I used to work in a psychiatric hospital where one of the patients thought he was a messenger of God and claimed to speak with divine authority. He was kept locked away because people thought he was mad.
Now I hear of a similar case in Italy (courtesy of The Daily Express). There’s an old chap there purporting to be speaking with holy inspiration. The difference between the two cases is that everyone felt sorry for the first, but several million people actually listen to and approve of the second.
I’m talking about His Holiness, of course, and far be it from me to be disrespectful, but his latest pathetic pontiff-ication is sheer Papal Bull.
He trots out the same old half-baked ideas as before. Homosexuals are more to be pitied than blamed, but just in case some of you Quest members were under the impression that jolly John Paul was about to sanction your practices, you can forget it. [Note: Quest was a group for gay Catholics.]
Homosexuality, as far as the Vatican is concerned, is still a first-league sin. So, those of you who’ve been up to your tricks had better get straight down to confession and tell all.
In The Mail on Sunday, Peter McKay reports on a revolting Washington DC disc jockey called Gary D. Not only was his programme blatantly racist, he referred to homosexuals as “faggots”, “queers” and, mysteriously, “bedwetters”.
He was sacked from the radio station KIX Country and, you would have thought, good riddance. But horror of horrors, there were hundreds of protest calls — not complaining about his remarks (“Get your guns and kill a commie today”) but about the fact that he had been fired.
Not to be outdone, this repugnant redneck has now dedicated his life to “finding a cure for homosexuality.”
He should be careful that homosexuals don’t take his advice — and their guns — and find a cure for him.
I was hoping upon hope that The Sun was changing its tune when it came to its attitude to gays, but I have to retire disappointed to the blue corner.
It recently printed one of the crudest smear-jobs on the Greenham Peace Women I’ve yet seen (“Four out of five are lesbians”) which insisted that because most of the women are gay their opinions can be safely ignored.
It followed this up with a news item “Go-go girls threatened by lesbians” about a protest by women at Glasgow University. It used phrases like “butch members of Glasgow Women’s Union” and called the protestors a “lesbian mob”.
It’s an old ploy to label your opponents gay, it negates any message they might be putting across immediately. And so The Sun sinks slowly in the west. If only it would.
Several papers reported that Jeremy Thorpe, “disgraced ex-Liberal leader” might be thinking of a comeback.
I hope he doesn’t. He’s suffered enough humiliation at the hands of the establishment. If he tries to re-enter public life, I fear he is asking for the same again.
“The Voice of the (Sunday) People” raised the terror of the gay menace again recently. This time the object of their righteous fervour was arch-threat to civilization Marilyn.
Marilyn is a transvestite pop singer who performs in drag and slap. He isn’t a very good singer but it isn’t the music the ever-vigilant PEOPLE is worried about, but the “kind of pouting performance you might expect to encounter in a gay bath house in San Francisco.”
Like some kind of time-warp back to the early sixties, Marilyn was criticized by the paper for “thrusting his pelvis” and for giving a “raunchy routine” that was “more sickening than sexy” on Top of The Pops — “a young people’s programme watched by millions of children all over the country.”
This was the editorial comment on a day when the arrival of Cruise missiles was announced, when the situation in Lebanon deteriorated and when the Ministry of Defence were found to be wasting billions of pounds.
As a newspaper, THE SUNDAY PEOPLE would make pretty good papier-mache.
Hands up those who saw the NEWS OF THE WORLD story headlined “Gay Confessions of a Kennel Club Top Dog”? Now hands up those who understand what the hell it was about?
As far as I could make out, Major Charles Carmichael was sacked from his job as secretary of the Kennel Club because he had sex with a 12-year-old boy some ten years ago. The Major, a born-again Christian, felt the need to “purge himself”.
But why he made his confession at a publicity lunch of the Kennel Club wasn’t clear, and where the blind girl and the faith healer fitted in was equally obscure.
However, there were a couple of quotes that wouldn’t have been out of place in one of Joe Orton’s loopy comedies.
“The Lord let me know clearly he was sending me to the Kennel Club so I would be witness to his glory,” the Major is reported as saying. “I have purged myself. I was only a closet gay and the incident with the 12-year old did not involve full intercourse.”
Major Carmichael is, by the way, a member of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship. Confused? You’re not the only one.
An horrendous report in THE EALING AND CHISWICK GUARDIAN tells of the two gay guys who dared to kiss each other in the street. They were promptly arrested and hauled before Marlborough Street Magistrates Court. The police claimed they had received complaints about the men kissing from a straight couple. According to PC Martin Holden, the young male half of this allegedly affronted couple approached the canoodling gays and said: “You filthy beasts, how dare you do that in front of my girlfriend.” The accused said no such incident took place, there was no couple and no complaint.
So, who exactly were the affronted couple? What were their names and why weren’t they in court to support PC Holden’s evidence?
The defence suggested that PC Holden invented the couple and that they were, in fact, a figment of his imagination. PC Holden denied this, but could not produce a scrap of evidence to support his claim.
Who would you believe? And, more importantly, who did the magistrate believe?
Needless to say, the men were convicted of “insulting behaviour” and their names and address were printed in the paper.
Do you remember the story of Pinocchio? Well, I don’t know how long PC Martin Holden’s nose was, but I’ll bet it’s a hell of a lot longer since this case.
It seems that straights are trying to commandeer Camp and claim it as their very own. In a new book called simply ‘Camp’ author Philip Core tries to extend the concept right out of recognition. But it takes gays to show how it’s really done. Like the anecdote quoted in THE LONDON EVENING STANDARD’s review of ‘Camp’. Tallulah Bankhead the famed Hollywood lesbian “Was at a New York wedding when a cardinal passed her in full regalia swinging a smoking censer. As he passed Tallulah remarked: ‘Darling your drag is divine, but your purse is on fire.’” Delicious.
Do you remember the legendary Alan Whicker programme that suggested gays were welcome in San Francisco’s police force? I always had my doubts about its veracity, and now I’m sure it was just a propaganda exercise.
According to THE SUN a “gay cop” called Paul Siedler was seen on a TV newsreel kissing one of the male participants in this year’s San Francisco Gay Pride March, which he was marshalling. “Shocked police chiefs were checking if there are grounds for dismissal,” says the SUN.
I knew it all along. Pigs are pigs the world over.
An item in THE MAIL ON SUNDAY reads: “Miners at Shoreham power station thought they had the perfect spot to picket — it overlooked the nudist beach. Then they discovered all the naturists were gay.”
Is it supposed to be funny? Perhaps they forgot to print some of it . . .
Get the smelling salts for Her ‘Majesty. Pass Lady Windermere her fan! The shadow of homosexuality has been cast over the cult of Princess Diana! No, it seems her step-brother Adam Shand Kydd has written a novel with gay heroes. Not that he is gay himself, of course, God forbid! “The 29-year old bachelor” says (in MIDWEEK magazine): “It’s not a gay novel, but what can you do if people slam labels on you? I chose a homosexual couple because I find it impossible to write convincingly about women — what makes their minds tick over.”
Breathe easy, your Ladyship — there’s no real taint.
But what’s this in THE SUN — Prince Andrew (he’s the rather fat boy who looks like a chimpanzee) almost went to Heaven, yes THE Heaven where the gay brotherhood gathers. Only when his bodyguard forbade the visit did Andrew think again.
But if Andy thinks he’s randy, he might meet his match within the portals of Heaven.
