when it had reached a satisfactorily tragic conclusion for them.

This is a classic example of pure malice and irresponsibility of the tabloid press when it comes to gay issues. For not only have they managed to ruin this man’s career they have also managed to reinforce the idea that gays should automatically be victimised when they are ‘found out’ by crummy journalists.

GAY TIMES 96, September 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=

I suppose we have to accept that during the silly season newspapers will fill their pages with drivel is even more puerile than usual and journalists obviously imagine that the gay community is an easy source for such material. Yes, it’s been another gay old month in the press (and a lesbian old month, too, come to that).

Acres of space were given over to the “lesbian jealousy” court case, ensuring that the words “gay” and “lesbian” appeared repeatedly in a negative context day after day.

The other hot story was the old sex education chestnut—will homosexuality be included in the sex education lessons and if so should parents be able to absent their children from such classes? The Sun brought the two articles neatly together in a sly front-page headline (August 15th) LESBIAN TEACHER HORROR. Just take those three words and conjure with them. Put them together with some of the Ealing Recorder (July 18th) and you have a nasty little case of I-told-you-so.

But we mustn’t run away with the idea that The Sun is anti-gay. Oh no. Didn’t they also carry another front-page splash (August 13th) announcing EASTBENDERS—a reference to the fact that the BBC soap opera EastEnders is to introduce gay characters. Leaving the headline aside, the report was neutral and the editorial comment was “Oh well, that’s life,” —and in the same issue was a report about “Two gay youths who kissed passionately for six seconds in a busy street” and were arrested for it. The Sun helpfully ended their story with a quote from a lawyer who wrote: “It is not an offence for homosexuals to kiss in the street, but any such act could lead to a breach of the peace and even insulting behaviour if it offends passers-by.”


The Sunday Times(August 3rd) revealed that a new virus has been identified “currently named the Delta Agent …which attacks those already infected with hepatitis B causing severe and usually fatal liver damage.” Although this isn’t a major hazard yet, there is already a “reservoir” of the virus waiting to spread in the same alarming way as Aids. Gay men are particularly vulnerable.

So,what far-sighted action is our wonderful Government taking? Well, according to The Guardian (July 31st) “Hospital doctors are being told they must not vaccinate gay men against the incurable liver disease hepatitis B because the NHS can’t afford it.” The Guardian says that as many as half the male homosexual population of Britain has been infected with hepatitis B. It isn’t clear where such a figure came from, but according to Professor Michael Adler, it means that a “£4 million immunisation programme might save £20 million in the cost of treating victims.” That would seem like a sensible course of action—but you have to bear in mind that we are governed by people who allow their prejudices to overcome their common sense.


Still on a medical theme, there was an interesting item in a magazine called GP (July 25th) which is delivered free to all Britain’s family doctors. Written by an anonymous contributor “Week in Surgery” told how “a young man of 32 … came to see me complaining he felt unwell. Except for a few cervical glands on the right of his neck, I could find nothing else amiss.” However, further tests revealed that the man had Aids. “He has been living with his regular boyfriend for 15 years, but admits to having had two or three affairs over the past five years. Three friends of his have died of Aids recently. Apparently both he and his regular boyfriend were screened for HTLV-3 earlier this year and were both negative.”

When this young man came back to hear the result, the doctor had a trainee with him. The trainee rebuked the young man for not revealing that he was in a “high risk category” and had “put several people at risk from a health and safety point of view.” The doctor wrote: “I will obviously have to increase my levels of suspicion when seeing young, single, male patients … I was brought up in the ethos that the sexual activities or deviations of patients was their own concern but this no longer holds true.”

Gay Times reader Paul Bailey, himself a doctor, wrote to the editor of GP saying that he found the “confrontation which took place with the sick man most distasteful, and shows a surprising lack of insight; given that three of the patients’ friends had recently died of Aids, it is quite understandable that the patient himself, consciously or unconsciously, should avoid contemplating that he might suffer similarly. To say ‘he knew jolly well what could be going on’ is crass and insulting …”

Crass and insulting, indeed. For it seems that the medical profession needs to be educated not only in the recognition and diagnosis of Aids and related conditions, but also in the sensitivity with which the people affected need to be handled. The Mail on Sunday (August 17th) reported that “innocent” victims of Aids (mainly haemophiliacs) are going to sue local health authorities for millions of pounds. Apparently, they aren’t just worried about having the disease but also about the “social consequences of being tainted by the so-called ‘gay plague’.” Leaving aside the grossly offensive idea that some people are “innocent” victims of Aids whilst other are, somehow, culpable, we’ll concentrate on the other issue. Surely the wrong people are being sued in this case, because if there are “social consequences” and “taints” then they have been created almost entirely by newspapers like The Sun, The Star and The News of the World. If the lawyers who represent the unfortunate “innocents” want to sue on grounds of “taint” then it is the callous Fleet Street hacks who have made money out of tragedy and suffering who should be in the dock.


We have two new columnists to welcome to the ranks of those already spreading the word. The first is a familiar face who we thought (hoped?) had faded into obscurity when he retired from editorship of Private Eye. Yes, it’s your friend and mine Richard Ingrams. His first effort for The Sunday Telegraph(August 17th) re-iterated a point made by Mary Whitehouse earlier. He says that presentation on television of homosexuality as normal is increasing the spread of Aids. “To put it crudely,” he writes, “many are dead and will die thanks to the modern permissive approach to homosexuality that they (BBC & Channel 4) have helped to promote.”

