Boy George, the androgynous singer with Culture Club, is driving tabloids crazy. His sexual ambiguity gets the feature writers in right old tizzy. Is his close companion male or female? His ex-boyfriend Marilyn just adds to the confusion.
The Daily Mirror even went so far as to write an editorial telling Boy George to have his hair cut and don a three-piece suit. If he abandoned his make up, they said, he’d be much happier.
I wonder if they mean he’d be happier or they’d be happier?
Keep ‘em guessing Boy George.
Elsa Lanchester, speaking to THE GUARDIAN, said that she found out about husband Charles Laughton’s homosexuality a few months after they were married.
With unusual compassion and amazing strength, she remained married to the star of Mutiny on the Bounty and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, simply because he was a wonderful friend and companion. She enjoyed her men friends and allowed Charles to enjoy his.
As she said several times during the interview, there was no-one in those days she could talk to about it.
Thank goodness all that has changed now and people in her position can get a sympathetic ear almost anywhere.
In an extraordinary article in THE SPECTATOR, somebody called Jeffrey Bernard offers the opinion that: “the decline in the quality of queers dates from the time gay became their title.”
He goes on to relate how, in his youth, he would attach himself to lonely and frightened gay men and get money from them by flaunting his “delinquent looks that queers fancy so much.” For all the money, favours and holidays he received, Jeffrey Bernard just prick-teased his victims whilst despising and ridiculing them.
Mr Bernard thinks we should revert to using “queer” and “poof” to describe ourselves because “gay is what I am after four or five large ones.”
Listen, any youth who persistently importunes gay men, excites them, flirts with them and then, at the crucial moment, tries to say that he is “an obsessional heterosexual” has got to be suffering from a serious psycho-sexual problem.
And while we’re on the subject of calling a spade a spade, how about Mr Bernard being honest about himself? Didn’t his activities, in fact, make him a prostitute?
Following the success of their recent feature about gay men who came out to their parents, THE SUN now gives us “My Daughter is a Gay”.
As the title implies, this time it concentrated on the reactions of parents to the knowledge that their daughters were dykes.
One has to be fair and say that the article wasn’t bad. In fact, rumour has it that THE SUN is making an effort to recognise and cater for its gay audience. This hasn’t been reflected in the editorial department yet, but perhaps we can look forward to a better deal from Bouverie Street? [Note: At that time, The Sun was produced in Bouverie Street, London EC4]
Gerald Priestland, the former BBC religious affairs correspondent, devoted his recent “Priestland’s Postbag”(Radio 2) to homosexuality. In this five-minute homily he got off to a good start by telling us: “Homosexuality is not a subject that interests me because I have no experience of it.”
This admission did not prevent him trotting out the full repertoire of established Christian complacence:
“Sometimes bankers or lawyers want to dress up in kinky clothes, but they have the good manners to keep it to themselves, they don’t force it on me,” he said. “It’s right that Christians should be merciful now, but I do wish the word gay still had its original meaning… blah, blah, blah.” Well, you’ve heard it all before, about twenty years ago.
He ended up by admitting he found homosexual acts “ludicrous and distasteful.”
Fine, he’s entitled to his opinion, smug though it be. But there’s a strange callousness about Mr Priestland’s tone which I find hard to accept, especially as he purports to be concerned with the major social issues of the day.
Are we to assume, for instance, that because we have no experience of starvation, we need not take seriously the situation in the third world? That seems to be Mr Priestland’s message.
THE DAILY EXPRESS informed us that Sting, lead singer with the rock group Police, was very “hot” during a recent concert in Germany. Wishing to communicate to his audience this fact, Sting said: “Ich bin warm.” This, in fact, means “I am gay”.
Can we take it, then, that Sting considers himself to be a hot, gay man, or was it all a dreadful mistake, as THE EXPRESS would have us believe?
According to THE SUNDAY TIMES, the Kincora Boys Home scandal, which has been on the verge of breaking for some years now, seems to have died the death.