Obituaries of Truman Capote present him as an enigma. A writer who convinced people that he was important, but who didn’t manage to live up to his own hype. An interesting development here is the mention of homosexuality as being a major aspect of his life. How many gays have passed through the obituary columns with their sexuality unmentioned?
THE GUARDIAN says that Capote was “half in and half out of the closet” —a very strange idea because surely there can be no half measures in Coming Out. As Tom Robinson said in the last issue of GAY TIMES, once you’re out, there’s no going back. Anyway, THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH said that Capote’s taste in men changed. At first “he liked middle-aged chaps with suits and ties, happy marriages and perhaps a position in the local church”. Later “his taste coarsened” and he went for “simpler men — very simple sometimes”.
The general consensus that Capote’s life was mis-spent and his talent wasted in pursuit of celebrity, riches and pleasure, as THE DAILY MAIL put it it.
Peter Conrad’s review of the books ‘View from Christopher Street’ and ‘Aphrodisiac’ in THE OBSERVER demonstrates an unusual knowledge of gay American history and mores. He gives an interesting analysis of how U.S. gays have split themselves into “fractious cadres, each adhering to its own sartorial character, the old androgynes with their scarves and bangles against the new brutes stomping in work books and hard hats, leather tormentors in harnesses against transvestites, those critics of the macho mystique. Manhattan clones with their lumberjack flannel against those from Chicago who prefer the collegiate look.’
Conrad also identifies the growing distaste for the dehumanising philosophy of “fast-food sex” … “on the corner of Christopher Street where those en route to the disco, roller rink, or the disused warehouse by the river once bought flasks of the aphrodisiac amyl nitrate, volunteers now collect donations for medical research.”
As the world turns to the right (viz Canada electing Tories and President Reagan declaring himself a sort of Christian Ayatollah) we now have news of Australia’s own monstrous Sir Johannes Bjelke-Peterson, premier of Queensland. In an OBSERVER feature this ancient extremist, who has been in power for 16 years. is quoted as regarding homosexuals as “insulting, evil animals”.
He also opposes rights for Aborigines, hates conservation and wants The Great Barrier Reef exploiting for the maximum profit.
He bans street demonstrations by “homosexuals. lesbians, do-gooders, anyone who seeks to improve the lot of Aborigines, political moderates and critics of his wife, Flo.” He also likes to spend taxpayers’ money on aeroplanes for himself.
THE OBSERVER presented the 74-year old Aussie oddball as a corrupt, selfish, intolerant, deeply ignorant man who should never have been allowed anywhere near public office, let alone retain it for 16 years.
Such are the perils of democracy.
Michael Jackson, the hormone-gobbling warbler, is at it again. According to the front page of THE DAILY STAR, Jackson has once more issued a statement “denying rumours that he is gay”. He did it against the wishes of his advisers. I think they were right, because now bad-mouth comedienne Joan Rivers is quoted in THE DAILY MIRROR as saving “Michael Jackson makes Liberace look like a member of the green berets.”
More gay telly, treats last month – something which got up the nose of arch-moraliser Mary Kenny in THE DAILY MAIL: “I am profoundly against the persecution of homosexuals,” she said, after spending the whole column condemning us, “but too much pro-gay propaganda makes ordinary people feel hostile.” I wonder what she thinks all the anti-gay propaganda makes “ordinary” people feel – sympathetic?
Her ire had been raised by John Peacock’s play “More Lives than One” (BBC1). It was widely re-viewed, with Lucy Hughes-Hallett in the STANDARD saying: “I hope some toes were curling inside policemen’s boots last night …” She was referring to the cottage-squads depicted in the play, describing the police as: “Squandering whole afternoons in bullying, prurient little games.”
Herbert Kretzmer in THE DAILY MAIL observed: “Despite external signs of enlightenment, it strikes me that the prejudice against homosexuals is as rooted as ever and it was this continuing fear and loathing which provided the source of last night’s play.”
THE TIMES, of course, thought the cottage surveillance “a highly effective way of preventing a private indulgence from degenerating into a public nuisance.”
Sean Day-Lewis in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH said; “The play was a brave and mostly believable exploration of a difficult theme, but was opaque in its realisation of the bisexual capacity for taking its pleasures on all sides.” Just one comment about that Mr Day-Lewis: “Eh?”
Maureen Paton in THE DAILY EXPRESS said that “All he (the hero) wanted was to be treated like a human being – and here was a friend on the one hand urging him to suppress his instincts for the sake of his family and his aggressively liberated male lover on the other attempting to turn him into a card-carrying freak show.” Oh, by the way, subscriptions are due all those of you who want a new card entitling you to be a freak show.
LONDON Labour MP Chris Smith gave an interesting interview to NEW SOCIALIST about his decision to Come Out. With a majority of only 400, straight politicians might think Smith’s decision political suicide. But the interviewer, Christian Wolmar, put it another way: “A cynical observer might say that the timing of your coming out would guarantee that your party would re-select you because they couldn’t possibly be seen to de-select the only openly gay MP.” I hadn’t thought of that – but, anyway, how come Smith hadn’t come out before he was elected? “I didn’t do it because I was extremely worried about what the possible consequences might be.”
At least that’s honest, but I’m always a bit wary of gay public figures who’ve kept quiet for years and suddenly present themselves as shining examples to the rest of us.
No, I mustn’t carp – at least Smith has done it. Now, what about you other Westminster closet cases?
Rupert Murdoch, the Aussie owner of the most despicable ‘newspapers’ in the world was quoted in THE OBSERVER as saying: “I’d go to prison for The Sun but not for The Times”.
If that’s the case, he should have been doing hard labour years ago.
Left-wing councils that continue to promote gay rights really get the Tory press hopping mad. Hackney Council has produced a report that aims to give gay ratepayers the same rights as everyone else as regards adoption and fostering. Social welfare and so on. THE DAILY EXPRESS editorialised: “This is appalling foolishness. Despite the propaganda of militant homosexuals and trendy theorists, most of us still recognise the obvious truth: homosexuality is deviant.” The leader writer obviously had a bout of apoplexy while writing that – hopefully it might prove fatal. On the same day THE SUN, not to be topped, trotted out one of its hate-filled little homilies: “If it were not such a dangerous idea it would be laughable. Impressionable youngsters have enough difficulty coping with adolescence as it is. We can only assume that the Hackney loonies have taken over the asylum.” While the rest of us have to assume that the National Front has taken over the Sun.
A more considered, but equally lamentable reaction came from Peter Simple in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH. He wanted to challenge the “myth” that ten per cent of the population is gay. “When the hullabaloo over homosexuals erupted about 25 years ago, the figure given was 5 per cent. At this rate it should be 20 per cent by the end of the century.” But his real point came later: “What is thoroughly objectionable … is that homosexuals should be treated as ‘a community’ or a ‘minority group’.” He says that along with the Irish, women, blacks and the handicapped, we’ve been identified as a ‘group’ so that our vote can be manipulated by the Left. A tired argument which simply proves that if he thinks we’re that gullible, Peter really must be Simple.
The AIDS hysteria in the press continues unabated. It seems almost every day they manage to find some new shack-horror angle to splash in three-inch head-lines.
THE NEWS OF THE WORLD carried “gay plague” headlines in three consecutive issues, concentrating on the horrifying effects of the disease – on homosexuals of course. “Victims of gay plague long to die,” said one headline, whilst the following week came: “My doomed son’s gay plague agony”. The next issue carried: “Art genius destroyed by gay killer bug”. Anyone reading these stories would have got the impression that somehow only homosexuals are capable of getting AIDS. There was an element of rather sick self-congratulation in these pieces. They all seemed to be saying: “It can’t happen to us because we’re straight.”