Mr Ingrams fails to tell us in this piece of propaganda just how much he, personally, hates homosexuals. He has said many times in the past that homosexuality makes him feel sick, so why should we imagine that anything he writes about it is motivated by logic or reason or concern? His real motivation is a strange sickness over which he obviously has no control—it is called homophobia. Mr Ingrams is the one who should fear for his health—his neuroses are showing.

Then, in The Sun, we have a new writer called Dave Banks, who looks like something they’ve just dragged off the football terraces and writes accordingly. “When I was a kid we worried about The Bomb and Red Menace. Forget it. The new apocalyptic nightmare is drugs and the Aids epidemic which are sweeping our decadent society like twin Biblical scourges.” And on and on. When are they going to employ a columnist that has something fresh and, perhaps, a bit less obvious to say?

Another “one of the boys” is Joe Ashton MP, who writes in The Starwith all the phoney working-class bonhomie of a practised politician. In his column (August 11th) he was ranting about how seeing gays outside Heaven nightclub made him feel uncomfortable and how “too much of a gay thing is asking for ridicule.” “No wonder there was such a big fuss about the Royal Wedding,” he says, “I was beginning to think that they were the only people in London under 30 who weren’t kinky. Which is not true. But it is true that the old 1967 joke ‘no need to worry it will not be compulsory’ which was cracked when parliament stopped it being illegal, is beginning not to look so daft.”

And so he goes on, saying how he “has nothing against” etc. etc. and then heaping ridicule upon us. Mr Ashton is a classic example of a white, heterosexual male who is frightened out of his wits at the merest whiff of a challenge to his assumed superiority. He is petrified at the prospect of having to concede ground to those he has been brought up to despise, and so he gets ridiculously aggressive.

I think what we have here is a case of pinch the pig and hear it squeal.


THE August 10th issue of The Sunday People was almost completely devoted to gay issues. Such a restrained and balanced approach, too: “SOCIETY GAY AND DRUG PROBE” was the front-page headline, relating to the death of Vikki de Lambray. This ran over to page 4. Later on, ‘Straight talking’ John Smith regaled us with “Too tough on this sad victim of a dirty old man”—which said that an 18-year old youth who had slashed the face of a 74-year old man because he had “tried to interfere” with the “tipsy teenager” had been unjustly sentenced to eight months youth custody. Mr Smith would have us believe that the youth ‘accidentally’ found himself naked in bed with the older man before the incident happened. I’m not interested in the whys and wherefores of this case, but Mr Smith comes out firmly on the side of the knife-wielder who, if we’re to believe the columnist, was totally innocent and only recently departed from his mother’s knee. “Fred is behind bars while a perverted old poofter … is free to chat up any unsuspecting youngster who catches his lustful eye.”

So, what does Mr Smith advocate—free pardons, perhaps, for those who lead gays on and then, when it comes to the crunch, turn violent? With the increasing acceptance in courts of the “homosexual panic” plea such a concept seems to be well on the way.

But if we don’t like what Mr Smith is saying, we can always turn the page and read the latest from the “lesbian love triangle” case. If that doesn’t suit you, then you can read insinuations that bean-spilling royal valet Stephen Barry (already ‘exposed’ as gay in a previous issue) has Aids. There are horrendous before and after pictures for good measure.

On page 29 we have Larry Grayson telling us about “The Moment I Decided Not to Marry”. Apparently, it was because he had promised his dying father that he would look after his sister. Phew! For a moment I thought he was going to say it was because he was gay, but seemingly he isn’t.

And neither is Hilda Ogden. Actress Jean Alexander told Woman’s Own that she was still a virgin at the age of 60 and this was picked up by most of the tabloids who repeated her words of wisdom. The Mirror (August 11th) reported Jean as saying, “I like men—I’m not funny or anything like that.” She maintains that sex is not dirty but just ‘overrated.’ And I’m not the first one to ask: how on earth would she know?

Whilst we’re on the subject of who isn’t gay, we turn to The Sun (August 15th). “I am not a lesbian says Beryl Reid.” But who suggested she was? Well, nobody except The Sun. So, what was the point of the story? You might as well ask: what’s the point of The Sun.

GAY TIMES 99, December 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=

AIDS is once more big news and we are subjected to the sad spectacle of the newspapers trying to convince us that at last they are taking the matter seriously. Their new-found ‘responsibility’ is quite pathetic to behold. The tabloids put on their poker faces-and then sum up an immensely complex subject in three paragraphs. The problem is that the so-called serious treatment is almost as bad as their previous disgraceful behaviour when Aids was just ‘the gay plague’.

Ben Elton, who has a column in The Daily Mirror had the courage to criticise his own paper (10 Nov) for trying to encapsulate such a complicated thing into a brief question-and-answer format. “I thought it unwise to publish such vague ‘symptoms’” wrote Mr Elton. “Apparently, Aids symptoms include dry throat, diarrhoea and fatigue. I get the same effect from six pints of lager and a few fags. Last week surgeries everywhere must have been crammed with hungover people holding The Mirror and thinking they were going to die. I’m not being flippant. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

And a little knowledge is still what the papers are giving their readers. And for all their alleged concern The Daily Mail still managed to carry a critical front page lead (Oct 30) about Manchester City Council’s planned response to Aids. The Council had said that they intended to support and help victims of the disease in their employ and do their best to try and stop ill-informed colleagues making life even more miserable for them. The Tory leader of the council Joyce Hill was given the lion’s share of space to say: “It is not fair to ask a family man to work alongside an Aids carrier without even letting him know he could be at risk. The council should get its priorities right, this is not the kind of thing it should be wasting money on.”

