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 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 85, September 1985

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

GAY TIMES 87, November 1985

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Thanks a bundle Mrs T.


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

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

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


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

GAY TIMES 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.”

GAY TIMES 91, April 1986

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

I think it’s sad.


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

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

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

GAY TIMES 95, August 1986

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 100, January 1987

The “swirling cesspit”—which, if I’m not mistaken, is located somewhere in Greater Manchester Police Headquarters—has unleashed the backlash we’ve all been anticipating. Those of us who’ve been hoping that reason would prevail have seen our hopes vanishing down the plug-hole. Ayatollah Anderton has rained fire and brimstone upon us. [Note:James Anderton was Chief Constable of Greater Manchester from 1975 to 1991. He was also an evangelical Christian prone to making outrageously reactionary remarks. At a national police conference on how the police should deal with people with Aids, he said: “Everywhere I go I see evidence of people swirling around in the cesspool of their own making. Why do homosexuals freely engage in sodomy and other obnoxious sexual practices knowing the dangers involved?”]

His words were ludicrous, unrealistic, over-the-top and dangerous. They were the words of ignorance and fear and they were the very words which THE SUN and the denizens of another cesspit had been waiting for. “Perverts are to blame for the killer plague,” was THE SUN’s headline (12 Dec), one which they’ve had on ice for some time now, waiting for the right moment. “Why do homosexuals continue to share each other’s beds?” asked The Sun’s leader writer, “Their defiling the act of love is not only unnatural but in today’s Aids-hit world it is LETHAL … The Sun hopes Mr Anderton will treat these perverts with the contempt they deserve.”

You think it can’t get any worse than that? Look at the DAILY EXPRESS (13 Dec) “The homosexuals who have brought this plague upon us should be locked up,” said one of their readers. “Burning is too good for them. Bury them in a pit and pour on quick lime.”

“In leading a moral crusade against the decadent sexual attitude of a society that condones homosexuality and prostitution and thereby fosters the spread of Aids, Mr Anderton is articulating a deep-rooted feeling in Britain,” said an editorial in The LONDON STANDARD (12 Dec) and this seemed to be borne out by a telephone poll on LBC radio (12 Dec) which showed 74 percent in favour of Mr Anderton’s views. The Manchester police claimed 99 percent support for their chief from the “hundreds” of calls they said they had received.

And yet criticism for Mr Anderton’s speech came from unlikely sources. The Government being one of them. Minister’s involved in the Aids education campaign were quick to jump on the outrageous remarks. TODAY newspaper (13 Dec) opined that: “Policemen, it is said, have big feet, James Anderton has a big mouth, too … His outburst … will do nothing to stem the growing hysteria over this disease.” And even THE STAR managed to say: “When the deeply religious Mr Anderton attends church tomorrow, we suggest he reflects on two words of criticism from the Terrence Higgins Trust … unchristian and uncaring.”

But on Sunday (14 Dec) the right-wing press were once more on the bandwagon, causing it to roll even faster. “Mr Anderton’s remarks will strike an answering chord in the breasts of many men and women in the pew who cannot be described as stupid or intolerant.” wrote the Rev. William Oddie in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, “the tragedy that follows disobeying God’s instructions was not surprising.”

“James Anderton is right,” editorialised THE SUNDAY EXPRESS. “He talks more sense than all the Government propaganda we have had so far.”

“Aids should be made a notifiable disease and buggery, almost certainly the main way of transmitting it, should once more become a criminal offence,” was the predictable response of George Gale in THE SUNDAY MIRROR. And finally, THE SUNDAY TIMES warned: “Anderton has served notice. The Moral Majority is stirring.”

Anderton’s speech has certainly lit the sparks of intolerance, hatred and violence, and now the fascists of the press are anxious for those sparks to be fanned into a conflagration. For if this raw incitement to violence comes from the police, then who will gays turn to for protection from this ghastly threat? The “moral majority” have stirred before within living memory, in Germany. There “morality” was that of the murderer and the beast. They were equally convinced that what they were doing was right and “necessary” to protect their beloved country. Is the same mistake going to be made again?


The next General Election will, according to Joe Ashton MP (writing in THE STAR) be fought on the issue of “Aids, homos, lesbians, Loony Left, race and barmy councils.” The groundwork is already being laid by the Tory tabloids droning on endlessly about local authorities and gay rights. Aids has come along just at the right time to add fuel to this fire. And despite Norman Fowler’s plea that Aids not be used as a party-political weapon, we have sad spectacle of it becoming just that.

