GAY TIMES 78, February 1985

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.”

A Franklin cartoon

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?

Well … would he?

GAY TIMES 80, April 1985

Although AIDS stories have now been mainly relegated to the inside pages, still hardly a day goes by when the papers don’t have something to say on the subject. And some of the angles they choose are nothing short of bizarre. What THE SUN lacks in restraint it more than makes up for in lunatic AIDS stories: “Gay club keys are blacked in AIDS scare.”

Then the ‘LIE FACTORY’ (as The Sun has been dubbed by its own workers) told us: “Black magic herbal remedies used by witchdoctors in Africa could cure AIDS.”

Which is fine except for the fact that in Africa AIDS really is an epidemic, which doesn’t say much for the efficacy of witchdoctors.


Leaving the SUN aside for the moment (and that’s a temptation) there have been a spate of “responsible” attempts to put right the damage the press has done. “AIDS: The Truth” said the DAILY MIRROR earnestly. “Panic is sweeping Britain over the killer virus AIDS” it began, as though the Maxwell mob had nothing to do with it. Meanwhile in equally sombre tones the NEWS OF THE WORLD tried to be informative: “AIDS continues to spread like a raging bushfire” —very cool, calm and reassuring I must say. The SUN tried to whip up . . . er, sympathy for AIDS victims with the gentle headline “I’M DYING OF AIDS!” In an interview with AIDS-sufferer Bill Ayres, THE SUN says: “Bill insists that his sexual lifestyle is similar to nearly all the homosexual population in Britain. He has lost count of how many sexual contacts he has had, some weeks just a couple, others ten or more. The total runs into thousands.” The same man appears in THE DAILY MIRROR saying “I’ve lead what you’d call a fast life. So what?”

The papers, of course, lapped this up, giving their readers a vicarious thrill while inviting their revulsion. Yes, those of us who want to survive know we have to adjust our behaviour—I hope we do, anyway—we don’t need the Sun with its hypocritical tut-tutting to tell us.

The same self-righteous message, all wrapped up in pomposity, emerged from THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: “However uncharitable it is to gloat over the sufferings of the principle victims of AIDS, homosexuals, it is unfortunately not without historical precedent that the public should look askance at the harbingers of new and virulent diseases. Homosexuals would best serve their interests as individuals and those of society as a whole by learning the lesson of unbridled promiscuity and observing a more regular lifestyle.”

Quite ironic, really, to find yourself being lectured by journalists, surely themselves among the most irresponsible and immoral section of the community. The holier-than-thou tone makes you want to throw up.

THE TIMES devoted a large amount of space to “AIDS: the facts, the fears, the future.” It was constructive and admitted: “AIDS has fuelled, not triggered, the increasing homophobia seen in recent years in the press. Curiously, and by contrast, radio and television have been a great deal more constructive in their approach.” And this is true. ‘Weekend World’ (ITV), ‘TV Eye’ (ITV), ‘Newsnight’ (BBC1), and ‘Medicine Now’ (Radio 4) have all given balanced and calm reportage. The exception must surely have been ‘The London Programme’ (ITV) which betrayed the trust of those who took part and produced a real frightener, with a blame-laden, finger-wagging approach to London’s gay community, chastising them for their ‘Bacchanalian ways’.


THE SUN, ever-anxious to keep us up to date with informed opinion on the subject, quoted an American psychologist, Paul Cameron: “All homosexuals should be exterminated to stop the spread of AIDS. It’s time we stopped pussy-footing around.” No doubt Kelvin McKenzie will be offering this man a job as a leader writer. In the EXPRESS, West Sussex County Councillor Bruce Hay urged that “homosexuals should carry identity cards to help the emergency service identify potential AIDS sufferers in accident cases”.

And just before I wipe my arse on THE DAILY STAR, I thought you might be interested in another example of its “humour”. “Whilst we are on the subject of British Airways, cabin staff are alarmed that they may catch AIDS from the 25 per cent of their number who are claimed to be gay. Seems their slogan should be ‘Fly the Fag’.”

With beautiful irony THE GUARDIAN revealed that THE TIMES has an epidemic of its own—three suspected cases of legionnaires disease have been found in the building. This is obviously a visitation from God sent to punish Fleet Street for its wicked lying. Hopefully the Times plague will spread up to the Bouverie Street bovver-boys at the SUN and strike them all down. Nobody deserves it more than Mr McKenzie and his pack of liars.


In THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, Peter Simple, he of the limitless bile, told of “a newly developed sector of the discrimination industry” —heterosexism. He quotes Annie Hughes, of the Advisory Centre for Education as saying: “even the most forward-looking authorities and schools ignore blatant discrimination against and, harassment of lesbian and gay students. The education system has a responsibility to take into account that there are many homosexuals in every school – with a possible frequency of 1 in 10.”

This extremely dubious figure,” says Simple is, of course, “part of the propaganda apparatus of those who, for whatever reason, are continually nagging away at us about this subject… her statement that it is hardly ever mentioned in lessons is pernicious. Why on earth should it? Homosexuality grows by proselytism.”

Peter Simple obviously subscribes to the idea that there is a large conspiracy going on and that no-one is really gay – we’ve all been persuaded into it by this fifth column of corrupters for reasons which aren’t quite clear. But who corrupted the corrupters?

His views represent the classic insecurity of straight men. They’re scared to death by homosexuality, probably because deep down they know it’s present somewhere in their own personality. Simple is the loser, of course. His view of humanity is so narrow and his heart so twisted by hate that it makes me shiver to think what he must be like.


There was a report in NEW SOCIETY of the progress being made in West Hollywood—the world’s first gay city. The recently-elected council of gay men and lesbians seems to be doing an excellent job, not only of protecting and promoting gay interests but those of the other residents, too. “The new city council was elected by an unlikely alliance between ‘greys’ and gays—singles and seniors.” Their common cause was to rid themselves of exploiting, parasitic landlords, and get some kind of rent control.

There are also efforts afoot to give gay relationships legal status. “The baroque circus, with AIDS as the skeletal ringmaster cracking the whip, has given gaeity a bad name, which legitimacy might improve,” says the author of the piece, Sasha Moorsom, and asks: “Where West Hollywood leads, will Islington be far behind?”

We can but hope.


The biography of Lord Mountbatten by Philip Ziegler was serialised in THE SUNDAY TIMES. The question it posed in one episode was: was Dickie gay? As “proof” that he was not, Ziegler says: “He loved the company of women, sought their affection and had an almost irresistible urge to use them as confidantes” and “his riding companions were usually invariably female.”

Now all this also applies to me (except the riding). I love the company of women and have lots of female confidantes. But please, Mr Ziegler, I am gay.

GAY TIMES 83, July 1985

It’s inevitable with Wimbledon around there would be surge of interest in Martina Navratilova. Her honesty about her sexuality totally flummoxes the media. Because she’s so successful I can’t help but wonder how much of this prurient interest in her private life has to do with a desire to hurt and humiliate her.

When she’s interviewed the reporter usually starts off with tennis and rapidly steers the whole thing (as in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH) round to: “Her image has been affected by her romantic episodes with women, most publicly with the novelist Rita Mae Brown.”

But THE DAILY STAR started the other way round. Forgetting the tennis, they got right down to the nitty-gritty. “I cherish Martina, she means so much to me — Judy” was their front-page lead for a so-called exclusive interview with Martina’s “live-in friend” Judy Nelson. The snivelling reporter, Allan Hall, tried to present himself a close confidante of Judy’s. He worked hard on giving the impression that Judy had opened her heart to him and only him. After a load of guff about Judy’s children and the break-up of her marriage (all second-hand stuff) he could contain himself no longer. The $64,000 question just had to be put. “Are you Martina’s lover?”

Well, with Allan being so close to Judy, we could expect mystery to be solved once for all couldn’t we? I’m afraid not. “She stormed off” he wrote disconsolately, no nearer the truth than any of the tripe-hounds who pursue the women so doggedly.

Martina has been honest, told them she’s a lesbian – what more do they want? I must say, if I had Martina’s legendary forearm smash at my disposal, I’d be sorely tempted to aim it in the direction of Allan Hall and his colleagues.


TWO opinions on the subject of gays fostering and adopting children. The first, from Peter Simple, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH columnist who is marginally on the right of Attilla the Hun. His technique is to put anything he doesn’t agree with into quotes (“the women’s movement”, “Gay rights” or “ethnic minorities” for instance) trying to suggest that they aren’t quite real, the figment of someone’s imagination. He questions Camden Council’s policy of developing “positive policies in respect of lesbians and gay men interested in fostering or adopting children.”