Can you believe what you are reading? Are the people who produce The Daily Mail really so heartless, so ignorant and such downright bastards that they think efforts to help sick people are wrong? Yes, I’m afraid they are. For was it not the DAILY MAIL that gave arch-Tory propagandist Paul Johnson a full page (Nov 4) to return to his favourite subject? “Aids: The danger Labour ignores at Britain’s peril” was the headline over an article which was, as you’d expect from Mr Johnson, full of distortions, unconvincing overstatements and back-to-front conclusions. According to Mr Johnson, you can forget about the conspiracy theory that Aids was created in an American laboratory —no, it is the Labour Party who are to blame for the whole Aids situation because they have supported gay people. “During the past five years, while the evidence of the Aids peril has grown, the Labour Party has step-by-step committed itself to policies which place homosexuality on a moral par with normal sex and encourage its expression.” Mr Johnson rants on and on about “homosexual militants”, “pro-homosexual propaganda” and so on. He concludes: “On the issues of Aids and the homosexual connection, Labour is playing politics with human lives. As the public grasps this fact, there could be an awesome political retribution.”

Mr Johnson might well be right. No doubt he will work day and night to make sure his prediction comes true. What he forgets is that he, too, is playing with human lives, but they are only homosexual lives so they can, in his reckoning, be discounted. Paul Johnson is a sad and cynical man. His shocking use of a terrible tragedy to score cheap and easy political points makes me feel sick.

But at least Johnson’s thinking is his own. For now we have that other right-wing columnist Woodrow Wyatt in The NEWS OF THE WORLD saying precisely the same thing. “Some Labour councils encourage Aids with grants to homosexual centres. So do Labour education authorities telling children that homosexuals living together are as stable as married couples. They also encourage children to experiment with sex. This is murder.”

It would be too much for Woodrow Wyatt and Paul Johnson to understand that unless gay people are encouraged to feel secure as members of society and able to get together occasionally for mutual support then they will become unreachable with the vital information about Aids. The reason so many gay relationships are unstable is precisely because of the bigoted attitudes of people like this. Important points such as these cannot be considered by Johnson, Wyatt et al because they are not really engaged in any kind of constructive discussion, they are engaged in propaganda. But by far the biggest tragedy—and there is overwhelming evidence of it happening already — is that Aids will become a party-political issue. Right wing puritans are already jumping on the bandwagon with their irrelevant moralising, carelessly ignoring the enormous human suffering involved. Foremost amongst these is the staggeringly obsessed Dr Adrian Rodgers of Exeter, who pops up with depressing frequency on TV and in the papers with his strident calls for the re-criminalisation of homosexuality and imprisoning of people with Aids.

If the issue is used to score cheap political points I fear that what is now a huge medical problem could turn into a social catastrophe. This is a problem for the whole human race and not one to be used by politicians as a tool to retain power. And not only are our local minor politicians using Aids like this, it is also emerging as an ideological battleground for East and West. The SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (Nov 9) said: “Whilst the rest of the world frantically endeavours to find a cure for the plague of Aids, the KGB is using the disease as a cynical campaign of disinformation against the West”.

My advice to all the Fleet Street “thinkers”, the destructive so-called moralisers and the super power plotters, is to put aside dogmatic stances and face up to Aids as a tragedy for the whole of mankind. This disease doesn’t care whether your politics are red, blue or candy-striped.


Remember Mills, The Star’s so-called “angry voice”? He’s the man who has, since his column started some months ago, managed to contravene every single article of the National Union of Journalists code of ethics. He is racist, homophobic, anti-women—in fact, if you aren’t a white, heterosexual male you are fair game for Mills’ fascist rantings. And he doesn’t hold back. Indeed, the columns are almost unbelievably crude. The fact that a national newspaper sees fit to print such stuff speaks volumes for the rapidly declining state of the British Press.

Now we discover, courtesy of the London listings magazine City Limits (Oct 30), that Mills is, in fact, Ray Mills, the deputy editor of The Star. He is known to his colleagues as “Biffo”. Mr Mills thinks this is an affectionate soubriquet after the cartoon bear but, in fact, it stands for Big Ignorant Fat Fucker from Oldham, according to an ex-member of the Star’s staff quoted in City Limits.

I suggest that Gay Times readers could make life a little more difficult for the obnoxious Mills. I already have a complaint lodged against him with the ethics council of the NUJ and I suggest others make similar complaints, either to the NUJ or the Commission for Racial Equality when appropriate.

And finally, a world to Mills’ colleagues at The Star: your silence in the face of this journalistic abomination is almost as bad as Ray Mills’ own stirring up of racial and sexual hatred. His violent words will soon incite violent action. Are you going to sit by and let innocent people take the brunt of Ray Mills’ abuse of his access to the press?


The plot of Channel Four’s gay film Consenting Adult (Oct 28) was a familiar one. Young son comes out to comfortable middle-class parents and the family goes into crisis. This was a better than average rendition of the theme, given that it was an American TV movie. Tear-jerking performances from Martin Sheen and Marlo Thomas, playing doting parents who can’t accept that their son has apparently changed overnight from the American dream to the American nightmare. There is much soul-searching before mom and pop really believe their son’s assertion that his homosexuality is “true and getting truer all the time”. Indeed, by the end of the story pop has to send the mandatory “I love you son” from beyond the grave in the form of a letter which he couldn’t bring himself to post while he was alive. Mom agonises a bit more before she decides that she might as well get on with it and invites son and lover home to dinner.

Although it was played as a weepy, the film managed to make a very important point which we’ve failed to get over in political debate. It demonstrated that there are two distinct kinds of homosexual: the gay bogeyman created by the newspapers (who appears to spend his wholetime preying on children, spreading diseases and eating up the entire rate precept) and the real flesh and blood person who has all kinds of hopes, and fears and dreams just like everyone.