Another batch of contaminated blood provided hundreds of column inches for the junk press. The DAILY EXPRESS was prompted to splash: “56 given AIDS killer blood” and told its readers: “The blood all came from a homosexual in his twenties who is now dying in hospital.” Lowest point was reached, needless to say, by the SUN, with a front-page story entitled: “Blood from gay .donor puts 41 at AIDS risk” (notice how, uncharacteristically, THE SUN had reduced the EXPRESS’s number of “innocent” victims by 15). “A gay blood donor with the killer disease AIDS has infected 41 other people it was reported last night.” I wonder how long it took reporter Leslie Toulson to create that first sentence which manages to make it appear that this poor man got some kind of kick from passing on the disease. The not very subtly concealed message is: see how irresponsible these queers are.
The leader-writer of THE SUN took the matter up on page two of the same issue: “In the streets of Britain there are an unknown number of men who are walking time bombs. They are homosexuals with the killer disease AIDS. When they volunteer as blood donors they become a menace to all society.” Notice the phraseology: “a menace to all society”.
I asked the editor of THE SUN, Kelvin McKenzie, whether he was prepared to take responsibility for acts of violence which might be incited against gay men by this highly provocative editorial. “I do not accept that our editorial did any more than urge all homosexuals, in the interests of the entire community, to think twice before giving blood,” was his reply.
Only THE OBSERVER tried to give balance with a small item headed: “Gays not to blame for AIDS”. It described how money was being withheld for research into AIDS because it had been incorrectly identified as a “gay disease”. “Government departments were described as reluctant to seem to ‘condone’ homosexuality. It was also blamed for an upsurge of anti-homosexual sentiment in Britain and abroad, providing a new focus for deep-rooted prejudice that years of ‘gay liberation’ have done little to dispel.” A doctor involved in AIDS research is quoted in the same feature saying: “In Africa the ratio of males to females with the disease is 1.1 to I — in other words almost exactly 50 per cent.”
Confirmation of this followed in THE LANCET, when it reported the case of a heterosexual couple, who had passed AIDS to their child. “This supports the idea that the virus can be transmitted heterosexually,” said The Lancet.
Picking this story up, the papers suddenly dropped the “gay plague” headlines. The gay angle suddenly became secondary as it dawned on them that they could get it, too. Except for THE SUN, of course, which still insisted that AIDS sufferers were “gay plague victims”.
It is papers like THE SUN and NEWS OF THE WORLD that do the whole community a disservice by encouraging bigotry in government departments and hindering research money. But what does Mr McKenzie and the rest of the Sun’s-of-bitches care — “the gay plague” makes them money and that’s the only criterion.
“Noel Coward’s friends are treating with ridicule the suggestion that he had a homosexual affair with the late Duke of Kent, the Queen’s uncle,” said the MAIL ON SUNDAY, pushing its crinolines firmly over its knees. The “allegation” had been made by author Michael Thornton, giving his book about the Queen Mother invaluable publicity in the process.
But could it be true or was it just greed for free advertising? Could His Grace really have been “one of them”? And surely our dear Noel wouldn’t have done such a thing, would he?
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.
Eddie Shah’s fuzzy newspaper TODAY, carried the text of a speech by Noman Tebbit, chairman of the Conservative Party and, I’m told, an extra in the film “Zombie Flesheaters”. Mr Tebbit says that all the ills of the present day stem from the permissive sixties. “Legislation on capital punishment, homosexuality, abortion, censorship and divorce – some of it good, some of it bad – but all of it applauded as ‘progressive’ as ushered in in quick succession, leaving an overwhelming impression that not only were there going to be no legal constraints but there was no need for any constraints at all. Tolerance for sexual deviation generated a demand for deviance itself to be treated as the norm,”
Commenting on the speech THE GUARDIAN said: “There are two things wrong with what Mr Tebbit is saying. First, the problems are about things that are happening now, not twenty years ago. After seven years of Conservative government it is pretty pathetic to blame the wrongs of today’s world on the Wilson era… Was it really a debasement of standards to legalise homosexuality? Mr Tebbit’s speech came close to being outright anti-gay”
The Guardian believes that Mr Tebbit is “testing popular temperature to see how a general slagging off of liberal values will go down electorally.”
Hopefully it will go down with all hands.
The Press Council’s rejection of my complaint about THE SUN and its notorious “I’d shoot my son if he had Aids” story has taught me a bitter lesson – never make a complaint to the Press Council, My disturbing conclusion is that this complaint might have done more harm than good because now The Sun can crow that it has ‘official confirmation of how responsible and balanced its coverage of Aids has been.
The story complained about was, to my mind, a classic example of the sensationalism, exaggeration and distortion that has led to the present climate of hysteria. The Press Council maintained that the article would not provoke “discriminatory action against people with Aids.” This is clearly nonsense. As Anna Durrell, another complainant about the same story, pointed out, the article implied that the only way to stop the spread of Aids is to kill people who have it.
My advice to people who are angered by the continuing scaremongering in newspapers and magazines is to forget the Press Council and find an alternative way to complain. There are lots of ideas in the “Right to Reply” pack which is available for £2.95 from The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.
To illustrate how newspapers feed off the myths they themselves have created about Aids, let’s look at some of the stories that have appeared during the past month.
The CHISLEHURST TIMES reported that Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World is being held this year in Chislehurst Caves. “Sex Show in Caves Plan” said the headline in the paper and quoted a local councillor, Mrs Joan Bryant, as saying: “Ordinary people have got to use these facilities and I couldn’t be more alarmed. Aids may fester in the drains and sewage pipes.”
The STAR gossip columnist, Peter Tory—a man hardly noted for his sensitivity—reported that: “It is proving difficult to sell the late Rock Hudson’s house.” The reason—you’ve guessed it. “People are just spooked by Aids. I don’t know whether they are afraid of catching it from the door-knobs or what. But they just don’t want to know.”
THE DAILY EXPRESS told us that “Two prison officers wore green ‘space suits’ to flank an Aids prisoner in court yesterday. As well as the protective coveralls, the officers had respirators available, they did not carry them into the dock.”
The “Aids prisoner” in question was, it turned out, simply antibody positive (this was not what the Express said, they don’t seem to have grasped the difference between being antibody positive and having Aids). “He has been treated like a leper while on remand in Leicester Prison. His food was passed to him through a hatch and everything he touched, including reading material, was burned.”
The Express also told of the “scandal” of three “Aids victims” (once more, they meant HTLV-3 positive) being allowed to “mix will other prisoners in at overcrowded, under-staffed, top-security jail.” A spokesman for the prison officers is quoted as saying: “Needless to say, the other prisoners don’t know. You can imagine what would happen if they did.”
The MAIL ON SUNDAY tells us that “insurance firms are considering ways of identifying Aids victims who apply for life insurance.”
The catalogue of appalling ignorance, the frightening over-reaction and cruel prejudice continues to grow. It must have started somewhere. Someone must have fanned this panic. For the culprits I think you need look no further than Fleet Street and Wapping.
Commenting on the Government’s advertising campaign on Aids, NEW SOCIETY says: “Isn’t there something missing here—like homosexuals? They do, after all, account for 90 percent of the 305 Aids cases recorded in Britain so far. Yet the word ‘homosexual’ features only once in that ad and in a negative context: ‘Does Aids only affect homosexuals?’ it asks. No. If your eye happened to jump over the ‘only’, you would get a message that was the precise reverse of the truth.”