“Only one question need be asked,” says Simple, “do these women honestly believe that this would be a good thing, or do they want, from political motives, to tease the ‘ordinary people’ they so deeply despise and confuse them so that they cannot tell good from bad?”

How refreshing, therefore to turn to someone who knows what they’re talking about, namely Graham Martin a social worker writing in SOCIAL WORK TODAY. He tells of his experience in arranging fostering for a lesbian couple he calls Joan and Mary. “They served as foster parents for 18 months and were popular, successful and skilful. I came to realise that in fact their sexuality was a minor, almost irrelevant issue.” He says that the ‘dilemma’ of Joan and Mary’s sexuality never arose. “Parents accepted their relationship as the warm, caring partnership which it is.”

He sees gay couples as a “ripe source of recruitment, many couples being childless and likely to remain so, yet they have the same parenting instincts as the rest of the population.” He says that gays are probably quietly fostering in other parts of the country too.

Joan and Mary had been warned that they might be crucified by the “gutter press” if their activities were made public, but they decided to go ahead anyway. Demonstrating an admirable courage which must speak volumes for, their suitability for the job.


A beautifully argued (and equally well-written) piece on Aids by Martin Amis appeared in THE OBSERVER. It compared reactions to the disease on both sides of the Atlantic.

After a terrifying description of what is happening to some Aids victims in New York because of the failings of the health insurance system (“What we have is diseased bag-persons living on the street. No-one will house them. No-one will feed them.”). He offers a rationale about gay lifestyles and why they shouldn’t be made into simple variations on the straight model. “The consoling idea of the quietly monogamous gay couple is an indolent and sentimental myth. With a large number of exceptions, it just isn’t like that. Friendship, companionship, fellowship — these are paramount, but pairing and bonding on the wedlock model is our own dated fiction.”

But he also tells heterosexuals that they won’t be able to regard Aids as “the gay plague” much longer. Soon it will be simply a sexually transmitted disease and it will change heterosexual lifestyles too.

“The liberation of coitus, the rutting revolution, has probably entered its last phase. When the danger is ultimate, then every risk is ultimate, too. It is over.”

Amis doesn’t see a cure for Aids, but the disease will “probably obey Darwinian rules and seek an evolutionary strategy, becoming less virulent, non-fatal.”

But as we know evolution takes a long time and, in the meantime, “Aids victims are in the forefront of the very pinnacle of human suffering.”


In THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH we have Alexander Chancellor writing about the shortcomings of the Post Office. So, what has this to do with homosexuality? You may well ask. We must be careful not to imply for one moment that the Gay Post Office / Telecoms workers bears any part of the responsibility for the appalling deficiencies in the postal serves,” he says.

The piece ends with a rebuke to the Post Office for their failings. Now can someone explain why he introduced the gay group into all this? We’ve already been blamed for the fall of the Roman Empire, the litter on Hampstead Heath and so on — but the late delivery of first-class letters?

I must be careful not to imply for a moment that Mr Chancellor has gone off his rocker.


In the Jehovah’s Witness journal THE PLAIN TRUTH (which contains anything but) there was a letter from a supposed reader (name and address withheld on request) who says “After years of being ashamed, crying and seeking a crutch, I prayed for God’s help. It took over a year . . . now I don’t enjoy going into gay bars. In fact, when I went in there lately, the surroundings made me somewhat sick. I thought of different guys who were gay … I asked God to change me. He has!”

Changed to what? Changed from being simply an unhappy gay man to being a miserable, carping Christian gay man. Some choice.


The Cyprus “secrets for sex” trial (which enabled THE SUN to feature the word “Gay” in three-inch letters on the front page yet again) opened sensationally. It’s the sort of thing the papers love.

I’m looking forward to more details of the fascinating-sounding “splash parties”. And a small tip for those in pursuit of the dirty details — you have to get the posh papers. The limitations imposed on the tabloids by their ‘family’ pretensions must drive their editors wild during cases like this.

The most prurient particulars only come out in papers like THE TIMES and THE GUARDIAN.