GAY TIMES 103, April 1987

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=

“Look out, look out, wherever you are – Rupert’s coming to find you.”

That’s the message to gays who think they’re safe in the closet—and you don’t have to be a celebrity to find yourself on the end of the tabloid exposé machine. This month’s list runs from Elton John through Harvey Proctor, Russell Harty and even a vicar from Peterborough. Rentboys, agents provocateurs and sneaking, slimy journos have been colluding this month to ruin the lives of honest citizens.

There have been a record number of front pages over the past few weeks in THE SUN, THE STAR and DAILY MIRROR, devoted to “Naked Arab Boys”, “Gay Mag Boys”, “Rent Boy Riddles” and “Elton’s Mock Wedding to a Man”. The grotesque thing about the sickos who run these rags is that if they miss the story themselves, they moralise about the other papers who beat them to it. “Even if the stories are true,” says Alix Palmer in The Star (4 March) about Russell Harty, “why should they alter our judgement of someone who, from time to time, occupies our television screen? Either he entertains us or he doesn’t.”

Fine words—except that I haven’t the slightest doubt that if The Star had been offered the dirt by the greedy little git who went to the News of the World first, they’d have snapped it up.

The Daily Mirror (4 March) said: “He [Harty] sticks in my mind as the most charming, wonderfully amusing and genuinely interesting star I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.” Once again it’s good to see the Maxwell mob decrying the News of the World’s penchant for paying rent boy sneaks for the sordid details. But wasn’t it only one day later that THE MIRROR carried the front-page headline: “Naked Arab under MPs Bed”, exposing Harvey Proctor’s holiday fling with a Moroccan youth?”


Peter MacKay explored the whole phenomenon of these latest revelations in The London Evening Standard (2 March). “The rotten little creeps who have been parading through newspaper offices are unfit for any kind of work that does not involve self-absorbed acting out of tedious fantasies about themselves. An appallingly hypocritical theme has been developed which is designed to cast sympathy on the rent boy and greater odium on his alleged client. This is the old ‘fallen woman’ gambit. Having spouted the details (no doubt for gain) the rent boy suggests that male prostitution was his only way of making ends meet (so to speak) in the cruel Thatcher economic climate. The News of the World said of their latest squealing, pig-tailed rent boy: ‘Dean is now unemployed and has given up his life of vice.’”

The Star (March 5) offered, a different explanation: “If you have been wondering why these verminous rent boys have been emerging from their lairs to tell their stories, it is because business is at a standstill. Aids has deprived them of a living, so they have been making a buck by selling their sordid kiss-and-tell memoirs—or should that read spank-and-tell?”

Perhaps the whole thing was best summed up by Derek Jameson in Today (7 March): “The shame falls not on the head of those betrayed but rather on those who open their purses to these scavengers. I feel more guilty than most. I once edited the News of the World.”

Less understandable was The Guardian’s decision to run a court report (4 March) about a cottaging incident: “A vicar tried to solicit a plain clothes police officer for immoral purposes in a public lavatory.” The unfortunate clergyman’s full name and address was published. The Guardian is supposed to be the champion of liberal values, and yet it acted in concert with the police to make the victim of this entrapment suffer even more. What The Guardian failed to ask was what a plainclothes policeman was doing, hanging around in a public lavatory, if he wasn’t acting as an agent provocateur. Nor did they ask whether setting out to destroy the lives of good citizens is the best use of police resources at a time when there is an explosion of violent and murderous crime.


It was Francis Williams who said: “Newspapers indicate more plainly than anything else the climate of the societies to which they belong.”

Which is bad news for gay men, because if what appears in newspapers is genuinely a reflection of society’s attitudes to us, we are in for a very rough time indeed. The News of the World invited its oh-so well-informed readers to say what they thought about Aids, and apparently half those that replied thought that “homosexuality should be made an illegal offence” (sic). But the majority also said that carriers should be sterilised and given treatment to curb their sexual appetite, and pregnant women who have the virus should be compelled to have abortions.”

Anyone who took even two minutes to think about these questions would realise how stupid and dangerous they are. What on earth do these polls of pathetically ignorant people, compiled by alarmingly unenlightened journalists signify? All they tell us is that the British population is grotesquely ill-informed and their lack of knowledge is being encouraged by these mischievous newspapers

Where it all may lead was explored in a feature in Today (24 Feb) headed “Big Brother Aids”. This article faced up to the prospect that I imagine has played a part in the nightmares of many gay people, of enforced isolation for those carrying the virus and, eventually, others in the “high risk groups”. Today says that the social consequences of such action would be “colossal”. “Huge numbers of people from every level of society would simply vanish from their jobs. Those who refused to be isolated would be criminals, hunted by specially formed Aids squads, and a fugitive underground would develop. The material cost of implementing this plan is incalculable, but the social cost is quite clear. It would mean, quite simply, that Britain would become a police state.”


An unexpected and consistently enlightened source of information on the Aids situation is The Financial Times. In its issue of 13 March it carried a guardedly optimistic piece which seemed to suggest that perhaps the dreadful predictions aren’t all going to come true. Statistics from America show that the rate of spread of the disease is slowing. In January 1982 it took five months for the number of cases to double. In December 1986 it was taking 13 months for the cases to double. This still represents tens of thousands of people, though, and the carnage will continue, so there is certainly no cause for complacency.