In the face of all the anti-gay propaganda which newspapers carry, I wondered whether they actually have formal policies of homophobia, or does it all stem from the ignorance and prejudices of individual journalists?
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH is quite open about it. When it announced its ‘new look’ a few weeks ago, the editor, Max Hastings, wrote: “The Daily Telegraph’s political commitment to the Conservatives as the only party currently fit to govern the country remains undiminished. So too does our belief in traditional moral values. There will be no sudden discovery of enthusiasm for Gay Lib in the columns of the Telegraph.”
Well, at least we know where we stand there. But what about THE DAILY MAIL which published that grotesque and slanderous piece by George Gordon last month? I asked the Assistant `Managing editor of the paper, Mac Keene, what their policy was about homosexuality and the reporting of Aids. “The Daily Mail does not have what you call a ‘policy’ towards homosexuality or Aids, just as we have no ‘policy’ towards deaf people or towards diptheria. We cover news stories on all subjects factually as they arise.”
Factually? You will remember that George Gordon’s article contained the sentence “If their teacher was gay, and in my mind that means a carrier of Aids, I would want to yank him straight out of the class.”
And now we have ‘Lord’ Frank Chapple, posing as a journalist, writing in the same paper that Aids is a “homosexual-induced epidemic”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘induce’ as “Bring on by artificial means”. Is Frank Chapple inferring that gays somehow created Aids?
I asked ‘His Lordship’ this very question. He replied: “Let me ask you a question. Don’t you think it would be a good idea if homosexuals stopped spreading the disease?”
My answer is yes, I do. I also think that it would be a good idea if those who have access to the mass media stopped spreading clap-trap about a serious and tragic issue.
On telly we have another American sitcom tackling a gay theme. Kate and Allie (Channel 4) concerns two divorced women who set up home together to save money, and as a mutual support system. In one episode this month the two women decided to pose as a gay couple in order to avoid paying a rent increase. (The serial is in a part of America where gays are recognised as having rights.)
The landlady who demanded the increase was very happy that her tenants were gay because so was she, and she produced her lover to prove it. From then on the misunderstandings and embarrassments that stemmed from the initial lie snowballed.
Kate didn’t like the deception because she had come to like the two lesbians and didn’t want to hurt them. And besides, she wailed, although she hadn’t done much with her heterosexuality lately, she didn’t want to give it up.
As is the fashion in these rather syrupy sit-coms, they came clean —and everything turned out right in the end. The two gay women made friends with the two straight women, there was a little homily about tolerance working both ways and they all ended up at the gay centre having a wonderful time.
Although these American series have a constant undertow of schmaltz, they are invariably good-natured. The gay theme was handled sensitively and the gay characters given a full range of expression and dignity.
Our home-grown comedy shows are crude by comparison—they only seem to be able to present gays as mincing hairdressers or silly waiters. Which says a lot about the state of things here.
Now for the case of the invisible gay customers. It happened at Lucky’s, a restaurant/cocktail bar in West London which operates a gay night each Sunday. In an advertising feature in the WEST LONDON GUARDIAN we are told “There’s never a dull moment at Lucky’s … with our new kid’s disco on Sunday afternoon. On Monday and Tuesday nights you can tune in to Lucky’s jazz-band. Wednesday it’s Ladies Night … Thursday, Friday and Saturday disco nights … something for everyone.”
Everyone? What happened to Sunday night? It seems to have disappeared. Along with a very lucrative band of Lucky’s customers.
Writing in NEW SOCIETY, Jeremy Seabrook warns against the dangers of dismissing The Sun as “a ‘comic’ unworthy of serious attention.” He makes a convincing case to explain the Sun’s popularity. “The details of the horror stories are not important; it is their cumulative effect which counts.”
And, indeed, the cumulative effect of their relentless homophobia counts against us very dearly.
I suppose we have to accept that during the silly season newspapers will fill their pages with drivel is even more puerile than usual and journalists obviously imagine that the gay community is an easy source for such material. Yes, it’s been another gay old month in the press (and a lesbian old month, too, come to that).
Acres of space were given over to the “lesbian jealousy” court case, ensuring that the words “gay” and “lesbian” appeared repeatedly in a negative context day after day.
The other hot story was the old sex education chestnut—will homosexuality be included in the sex education lessons and if so should parents be able to absent their children from such classes? The Sun brought the two articles neatly together in a sly front-page headline (August 15th) LESBIAN TEACHER HORROR. Just take those three words and conjure with them. Put them together with some of the Ealing Recorder (July 18th) and you have a nasty little case of I-told-you-so.
But we mustn’t run away with the idea that The Sun is anti-gay. Oh no. Didn’t they also carry another front-page splash (August 13th) announcing EASTBENDERS—a reference to the fact that the BBC soap opera EastEnders is to introduce gay characters. Leaving the headline aside, the report was neutral and the editorial comment was “Oh well, that’s life,” —and in the same issue was a report about “Two gay youths who kissed passionately for six seconds in a busy street” and were arrested for it. The Sun helpfully ended their story with a quote from a lawyer who wrote: “It is not an offence for homosexuals to kiss in the street, but any such act could lead to a breach of the peace and even insulting behaviour if it offends passers-by.”
The Sunday Times(August 3rd) revealed that a new virus has been identified “currently named the Delta Agent …which attacks those already infected with hepatitis B causing severe and usually fatal liver damage.” Although this isn’t a major hazard yet, there is already a “reservoir” of the virus waiting to spread in the same alarming way as Aids. Gay men are particularly vulnerable.
So,what far-sighted action is our wonderful Government taking? Well, according to The Guardian (July 31st) “Hospital doctors are being told they must not vaccinate gay men against the incurable liver disease hepatitis B because the NHS can’t afford it.” The Guardian says that as many as half the male homosexual population of Britain has been infected with hepatitis B. It isn’t clear where such a figure came from, but according to Professor Michael Adler, it means that a “£4 million immunisation programme might save £20 million in the cost of treating victims.” That would seem like a sensible course of action—but you have to bear in mind that we are governed by people who allow their prejudices to overcome their common sense.
Still on a medical theme, there was an interesting item in a magazine called GP (July 25th) which is delivered free to all Britain’s family doctors. Written by an anonymous contributor “Week in Surgery” told how “a young man of 32 … came to see me complaining he felt unwell. Except for a few cervical glands on the right of his neck, I could find nothing else amiss.” However, further tests revealed that the man had Aids. “He has been living with his regular boyfriend for 15 years, but admits to having had two or three affairs over the past five years. Three friends of his have died of Aids recently. Apparently both he and his regular boyfriend were screened for HTLV-3 earlier this year and were both negative.”
When this young man came back to hear the result, the doctor had a trainee with him. The trainee rebuked the young man for not revealing that he was in a “high risk category” and had “put several people at risk from a health and safety point of view.” The doctor wrote: “I will obviously have to increase my levels of suspicion when seeing young, single, male patients … I was brought up in the ethos that the sexual activities or deviations of patients was their own concern but this no longer holds true.”
