I didn’t see the gay Play for Today ‘The Groundling and The Kite’ BBC1 but it got a very mixed reception from the critics. THE DAILY MAIL said it was “a honey … a sweet and gently funny play — I liked it enormously”. But THE OBSERVER hated it like poison: “should set the Gay Movement back a good five or 10 years. A few more offerings of this kind and it will all be illegal again by 1985.”
Well, whatever you thought of it, Lucy Hughes-Hallett in THE LONDON STANDARD made the point that despite the fact the two main characters were supposed to be madly in love they never actually got into bed together. “For two men to sit publicly on the same mattress, albeit fully-clothed is still, apparently, a no-no.”
She’s got a point.
The coverage of the Democratic convention in San Francisco inevitably included mention of the gay people in the city. The very visible gay population was lumped together with the “freaks” and “weirdos” who also turned out to protest. “Gays in street riots” said a headline in THE NEWS OF THE WORLD. I was disappointed when I read the story to find no evidence to support the headline.
Meanwhile, SIXTY MINUTES (BBC1) included a song from The Gay Men’s Chorus. The gobby Sarah Kennedy declared herself “speechless” after the item.
Which makes a pleasant change.
FAR be it from me to give extra publicity to the totally useless ‘socialite’ Vikki de Lambray, but he turned up in the William Hickey column again. This time saying he was going to marry some old berk called Sir Hew McCowan. “All arrant nonsense” says Hickey. ‘Miss’ de Lambray is quoted as saying: “He proposed to me over drinks at the Hippodrome Nightclub. He said I looked very lovely that night, very Sloane Rangerish, and ordered some special champagne.”
Will somebody please help me understand?
Lay aside any idea that I’m prejudiced against GAY NEWS because I’m writing for its main competitor. If you’ve seen it you won’t need me to tell you how appalling it is. Anyway, out of curiosity I squandered another 60p to see if there had been an improvement. And the impossible has happened: it has got worse!
In the issue I was foolish enough to buy, Conservative MP Matthew Parris was saying that gays were making “scapegoats” of the police. Can you believe it? His point was that it was the law that was wrong and we shouldn’t blame the police because they have to enforce it.
To the accompaniment of a rapidly rising blood-pressure I read: “If we don’t want homosexuals arrested for importuning we should say so, rather than knock the police for taking Parliament at its word and actually enforcing the law.”
When, Mr Parris, did Parliament instruct the police to use agents provocateurs? I can remember when it told them not to. When did it give permission to the police to beat up, humiliate and persecute innocent people or fabricate evidence in court?
To think that such an article should appear in a publication supposedly produced by gay people is incredible.
GAY NEWS is now only a shadow of its former self and is not only weedy, it is lousy to look at and a rip-off— it’s also positively dangerous.
DR ROGER THOMAS, the ‘disgraced’ Labour MP who was recently entrapped by the police and fined for cottaging was reported in THE DAILY MAIL as being “bitter” that his local constituency party plan to get shut of him. He’s even more annoyed that Neil Kinnock has withdrawn the “support” he promised when he thought Dr Thomas’s resignation might cause an inconvenient by-election.
I would have thought an MP of Dr Thomas’s experience would have known by now that if it was expedient and served their ambitions, politicians would sling their own mother in the canal.
So, it looks like ta-ta Dr Thomas.
Scientists and psychologists can now cease their researches into homosexuality. It has all been explained! What? Are you trying to tell me haven’t seen the latest is of THE PLAIN TRUTH?
For those who haven’t seen it, The Plain Truth is a free handout magazine published (without advertising) by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religious cult with more money than sense (haven’t they all?).
Under the heading “Is it true that some are ‘born that way’?” we are told that being gay is nothing to do with hormones or genetics or parental influence. No, apparently, we were all visited by Satan at a very early age and he put the idea into our heads.
Well, that explains everything. According to The Plain Truth: “Satan is the originator of the idea that sex is intrinsically evil, dirty and shameful.” Funny, isn’t it, how it takes the churches to keep old Lucifer’s message going.
Are you listening at the back, you little devils?
THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH’s “Mandrake” interviewed Christopher Isherwood in California. Mandrake is respectful for most of the article but then says: “Seeking to provoke, we raise the issue of ‘gay liberation’ in America — its unappealing stridency for instance.”
Christopher was “sweetly unmoved” by the intended jibe and simply said: “I want everybody — including my people — to have rights.” He enjoys being gay and says: “It’s nice to get together, to have your group, your bunch. It’s terrible not to have anything to belong to.”
So we can claim Christopher Isherwood as our very own living literary legend. And have, as a pleasant change, a dignified public figure who is gay with no ifs and buts about it.
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?
In the Left corner we have Michael Portillo, who was once a homosexual but now assures us that he has outgrown it. In the Right corner is Ann Widdecombe, a woman who could make one believe that the alien invasion has truly begun. And in the centre we have William Hague, the only person alive who was born middle aged.
This is the modern Conservative Party, lost in the realms of the surreal and bizarre and desperately trying to convince the electorate that it isn’t just a bunch of losers, has-beens, borderline psychos and bloodthirsty old ladies.
First attempt at salvaging the wreck came at the Party conference in October. There, Michael Portillo made a speech declaring that there was a place for us all in the new, caring, inclusive Tory party. “We are a party for the people, not against the people,” he said. “We are for all Britons: black Britons, British Asians, white Britons. Britain is a country of rich diversity… We are for people whatever their sexual orientation. The Tory party isn’t merely a party of tolerance: it’s a party willing to accord every one of its citizens respect.”
This was greeted with stony silence by the gathered multitude of blue-rinsed tricoteuses who wanted blood and retribution, not lily-livered kindness. Indeed, as The Independent commented the following day: “The Conservative Party is, as those who know it and well attest, a party that can almost be described as ‘institutionally homophobic’. Anyone who witnessed the reception given at The Independent’s fringe meeting to our columnist and former Tory MP Michael Brown, who is open about his homosexuality, will be in no doubt about the ugly prejudices all too readily displayed by some Tory activists. Too few of them would agree with Mr Portillo’s view: ‘The Conservative Party looks for things that mark people out as individual and exceptional. We are for people whatever their sexual orientation.’”
Questioned next day about Mr Portillo’s call for social tolerance, Ann Widdecombe affected not to know what the words meant. “What I believe is that the state should have a preferred model, that it should promote the traditional family,” she said, with that characteristic purse of the lips.
So, what is “official” Tory party policy towards gay people? Are we in or are we out? Well, according to Steve Norris, the Party’s vice-chairman, we should be in. In fact, we should be leading from the front. In an interview with YouGov.com, which describes itself as an “e-democracy site”, Mr Norris said: “I see no reason why in the future we might not have a prime minister who was from an ethnic minority, or for that matter gay… As the party that was the first to bring you a woman prime minister… I have no doubt that the first gay prime minister will probably be a Tory.”
Sorry Steve, but I think we have already had our first gay prime minister and probably our second one, too. Perhaps what he meant is the first “out” gay prime minister. In which case, is he trying to tell us something about somebody?
Anyway, such talk didn’t please Norman Tebbit, the Tory party’s bigot-in-chief of yesteryear. He wrote, with his usual restraint, in The Sunday Telegraph: “If sodomites have a human right to marry would it not be inevitable for paedophiles to establish their right to child sex and inevitably would follow those with a taste for bestiality?”
Mr Norris retorted that: “Mr Tebbit thinks that every homosexual is a paedophile, is a closet paedophile. He is entitled to his view, but it’s not one that I or, I believe, any decent person shares.” Francis Maude, the shadow Foreign Secretary, whose brother died from Aids, is also a “tolerater”. He said: “Tolerance is not an optional addition to this party’s values: it is an absolutely vital part of it which sustains us.” The Defence spokesman Iain Duncan Smith, on the other hand, wants gays out of the army as soon as possible.
But these people are just the monkeys. It’s the organ grinder’s opinion we want. Surely the leader of the party can give us a definitive answer as to whether the Tory party is pro-gay or anti-gay?