Another difference between the American experience of Aids and the British one is the attitude of agony aunts. In this country the advice-givers are by far the most liberal aspect of the press. They are well-informed and sympathetic to the problems of gay people. Contrast this with a woman called “Dear Dotti” who wrote in America’s Weekly World News (20 Jan). “Dear Dotti: I am a gay man and I’ve just learned that I have Aids … I’m so depressed I’ve seriously thought about blowing my brains out. I don’t care whether I live or die.”—Dotti replies: “Neither do I.” Yuch!


Now, it seems that even scummy, crummy, lowlife magazines like Titbit (Feb issue) feel that they are in a position to slag off the gay community. In a two-page lead article headed “Poofter’s Paradise” this outdated, smelly pile of garbage trotted out all the myths, distortions and political manipulations that we’ve grown tired of hearing over the past few years. Written by some money-grabbing creep called Jill Bedford, the article consisted of column after column of Mills-type abuse which we’ve become inured to and which I refuse to reproduce here. The author cites one lying newspaper article after another as justification for her rant but, in the end, says nothing that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before.

The editor of Titbits stands accused of allowing this kind of unjustifiable language into his columns without granting a right of reply to those who have been attacked. He should be ashamed of jumping on the sordid bandwagon that is inexorably leading to violence and prejudice against innocent gay people.


How on earth do sensible people remain loyal to certifiably insane churches? What is it that makes ordinarily intelligent individuals give credence to the ravings of crackpots? In The Sunday Express(1 March) we have The Rev. John Banner of Tunbridge Wells opining that “homosexuality and rising crime are due to women’s lack of control over children.” The raving Rev claims that women belong “at the kitchen sink” and says: “Children used to women refuse to would not react to men and this could lead to homosexuality.” Can you make sense of such bilge?

Then we have Cardinal Basil Hume, spouting off to an “audience of parents” in Greenford, Middlesex. According to The Ealing Gazette (20 Feb): “When parents asked him to take a strong stand against the teaching of homosexuality in Ealing schools he replied: ‘The Catholic stand on this is clear. Sexual relationships are only permitted in marriage. Tolerance is not the accepting of what we know to be wrong but showing sympathy and understanding for those who live differently.’” In other words, the silly old duffer doesn’t know what the devil he thinks.

At the same meeting, the waffling of the Cardinal was put into deep shade by Professor Anthony Pinching, an Aids specialist who condemned anti-gay prejudice in no uncertain terms, calling it “a most un-Christian way of encouraging the belief the killer virus was always someone else’s problem.” That will have ruffled the cosy complacency of the intolerant “parents” who had obviously gone along to the meeting for a spot of genteel gay-bashing, and whose depth of selfishness is sometimes quite breath-taking.

Catholic reactions to the Aids crisis in America have been brought to a head by the revelation that as many as “20 percent of Catholic priests are gay and half of them sexually active”. The Sunday Times (22 Feb) told of how the Catholic Church puts its much-vaunted ‘compassion’ into practice. “In Houston, a doctor who has treated eight priests with the disease says that ‘three of them were ejected, just told to leave’ when they informed their superiors of their illness. Four others had decided to leave the Church quietly … Increasingly the Roman Catholic church appears to be closing its doors on Dignity, an organisation which attempts to keep homosexuals within the church, although there is still room for another organisation, Courage, which attempts to counsel homosexuals either to lead a chaste life (in the case of priests) or become heterosexual.”


It was Charles Moore, writing in The Daily Express (6 March) who said: “Labour is the pro-homosexual party. Until recently its preoccupation with ‘gay rights’ was considered a bit of a joke. Now it’s beginning to stir up real rage.”

But is it really gay rights that is stirring up the rage or is it the relentless newspaper campaign of disinformation?

Let’s face it, there have been an unprecedented number of anti-gay headlines over the past couple of years and it is difficult to know who has the real preoccupation—the Labour Party or the newspapers. There is irrefutable evidence that most of the coverage of Labour’s support for gay rights has been either wild exaggeration or simple lies. The Association of Labour Authorities even went so far as to issue a list of examples, from national newspapers, of “loony left” stories showing each one of them to be outright invention.

Strange, isn’t it, how this report hasn’t been mentioned in any of the tabloid newspapers?

Now Labour—and many of its staunchest supporters—are left in a dilemma. Is the party, as some would have us believe, really distancing itself from its commitment to helping gay people, or is it just another Tory plot to cause in-fighting and bitterness within the ranks? The right-wing press are laughing up their sleeves at all this soul-searching, happy in the knowledge that they are almost entirely responsible for it.

GAY TIMES January 1988

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=

Parliament debated the state of the British press and a report in THE INDEPENDENT (26 Nov) made it quite clear that the Government has absolutely no intention of curbing the sensationalism, sexism, racism and homophobia of the newspapers. At the same time, alarm bells are ringing in thoughtful journalistic circles about the lengths to which the Government will go to gag criticism of itself — witness Spycatcher, the Zircon affair, the BBC’s IRA film amongst others.

And so, it is a dangerous and difficult argument. I, for one, certainly don’t want to interfere with the media’s duty to expose and bring to our attention the activities of corrupt politicians and businessmen.

Newspapers and TV must have the right to look into the affairs of those who hold power when there are suspicions that that power is being abused. But equally there must be restraints when this prying serves no public interest, but is undertaken merely for the purposes of prurience and titillation. What public good has been served, for instance, by the recent cruel stories about Elton John, Russel Harty, Martina Navratilova, Jeffrey Archer and many others? The sheer misery that must have been caused to these people is incalculable — and all in the name of increased circulation.

The Press Council has repeatedly shown itself to be useless as a tool of redress. In fact, it actually serves as a stumbling block to providing an effective challenge to newspaper excesses. The NUJ’s Ethics Council has proved similarly powerless; just look at Ray Mills who has received the ultimate sanction of being expelled from the union, but continues on his racist way in The Star.