This will be bad news for THE SUN and other papers that thrive on ‘homosexual scandals’ because this one had, potentially, all the right ingredients.
The Kincora Boys Home is in East Belfast and there were dark mutterings some time ago that boy prostitution ring had been in operation there.
That would have been juicy enough but better still, word had it that this vice ring had been used by senior civil servants and army officers. The icing on the cake was that the Royal Ulster Constabulary were accused of covering the whole thing up. Even Ian Paisley was in there somewhere.
Now a report by Sir George Terry, former Chief Constable of Sussex, says that the allegations were “totally unfounded”.
I think this is the best solution. Not only does it prevent unscrupulous politicians from publicly smearing their opponents (no proof needed, a mere accusation would be enough to do the damage), it also takes away the opportunity for the Fleet Street Bingo Cards to rehash the ‘gay corruption’ angle yet again.
“Hooray for Rugby”, yelled THE SUN in its now infamous editorial. But I say Put the Flags out for Islington. For if you were disheartened by the balderdash being served up in the council chamber in Tory-controlled Rugby, you will be cheered to hear of Islington Council’s employment policy, as reported in the LONDON EVENING STANDARD: “All posts are open to lesbians and gay men including those working with children,” said the Labour-controlled council.
“Loony Left, Loony Left”, screamed the critics, like pathetic parrots with their beaks stuck in a groove.
But god, it’s got to be better than the Righteous Right with their one-sided view of democracy. For according to the (Tory) press, Rugby council is carrying out the wishes of the people who elected it. But Islington is seen as “foisting political dogma” on an unsuspecting electorate.
But didn’t the same electoral process produce both councils? If it did, can we expect Mrs Thatcher to abolish it?
There’s nothing quite like the self-congratulatory British concept of “tolerance” to demonstrate hypocrisy at its most refined. Take the case of Oscar Wilde. His “disgrace” in late Victorian England was greeted with glee by the press and the establishment. They took their most brilliant light – creator of the most sublime comedy in the English language – and crushed him in order to satisfy some prurient impulse. (The one Mrs Thatcher wants to restore.)
Even after the trial and imprisonment the degradation continued. THE GUARDIAN reported newly-revealed Home Office papers detailing the circumstances of Wilde’s imprisonment.
The dirty-minded chaplain, W.D. Morrison reported: “I hear and see that perverted sexual practices are again getting the mastery over him.” A load of lurid rubbish as it turned out – the smell that had got the raving reverend’s glands throbbing was no more than Jeyes fluid used to clean the cell. Oscar “suffered dysentery from bad food, developed an abscess in his ear and a perforated ear drum from a fall that was left untreated for nine months.”
Despite pathetic pleas for clemency, he was forced to serve every single day of his two years with hard labour sentence.
They’re still searching for the “cause” of homosexuality. THE GUARDIAN tells of researchers at the State University of New York who have found clear evidence of biological differences between homosexual and heterosexual men – a dissimilar response to certain hormones.
But why are they trying to find a way to tell gay and straight men apart? And if they manage to perfect their techniques, what use will it be put to? I’m sure the personnel department at Rugby Council would find a use for it. And so would Fidel Castro, who has already tried once to clear Cuba of homosexuals.
A grim prospect indeed.
An OBSERVER opinion poll into social attitudes in this country came up with some fascinating results. When asked whether the police “tend to pick on homosexuals”, 10% of those questioned thought they did, Interestingly, when analysed, the results showed that in the 18-24 age group the number who thought the police persecuted gays went up to 13%, but only 5% of pensioners agreed.
Obviously, the younger generation has a more realistic idea of what is going on.
A big review of ‘Pornography’, the latest gay play to be presented at the ICA in London and now touring the country, appeared in THE STAGE. “Loveless promiscuity is not now applauded by no straights. Why then should it be worn like a badge of pride by so many in the gay community? And since it is, is it any wonder that homosexuals are often regarded with contempt rather than concern?” wrote critic Charles Spencer.