The Prime Minister has fired her first volley, so we know it is serious. According to THE STAR (3 Dec) “she said she hoped for a reversal of recent trends which have made homosexuality and drug taking socially accepted.” This allowed The Star to headline its report: “Maggie’s Rap for Gay Out-casts—Aids threat makes them unacceptable.” But is this what Mrs Thatcher really said or just the Star’s interpretation? For the answer to that we have to turn to THE GUARDIAN (3 Dec) to find out that she was answering questions from Tory MP John Townend who “asked her to agree that the spread of the disease could be greatly reduced if ‘there was a change in public attitudes, and in particular if indulging in homosexual activities and drug taking were once again to become morally unacceptable.’ The Prime Minister replied: ‘I’m sure that attitudes are changing in the light of information about Aids … and then I think that much of the behaviour that has been going on will be unacceptable for many and various reasons.” Ominous enough, I agree, but hardly The Star’s contention that she has called for gays to be made “outcasts.” Wishful thinking on their part, I suppose.


The Sun journalist with the highest hate-rating amongst “loony left” students is Professor John Vincent. He wrote in 3rd Dec issue of that rag: “This autumn’s Labour Conference voted … for a public campaign for gay rights … absurd though this is. For gay rights today are much the same as anyone else’s, and are not under any obvious threat.” (Where has this man been for the past three months?). “There is not much sign of a public campaign from Labour’s National Executive. Presumably being sensible men, they realise that there are few more uphill tasks than promoting gay rights in the middle of the Aids plague.”

Despite the glaring contradictions in this short piece, Prof. Vincent is probably right about the Labour Party. But I don’t see that the Tories really have any reasoned argument for going to the opposite extreme and trying to take rights away from gay people. Indeed, their bluff was called as THE DAILY EXPRESS (6 Dec) reported: “An allegation about Tory gays in ‘high places’ shocked the Commons yesterday during a Conservative attack on Labour council policies. Angered by Tory complaints about gay teachers in Labour authorities, the party’s front-bencher Mr Jack Straw claimed there are some in high places in the Conservative hierarchy who have homosexual tendencies … He said gays holding senior posts in the Conservative party deserve the same tolerance that Labour Councillors are trying to give in their own areas. He added: “Members better put up or shut up on this because if they are saying it is wrong for homosexuals to teach in schools, are they also saying it is also wrong to seek leadership of this country and to seek prominent position within the Tory party and in this House?”

It seems like a reasonable point at first sight, but THE SUN (6 Dec) wasn’t long in turning the whole thing on its head. “Power-hungry gays have infiltrated the top ranks of the Tory party”, and you see how easily the whole thing turns into a witch-hunt within the Tory party, and how this would add to the growing paranoia and hatred of gays in general.

Indeed, there are signs of it happening already. The SUNDAY MIRROR (7 Dec) revealed that “would-be Conservative candidates were sent on a weekend of intensive interviews by Tory Central Office.” They were told that if they wanted to get ahead, they must get a wife. “All the bachelors in this group were taken aside and told that they had ‘little chance’ unless they got married. The MIRROR says that when bachelor ex-PM Ted Heath was asked about the ban he retorted “It sounds like nonsense”. Another unmarried Tory, Charles Irving said: “It’s a typical Conservative attitude from the Victorian era.” But aren’t the Tories into Victorian values? Perhaps Mr Irving had better watch his seat (if you’ll pardon the expression), along with a lot of ambitious, but closeted, Tory politicians.

Faint hope comes in a quote from a spokesman for Norman Tebbit (THE SUN 6 Dec): “Mr Tebbit knows homosexuals” (not in the biblical sense one assumes) “and has a high regard for some of them.” But then, Norman Tebbit is lower than a snake’s belly, so who’d trust anything he said anyway?


More from the crazy world of Aids reporting. The good news is that some papers have tried to look at the issues sanely, rationally and calmly. Full marks to TODAY (Nov 19/20) for an informed four-page special. Much of the credit for the realistic tone of the piece must surely go to gay journalist Harry Coen. The DAILY TELEGRAPH (Dec 1/2) also tackled the issue satisfactorily with a two-day feature by Lesley Garner. The GUARDIAN continued to be sensible and restrained with several excellent features and letters.