There are two proposals coming up for consideration in Parliament later this year that could help. One is an “Unfair Reporting and Right of Reply Bill” sponsored by Ann Clwyd MP, which receives a second reading on 5th February, 1988. This proposed Bill would create a Media Commission which would have the power to decide — quickly — whether a right of reply was justified, and if it was to ensure that newspapers or TV gave it equal space and prominence as the original attack in the next available edition or programme. This system is already operating successfully in other European countries and Ms Clwyd asserts that it has not led, as many opponents would say, to a dreary press, full of boring replies. Instead it has encouraged journalists to be more careful, restrained and truthful in what they write.

Also coming up is a proposal to “introduce a measure of protection of privacy”. Both proposals are worthy of our consideration and support, and Ann Clwyd welcomes comments about her proposals at the House of Commons, London SW1 from any interested party.


The London Evening Standard magazine (4 Dec) gave a right of reply to Harvey Proctor, the ‘spanking’ MP hounded from office by the tabloids last year. He tells a sorry tale of the lengths to which the press went in order to nail him — agents provocateurs, bribery, treachery and just plain lying. In fact, all the familiar tricks of the journo’s trade.

However, although I sympathise with Mr Proctor’s assertion that he “would like to see a change in the law so that people, including those in public service, were entitled to some sort of privacy and couldn’t be pursued in such a manner by the press”, I cannot agree with his analysis of why he was chosen for the treatment. “I firmly believe,” says Proctor, “that certain journalists set out to bring me down because they didn’t like my opinions on immigration and race relations.”

I wonder how closely Mr Proctor reads the tabloid press? I wonder if he realises how often The Sun has been censured by The Press Council for overtly racist articles? Far from disagreeing with his rotten racist opinions, most of the tabloid papers promote them with gusto. A far more likely reason for the persecution was the fact that Mr Proctor’s private life had all the elements that the tabloids thrive on. In their terms it was “kinky”, “sordid,” “bizarre”. It involved “perversions” galore and, as we well know, the reader of popular newspapers simply adores sex — the filthier and more outrageous the better. Not for himself, of course — he simply wants to tut-tut and shake his head before returning to his wife and voluptuous daughter in Congleton.

The fact that Harvey Proctor was building a career on creating misery for other people would have been a noble reason for the press to destroy his parliamentary career. Unfortunately, it was not the case.


Headline of the Month: “Storm over gay sex books for 2-year-olds.” (LONDON STANDARD 25 Nov). Presumably these books are available in a school for infant prodigies who can read at the age of two?

Insult of the month: “I accepted an invitation to a friend’s house for drinks even though I knew she was a lesbian:1 had far too much to drink and ended up having sex with her . . . I now feel that people can tell by just looking at me what a filthy animal I have turned out to be.” — letter to Marje Proops (DAILY MIRROR 17 Nov).

Quote of the month: “Can anyone seriously wish to return to a time when homosexuality was criminal? And if one takes on the Chief Rabbi’s hating the sin but loving the sinner, is this really possible? The Inquisitors of old argued that they were burning Jews and heretics out of love, but the expression of that love was mighty strange.” — Rabbi Julia Neuberger (TIMES 17 Nov).


The two subjects on which James Baldwin wrote most passionately were racism and homosexuality. His obituary in THE INDEPENDENT (2 Dec) managed to fill three long columns without once mentioning the writer’s gayness.

Many gay public figures still cling to the idea that their sexuality is “the love that dare not speak its name”, but James Baldwin was not one of them. It is an affront to his memory (and to the dignity of the whole gay community) for The Independent to pretend that such a strong motivating force was unworthy of mention.


Of all the unlikely papers, it was THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (6 Dec) which carried an article by Brenda Maddox arguing that “laws and taboos forbidding homosexual marriages are illogical and unfair.” The reasoning of the case put by Ms Maddox was flawless. “The advance of Aids, a disease which in the United States has spread first and fastest amongst homosexuals, has increased the general public’s awareness and dislike of homosexual promiscuity. Homosexuals are being urged to stick to stable relationships. Is it not, therefore, hypocritical and even dangerous to castigate a large section of the population for undesirable behaviour, while withholding the remedy most likely to discourage such behaviour?”

And did you know: “The European Commission on Human Rights has ruled that members of the Council of Europe may not outlaw relations between people of the same sex”? I certainly didn’t. Perhaps someone should tell Dr Adrian Rodgers and Fatso Dickens that their “recriminalisation” campaigns appear to be at odds with European law.


We know that the papers are usually obsessed with homosexuality but the tabloids were curiously silent in the days in the run-up to the debate on the notorious amendment to the Local Government Bill. [Note: This was the genesis of Section 28]. Most of what was said hinged on the Labour Party’s decision to oppose the clause.

THE GUARDIAN editorialised: “The Government’s opponents must decide whether to be popular or to be principled. There is more at stake than a single clause in a single bill.”

Julie Birchill wrote (MAIL ON SUNDAY 13 Dec): “The Labour Party’s decision to back the proposal is not only cynical and dishonest but a bad tactic. Didn’t Labour keep telling us during the election that the idea of Loony Left councils was a politically motivated myth of the Murdoch press? Now it seems the tabloids were telling the truth all the time. The Party, in its electoral anxiety, is accepting a piece of legislation totally devoid of logic. The idea that you can ‘promote’ people into being homosexual is hysterically funny.”