There followed a lively correspondence, with David Bulbeck writing in the next issue: “It is untrue… as many gay people do look for love and stable relationships, and it shows a total misunderstanding of gay people and lifestyles.” Whilst Peter Zander wrote: “… each man must find his own pattern. For some that is promiscuity, whether ‘loveless’ as Mr Spencer describes it, or loving. Loving promiscuity? Why not?” Obviously a debate that has only just begun.
Peter Tory, THE DAILY MIRROR’s ill-informed gossip columnist, reported that gay Conservatives “want laws that govern their activities to apply to women as well as men.”
What? The gay Tories want an age of consent of 21 for lesbians? I’m sure that wasn’t what they meant. Mind you, the idea of any homosexual wanting to be a Tory in the first place is so bizarre that such a development wouldn’t surprise me.
THE OBSERVER tells of new research in America which seems to show that AIDS can be transmitted by saliva. Researcher Dr Matilda Krim of the Sloan Kettering cancer centre in New York says: “It is very frightening indeed. Certainly there is now a threat of public persecution of gays who may be accused of being a health risk.” The Observer anticipates “the prospect of a public vendetta against those who may be accused of passing on the disease in restaurants, offices, drinking fountains and other public places.”
My knees were still knocking when I turned to THE SUNDAY TIMES to read of a new drug, Immunovir, which might be useful in treating AIDS symptoms. But the developers of the drug think it might be too late: “the number of people suffering from AIDS is doubling every six months in Britain”.
Researchers Adler and Harris want “a campaign of health education to persuade people at risk to change their behaviour.” It’s up to us, I suppose.
The theatre critic of THE TIMES said Bob Hope got cheap laughs at the expense of gays. Example: “did you hear about the two gays who died, were cremated and had their ashes stored in a fruit jar?”
I was pleased to see that Mr Hope’s British tour was an unmitigated disaster with cancelled shows and thousands of unsold tickets. What you might call poetic justice.
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.
The reporting of Aids continues at screaming pitch. The treatment given to the subject varies enormously and as you’d expect it was THE SUN that scraped the floor of the sewer. “I’d shoot my son if he had Aids,” was the headline over one of the most malevolently mischievous pieces of “journalism” I’ve yet seen. Given the criticism there has been over the deliberate panic created in the press over Aids, there can be no justification for giving three-quarters of a page to the opinion of some crazy clergyman to say (in large quotes): “If it continues, it will be like the Black Plague. It could wipe out Britain. Family will be against family. Nobody will trust anyone else and gun law will prevail.”
These are the words of Rev Robert Simpson of Barmston, Humberside. How THE SUN managed to find such a lunatic and why they decided to give such prominence to his opinions can only be put down to an evil desire to add to the hysteria. It was journalism of the most base and irresponsible kind, and there is nothing we can do about it—the Sun sails on impervious to criticism.
THE STAR, in its turn, ran one of those brave editorials saying: “Above all, the public must have a great deal more information about Aids, its effects and the risks of infection. Too many people are relying on rumour and stage door gossip about show-biz stars.” Which is rendered laughable by the fact that on the front page of the same issue is a story headed “Terror in Tinsel Town” which quotes from well-known medical experts like Linda Evans, Cher and pig-ignorant Joan Rivers, who seems to have little knowledge of the subject but an awful lot to say about it. “I have friends with Aids,” she screeches, “But I can tell you, there’s no kissing, no touches.” I wish she’d do us all a favour and shut her cavernous trap for a while.
THE DAILY MAIL carried a ghastly piece about American hysteria. It wasn’t so much an ‘objective report’ as a cover for the anti-gay feelings of the author, George Gordon. “America is gripped with fear, loathing and hysteria over the relentless increase of the killer disease Aids. What is terrifying its leaders is that the national mood is only a twitch away from focusing that hysteria on a human target—the millions of openly homosexual men who until now flaunted their gayness before the straight society.”
