HIM 70, June 1984

Except for an Agenda article by Andrew Lumsden and a couple of letters in the GUARDIAN, I could find no mention in the national papers of the worrying raid on Gay’s the Word bookshop.

The only other references I could find in the straight press were an article by Alison Hennegan in THE NEW STATESMAN and a news story in THE BOOKSELLER. With her usual perceptiveness, Alison Hennegan identified the reasons for the proliferation of gay literature over the last couple of years: “It has sprung from one overriding need: a hunger for truth after so many lies; and a determination that having once found the truth we would never again lose it to those with a vested interest in suppressing or controlling access to it.”

THE BOOKSELLER quotes Peter Strauch, department manager of Dillon’s University Bookshop: “We have been ordering books from American publishers for a considerable number of years, including titles stocked at Gay’s the Word. Other central London bookshops have also imported and sold these titles for a long time.”

Given this, isn’t it strange that Gay’s the Word should be singled out for special treatment by HM Customs and Excise?

Only when these book-burning philistines visit Foyles and remove their imports will I believe that the raid is anything other than a direct strike at gay communications.


The Tory-inspired DAILY EXPRESS just can’t leave Ken Livingstone alone. Their latest piece of crude propaganda was headed “The Great Dictator” and written by Peter Grosvenor. “Would Londoners, now paying rates for daft schemes to support gay movements, have voted so convincingly for Labour had they known Red Ken would be running the city?”

The answer to that, Mr Grosvenor, according to the latest opinion polls, is an overwhelming YES. So stuff that up your nostrils and sniff it.

As for Red Ken himself, well he refuses to back down on his support for gay rights simply for the sake of political expediency. He is reported in THE STANDARD as saying: “Being gay or Lesbian is natural for gay men and lesbians. This needs to be understood by the heterosexual majority. The GLC has endeavoured to recognise this in its policy.”

Obviously the Tories and their Fleet Street toe-rags don’t take easily to common-sense logic.


THE NEW YORK TIMES ran a major feature entitled “For Victims of AIDS, Support is a Lonely Siege.” It described the work of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a research, support and campaigning group in America.

On the one hand, writer Larry Kramer says: “We’re more responsible. Everyone in the gay community realises now that homosexuality is defined by more than what you do sexually. Being gay is a cultural tradition, a heritage to be proud of.”

But on the other hand, there is growing evidence of a drift back into the old ways of bath houses, cruising, sexual partnerings running into many hundreds and all the other things that seem, on current evidence, to encourage the spread of AIDS.

The Gay Men’s Health Crisis is receiving 30 calls a week from newly diagnosed AIDS victims. They think it highly likely that as many as 30,000 more cases are, at this moment incubating.

Depressing stuff indeed.


Writing in WOMAN magazine, ‘royal-watcher’ Anthony Holden says “the strains of the last 18 months are beginning to show on the Queen’s face.”

Part of the strain was the resignation of Commander Tresstrail “in disgrace” after his homosexuality was revealed.

Never mind the Queen, what I want to know is how Commander Tresstrail’s face is faring under the strain he’s been exposed to after his cruel and unnecessary martyrdom by the media monsters?

And if she was so concerned, why didn’t Her Majesty utter a single word in his defence?


Spike Milligan wrote a letter to NEW SOCIETY suggesting that “parliament should set up a central screening bureau for would-be parents. It would look into people’s records to see if they are drunks, criminals, violent and whether they can support a family.” He says: “Children are being born to drunks, drug addicts, masochists, sadists and even in the bizarre context of lesbians…”

Now hold on a minute Mr Milligan. Am I wrong in saying that you’ve spent more time than most in mental institutions suffering from manic depression? Isn’t your rather unstable state of mind well chronicled? But I can find no evidence of restraint on your part when it came to parenthood.

Many lesbians make exemplary parents and to have their parenthood dismissed by the increasingly unfunny Mr Milligan is, to put it mildly, stark, staring mad.


THE SUN (described by another Fleet Street journal as a “yobbo paper”) lived up to its image when reporting the attack on pop star Marilyn in Australia.

Marilyn was beaten up in a gay bar out there. THE SUN gleefully splashed it across the front page, with the comment from the Aussie police chief: “He isn’t seriously hurt — all he needs is a powder puff.”

But as far as gay-bashing goes, the antipodean thug still has a long way to go before he can equal the editor of THE SUN.