Meanwhile, Chris Smith, the only ‘out’ MP in the country, was interviewed by THE INDEPENDENT (12 Dec). “I’ve always been very anxious to say yes I am prepared to stand up for and work for gay people,” he was quoted as saying, “but I don’t want that to be the sole or even principal part of my Parliamentary work.”

At a time of unprecedented threat, Chris, this was not what we wanted to hear.

The final outcome of the debate on this issue is reported elsewhere in Gay Times.


Peter (‘stop hounding Nazi war criminals, they’re retired now’) Simple wrote in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (20 Nov): “A new book produced by the ‘Gay Teacher’s Group’, intended for pupils, parents and homosexual teachers, states: ‘We don’t know why some people are homosexual. We don’t know why some people are heterosexual either.’ Perhaps not. But one thing we do know is why homosexual proselytisers make fatuous statements of this kind and hope to get away with them.”

It seems nowadays that any mention of homosexuality which is not either condemnatory or intended to degrade is presented as “proselytising”. Schoolchildren, Mr Simple would have us believe, are just empty vessels waiting passively to be filled up with other people’s ideas. I wonder how it is that the vast majority of queer bashing attacks are committed by adolescents and young people? If homosexuals really are proselytising (‘converting from one creed, party or opinion to another’ — OED), then we aren’t making a very good job of it.


THE NEWS OF THE WORLD is obsessed with Aids — week after week it brings its readers some new ‘human interest’ angle to the disease. Which would be fine if the aim were to relieve the extra burden placed on sufferers by society’s cruel reactions to the infection. But there is something distastefully prurient and sensationalist about the NoW approach. On 6th December the paper reported on the first heterosexual man in this country to be identified as having contracted Aids from straight sex. While I have every sympathy with this chap, I loathed the way the story was written. It was shot through with horrible sideswipes at gay PWAs. “I shall never forget my horror when I first realised I had Aids. I always thought it was something that poofters got, not ordinary blokes like me,” he is quoted as saying. “Now we must tell the truth. We must reveal that Aids can kill anyone — even a perfectly normal bloke like me.”

Not only is this outrageously offensive to the vast majority of PWAs, the article was also factually incorrect. The man in question had revealed that his wife has also been identified as HIV positive. She says (and nobody corrects her): “I know any illness — even a cold — could give me full-blown Aids like Andy.”

In the NoW magazine of the same day another article told of the grotesque reactions of a small American town when a young gay resident revealed he had Aids. True to the American Christian tradition, the young man was persecuted mercilessly by friends, family and neighbours. Such cruelty and irrationality are hard to believe, and I fear that the News of the World’s approach to the disease will do nothing to quell it.

GAY TIMES December 2006

Last month, we saw Muslims (not to be confused with Islamist extremists who give everybody the creeps) getting from the press the sort of treatment that gays used to get. They were being presented as the enemy of all the values that “we” hold dear (just like we used to be), as a terrible threat to the fabric of society (just like we used to be) and as aliens leading lives that are incomprehensible to ordinary people (just like us, in fact). Of course, it isn’t quite an exact analogy. The nearest gay activists ever came to terrorism, even at the height of our unpopularity in the early eighties, was to threaten to “out” a few closeted establishment figures who were making our lives a misery.

So, while the Muslims in this country complain about poor media representation (just like we did), and discrimination (just like we did), and being denied full participation in society on their own terms (just as we did), the gay community seems to have reached that nirvana of complete acceptance and integration.

Certainly that is the opinion of Virginia Blackburn, a columnist on The Daily Express who is of the opinion that gay people no longer have anything to complain about, so why don’t we shut up. Her rant was provoked by the Gay Police Association’s advertisement that claimed that many homophobic incidents had a religious motivation.

“Why do the gay rights lobby do this kind of thing?” she asked. “No reasonable person wants gays to be discriminated against: many of my best friends and all that. My mother knows an 80-something gay man who was afraid to enter a civil partnership because he thought homosexuality might be criminalised again, and there would be evidence to bring him to trial. Happily, he had second thoughts. The point is,” Ms Blackburn says, “the gay lobby have won their case: no-one turned a hair when Sir Elton John made an honest man of David Furnish. But campaigners are now going too far…. It is safe to say that, these days, not only is homosexuality tolerated but it has become a dominant cultural force. There is no area of life where homosexuality would hold anyone back… What more do you want, boys and girls? Gays and lesbians have been given pretty much everything they’ve asked for. Now, perhaps, it is time for a period of quiet.”

I suppose the kind of thing that Victoria Blackburn was complaining about (and her article was headlined “Gay lobby must stop baying for more blood”) was that of Councillor David Clutterbuck of Bournemouth, who sent a jokey email to a colleague sending up the ever-growing list of regulations and prohibitions that local authorities have to deal with. His email was then circulated around the council and he was accused of harking to the bad old days of Tory discrimination. The Lib Dems called for him to have compulsory equality training. The Daily Mail (arch-enemy of “political correctness”) soon pounced on this as a prime example. The 72-year old Mr Clutterbuck’s crime? The email had stated that if Noah were to build his ark today he would require planning permissions, have to meet building regulations, carry out and environmental impact study, install a fire sprinkler system and seek guidance from the RSPCA. Mr Clutterbuck said: “I imagine now it would be illegal to only have animals of the opposite sex!”

Lib Dem councillor Claire Smith said: “It goes against the recent motion in full council… to remind us all to be inclusive. Can we expect an apology and a reassurance that we will not be copied in on these tedious and frankly offensive remarks?”