He goes on carping about the progress made by gays but is cheered to know that this is all being rapidly reversed. Then he says: “America is a deeply religious country, in which the fear of fire and brimstone is never far from the sophisticated surface”.” This, it seems. gives the born-again maniacs carte blanche to go on the rampage against those they see as the ‘originators’ of Aids. “The tolerant society is fast disappearing,” says Gordon, “Women, children and heterosexual men are catching Aids, and whether it is from contaminated blood or contact, it comes down to two primary sources—junkies using dirty needles and homosexuals.”
He tells us that Rock Hudson’s death, far from creating sympathy for gays has “aroused an awareness and revulsion that has swept the country.” George Gordon’s article ends: “The gay parades are over. So too is public tolerance of a society that paraded its sexual deviation and demanded rights. The public is demanding to live disease-free with the prime carriers in isolation.”
Now just a moment —let’s just look at what this man is saying. “Disease-free lives”? Humanity has never been free from disease and it never will be. What he means is gay-free. And that has implications that don’t bear thinking about.
NEW SOCIETY summed it up when they said that the Aids story is really one of “selfishness and fear”—which brings me on to the arch-practitioner of those two vices, John Junor, editor of THE SUNDAY EXPRESS. “Curious isn’t it,” he said of Rock Hudson, “the way he is being turned into some kind of folk hero? Elizabeth Taylor gushes about how much she loves him … others take their hats off and lower their eyes to the ground and talk about his courage … Mr Hudson may have had many qualities. In my view neither courage nor decency was amongst them.”
There are other human values too, like compassion and sympathy, I’d say Junor had them in about the same measure as a hyena.
At the more sensible end of the scale, NEW SOCIETY carried a large piece about what they called “the worst public health problem since polio and TB were defeated.” The author said, after looking calmly but not very hopefully at the state of research: “There is only one way to stop this disease from decimating the gay population, and possibly killing thousands of heterosexuals too: by altering people’s sexual behaviour.” The article is worth looking up and reading in full—it was in the issue dated 18th October.
THE latest gay play ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ had rather extreme love-it-or-hate-it reviews. Jack Tinker in THE DAILY MAIL loved it: “A triumph which packs its punches far and wide”. John Barber in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH agreed, saying he thought the play “the funniest as well as the most exuberant and perceptive and painful for years about sexuality, inversion and the disorders of modern love.” Irving Wardle in THE TIMES thought it “a revelation”.
But THE SUNDAY TIMES’ John Peter thought it “an entertainment for consenting adolescents. A long run might push homosexuality back into the ghetto from which it had a lot of trouble emerging in the past decade or two.” Michael Billington in THE GUARDIAN said it was “rather like Neil Simon re-written by Barbara Cartland.” Milton Shulman in THE LONDON STANDARD: “Such a soppy ending would have been derided as sentimental bathos had anyone dared write it about a romantically besotted heterosexual.”
Whatever the critics thought about it—and they’ve been wrong many times before—the preview audience on the night I was there were on their feet clapping and cheering riotously.
The Labour Party passed its gay rights resolution. The DAILY EXPRESS, SUN and MIRROR all quoted the single opposing speaker to the exclusion of everyone else. Meanwhile the SUNDAY TELEGRAPH told of the “increased commitment” to gay rights of 10 of the 32 London Boroughs and a growing number of Northern councils, like Manchester. “Council officers say the spread of the deadly disease Aids… has sharpened rather than undermined their commitment to helping the homosexual community.”
The LONDON STANDARD reported the issue of the GLC’s “Charter for lesbian and gay rights”. It quotes Ken Livingstone as saying: “Any statement about our grant for the gay and lesbian community was taken up by the gutter press who systematically tried to distort and twist what we were doing.”