Gay Times reader Paul Bailey, himself a doctor, wrote to the editor of GP saying that he found the “confrontation which took place with the sick man most distasteful, and shows a surprising lack of insight; given that three of the patients’ friends had recently died of Aids, it is quite understandable that the patient himself, consciously or unconsciously, should avoid contemplating that he might suffer similarly. To say ‘he knew jolly well what could be going on’ is crass and insulting …”
Crass and insulting, indeed. For it seems that the medical profession needs to be educated not only in the recognition and diagnosis of Aids and related conditions, but also in the sensitivity with which the people affected need to be handled. The Mail on Sunday (August 17th) reported that “innocent” victims of Aids (mainly haemophiliacs) are going to sue local health authorities for millions of pounds. Apparently, they aren’t just worried about having the disease but also about the “social consequences of being tainted by the so-called ‘gay plague’.” Leaving aside the grossly offensive idea that some people are “innocent” victims of Aids whilst other are, somehow, culpable, we’ll concentrate on the other issue. Surely the wrong people are being sued in this case, because if there are “social consequences” and “taints” then they have been created almost entirely by newspapers like The Sun, The Star and The News of the World. If the lawyers who represent the unfortunate “innocents” want to sue on grounds of “taint” then it is the callous Fleet Street hacks who have made money out of tragedy and suffering who should be in the dock.
We have two new columnists to welcome to the ranks of those already spreading the word. The first is a familiar face who we thought (hoped?) had faded into obscurity when he retired from editorship of Private Eye. Yes, it’s your friend and mine Richard Ingrams. His first effort for The Sunday Telegraph(August 17th) re-iterated a point made by Mary Whitehouse earlier. He says that presentation on television of homosexuality as normal is increasing the spread of Aids. “To put it crudely,” he writes, “many are dead and will die thanks to the modern permissive approach to homosexuality that they (BBC & Channel 4) have helped to promote.”
Mr Ingrams fails to tell us in this piece of propaganda just how much he, personally, hates homosexuals. He has said many times in the past that homosexuality makes him feel sick, so why should we imagine that anything he writes about it is motivated by logic or reason or concern? His real motivation is a strange sickness over which he obviously has no control—it is called homophobia. Mr Ingrams is the one who should fear for his health—his neuroses are showing.
Then, in The Sun, we have a new writer called Dave Banks, who looks like something they’ve just dragged off the football terraces and writes accordingly. “When I was a kid we worried about The Bomb and Red Menace. Forget it. The new apocalyptic nightmare is drugs and the Aids epidemic which are sweeping our decadent society like twin Biblical scourges.” And on and on. When are they going to employ a columnist that has something fresh and, perhaps, a bit less obvious to say?
Another “one of the boys” is Joe Ashton MP, who writes in The Starwith all the phoney working-class bonhomie of a practised politician. In his column (August 11th) he was ranting about how seeing gays outside Heaven nightclub made him feel uncomfortable and how “too much of a gay thing is asking for ridicule.” “No wonder there was such a big fuss about the Royal Wedding,” he says, “I was beginning to think that they were the only people in London under 30 who weren’t kinky. Which is not true. But it is true that the old 1967 joke ‘no need to worry it will not be compulsory’ which was cracked when parliament stopped it being illegal, is beginning not to look so daft.”
And so he goes on, saying how he “has nothing against” etc. etc. and then heaping ridicule upon us. Mr Ashton is a classic example of a white, heterosexual male who is frightened out of his wits at the merest whiff of a challenge to his assumed superiority. He is petrified at the prospect of having to concede ground to those he has been brought up to despise, and so he gets ridiculously aggressive.
I think what we have here is a case of pinch the pig and hear it squeal.
THE August 10th issue of The Sunday People was almost completely devoted to gay issues. Such a restrained and balanced approach, too: “SOCIETY GAY AND DRUG PROBE” was the front-page headline, relating to the death of Vikki de Lambray. This ran over to page 4. Later on, ‘Straight talking’ John Smith regaled us with “Too tough on this sad victim of a dirty old man”—which said that an 18-year old youth who had slashed the face of a 74-year old man because he had “tried to interfere” with the “tipsy teenager” had been unjustly sentenced to eight months youth custody. Mr Smith would have us believe that the youth ‘accidentally’ found himself naked in bed with the older man before the incident happened. I’m not interested in the whys and wherefores of this case, but Mr Smith comes out firmly on the side of the knife-wielder who, if we’re to believe the columnist, was totally innocent and only recently departed from his mother’s knee. “Fred is behind bars while a perverted old poofter … is free to chat up any unsuspecting youngster who catches his lustful eye.”
So, what does Mr Smith advocate—free pardons, perhaps, for those who lead gays on and then, when it comes to the crunch, turn violent? With the increasing acceptance in courts of the “homosexual panic” plea such a concept seems to be well on the way.
But if we don’t like what Mr Smith is saying, we can always turn the page and read the latest from the “lesbian love triangle” case. If that doesn’t suit you, then you can read insinuations that bean-spilling royal valet Stephen Barry (already ‘exposed’ as gay in a previous issue) has Aids. There are horrendous before and after pictures for good measure.
On page 29 we have Larry Grayson telling us about “The Moment I Decided Not to Marry”. Apparently, it was because he had promised his dying father that he would look after his sister. Phew! For a moment I thought he was going to say it was because he was gay, but seemingly he isn’t.
And neither is Hilda Ogden. Actress Jean Alexander told Woman’s Own that she was still a virgin at the age of 60 and this was picked up by most of the tabloids who repeated her words of wisdom. The Mirror (August 11th) reported Jean as saying, “I like men—I’m not funny or anything like that.” She maintains that sex is not dirty but just ‘overrated.’ And I’m not the first one to ask: how on earth would she know?
Whilst we’re on the subject of who isn’t gay, we turn to The Sun (August 15th). “I am not a lesbian says Beryl Reid.” But who suggested she was? Well, nobody except The Sun. So, what was the point of the story? You might as well ask: what’s the point of The Sun.
You open our morning paper and are horrified by some outrageously anti-gay item. Surely, you think, they can’t get away with this? You don’t want to let it pass so what can you do? The first thing that most people would think of is the Press Council. This “newspaper watchdog is supposed to be our protection against the excesses of Fleet Street, isn’t it?
But what exactly can the Press Council do? And if you decide to take your grievance to them can you expect a fair deal? The first thing you have to bear in mind is that the Press Council is financed by the newspapers themselves and cynics would say that the newspapers are happy to have such a “self-regulating body because it discourages the government of the day introducing any more stringent and effective means of recourse when journalists overstep the mark.
Why bother with legislation to curb the newspapers’ bad behaviour when you already have the Press Council—or so the argument goes.
Membership of the Press Council is made up of people from the newspaper industry and members of the general public, in about equal measure. There is no representation from the National Union of Journalists, however—they decided in 1980 that the Press Council was “wholly ineffective” and boycotted it.
To see what kind of reception complaints from gay people get, we can take a look at a few instances from the past month.
You might remember the outrageous’ front page story in THE SUN last May about the children’s book Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. “Vile Book in Schools” screamed the headline. David Northmore of North London decided to complain and on February 3rd, nine months after the event, the Press Council upheld his complaint saying that The Sun’s story was “exaggerated and misleading”.
But you would never have guessed that the judgment had gone against them from reading The Sun’s own version of the report, which began: “The Press Council has upheld The Sun’s right to report criticism of a shocking children’s book showing a little girl in bed with her homosexual father and his naked male lover.”
As is usual with Press Council reports, it was featured at the very bottom of the final news page in extremely small print. The Sun, as usual, laughs at its critics and flaunts its lies with impunity.