We turn to a speech given by the great leader in Cardiff to a convention of newspaper editors. According to The Independent he “endorsed Michael Portillo’s call to show greater tolerance towards homosexuals”, and promised that the party’s new inclusive approach would not be a “one-week wonder”.
“I do not accept the false distinction that is sometimes made between respecting the lifestyle decisions of individuals and championing mainstream values,” Mr Hague explained. “Conservatives should do both, for we are neither libertarians nor authoritarians… I see no contradiction, nor do most people, in saying that we respect people of different sexual orientation, but we don’t want Section 28 repealed.”
So is that yes or no – because I certainly see a contradiction in the idea that we’re welcome but only as second-class citizens.
Having got no further with that, we then proceed to the Tory’s “Policy Forum on Britain’s Faith Communities” held in a church in Westminster. There, Mr Hague was addressing just about all the country’s religious leaders: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and just about every other deluded sect and cult you can think of. According to The Times, the speech he made to these people was “an attempt to balance the call made by Michael Portillo, the Shadow Chancellor, at the party conference for tolerance to all sections of the community whatever their sexual orientation.”
Mr Hague said: “On the subject of the family, I would like to thank those religious leaders who are fighting to retain Section 28. I am delighted that representatives of the Christian Institute and Iqbal Sacranie of the Muslim Council of Great Britain are here with us today. Britain’s Muslims are standing tall in this campaign and millions of parents will be grateful for that.”
Ann Widdecombe was also at the “policy forum”, moving among her natural constituency of intolerant, narrow-minded fundamentalists. Would she consider converting to Islam, someone asked. She expressed her admiration for the “uncompromising” nature of Islam, bemoaning the fact that “They are like the Christian churches used to be.” And on the subject of homosexuality she said: “Tolerating other lifestyles doesn’t mean affording them equal validity.”
Indeed, The Independent reported that the whole forum had “a strong anti-homosexual odour.”
Dawvd Noibi, an Islamic consultant with the Muslim education charity IQRA Trusts, opined that the time for pussy-footing by leaders about homosexuality was clearly over. “If we don’t speak out now we’ll all be responsible before God,” he warned. There was a shout of ‘hear, hear’ and applause when Mr Noibi added that there was ‘no excuse’ for gay couples having children. Then a Ms Maqsood said there was compassion for gays, but many Muslims would like to see money invested in a ‘cure’ for the ‘abnormality’. Perhaps all that was needed was a simple injection, she said.
This rather pathetic crawling to the hard-line religious lobby horrified Matthew Parris. In The Times he chided Mr Hague for his unconvincing, new-found religiosity: “Voters in this deeply agnostic country know in their bones if not always in their heads that the world of faith comes not accompanied by love, devotion and service alone, but also with many hatreds, much censoriousness, and an insistent desire to punish. When we hear from an evangelical ‘support marriage’ we hear not only support for some, but disapproval for others.”
So, what do all these mixed messages mean? What is Mr Hague’s motivation in saying that there is a place for homosexuals in his new vision for Britain and then throwing in his lot with our bitterest and most implacable enemies?
Perhaps Alice Miles in The Times has the answer, and it is, in her words “breathtakingly cynical”.
“I asked a member of the Shadow Cabinet what was the strategy behind ‘governing for all’. It was, he explained, borrowed from this year’s Republican convention, where George W. Bush did all that public reaching out to black people. ‘It wasn’t because he thought they would vote for him,’ he said, ‘but in order to reassure floating voters who might vote Republican’ but were embarrassed by the right-wing image. The Tory leadership doesn’t expect the black and Asian communities, or the poor to vote for them. ‘Of course not, but if the people we do want to vote for us think we are uncaring, we must have inner-city policies to show that we’re not.”
So there you have it. Mr Hague is not courting the gay vote; he is courting the votes of decent people who are repelled by the Tory’s nastiness and narrow-mindedness. If he can really convince that mass of liberal, tolerant people out there that he is not really an irredeemable gay-basher, then they just might come back to the fold.
Now we see it. Mr Hague is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Ann Widdecombe is the Rottweiler guarding and reassuring the existing flock, while Michael Portillo is trying to tempt a few unsuspecting sheep from another fold with his touchy-feely, you-can-trust-me approach.