THE DAILY MAIL is angered that Hackney council is giving gays “the same rights as married couples over council homes”. “The risk of encouraging people to claim homosexual relationships was obvious” it quotes. All these authorities just happen to be Labour-controlled. So, just to demonstrate that I am not biased I can report that THE DAILY EXPRESS told us of the Government’s contribution to the welfare of gays: “Government secretary Kenneth Baker is pledged to cut grants. Schemes thrown back include the GLC’s Lesbian and Gay Centre … Lord Elton promised that the clampdown would not affect genuine (sic) voluntary groups.”
Thanks a bundle Mrs T.
Some favourite gay films have found their way on to the telly in the past few weeks: ‘Victor/ Victoria’ and ‘La Cage aux Folles’ gave an exuberant portrait of the funny side of gay life, whereas ‘Fox and His Friends’ and ‘Nighthawks’ could easily depress the hell out of anyone. According to THE SUNDAY TIMES, Channel 4 has relented on its ban on Derek Jarman’s ‘Sebastiane’ and will broadcast it after all with only one minor cut.
Sarah Kennedy led a heated debate on gay rights in her ‘Daytime’ programme (Thames TV) in which the literally hysterical homophobes in the audience humiliated themselves with an incredible show of hatred and irrationality.
An ‘Open Space’ slot on BBC2 entitled ‘Plague on you’ was given over to an attack on Fleet Street’s coverage of AIDS. Ex-Fleet Street editor Derek Jameson and that puffed-up windbag George Gale of the Express condemned themselves with their own words. Jameson came over as a coarse, vulgar and thoughtless chump, as you’d expect, and Gale turned out to be an intellectual of the Adrian Mole variety, with about as much depth as a pancake. Lovely stuff.
Robert Baldock did a report on the Hippodrome’s gay night for NEW SOCIETY. It read rather like an anthropologist’s description of some newly-discovered tribe. I suppose this is explained by the conclusion he reaches about the ghettoisation of gays for profit. “The fact that there needs to be a ‘gay night’ at all indicates how hollow has been the social integration of the homosexual,” he writes, “… what 2000 years of homophobia did not succeed in doing, several years of freedom (under surveillance) have achieved: the domestication of the gay and the consignment of gay life and culture into a gilded cage … Sexual liberation has liberated people to make money out of sex. Gay separatism is a profitable business. The Hippodrome, despite the air of tolerance, is no welfare centre. ‘Tolerance is intolerable’, says Jack Land, the French, Minister of Culture, it is only a subtle, unadmitted form of racism.
Realising that he has latched onto an easy source of cheap publicity, Bernard Manning has renewed his attack on gays. A report in THE SUN told us that he had appeared on the Joan Rivers Show, which is being made by the BBC for transmission in April. Manning is reported to have made crude and cruel jokes about Aids and said that “The idea of homosexuals sticking their tongues down each other’s throats is disgusting.” A member of the studio audience told THE SUN: “Manning turned the air blue. If it had not been a TV show, I would have got up and walked out.”
A few days later THE STAR picked up the story and, after asking Joan Rivers for a comment, made it the front-page lead. She obliged by calling Manning a “fat pig … tremendous hypocrite … and even a secret homosexual.”
Manning didn’t like that last one. “To say I’m a secret homosexual is going too far. That makes me very angry. My mother is 85 and that sort of thing could really upset her.”
Oh deary me. Diddums do it. But you can’t have it all ways, Porky darling, if you’re in the insults game, you’ve got to be prepared to get as good as you give.
Jean Rook, who is not ashamed to designate herself The First Lady of Fleet Street, commented on the spat between Manning and Rivers in THE DAILY EXPRESS. “The ugly-tongued pair were made for each other,” she said. “They should walk off hand-in-trotter. Into their bloody sunset.”
Given her own dexterity with the poison pen, it might well be a case of the kettle-calling-the-frying-pan-calling-the-dish-rag smelly.