And my prediction is that homosexuality will have no real part in this trial at all. But we’ll have to wait and see.

GAY TIMES 86, October 1985

“Truth is the greatest enemy of fear and ignorance. Truth will surely conquer Aids, maybe within a relatively short space of time.”

Brave words—but from which paper? Believe it or not, it’s THE SUN. But, of course, this editorial rhetoric is nothing more than the usual empty cant. The Sun has no more regard for the truth than it ever had.

If The Sun had wanted to tell the truth about Aids, why did it headline “Cough can spread Aids”? Leading experts were quick to point out that there was no evidence to support such a wild claim. Professor Michael Adler said on The Jimmy Young Programme (Radio 2): “When you see me dying and everyone at the Middlesex Hospital dying who are looking after Aids patients then you can come back to me and say that I am wrong.” Even THE DAILY MAIL carried that. Did the Sun? No, it did not. Instead it said: “And whilst there is no proof it can be passing by kissing, the theory that it might be passed by mouth has not yet been ruled out by experts.”

We must also look at whether the SUN is reflecting reactions to Aids or it is it attempting to create them? Take the story it carried headed: “Aids scare empties pub.” It claimed that “terrified tipplers deserted their local after the landlord sent out a special invitation to gays.” But is it true? Well, we have only tie SUN’s word for it. Could it be that this detestable rag is trying to encourage a leper mentality towards gays?

Miriam Stoppard tried in her “Where There’s Life?” programme (ITV) to calm fears by talking to Aids victims in a sympathetic and sensible way. It was a moving programme, but it cut no ice with The DAILY EXPRESS’s TV critic. “Thanks doctor … but it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he wrote, “despite what they try to tell us on television, maybe they will permit a sceptical public to take their own simple precautions.”

For “simple precautions” you can read mindless persecution.


Columnists in the British Press are overwhelmingly right-wing reactionaries. They all have a great deal in common, being pro-South African government, anti-women, pro-Thatcher and very anti-gay. Their attitudes seem to have been fixed when they were young and immature and are now impervious to change. Now that they’ve got Aids as a subject they can get all that phoney moralising off their chests.

“Stop this public posturing!” demanded John Akass in the DAILY EXPRESS. He was referring to the “powerful homosexual lobby” and the “gay publicity machine”— some-thing I’ve yet to see operating—and telling us to “change down to neutral” in our demands for equality.

As a regular consumer of the Fleet Street press, I can assure John Akass that any positive mention of homosexuality would be very hard to find. There’s plenty about homosexuality to be sure —you could almost say they’re obsessed with it —but all of it is either critical, mocking, censorious or titillating. Aids, says Mr Akass is the homosexual’s “private sorrow, their own exclusive sorrow. They deserve pity. What they do not deserve is air time and space for advertising” But where is all this pro-gay propaganda?

Never mind, facts need not get in the way of the message, and so we move to the outrageously inflated and pompous George Gale, also in the EXPRESS. “We are constantly invited to feel sorrow for individuals who suffer from the disease and for the homosexual community in which it particularly flourishes,” says the self-satisfied windbag. “Those who choose unnatural methods of sexual gratification choose thereby to put themselves at risk …It is more important to protect the lives of those who might innocently or accidentally catch the disease than to protect the reputation of those who have caught the disease through their own self-indulgence.”

Then we turn to the other self-appointed moralist, the Catholic martyr herself, Mary Kenny. She was writing in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH about the appointment by Manchester City Council of two officers to look at the question of discrimination against homosexuals. According to the blessed Mary there is no such thing as anti-gay discrimination. “In many artistic spheres, queers (as they are still called in the theatre—’queer as a coot darling’) are widely believed to be more gifted, more sensitive than straights.” She then goes on to say: “If prejudice against homosexuals is now a special problem in Manchester, it may be because ratepayers feel resentment towards councils who spend resources on ‘sexual orientation officers’.”

I wonder if Mary could be so hot under the halo because Manchester happens to be a socialist council? Or perhaps she’s just let her persistent smugness get the better of her.

Now we go to THE DAILY TELEGRAPH to greet the very wonderful Peter Simple, who took space to congratulate the Salvation Army on their campaign against the liberalisation of the anti-gay laws in New Zealand. “Let it stand firm. I am sure it will.” Mind you, in the same issue he was also congratulating the South African government for ‘standing firm’ against international opinion that it should dismantle apartheid.