THE whingeing Michael Jackson is still going on about how gay he isn’t. After getting his mother to reassure the loyal fans that her weird son was not homosexual (on the grounds it was against religion), we now have his doctor making the same assertion in THE SUN.

All right, Michael. I believe it. The question is: do you?

GAY TIMES 84, August 1985

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

GAY TIMES 93, June 1986

“Vile book in school!” screamed the front-page headline in THE SUN “Pupils see pictures of gay lovers,” was the sub-heading on this so-called “Exclusive” story. It concerned a book called ‘Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin’ published by Gay Men’s Press. It has been available for three years but The Sun managed to discover it the day before the elections for the Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority, who have made the book available to their teachers.

The Sun described the book as “a shocking schoolbook showing a little girl in bed with her homosexual father and his naked lover.” A more outrageous piece of distortion would be hard to imagine. It is, in fact, a friendly and reassuring attempt to help the children of gay parents understand their situation better. The Sun typically makes it sound like a sordid piece of porn all wrapped up in incest and child exploitation.

And as for “exclusive” —the book was ‘exposed’ by THE NEWS OF THE WORLD several years ago, and the week before The Sun’s story, THE ISLINGTON GAZETTE was using it to get at the Labour-controlled council there. And only the weekend before that wheezing old windbag George Gale (who has moved from the EXPRESS to the SUNDAY MIRROR) was on about the same book: “I don’t mind what homosexuals get up to so long as they don’t frighten the horses or spread Aids,” he says magnanimously, “But like the great majority of people who lead normal and natural sex lives rather than abnormal and unnatural ones, I get fed up with the gay lobby. The idea that homosexuals form an oppressed minority is nonsense. The notion that they are entitled to propagate their peculiar practises at the public’s expense is preposterous.”

Can you believe the arrogance of this man? Not only does he pat himself on the back for his “normality” he’s got the almighty conceit to suggest that anyone who isn’t exactly like him is “unnatural”.

Not wanting to be left out of this free-for-all gay bashing, that tiresome old toss-pot John Junor in THE SUNDAY EXPRESS put his size twelve in. “Which porn shop is peddling this filth?” he demands. (He’s talking about the book, by the way, not his newspaper.) “No porn shop … the Inner London Education Authority.” You’ll be pleased to know that Sir John’s long-overdue retirement is imminent, thank gawd.


The opinion polls had forewarned the Tory press that Thatcher was going to take a pasting, so they pulled out all the stops in their dirty tricks campaign prior to the recent elections. “Row over call for gay education in schools,” lied THE MAIL, whipping up a “storm” over a leaflet distributed by the Campaign for Homosexual equality to all candidates in the ILEA elections. All the leaflet said was that candidates should try to remember that not everyone is heterosexual. That simple message somehow became “children should be taught that relationships between men and women are not necessarily normal” in the hands of the Mail’s Home Affairs Correspondent Anthony Doran.

Meanwhile, Mr Shah’s tatty excuse for a newspaper, TODAY, proved that despite all its claims to be ‘different’ it is really just more of the same. It went on about a feminist group in Haringey, North London who were campaigning against racism and sexism. With the deftness of a practised liar, the Today hack transformed it into: “A feminist group in a left wing borough has been attacked for trying to turn people into homosexuals.” It’s so ludicrous it’s laughable.

And THE MAIL couldn’t let this story pass, either. They said the group was “urging Haringey council to publicise lesbians as loving, caring, perfectly normal women with special teaching on the subject in the borough’s schools plus the promotion of books like The Joy of Lesbian Sex in local libraries.” The DAILY TELEGRAPH told us of Islington Council’s “Job priority plan for homosexuals.”

Local papers, too, went to town on the “gays-under-the-Labour-bed” routine. THE EALING GAZETTE created a non-story about a local Labour candidate (who also happens to be a priest) after he vaguely spoke in favour of gay rights in a private letter. It didn’t work. The Tories lost control of Ealing along with many other councils.

But has this taught the newspapers the lesson that the more lies you tell, the less notice people take of you? I doubt it. In the run-up to the general election we can expect to see our lives used as a political weapon more and more. I just hope the Labour Party and the Alliance won’t allow this tactic to scare them away from their commitment to gay rights.


Television event of the month was the screening of ‘An Early Frost’, a TV movie about Aids and the effect on a middle-class American family when they discover their Son has the disease. The subject was sensitively handled, although it was constrained by the conventions of the TV movie genre. It is reported that the script had to be rewritten thirteen times before production was authorised by the network censors.