Then the same Mr Northmore complained about The Sunday Mirror which had carried a story about a holiday being organised by the Lesbian and Gay Youth Movement. The Sunday Mirror alleged that “children and young people were being lured into a sinister web of gay sex” by the proposed holiday. Mr Northmore maintained that the Lesbian and Gay Youth Movement was a “credible and respectable” organisation. The complaint was rejected.
Next, our old friend “Mills” of The Star attracted a complaint from T P Murphy of the Wimbledon Area Gay Society. This followed a particularly vicious attack on gays which “Mills” had couched in extreme and violent language. The Press Council agreed that the article was “crude and abusive” but accepted the paper’s explanation that the “opinions expressed in the Mills column were those of a fictitious man whose thoughts resembled those of many readers based on thousands of letters received each week.” The Council rejected the complaint saying that the article had not been “irresponsible”.
Interestingly, in its report the Press Council chose to put inverted commas around the term ‘gay community’ but left the word ‘woofter’ undecorated. This might reveal something of the thinking of the people who reached the ridiculous conclusion that Mills’ article was not meant to incite violence and hatred against gays.
So, we have to accept that, in the main, gay complaints are unlikely to get a sympathetic hearing and are only likely to be upheld if there is a factual inaccuracy in the story being complained about. If you decide to make a complaint to the Press Council on a gay-related issue, not only will you be involved in a long and time-consuming investigation (one complaint that I made took nine months to adjudicate and involved me in writing over twenty-five letters) but, in the end, there is no guarantee that the offending paper will do anything at all about it.
Permission seems to have been granted by the Press Council for Fleet Street and Wapping to abuse gay people and the gay community in whatever ways it pleases, however offensive. Dehumanising terms like “poofter”, “queer” and “lezzie” are common currency in tabloid newspapers these days.
There is also the danger of finding yourself on the receiving end of the fury and spite of papers like The Sun. This is what happened to a man called Terry McCabe who dared to complain to the Press Council about the way that paper had done a very nasty hatchet job on him after he had refused to cross the Wapping picket line.
The Press Council found that The Sun had “cobbled the story together” on very flimsy evidence in order to revenge itself on Mr McCabe. On the day that the Council’s judgment was published (9 Feb) The Sun did a further full-page character assassination on Mr McCabe, not only repeating the original allegations but elaborating on them. So, as you can see, there are definite dangers in upsetting the editor of The Sun.
So, is there anything at all we can do about it? The answer is: not much. You can try a letter to the editor or a phone call to the paper, but most people who’ve tried this approach have found it a waste of time. One other possibility is the National Union of Journalists “ethics council” which looks into breaches of journalistic ethics. They will consider complaints from members of the public. In serious cases they have the power to discipline or even expel offenders. I have a complaint pending against Ray (Biffo) Mills of The Star, which will be heard later this month. I’ll let you know how it goes, and whether this avenue will be of any more use than the Press Council.
Last month in Gay Times, the Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality were anxious for us to know that Mrs Thatcher had been appalled by the infamous “gas the queers” remarks of the equally infamous Councillor Brownhill of South Staffordshire District Council. This month, however, the press wanted us to know that Mrs Thatcher supported the ‘swirling cesspit’ views of James Anderton.
The Daily Express (24 Jan) said: “Standing up for the silent moral majority, Mrs Thatcher applauded the Manchester chief constable and others who have publicised their views on the issue.” So, who are we to believe? For surely Councillor Brownhill was one of those “publicising their views on the issue.”
Harder to pin down are the opinions of Neil Kinnock. Yes, he’s sent messages of support to Gay Pride demos, but he’s hardly been in the forefront of his party’s support for gay rights. However, a glimmer of hope shone briefly in The Independent (13 Feb), when it published extracts from a private letter which had been written by the Labour leader to a party member living in his own home borough of Ealing, West London. In the letter, Mr Kinnock “vigorously defended his local council” (including its pro-gay policies) against attacks made on it by Tory MPs and the press. He said that the sex education policy (which encourages “respect” for gay relationships) had been “hideously misrepresented” so as to alarm parents. He said that there had been a lot of “prejudice-mongering”.
Can we take it from this that Neil really does believe in what his radical party colleagues are doing to help gays, but doesn’t want to play into the hands of Fleet Street by being too up-front about it in an election year?
I think I could forgive him for that, if it means we get rid of that woman and all her dubious supporters. Speaking of which, we had a taste of the Tory party of the future when the blood-curdling Young Conservatives at their conference debated whether homosexuality should be recriminalized.
If you thought the Tories under Thatcher were frightening, you should tremble at the prospect of what is to come if this bunch of young proto-fascists is the face of Toryism in the future.
The Sun had it in for Jimmy Somerville last month (and apologies to Jimmy if I gave the impression that he had granted an interview to that paper. I accept that he didn’t—they just made it look that way). This month they’ve gone to town on The Housemartins. Not satisfied with “exposing” the fact that the group doesn’t all originate from Hull as they had claimed, it then (31 Jan) went on to reveal that “the top pop stars are hiding a sad sex secret—three of the group are gay.” What the adjective “sad” is doing there is a secret known only to the journalist who wrote it. Indeed, the whole piece is peppered with similar weasel words, suggesting that the group’s gay members consider their sexuality to be some kind of tragedy, which I’m sure is not true.
Then on Feb 14, The Sun returned to the attack, criticising the group for having used a photograph of an old man on a record cover without first seeking his permission. But given The Sun’s own reputation for snoop photography and some of the despicable stunts it has pulled in that line, the burst of self-righteous anger seems laughable—or perhaps pathetic would be a better word.
Back to the execrable Mills in The Star. He continues to dispense his weekly dose of anti-gay bile. On February 27 he chided “woofter apologists” for suggesting he might be gay himself. “If Mills is such a ferocious critic of their sexual habits then he must per se and QED practice them himself. Or if he doesn’t practise them, then these tendencies must be lying dormant and his, in fact, a latent woofter himself… but the repugnant mechanics of sodomite sex fill Mills with disgust.”
Yes, yes, yes, Biffo, we’ve heard all this before. But can I remind you of the case of Roy Cohn, who was right-hand man to the ghastly Senator McCarthy in America during the fifties. You will remember that these two gents were responsible for hounding hundreds of homosexuals out of their jobs in the US Government maintaining that homosexuality was a “threat to the nation’s security” and so on. Mr Cohn was a fanatical persecutor of gays. Last year, he died of Aids contracted from one of his male lovers.
Indeed, as many gays have found to their cost, the most vicious opponents of homosexuals have come from within our own ranks. Mr Mills should bear that in mind.
There seems to be a widespread opinion in the press that churchmen have something useful and relevant to contribute to the Aids debate. There is a constant cry for the churches to “take a moral lead”, which seems to mean in journalese to get everybody back into chastity belts.
The Daily Mail tells us that an “anti-Aids leaflet for Roman Catholics, warning that it is wrong to use condoms, is being distributed in Scotland.” It seems these priests put their senseless dogma before the safety of their flock – or, perhaps as Mrs Currie would have it, “good Christians” have some kind of magic immunity to HIV,
Meanwhile, in Harringey, north London, where the council has the most advanced gay rights commitment in the country (and also the most virulent aggro from opponents), the extremist churches are really going to town. Not only have we got the sad spectacle of a vicar who is prepared to starve himself to death before he’ll allow other people to have a dignified life, we now have the Moonies moving in. City Limits magazine (29 Jan) reported a Moonie-front organisation called The New Patriotic Movement setting itself up. A creepier development would be hard to imagine. When asked if they thought their activities (which includes displaying banners reading “Gays = Aids = Death”) bred intolerance and intimidation of homosexuals, a spokesman for NPM said: “That is not our intention, but if it happens it is an unfortunate consequence.”
