GAY TIMES 82, June 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=

Anti-gay hysteria reigns in Fleet Street and this month it has reached a new pitch. Using homosexuality as a blunt instrument with which to bash its political enemies, the Right-wing papers have poured relentless scorn, slander and hatred over us.

“Fury over sex-classes for under-16s at GLC on-the-rates gay centre” rambled a headline in the DAILY EXPRESS as it led into another of the ‘storms’ which seem to emanate mainly from the gin glasses of the well-patronised wine bars of Fleet Street. This was one of those totally fabricated ‘controversies’ which are of interest to no-one except the creepy propagandists of the press who have the uncanny ability to turn innocent activities into sinister-sounding goings-on. It was a classic of the genre.

The inventor of this particular flight of fancy was John Burns. He managed to turn the Gay Youth Movement’s Spring Festival into a “bizarre workshop” attended almost exclusively, according to him, by paedophiles. There was not a scrap of evidence to support any of the insinuations he made, not one fact to justify the shock-horror approach. And if you need any further proof that it was just another excuse to have a go at gays, just look who we have crawling from under his stone, with the every-ready quote, none other than our friend, Geoffrey Dickens MP. “It’s disgraceful,” he ‘stormed’, “Every parent ought to be concerned. This weekend must be cancelled.”

The other rent-a-gob Tory, Peter Bruinvels, was hammering on the door of that weird organ THE SUN when it revealed there was to be a gay storyline in ‘Dynasty’. He ‘stormed’ “It is sick and sad that the producers have revived the homosexual element. We don’t want this kind of thing on British TV.”

What kind of thing, exactly? Well, according to the SUN “the new affair will be more explicit. Steven is shown holding hands with Luke and hugging.” Aaaargh! Quick, pull the covers down over the piano legs, cover the children’s eyes—hugging! Whatever next?

Well, for that we have to return to THE DAILY EXPRESS for the wicked witch of the west, Jean Rook, to tell us about Greenwich Council’s decision to promote better understanding of homosexuality in its schools. Leading with her not-inconsiderable chin, the Rook crowed: “I believe in being tolerant of fairies and I don’t go round pulling off their wings. But let no man—let alone a recognised and practically qualified ‘teacher’ of the subject—attempt to teach my son how to fly off the standard course.”

A week later she was at it again: “as a 1985 mother, I’d sooner burn that classroom speech (in defence of Oscar Wilde) than deliver it to an increasingly warped and bent section of society which ill-names itself Gay. Gay? They are a miserable bunch of fanatics who spend their lives dismally pretending to revel in what they are. And outrageously trying to recruit others … Now my backlash is complete … to red Hell with Oscar Wilde!”

Jean Rook puts me increasingly in mind of one of those Daleks who screech “Exterminate! Exterminate!” in a rising pitch until eventually a fuse blows and a little wisp of smoke comes out of the top. I believe she’s now been sedated and taken back to The Home.

Then we come to turncoat ex-union leader and now Tory toadie, Lord Frank Chapple. “The latest idea from Greenwich council is as queer as I’ve seen,” he wrote in THE DAILY MAIL. “Apparently the council’s education sub-committee wants school children to be taught the ‘riches … of homosexual experience!’ I say, no way.”

But who the hell cares what Frank says? He lost his credence a long time ago.


Predictably the election of Bob Crossman as the first ‘out’ mayor in the London Borough of Islington provoked the papers to sneers. They obviously couldn’t cope with it in any other way. George Gale in THE DAILY EXPRESS said: “Homosexuals usually like dressing up. Bob Crossman and his boyfriend might fancy themselves in ‘mayor and mayoress’ gowns and chains. We will then be able to consider the lilies of Islington. They toil not neither do they spin—but Solomon in all his glory would not be arrayed like one of these.”

I suggest you go and lie down with a Valium, George.

Another columnist with a lot of impotent rage is Alan Williams in THE MAIL ON SUNDAY. “Now all this is very amusing,” he sneers, “But such idiocies have sinister implications… While we continue to deride Victorian values and giggle at the novelties of trendy ‘sexual politics’, in the end we find it is the grim, humourless zealots of the Left who have the last laugh. And when they do … we may think it about as funny as a bread queue on a cold day in Siberia.”

So, that’s how we’re going to bring down Western civilisation is it? I’d often wondered.


Straight critics, even in the gutter papers, were over the moon about Oscar-winning gay film The Times of Harvey Milk. lain Johnstone in THE OBSERVER said it was “an historical document of lasting value” and “one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.” Philip French in THE SUNDAY TIMES found it “an eloquent and deeply moving picture” whilst THE MAIL ON SUNDAY critic defied “anyone not to be moved by it”. Clive Hirschhorn of THE SUNDAY EXPRESS conceded that the film “deservedly won an Oscar”, whilst Neil Sinyard in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH said, “the film was ultimately a wide-ranging plea for tolerance and it is hard to imagine anyone not responding to it.”

Only the DAILY TELEGRAPH found sympathy with Dan White, Harvey Milk’s assassin. Trying to make excuses for the double murder, THE TELEGRAPH said: “It was perhaps due to a subconscious fear that with the multiplication of homosexuals, reproduction must eventually cease altogether, a powerful influence toward self-preservation, as it were.”

If, even after seeing the film, this man could write such twaddle, we should bear in mind the words of Derek Malcolm in THE GUARDIAN: “It shows how minorities only have to work together to gain meaningful power, and how ordinary people can be persuaded that those they have originally feared, or even hated, can work with them towards the same general good.”

If you haven’t seen the film, I urge you to do so. But for those who are not in London—start lobbying your local art cinema or film society to include it on their programme. And a letter to the film buyers at the TV stations wouldn’t go amiss.


“I cannot imagine a Christian society in which divorce, abortion, sexual relationships before marriage and homosexuality are tolerated,” said the Pope in Holland.

Coming as he does from the Vatican’s long line of thieves, murderers and criminals, John Paul II seems a comparatively mild Pope. But his dotty doctrines, with their nonsensical and inhumane demands, got a rough ride in the Netherlands last month.

How comforting it was to see the Popemobile being pelted with eggs and bottles. How gratifying to see the ghastly old duffer squirming in his chair as his ‘supporters’ gave him an earful. According to the DAILY TELEGRAPH he sat ‘stony-faced’ as a missionary leader, Henrietta Wasser, told him off for his attitudes to sexual matters. She says he “points the finger instead of extending the hand.”


Remember Donna (born-again) Summers? She’s the singer who rode to fame on the backs of her gay fans and then said: “Homosexuals have brought Aids on themselves. The disease is a retribution from God”.

Now the EVENING STANDARD reports she is “attempting a reconciliation with her fans.”

This probably means Donna’s short of a bob or two. Well, as far as I’m concerned she can piss off and ask Billy Graham for a loan.


Nobody will be surprised by the stopping of the grant to the London Lesbian and Gay Centre. In reporting the decision, THE NEW STATEMAN asks: “What gloss did the clerks of the DoE come up with to save the ‘human face’ of Kenneth Baker?” Nothing feasible, I’m afraid. But that hasn’t stopped THE SUN calling it a “seedy pick-up joint” and THE DAILY MAIL repeating the slander. THE MAIL ON SUNDAY also calls it a “pick-up joint” —even though not one of the writers has ever been near it.


I LOOK forward to seeing you all on the Pride March. Fleet Street has made it important that we all show up this year —so please make the effort.

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.