GAY TIMES 79, March 1985

The British press has declared war on homosexuals. “The renewed open season on gays” was how Susan Hemmings described it in a letter to THE GUARDIAN, and it has gone well beyond the spiteful sniping we are used to. This month has seen one of the most concerted, sustained and vindictive attacks ever launched on our community.

Day after day the Big Guns have been firing off volleys of misinformation and distortion on the subject of AIDS. With apparent glee, papers like THE SUN and DAILY STAR have been allotting acres of space to bigots who seem to have been waiting patiently in the wings for this opportunity.

And by using this device (“Vicar says AIDS is the wrath of God”) the papers can publish the crudest and most despicable slanders without shouldering any of the responsibility: “We didn’t say it—we just quoted the vicar”.

THE SUN gave us a prime example when it afforded large prominence to a Liverpool publican who had banned gays from his pubs. “AIDS is a real threat to the moral fabric of society,” he was allowed to say. “A lot of ordinary people are going to catch something from beer glasses. We don’t want gays on the premises. Let’s face it, they’re the ones who causes it.”

Just the worthless opinion of some ignorant landlord, maybe, but it was given the front page treatment. It also gave The SUN the opportunity to headline: “Beer mugs may spread the disease”.

If all this sounds like superstitious clap, trap, you ain’t seen nothing yet, for it takes the media’s “intellectuals” to give the wrath of God Theory credence. With the contorted logic much-favoured by propagandists who can’t make a real case, Peregrine Worsthorne in The SUNDAY TELEGRAPH wrote: “The public’s first reaction to this new danger will be to look for a scapegoat—a search which, in this case, presents no difficulty at all, the male homosexual being the obvious candidate. Not that scapegoat is quite the right word, it carries with.it the suggestion— wholly inappropriate in the case of, AIDS – of some innocent person or group being forced to bear the undeserved burden… In the case of Aids, male homosexuals undoubtedly are responsible. According to Mr Worsthorne, then, homosexuals have had it coming for some time and now they’re going to get it – the only thing missing from his piece was “praise the Lord.”


But who, in Peregrine Worsthorne’s reckoning, is “innocent” and who “guilty”? All I know is that if he’d used the world Jew or black instead of homosexual he would have been hauled up under the Race Relations Act.


So how are we, the guilty ones, going to be punished? Well, to start with they can take our jobs away. That’s the idea of fat-arsed, thick-headed Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens who, according to THE DAILY EXRESS urged the Government to tighten up on local authorities who “encourage” homosexual teachers.

Expanding on this theme, THE EXPRESS editorialised: “Why was the Reverend Gregory Richards, a homosexual, employed as a chaplain in the prison service? ‘God knows how many people he has infected with the disease. Equal rights for homosexuals cannot operate in sensitive appointments when such risks as AIDS exist.”

And never missing an opportunity to kick a man when he’s dead, the emetic editor of THE SUNDAY EXPRESS, John Junor, wrote: “Shouldn’t there be a post mortem on how Rev Gregory Richards, a known homosexual, came to be given and allowed to keep for so long, a prison service job in an institution for teenage offenders.”

And isn’t it time there was a post mortem on Sir John Junor – preferably a real one.


THE SUN’S infinitely questionable editorial voice settled for prison sentences. “We believe that all would-be blood donors should be asked to declare that they are not practising homosexuals. If it was discovered that they had lied, then an automatic jail sentence should be imposed.”

But which jails would all these convicted blood donors be sent to? Very few, it seems, for those tough prison screws turn out to be just like those silly people who stand on chairs and scream when they see a mouse. AIDS is not a mouse, I agree, but there is no need for this overreaction.


The same ludicrous panic seems to have spread to firemen who have decided that they won’t use the kiss-of-life any more even though “it saves about 1000 lives a year by reviving victims of fires, road crashes and other tragedies,” said THE SUNDAY PEOPLE. The paper seemed oblivious to the fact that their mad three-inch headlines about the disease might have something to do with creating the firemen’s fear.

Meanwhile the lead story of the same edition (“Scandal of AIDS cover-up on QE2”) was about Cunard not making a big fuss about an AIDS victim (“a homosexual millionaire”) being taken off their flagship. “Astonishing” said THE PEOPLE — which presumably would have preferred the passengers to abandon ship in mid-Pacific.


People who behave rationally and with compassion in dealing with AIDS victims are being increasingly vilified. Like Dr John Newman, the BBC’s medical officer who allowed a man (“a homosexual in his 30s) according to THE SUNDAY MIRROR to work at TV Centre until he died of pneumonia. “I knew this man had AIDS but I felt it was safe for him to carry on working.” “BBC let AIDS man keep on working,” screeched THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH.