I hoped the local gay organisations in Harringey are exploiting this development for all it’s worth. “Concerned parents” should know just what sort of people are speaking on their behalf, then they might have something to genuinely worry about.
A round-up of the opinions of the mainstream religionists was reported in The Guardian (29 Jan). Responding to James Anderton’s disgusting vision of “morality”, the Bishops said their piece.
Dr John Habgood, said that “While the Church had always been clear in condemning promiscuity it had spoken with a divided voice on homosexuals in stable relationships. As a Christian I will always value stable relationships; when they are homosexual many church people not now condemn it. We shall have to work our attitudes out.”
Dr Hugh Montefiore, Bishop of Birmingham, contributed his opinion that “Mr Anderton sometimes give the impression of seeing just a wicked homosexual scene whereas the moral issue is much more complicated.”
The Bishop of Stepney, the Right Reverend James Thompson, urged: “a better understanding of the problems of homosexuals. They get pushed into cheap relationships because they have to act in secret.”
Personally, I couldn’t give a monkey’s about what the prattling prelates think of me or my style of life – their approval or disapproval is of little consequence to most gay people. But as they do seem to carry some influence in society.Perhaps they ought to use this power to make these points more widely known. If they give a stronger lead in promoting better understanding of homosexual men and women, then they might be able to avert some of the disasters which are surely coming our way. At that point I might be able to consider that they had some relevance to our lives.
The Mail on Sunday magazine sailed close to the wind with a profile of President Reagan’s son, Ron. On the cover of that edition was a photo of the man, in full theatrical make-up, embracing his mother with the headline: “Nancy’s Boy.” Of course, there have been rumours about Ron Jnr being gay for some time now – they started after he joined a ballet company. He denies the rumours and also maintains that his father is not anti-gay. But if that is so, says The Mail on Sunday, “how does one explain his alliance with fundamentalist preachers who see homosexuality as an abomination?”
“It’s a political alliance, clearly, and it’s pandering to an extent to the far right,” explains Ron Jnr.
“Scandalmongers,” says the article, “were silenced when Ron married Doria Palmieri in 1981.”
As we know, there aren’t any married homosexuals, so that’s all right. You can rest easy in your bed, Mr President.
Finally, a few quickies. An excellent article with the sub-heading “James Anderton should thank God for the gays” appeared in The New Scientist (29 Jan) and explained the invaluable service gays have done the world by being almost totally responsible for the discovery of a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B, and how we’ll probably play a similar role in the eradication of Aids.
A poll of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 published in The Sunday Mirror (15 Feb) showed that 24 per cent agreed with the statement “Gays deserve Aids” while 60 per cent disagreed. The paper concludes that young people aren’t anti-homosexual.
John Smith wrote in The People “Recently released statistics make it plain that it is the homosexual community which is almost entirely to blame for the spread of the deadly disease. It is about time the Government faced up to this fact … instead of wrongly insinuating that Aids is something which threatens every respectable family in the land.”
Does Mr Smith know that in 1981 there were only 4 known cases of Aids among gay men? And look at the situation now. There are some 20 known cases of Aids having been caught from heterosexual sex at present – but who knows what the situation will be in four or five years if people like Mr Smith continue to encourage such dangerous complacency? The man ought to be drummed out of his job as a danger to society.
Princess Diana is reported in The People (8 Feb) to be worried at the prospect of visiting a hospital ward where people with Aids are being cared for. Whether she actually expressed these fears or whether they were an invention of the press doesn’t really matter, the damage is already done.
Elton John didn’t cross my palm with silver three years ago when he got married, but all the same I made a prediction in this very column (Gay Times 68) saying: “When … the marriage ends, Elton is going to reap a nasty harvest from the sick publicity machine he is courting.” Well, lo and behold, the marriage is ended and right on cue the frighteningly vindictive SUN moves in for the kill. “Elton Ends Sham Marriage” was the front page on 27th March, while inside a two-page spread (“Marriage Built on Lies”) dragged up the dirt from a “dossier” that the brave hacks of Wapping had cobbled together “going back to the early seventies”. Even multi-millionaires are helpless in the face of Murdoch’s unstoppable spite machine.
The Star (27 March) was a little less vicious, but the tone of its story was in equally bad taste—and it managed to score a double. Not only did it repeatedly point out Elton’s gayness, but also suggested that his wife Renate was having a lesbian relationship, too. “Many said it was the perfect marriage of convenience,” said The Star. “HE preferred the company of men. SHE preferred the company of women.”
Meanwhile the same paper was carrying excerpts from Lee Everett Alkin’s book Kinds of Loving (March 24-27), describing her marriage to Kenny Everett. It chronicled a classic case of a gay man trying to run away from the truth of his sexuality, only to find it eventually catching up with him again. Kenny Everett was lucky to have chosen Lee as his partner for she was more accommodating than many women would have been in that situation, and even though their marriage is ended she obviously still loves her “Ev”.
And now we extend a warm welcome to Tina Turner as the latest addition to Murdoch’s ever-growing list of dragged-out public figures. It was the rock star’s turn for The Sun treatment on 31st March, when the front page was taken up with the headline: “Gay Loves of Tina Turner.”
Meanwhile that other diseased Murdoch organ, The News of the World (22 March) was tittle-tattling to its readers about Matthew Parris, TV presenter and ex Tory MP, being gay. This is no great news to regular readers of Gay Times, but seems to be of abiding interest to NoW readers. “I am an active homosexual and I do have a lover,” is the bald quote from Mr Parris, and three cheers for it. It seems Mr Parris has found the answer to the salacious exposés practised by the tabloids—honesty. When asked about the problems his gayness caused in parliament he says: “MPs told me I’d do well to keep quiet,” but to his credit he didn’t and “revealed that the work he was most proud of as an MP was his involvement with homosexual law reform and gay rights.” He also says: “Before I left parliament I raised the matter of homosexual equality with Mrs Thatcher, but she was” (surprise! surprise!) “non-committal”.
It would be very difficult for even the News of the World to make a ‘scandal’ out of such disarming truth-telling.
The Mail on Sunday (29 March) and Daily Express (31 March) both carried features on the subject of “curing” homosexuality. “Forget the dolls, it’s better to be macho” said the headline in The Express over an unconvincing piece of wishful thinking. I almost expected them to conclude that it would be better to be The Yorkshire Ripper than gay—at least he was ‘normal’ right?
The Mail on Sunday was more worrying with its “Masters and Johnson ‘cure for gays’ shock.” In it the “sex gurus” claim that they have perfected a “therapy” which has “cured” 70 percent of their homosexual clients who were “highly motivated” to become heterosexual. This is not new, of course. Masters and Johnson have always alleged that homosexuals who wanted it badly enough could become heterosexual—it’s the 70 percent claim that has set up the shock waves.
What the feature didn’t tell us was how long this “cure” was supposed to last. Most of us know “highly motivated” homosexuals who have tried their hardest to be straight. They’ve married and had children, but the truth can always run faster than lies and it has always caught up with them in the end.
Kenny Everett, Elton John, Tina Turner … the list of those who’ve tried to please other people by pretending to be something they weren’t is endless. The only result is misery and shattered lives—not only for the gay person but for those who have become caught in the sham—the wives, husbands and children. I understand why gays do it—pressure from peers, family and society in general is almost irresistible—but the result is almost always the same.