Another moaning minny (if I might borrow a phrase from a well-known megalomaniac) is Geoffrey Dickens, Tory MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth. He’s the one formulating plans to get Britain’s gay clubs and pubs closed down, ostensibly to “stop the spread of Aids”. Now, according to THE SUN, he’s had a “death threat” from someone in Amsterdam. The letter said: “Educate yourself about Aids before pursuing the closedown. You drive the gay community underground and we’ll take you with it.”
It ended with a Latin phrase roughly translated as “watch out for the hangman’s rope.”
But if Mr Dickens makes such dire threats at a whole community can he really complain if they hit back – even if it’s only with a letter? I understand that Mrs Thatcher averages ten death threats a week – and that’s only from Michael Heseltine.
Dreary Dickens goes on to say: “I haven’t got it in for the gay community.” The question is: has someone got it in for him?
Let’s face it, Geoffrey Dickens is one of those pathetic politicians (Peter Bruinvels is another) who think that by having their names in the papers all the time they can fool their constituents into believing that it’s the same as actually doing something useful. They rush at each opportunity to an ever-eager SUN with an extreme quote about Aids or gays or child sex or prostitution or whatever the latest media craze is. Because journalists describe them as “raging” “angry” or “furious” it gives the impression that they actually give a toss about the issues they’re blabbing about.
I’m afraid that like Bernard Manning, these men are just cynical media manipulators.
“London rape duo ‘homosexual’ link” was the nonsensical headline in the LONDON STANDARD over an equally silly story. According to police who are hunting two men responsible for 27 rapes of women in the capital, the perpetrators “could be homosexual”. The police don’t explain why two gay men should be involved.
Donning my Holmesian deerstalker I have done a spot of deduction on this case. Because these men are obviously callous, brutish, insensitive, amoral and as cunning as sin, it leads me to conclude that one is a policeman and the other is a journalist.
Channel Four’s BROTHERS achieved one ambition for the gay community. At last we have a sit-com with gay characters you can like and admire. Although American in origin, it has tried to tackle the issues without fudging too much. The gay angles are sympathetic and strongly drawn. The gay characters are as rounded as can reasonably be expected in such a setting.
Individual episodes walked a tightrope of bad taste, pulling back at the last minute from being offensive in order to let the gays win in the end. Naturally it is necessary to introduce the bigotry for it to be knocked it down.
The only thing that fails to convince is the fact that the gay brother, Clifford (Paul Regina), moons around making out he can’t find a “special (man) friend”. And yet he is handsome, well-built, charming, witty and everything anybody could want. His older, heterosexual brother, Joe, on the other hand, has managed to get himself several girlfriends during the course of the first series—one of whom made such violent love to him that the pictures trembled on the walls.
Never mind, I’m told that another fifty episodes have been commissioned and surely such a divine creature as Paul Regina cannot retain his virginity for that long. I’d make the pictures tremble with him any day.
The attitudes of the medical profession to gays is becoming increasingly important as the Aids crisis deepens. The idea of doctors displaying Manning-type tendencies when Aids is on the agenda is frightening. It was interesting, therefore, to see a comment in The BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL on the subject. “When Oscar Wilde was sentenced to a prison term for a homosexual offence it is said that the harlots danced for joy in the streets—while when he was travelling to Reading Goal bystanders on a station platform spat in his face. Since then the attitudes of the public in general and of doctors in particulars have changed—or have they?”
The question was prompted because for the past three years the BMJ has been carrying a small, discreetly-worded advertisement for the Gay Medical Association. Nothing unusual you might say, but the editors were shocked by the vituperative letters they received, demanding the ad’s withdrawal. “Am I to construe that the BMA and the editorial committee support the activities of such a band of homosexual perverts?” said one, while another ranted: “… you may well be condoning and facilitating behaviour that … is wrong in that it is both perverted and immoral.”
A debate was forced at the Annual Representative Meeting of the BMA, with a motion demanding the removal of the advertisement. I’m pleased to say it was rejected—but one wonders just how representative of the medical profession in general these letter-writers were?