On the whole it was well-intentioned and had moments of real emotion and compassion but, strangely, the gay lovers never touched each other, not even in the privacy of their own home. When they were eventually reunited after a long and painful separation they didn’t even shake hands.

By the end, all the homophobes had seen the error of their ways and the whole family was hugging each other and crying, which seems to be the mandatory conclusion to all American TV movies.

However, given the present right-wing mood, we should be grateful to see that American TV can still find time for thoughtful, liberal drama. ‘An Early Frost’ will have helped a lot of people understand something that is still being deliberately misrepresented by other sections of the media.


Much further down the telly scale comes ‘Trapper John’ (Thames TV), an American series which is a sort of cross between ‘Dr Kildare’ and `Starsky and Hutch’. It is shown very late at night for, I suspect, those who need an aid to sleep. A recent episode concerned itself with the attempted assassination of a gay policeman in the San Francisco force. As the injured rookie recovered in the hospital where the series is set, his bigoted father turned up and went bananas when he discovered that his son was a “fag”. Before the programme was over, of course, they were hugging each other, crying and saying, “I love you, pop” and “I love you, too, son”. Zzzzzzz.


Bernard Levin, scab journalist at THE TIMES, wrote an interesting piece headlined “Why gays must not create a new ghetto”. His thoughts had been prompted by a visit to Larry Kramer’s play ‘The Normal Heart’ (Albery Theatre). Mr Levin told us that he fully sympathises with our plight and can see the impatience we feel over the lack of political interest in Aids because it is perceived as ‘the gay plague’. “After decades of brutal incomprehension and indeed persecution, the homosexuals’ desire to assert their nature positively rather than defensively is fully understandable. But to assert it in terms of an entirely separate nature is to risk exchanging one kind of ghetto for another,” So what does Levin see as the answer? “Perhaps we should not think in terms of ‘homosexuals’ at all, much less of a ‘homosexual community’ …But impatience and anger will be wasted (as well as resisted) if they lead to claims for a separate status, let alone a special one.”

There may be some truth in what Levin says. In the end we can’t all live lives apart from the majority, and few of us would want to. But in the face of tyrants like his own paymaster and an establishment that doesn’t just drag its feet over change but actively tries to push us back into the closet, can it be wrong to want to unite and fight? The ‘gay community’ is a political rather than a social or religious grouping. We are so diverse in our opinions, backgrounds and priorities that we could never form a discernible ‘community’ In the same way as the Jews or the ethnic minorities do. Dennis Altman got nearest to it in his book ‘Aids and the New Puritanism’ (Pluto Press) when he used the term ‘gay constituency’.

But whatever we choose to call ourselves, we won’t be pushed back into the bad old days, not by AIDS or Murdoch or Tebbit. We’re here and we’re staying here.


‘La Cage Aux Folles’ opened at the London Palladium to predictably ecstatic reviews. A couple of the ‘liberal’ papers tried some political analysis of the first Broadway musical with a gay theme. Michael Billington in THE GUARDIAN though it “about as daring as a Sunday school outing”. He makes the point that the gay ‘marriage’ at the centre of the show is too bland and placid to be real. “The show’s trick is to pander to an audience’s liberalism without ever testing it,” he says. Michael Ratcliff in The OBSERVER quotes one line from the show: “In the minds of the masses a lush is more acceptable than a fruit” and then says, “the audience titters because it is true and most of them agree.”

The only thing that offended me about ‘La Cage’ was the hype that preceded it. The male ‘chorus girls’ couldn’t wait to tell TODAY that they weren’t gay. “I’m married,” said one, “And I’ve got a steady girlfriend, let’s get it straight,” says another. THE MAIL said the star of the show, George Hearn, “would like it to be known that he is a three-times married heterosexual father of one, who likes pretty dresses but likes them best on women.”

Eventually Dennis Quilley, the co-star, told THE STANDARD “I am tired of having to answer questions about how a straight man could play the role of a gay club owner in France.”  Just so long as we all know—nobody, but nobody who has anything to do with ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ is gay. OK?


A POLL in the DAILY EXPRESS conducted amongst single women between the ages of 16-30 showed that “29% thought homosexual relations between consenting adults were morally wrong”.

Does that mean that 71% thought they were perfectly OK?