On the ‘lighter side’, THE STAR’s Peter Tory says he’s had a message from “our delicate-natured Los Angeles correspondent Orville” who has exclusively revealed to him what the term “a friend of Dorothy” means. The incredulous Mr Tory, always first with the news says: “So there you are. Just another little lesson in the increasingly gay ways of this funny old world.”

If Mr Tory would like another ‘little lesson’ perhaps it could be in growing up.


Paul Johnson got his two-pennorth in with an article in THE SPECTATOR some weeks ago but is worth mentioning. It begins by castigating the press: “Since the Press Council was created, the conduct of Fleet Street, far from improving, has been worse, than ever. Never would I say that Fleet Street has been held in such contempt by the public, and justly so.”

One can’t argue with that. The thrust of Mr Johnson’s article concerns gay matters. Paul Johnson doesn’t like homosexuality. “The great majority of Christians and Jews, for example, continue to regard it as evil and many believe criminal sanctions should be restored.” And how does Mr Johnson know what “the great majority” thinks? He doesn’t make clear, but he goes on say that and says as much as he despises the press and resents its intrusion into people’s lives, he’ll make an exception for the coverage of Aids “It is clear then that the Aids outbreak and other consequences of homosexual promiscuity, are matters which the press must explore and discuss, distasteful, difficult and contentious though they are. All kinds of precautions, including the re-imposition of the criminal sanctions abolished in 1967… are areas for debate.”

In the following issue, Julian Meldrum wrote to the editor, suggesting that only person who should be locked up is Mr Johnson. I’ll echo that.

I don’t want to deny anyone the right to their opinion, but I must say that reading some of these columnists is just about the equivalent of putting two fingers down your throat.


The Tory press has often used homosexuality as a means of “tarnishing” the image of the Labour Party. The habit is well illustrated by an article in THE DAILY EXPRESS headed “Gay Lib poses new threat to Labour hopes”. The article said that “Labour is facing an embarrassing new storm, this time involving the gay rights movement at next month’s party conference.”

Apparently, because there are a couple of gay rights motions likely to get on to the agenda, we are going to inflict as much damage on the party as Arthur Scargill, Tony Benn and the TUC conference put together. This is the gleeful hope and opinion of the Express’s political editor John Warden.

It didn’t stop the TUC conference overwhelmingly passing their resolution in favour of gay rights. THE SUN reported this by quoting only one speaker at the debate which was, of course, Frank Sweeney who said: “Gay people are absolutely vile. They corrupt anything and everything they touch.” Not a single word of support was reported.


THE BOOKSELLER carried an article by Charles Clark, copyright adviser to the Publishers Association, which he submitted to the PA’s Freedom to Publish Committee. It concerns, of course, Gay’s the Word and HM Customs and Excise. He says the case against the Customs would make “hilarious reading” if the proceedings did not, as they do, concern a hundred individual charges against the eight directors of GTW. “But,” he says, “The publicity surrounding the behaviour of the Customs in their action against GTW may well provide the PA and the Booksellers Association with the right opportunity to press the Government for a review of the Customs’ powers, procedures and practices.”

No doubt HM Customs are kicking themselves for opening this particular can of worms.

GAY TIMES 91, April 1986

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

I think it’s sad.


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

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

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

GAY TIMES January 1988

Parliament debated the state of the British press and a report in THE INDEPENDENT (26 Nov) made it quite clear that the Government has absolutely no intention of curbing the sensationalism, sexism, racism and homophobia of the newspapers. At the same time, alarm bells are ringing in thoughtful journalistic circles about the lengths to which the Government will go to gag criticism of itself — witness Spycatcher, the Zircon affair, the BBC’s IRA film amongst others.

And so, it is a dangerous and difficult argument. I, for one, certainly don’t want to interfere with the media’s duty to expose and bring to our attention the activities of corrupt politicians and businessmen.

Newspapers and TV must have the right to look into the affairs of those who hold power when there are suspicions that that power is being abused. But equally there must be restraints when this prying serves no public interest, but is undertaken merely for the purposes of prurience and titillation. What public good has been served, for instance, by the recent cruel stories about Elton John, Russel Harty, Martina Navratilova, Jeffrey Archer and many others? The sheer misery that must have been caused to these people is incalculable — and all in the name of increased circulation.