Franklin’s cartoon

The low-life tabloids, however, persist in their campaign of wilful distortion, sensationalism and trivialisation. The SUN has been particularly nasty, as you’d expect. “Gay Santa Gets Sack—Fairy grotto bust up” said the front page of 6 Dec. They wallow and rejoice in the pain and humiliation being heaped on gay people because of Aids. They, and their sister paper, THE NEWS OF THE WORLD, have harassed and pursued Kenny Everett, almost willing Aids on the poor man. They published a cartoon by Franklin on 5 Dec which would disgust anyone with a grain of compassion.

THE LONDON STANDARD also hit rock bottom with a tasteless Jak cartoon (24 Nov). Aids is causing monumental suffering to a lot of people—and human misery and death are not the material that jokes are made from. These peddlers of hate should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.


Here’s a selection of other quotes from the past month to illustrate how serious the threat to our lives has become:

“The surest way to protect the public from Aids is to outlaw homosexuality and lock up offenders. —Desmond Swayne, prospective Conservative candidate for Pontypridd (WESTERN MAIL 22 Nov).

“Isn’t it time the Government either stopped pretending that the fairies who started this disease, and the even filthier fairies who keep spreading it, are the fairies at the bottom of the garden,” —John Junor (SUNDAY EXPRESS 30 Nov)

“It disturbs me that the growing ‘army’ of homosexuals is infiltrating the world of children’s television… We cannot allow this to continue. And more especially when studio audiences are invariably brought into contact with these persons,” (Roy Court, CHELTENHAM SOURCE 23 Oct)

“I have no sympathy with promiscuous young people and homosexuals with Aids. They’ve asked for it. If people lived as the good Lord provided, there would be no Aids,” – (Letter in DAILY MIRROR 8 Nov).

“If Saatchi and Saatchi were advising the Vatican, they could not avoid the point that the market needs a strong line on gays, not a gentler one. St Paul’s view on those who in unnatural lusts would be decidedly populist today,” – Mary Kenny (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 30 Nov).

“I regard homosexuality as a misfortunate,” – Archbishop of York (DAILY MAIL 21 Nov).

“Homosexuals should be viewed as handicapped people,” – Archbishop of Canterbury (DAILY MAIL 22 Nov)

“Chastity will become once more a virtue… and homosexual practices – which have brought this disease upon us – a moral, legal and social offence,” – George Gale (SUNDAY MIRROR, 30 Nov).

“The inference that ‘gay’ is on a par with ‘straight’… is homosexual propaganda very cleverly done, riding on the back of public concerns about Aids,” – George Gale (DAILY MIRROR 26 Nov).

“The chief apparent object of last week’s full-page ads (‘Aids is not prejudiced’) appears to have been to protect homosexuals from ostracism… Ordinary people may be ill-informed on Aids but they are not fools. They note that councils pay full-time officials to proselytise on behalf of homosexuality… that books advocating homosexuality are circulated amongst children by local authorities, that clubs and facilities, often subsidised on the rates enable homosexuals to meet, pick up partners and so spread the disease,” – Paul Johnson (SPECTATOR 6 Dec).


“Christmas is coming and so is the Jew-baiting season,” wrote Martin Page in THE SUNDAY MIRROR (16 Nov)  “Does the New Testament teach us to hate Jesus’s people? If it does, should the offending scripture be purged of the offending passages? The Right Revered Austin Baker, Bishop of Salisbury and chairman of the Church of England’s doctrinal commission answers yes on both counts. He also says: “Unselective love is central to the spiritual wisdom of Jesus.”

I see. Well, while the Right Rev has got his blue pencil out, perhaps he’d like to have a look at one two passages I could point out to him. Or is his ‘unselective’ love not quite so unselective after all? Maybe the gay Christians would like to pursue the matter with him?


One glimmer of hope is that Gavin Strang, MP for Edinburgh East is introducing a Private Members Bill into the House of Commons which will be concerned with protecting the rights of people affected by Aids. According to THE GUARDIAN (10 Dec) this will include “making it illegal for employers to sack staff who are carrying the Aids virus.”

We must all help get this Bill through, and we can start by writing to our own MPs and demanding that they support the measures when they come before the House. If you live in a Conservative area, you could point out in your letter the damage that viewing Aids as a party-political issue could cause. I would be pleased to see any replies which Gay Times readers receive to any such lobbying?

Why not write the letter now?

GAY TIMES 103, April 1987

“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

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.