Psychiatrists have always moved with the tide. In the fifties when homosexuality was heavily persecuted they invented cruel “aversion therapies” and psychoanalysed people in the hope of “curing” them. Then when the climate changed in the sixties and seventies to a more tolerant stance, the behaviourists started saying that the best answer was to let gay people express themselves in the manner that was natural for them. Now we’ve gone back to an anti-sex era and the psychologists obligingly start the old “cure” business again. The problem is that Masters and Johnson are so influential in their field that their findings will be taken seriously all over the world.
Malevolent politicos will embrace them as “proof” that “now there is a cure” no-one need be homosexual any more, and anybody who persists in the practice (and therefore ‘wilfully spreads Aids’) will be persecuted unmercifully. In many ways these “gurus” could be much more dangerous to our safety than any of the crazy Tory back-benchers or their fanatical religious supporters. In the end it is their intolerance that will have to be cured—not homosexuality.
Hold onto your hats, I’ve got some astounding news! There has been a spate of sympathetic newspaper coverage of gay matters in the past month. Congratulations to The Deptford and Peckham Mercury for devoting two recent front pages to supporting gay people in the area. The local religious loonies, The Ichthus Christian Fellowship, had distributed a nasty anti-gay leaflet and the paper ran a strong front-page editorial condemning the church and calling for equal treatment for gay men and lesbians.
Then on 2nd April the front page was taken up with a statement from ten local clergymen who also supported the rights of gay people. “Bless ’em all” was the headline. I had a lump in my throat as I read it.
Then Today’s TV critic, Sally Vincent, laid into the insidiously dishonest Larry Grayson (1 April): “Real, larky, outrageous camp parodies, stale institutions and rigid gender role observances. I don’t care how effeminate a master of camp dares to be, as long as the heart of his humour is in the right place and there is vitality to his mockery …Grayson’s chosen stance is to shelter behind the acceptable face of good, old honest camp, in order to put across what I can only describe as a one-man homophobe’s cheer-leading stunt … Should we become addicted to the Grayson touch, we might as well bring back the Black and White Minstrel Show, so we can remember what funny, jumping-up-and-down, palm-shimmering, sub-humans black people used to be. Well, it would make a change from playing gays, wouldn’t it?”
Pretty sophisticated thinking for a tabloid journo.
The Independent constructively explored the Labour party’s confusion over gay rights (9 April) and then allowed Peter Campbell of the Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality space to put his case. If only more Tories were as sensible as Peter Campbell I’d rest easier!
The new London Daily News (blessed relief from the insufferable Evening Standard) published an article (10 April) by Bryan Derbyshire, editor of National Gay, explaining “why London’s gay community will not retreat despite Aids and increased violence.”
Does this indicate cracks in the until-now united anti-gay stance of the British pop press?
Last month it was the massively inflated Geoffrey Dickens who was acting the part of bogeyman for gay people with his pompous talk of “recriminalising” homosexuality. I found his performance strangely reassuring, for he came over not so much as a statesman, more of a rather objectionable nut case.
And so it is with Peter Bruinvels, the other inadequate rentagob Tory who is one of the prime movers behind the Conservative Family Campaign and their efforts to get gay sex outlawed again. Polly Toynbee did a wonderfully sharp hatchet job on this mindless jerk in The Guardian (30 March). “Who is this ogre, this populist Titan, self-styled leader the moral majority?” she asks. “He is a tiny chubby fellow with damp hands and pouchy cheeks that have earned him the soubriquet ‘The Talking Hamster’. When he gets up in the House to speak, Labour back-benchers shout ‘Stand up!’ as he is if shortest MP … He is affable, chattery and as dim a one-watt bulb. He runs away at the mouth, words spilling out in a pool of contradictory nonsense … If he is the worst the ‘moral majoritarians’ can come up with, there is little to fear.”
The explanation for Mr Bruinvels’ rather sad attention-seeking is the fact that his majority at last election was only 933. If the voters of Leicester East have any sense they’ll ditch the squirt at the first opportunity and get themselves a real politician.
It seems that liberalism and tolerance are dirty words these days. Anyone espousing anything but the authoritarian philosophy of the Tories is seen as a “threat to society”. The gay couple in EastEnders were the final straw for those who favour only one kind sex for everyone (within marriage and preferably the missionary position with the lights off.)
Mary Kenny in The Daily Mail (9 April) is a classic example of this tight-arsed new morality which seeks to impose old-time religion on an unwilling population. Attacking EastEnders (as her part in the propaganda campaign to get television brought under the control of the Obscene Publications Act) she wrote of the programme: “Recently an underage homosexual man… was bemoaning the fact that he had to wait until his 21st birthday to have anal intercourse legally.” I saw the scene she was referring to and nobody mentioned anal intercourse or sodomy – but truth is not the issue with Ms Kenny when there is “moral” legislation to get through.
Kenny says that television is imposing a morality of “health-conscious secular materialism”. What she’d prefer, of course, is the “morality” of the religious fanatic – a morality that refuses to face up to life as it is and which is wickedly repressive and dictatorial.
What her article demonstrates most clearly, though, is that if the legislation gets through (and there is every likelihood if parliamentary time can be found for it), the mention of homosexuality on television in anything but critical terms will be out of the question.
However, despite the Whitehouse/Kenny axis, The Times (11 April) was able to report a Mori poll which indicated that “tolerance of homosexuality” had risen from 45 per cent in January to 50 per cent in February.
The Church of England certainly has no problem in producing gasbags. This was amply demonstrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury (Times 30 March) when he repeated his assertion that homosexuals are “handicapped” and blathered on interminably about “erotic homosexual genital processes”. This was after he had admitted: “I have seen homosexual couples in a stable relationship and actually providing in terms of simple human generosity, hospitality, artistic achievement and flair, what I can’t gainsay as human good.” Perhaps it would be better for the Archbishop to keep his peace until he knew what he really wanted to say.
And the same goes for the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev John Baker, who was reported in The Independent (2 April) as “condemning” gay sex. “He suggests that one can properly deduce a morality from the design of the world, which God intended. Thus, the homosexually inclined could find physical expression of their feelings ‘only in ways for which our nature is intended.’ They should not indulge in what the Bishop calls “pseudo-intercourse”, nor in actions that lead up to it …”
We know that God moves in mysterious ways, but do his representatives have to speak in similar fashion? Reassuring to know, though, that such men as these make up the very foundations of our society.
What you might call Pillocks of the Establishment
Last month’s Aids statistics prompted one of THE SUN’s filthier editorials (11 April): “They [people with Aids] have only themselves to blame for their terrible plight. But now gay campaigners are trying to turn the argument the other way round and make the whole community bear some of the guilt. This is nonsense. The term Gay Plague upsets some people but that, effectively, is exactly what it is.”
And so it goes on, citing the “innocent victims” and the “guilty” ones. It ends with a “stark message to every gay in the land”: “Homosexual intercourse spreads a killer disease. Lay off before it is too late.”
There is no mention in The Sun of the dramatic evidence that gay men have changed their sexual habits in a big way. There is no acknowledgment of the fact that the majority of Aids cases that are showing themselves now were contracted years ago before anyone even knew that HIV existed. The Sun isn’t interested in this, its only concern is scapegoating and persecution.
So, here’s a “stark message” to The Sun: why don’t you idiots learn some facts before you start shooting your mouths off?