The Press Council has repeatedly shown itself to be useless as a tool of redress. In fact, it actually serves as a stumbling block to providing an effective challenge to newspaper excesses. The NUJ’s Ethics Council has proved similarly powerless; just look at Ray Mills who has received the ultimate sanction of being expelled from the union, but continues on his racist way in The Star.

There are two proposals coming up for consideration in Parliament later this year that could help. One is an “Unfair Reporting and Right of Reply Bill” sponsored by Ann Clwyd MP, which receives a second reading on 5th February, 1988. This proposed Bill would create a Media Commission which would have the power to decide — quickly — whether a right of reply was justified, and if it was to ensure that newspapers or TV gave it equal space and prominence as the original attack in the next available edition or programme. This system is already operating successfully in other European countries and Ms Clwyd asserts that it has not led, as many opponents would say, to a dreary press, full of boring replies. Instead it has encouraged journalists to be more careful, restrained and truthful in what they write.

Also coming up is a proposal to “introduce a measure of protection of privacy”. Both proposals are worthy of our consideration and support, and Ann Clwyd welcomes comments about her proposals at the House of Commons, London SW1 from any interested party.


The London Evening Standard magazine (4 Dec) gave a right of reply to Harvey Proctor, the ‘spanking’ MP hounded from office by the tabloids last year. He tells a sorry tale of the lengths to which the press went in order to nail him — agents provocateurs, bribery, treachery and just plain lying. In fact, all the familiar tricks of the journo’s trade.

However, although I sympathise with Mr Proctor’s assertion that he “would like to see a change in the law so that people, including those in public service, were entitled to some sort of privacy and couldn’t be pursued in such a manner by the press”, I cannot agree with his analysis of why he was chosen for the treatment. “I firmly believe,” says Proctor, “that certain journalists set out to bring me down because they didn’t like my opinions on immigration and race relations.”

I wonder how closely Mr Proctor reads the tabloid press? I wonder if he realises how often The Sun has been censured by The Press Council for overtly racist articles? Far from disagreeing with his rotten racist opinions, most of the tabloid papers promote them with gusto. A far more likely reason for the persecution was the fact that Mr Proctor’s private life had all the elements that the tabloids thrive on. In their terms it was “kinky”, “sordid,” “bizarre”. It involved “perversions” galore and, as we well know, the reader of popular newspapers simply adores sex — the filthier and more outrageous the better. Not for himself, of course — he simply wants to tut-tut and shake his head before returning to his wife and voluptuous daughter in Congleton.

The fact that Harvey Proctor was building a career on creating misery for other people would have been a noble reason for the press to destroy his parliamentary career. Unfortunately, it was not the case.


Headline of the Month: “Storm over gay sex books for 2-year-olds.” (LONDON STANDARD 25 Nov). Presumably these books are available in a school for infant prodigies who can read at the age of two?

Insult of the month: “I accepted an invitation to a friend’s house for drinks even though I knew she was a lesbian:1 had far too much to drink and ended up having sex with her . . . I now feel that people can tell by just looking at me what a filthy animal I have turned out to be.” — letter to Marje Proops (DAILY MIRROR 17 Nov).

Quote of the month: “Can anyone seriously wish to return to a time when homosexuality was criminal? And if one takes on the Chief Rabbi’s hating the sin but loving the sinner, is this really possible? The Inquisitors of old argued that they were burning Jews and heretics out of love, but the expression of that love was mighty strange.” — Rabbi Julia Neuberger (TIMES 17 Nov).


The two subjects on which James Baldwin wrote most passionately were racism and homosexuality. His obituary in THE INDEPENDENT (2 Dec) managed to fill three long columns without once mentioning the writer’s gayness.

Many gay public figures still cling to the idea that their sexuality is “the love that dare not speak its name”, but James Baldwin was not one of them. It is an affront to his memory (and to the dignity of the whole gay community) for The Independent to pretend that such a strong motivating force was unworthy of mention.