Oh, for Christ’s sake! What’s offensive about a bit of gentle ribbing? I know the Lib Dems have political points to score (Mr Clutterbuck was a Tory and therefore a legitimate target for politicking) but please don’t crack on that you’re trying to protect the feelings of gay people from such mildly joshing remarks. It makes us all sound like shrieking ninnies who must be protected from even the mildest criticism. It also gives The Express and The Mail the opportunity to keep presenting us all as vengeful nasties who will punish anyone who dares show even the mildest disapproval.

But never mind these po-faced politicos, has Victoria Blackburn got a point? To find out, let’s take a little ad lib troll through this month’s papers and see what kind of image the great British press, at least, has of us these days.

Blackburn’s point about cultural dominance found an echo at a private seminar on impartiality that the BBC held for its staff. The minutes of the seminar were leaked and The Daily Mail used them to launch an attack on the BBC’s bias. Among The Mail’s gripes was that the staff at the BBC was unbalanced by young people, gay people and ethnic minorities. Not enough right-wingers, bias against Christianity and favouritism for Islam etc. etc.

Certainly if you spend any time at the BBC, it rapidly becomes clear that there are an abnormally large number of gay people working there. But why is that? Is it because of politically correct quotas, or because they bring an exceptionally creative sensibility with them? Let’s not forget that one of the Beeb’s highest-paid (and popular) presenters is Graham Norton, and yes, he’s there because he’s gay, but also because he’s a great entertainer.

The papers have a very strange relationship with homosexuality. The Mail and The Express love to cling to their traditional hostility, but they are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain. Despite regularly being fed “moral panic” type stories by organisations such as the Christian Institute (latest: “Gay rights books may be forced on children in schools” – not that one again!), the right-wing papers also have to bow to the overwhelming force of gay people in the arts, in politics, in the media – everywhere. Consequently, when a gay person is in the news or promoting a new product, they are usually treated with respect and sympathy.

Take the actor Alan Cumming, who is currently appearing in the revival of Bent at the Trafalgar Studios in London. When he was doing a series of promotional interviews for the play, the issue of his sexuality was raised in all of them, and he talked openly about his experiences. Take this, in The Daily Telegraph (yes, the same Daily Telegraph that wouldn’t use the word gay for decades unless it was surrounded by quotation marks. Not any more): “He was playing gay characters long before he actually came out, most notably the camp in-flight cabin attendant in The High Life, the BBC sitcom he co-wrote. He was married at the time. Could he have played Max in Bent before he came out? ‘I would have been probably slightly scared of it because I wouldn’t have had the experience both in life and as an actor. Then my partner was a woman. Now my partner is a man. I hadn’t really arrived at that person I was going to be. Would I have been able to play the part? Yeah. I just think I’ll be better at it now’.”

Surprisingly, the tabloids were pretty laid back about reporting that a serving policeman had won the Mr Gay UK contest. Even The Daily Mail resisted the temptation to get a quote from some religious fundamentalist, and simply delivered the facts. “He said his colleagues had given him tremendous support over his sexuality,” they wrote.

The Daily Mirror reported that John Barrowman, the actor who is starring in the new Dr Who spin-off Torchwood (created by another BBC gay man) “wants to become a father with his long-term boyfriend Scott Gill” – none of censoriousness, or judgmentalism that would have accompanied such a story only a few short years ago.

In the colour supplements all is sweetness and light, with regular features by, for and about gay people.

In one of The Sunday Times’ many add-on magazines, we were treated to an article by Richard Bunce in which he tells us that “no alpha gay man is complete these days without a pampered pooch. Are they child substitutes or fashion accessories?” Mr Bunce assures his readers: “owning a dog has become a gay rite of passage”. Really? I can’t stand dogs myself, and find these over-arching generalisations about what all gay people do and want extraordinarily irritating – even when they are meant light-heartedly.

Over in The Daily Telegraph, we find that even fuddy-duddy old Prince Charles has got time for gay friends. The paper reported that the Prince “lavished praise” on Fr Harry Williams, an Anglican theologian who died earlier this year at the age of 86. In a forward to a book of Fr Williams’ essays, the Prince says: “His courageous willingness to open up his inner soul and being and to speak from the heart about his own experience of the vicissitudes, complications and agonies of life struck a powerful and immediate chord with huge numbers of undergraduates.”

This only becomes significant when read in the light of Fr Williams’ autobiography, published in 1982, when he said of his days at Cambridge University: “I slept with several men, in each case fairly regularly. They were all of them friends. Cynics will, of course, smile, but I have seldom felt more like thanking God than when having sex. In bed I used to praise Him there and then for the joy I was receiving and giving.”

All of these stories would have been unthinkable until relatively recently – or at least, they would have been decorated with outrage and condemnation. The tabloids certainly haven’t completely grown up, and now they have a new cat to kick in the shape of the immigrants who had expected a tolerant welcome when they came to Britain but hadn’t reckoned with the red tops.

There may still be problems with violence from some sections of the community, and I fear we will never be free of that. But as far as the media is concerned, we’ve come an awful long way, Dorothy.

QUOTES OF THE MONTH

“I don’t think homosexuals have any right to be respected just for being gay. They’ve a powerful claim not to be discriminated against, but there’s no reason why you should like homosexuals or think they’re a good thing!” – Dr David Starkey, TV historian, pundit and out gay man.

“The show was fantastic. I can’t make my mind up whether I want to dance like Josef Brown or dance with Josef Brown” – Sir Ian McKellen at the opening night of the hit musical Dirty Dancing.

“Can I have a kiss goodnight?” – email message from 52-year old former Republican Congressman Mark Foley to a 15-year old male intern on Capitol Hill. (Pressing the “send” button plunged the Republicans into a “morality” crisis that could help finish them off).