It would be a mortal shame if this kind of exaggerated reaction discouraged people from acting sensibly for fear of being persecuted by the press.


To be fair there have been a few voices raised within the media’s ranks, trying to bring a bit of balance. But they have been few, and far from prominent.

Alix Palmer, a columnist on THE DAILY STAR, attacked Peregrine Worsthorne as “a morality-monger” and said the Rev Owen (“homosexuals should repent”) Leigh-Williams was “riddled with superstition and not much common sense.” Whilst John Smith in THE SUNDAY PEOPLE said that the opportunist vicar was “talking through his dog-collar”. Smith also wrote: “It would be disastrous if this lead to the kind of hysteria which gripped the United States where people feared they might catch the disease simply by being served by a homosexual waiter or handling change from a homosexual bus conductor.” Disastrous indeed. Perhaps Mr Smith should have a word with his editor about that.

THE GUARDIAN commented: “Practical steps might beneficially be accompanied by a wider recognition that male homosexuals who are bearing the main brunt of this cruel and dreadful disease need all the support and understanding a supposedly caring society can provide.

THE DAILY MIRROR wrote an editorial that pinpointed the dangers. “It is homosexuals who are at risk most of all. If the present scare continues they will be treated as lepers, socially and politically, as well as medically. The Ministry of Health must publicise clearly and honestly what the dangers are. Making ADS a notifiable disease must not be an excuse for a witch hunt against homosexuals, but part of a campaign to stop it spreading.”

Perhaps Mr Maxwell could take some of his own advice and use The Daily Mirror as a publicity tool to put the record straight, and some of his money to stop the tidal wave of terror.


But the low point, the very pits, came from The DAILY STAR: “Do homosexual lawyers get legal AIDS? Do gay orange growers get marmalAIDS and do teetotallers get lemon AIDS?” Hilarious isn’t it? But here’s an even funnier one that will appeal to the Fleet Street wags. Did you hear about THE DAILY STAR journalist who had a stroke and was paralysed all down one side until he died in agony a few days later? Thought that one would tickle you.


So how do we protect ourselves from this relentless press onslaught? What can we do in our own defence?

First, we have to somehow get over to people the knowledge that AIDS is not a “plague” — gay or otherwise. It is not highly contagious. Unfortunately, this is the myth the press are most determined to foster. They surreptitiously suggest you can get AIDS from a beer glass or from a church cup or from even being in the same room as gays. You do not get AIDS like you get the ‘flu and people must be made to understand this.

Here are a few things we can all do, and if you think of others, please write to Gay Times and share them:

  1. Blitz the editors and journalists of the offending newspapers with letters and phone calls. It might be that the reporters just don’t understand the issues. If this is the case, we have to make them understand. Letters to correspondence columns can help redress the balance of distorted reporting; this is particularly true of the regional press which is much more likely to print letters from readers. The newspapers are tireless in their efforts to discredit and defame us—we must be equally vigorous in our own defence. Make a habit of writing protest letters—by the score if necessary.
  2. Write to your MP explaining your disquiet over newspaper coverage. Tell him or her that it is time the Government took stronger measures to disseminate the truth. You could hammer home the need for more money to be allocated to AIDS research.
  3. Put friends, family and colleagues in the picture as much as possible. Explain that the media is not giving a clear picture of what is happening—then tell them the known facts. You can help yourself in this task by obtaining a supply of leaflets about AIDS from the Health Education Council, 13-39 Standard Road, London NW10 6HD. The printed word undoubtedly has more authority than the spoken one—a fact the press use to their advantage.
  4. If you are a member of the National Union of Journalists (or you know someone who is) raise the matter of the disgraceful incitement to panic at chapel meetings. Remind your fellow members of the NUJ guidelines detailing how AIDS should be reported, which were issued last August and which have been flagrantly disregarded.
  5. Individual members of the public can make complaints to the National Union of Journalists as an alternative to the totally ineffective Press Council. Offending journalists can be brought before their chapels and disciplined if the offence is serious enough.
  6. Make a donation to The Terrence Higgins Trust. This is the only organisation trying to counter the panic and hysteria with hard facts and authoritative comments. We must ensure that the Trust survives and their work expands as it becomes more and more vital to all of us.
  7. We are all worried about AIDS—not only about the disease but about the reactions to it and the implications for gay people. We must support each other and unite for a fight back. Discuss AIDS with your friends and make sure you are aware of the facts. Talk about your fears and let’s think seriously about the changes we can make in our lifestyles to ensure the disease is checked. People who are on their own and worried about what is happening should not remain isolated—get in touch with a gay helpline and talk through your fears.

GAY TIMES 82, June 1985

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 89, February 1986

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.”