Of all the unlikely papers, it was THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (6 Dec) which carried an article by Brenda Maddox arguing that “laws and taboos forbidding homosexual marriages are illogical and unfair.” The reasoning of the case put by Ms Maddox was flawless. “The advance of Aids, a disease which in the United States has spread first and fastest amongst homosexuals, has increased the general public’s awareness and dislike of homosexual promiscuity. Homosexuals are being urged to stick to stable relationships. Is it not, therefore, hypocritical and even dangerous to castigate a large section of the population for undesirable behaviour, while withholding the remedy most likely to discourage such behaviour?”

And did you know: “The European Commission on Human Rights has ruled that members of the Council of Europe may not outlaw relations between people of the same sex”? I certainly didn’t. Perhaps someone should tell Dr Adrian Rodgers and Fatso Dickens that their “recriminalisation” campaigns appear to be at odds with European law.


We know that the papers are usually obsessed with homosexuality but the tabloids were curiously silent in the days in the run-up to the debate on the notorious amendment to the Local Government Bill. [Note: This was the genesis of Section 28]. Most of what was said hinged on the Labour Party’s decision to oppose the clause.

THE GUARDIAN editorialised: “The Government’s opponents must decide whether to be popular or to be principled. There is more at stake than a single clause in a single bill.”

Julie Birchill wrote (MAIL ON SUNDAY 13 Dec): “The Labour Party’s decision to back the proposal is not only cynical and dishonest but a bad tactic. Didn’t Labour keep telling us during the election that the idea of Loony Left councils was a politically motivated myth of the Murdoch press? Now it seems the tabloids were telling the truth all the time. The Party, in its electoral anxiety, is accepting a piece of legislation totally devoid of logic. The idea that you can ‘promote’ people into being homosexual is hysterically funny.”

Meanwhile, Chris Smith, the only ‘out’ MP in the country, was interviewed by THE INDEPENDENT (12 Dec). “I’ve always been very anxious to say yes I am prepared to stand up for and work for gay people,” he was quoted as saying, “but I don’t want that to be the sole or even principal part of my Parliamentary work.”

At a time of unprecedented threat, Chris, this was not what we wanted to hear.

The final outcome of the debate on this issue is reported elsewhere in Gay Times.


Peter (‘stop hounding Nazi war criminals, they’re retired now’) Simple wrote in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (20 Nov): “A new book produced by the ‘Gay Teacher’s Group’, intended for pupils, parents and homosexual teachers, states: ‘We don’t know why some people are homosexual. We don’t know why some people are heterosexual either.’ Perhaps not. But one thing we do know is why homosexual proselytisers make fatuous statements of this kind and hope to get away with them.”

It seems nowadays that any mention of homosexuality which is not either condemnatory or intended to degrade is presented as “proselytising”. Schoolchildren, Mr Simple would have us believe, are just empty vessels waiting passively to be filled up with other people’s ideas. I wonder how it is that the vast majority of queer bashing attacks are committed by adolescents and young people? If homosexuals really are proselytising (‘converting from one creed, party or opinion to another’ — OED), then we aren’t making a very good job of it.


THE NEWS OF THE WORLD is obsessed with Aids — week after week it brings its readers some new ‘human interest’ angle to the disease. Which would be fine if the aim were to relieve the extra burden placed on sufferers by society’s cruel reactions to the infection. But there is something distastefully prurient and sensationalist about the NoW approach. On 6th December the paper reported on the first heterosexual man in this country to be identified as having contracted Aids from straight sex. While I have every sympathy with this chap, I loathed the way the story was written. It was shot through with horrible sideswipes at gay PWAs. “I shall never forget my horror when I first realised I had Aids. I always thought it was something that poofters got, not ordinary blokes like me,” he is quoted as saying. “Now we must tell the truth. We must reveal that Aids can kill anyone — even a perfectly normal bloke like me.”

Not only is this outrageously offensive to the vast majority of PWAs, the article was also factually incorrect. The man in question had revealed that his wife has also been identified as HIV positive. She says (and nobody corrects her): “I know any illness — even a cold — could give me full-blown Aids like Andy.”

In the NoW magazine of the same day another article told of the grotesque reactions of a small American town when a young gay resident revealed he had Aids. True to the American Christian tradition, the young man was persecuted mercilessly by friends, family and neighbours. Such cruelty and irrationality are hard to believe, and I fear that the News of the World’s approach to the disease will do nothing to quell it.