Paranoia bloomed briefly last month when Dr John Seale (“a Harley Street specialist” according to THE GUARDIAN) put forward the theory that the Aids virus was man-made for use in germ warfare. The Guardian could find no evidence to support such a theory. However, the London listings magazine CITY LIMITS took the story up and revealed that “More home-grown CIA ‘plant’ theories were mooted by some in the US gay movement itself … In Christopher Street, New York, the most serious ‘conspiracy’ theory has been researched by a team of journalists working on The New York Native—a gay newspaper … Their theory is not that the virus was ‘manufactured’ but that the State Department has been involved in a massive cover-up about the nature of the disease. They suggest this is because it involves the possible infestation of US cattle and any speculation along these lines would threaten the whole US agricultural budget.”
Well, it’s food for thought.
On the Aids front again, sombre features were included in THE SUNDAY TIMES and the NEWS OF THE WORLD. The NoW two-page spread reported on the work of “New York specialist in the disease” Dr Joseph Sonnabend. He told horrific tales of cases he had treated and the rejection and vilification of the victims. “This disease has brought out the very worst in human beings. A complete lack of compassion. Sufferers are just walking the streets in total despair. People are terrified to be in the same room as them.”
Sonnabend puts some of the blame for the panic on the powerful Aids Medical Foundation which he helped to launch and from which he has now resigned. “It started spreading social messages I found horrendous,” he said. “It suggested the disease could be passed on by prostitutes and was going to eventually wipe everyone out. The truth is there is no sign of the disease spreading outside the groups at risk—homosexuals, drug addicts and people who had transfusions with infected blood.”
Dr Sonnabend assures us he is not anti-gay but, he says, there can be no doubt that Aids has “spread amongst homosexuals because of the promiscuous lifestyle of some.” The NoW made much of this with a banner across the top of the feature reading “Promiscuity and depravity have spread this.” However, the paper admits that things are changing and Sonnabend says: “Aids in America is beginning to decrease. Homosexuals are being more careful. …I believe Aids will eventually disappear.”
I sincerely hope he’s right. But in the meantime the people who’ve fallen victim already are dying in terrible circumstances. THE SUNDAY TIMES did a follow-up report on the story of John Coffee, a young American haemophiliac who, when he discovered he had Aids, offered himself as a guinea pig for research. He endured all kinds of treatments and therapies, some of them extremely painful. His wife continued to kiss and cuddle him until the end proving, as she said, that “Aids is a difficult disease to catch.”
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.
The “swirling cesspit”—which, if I’m not mistaken, is located somewhere in Greater Manchester Police Headquarters—has unleashed the backlash we’ve all been anticipating. Those of us who’ve been hoping that reason would prevail have seen our hopes vanishing down the plug-hole. Ayatollah Anderton has rained fire and brimstone upon us. [Note:James Anderton was Chief Constable of Greater Manchester from 1975 to 1991. He was also an evangelical Christian prone to making outrageously reactionary remarks. At a national police conference on how the police should deal with people with Aids, he said: “Everywhere I go I see evidence of people swirling around in the cesspool of their own making. Why do homosexuals freely engage in sodomy and other obnoxious sexual practices knowing the dangers involved?”]
His words were ludicrous, unrealistic, over-the-top and dangerous. They were the words of ignorance and fear and they were the very words which THE SUN and the denizens of another cesspit had been waiting for. “Perverts are to blame for the killer plague,” was THE SUN’s headline (12 Dec), one which they’ve had on ice for some time now, waiting for the right moment. “Why do homosexuals continue to share each other’s beds?” asked The Sun’s leader writer, “Their defiling the act of love is not only unnatural but in today’s Aids-hit world it is LETHAL … The Sun hopes Mr Anderton will treat these perverts with the contempt they deserve.”
You think it can’t get any worse than that? Look at the DAILY EXPRESS (13 Dec) “The homosexuals who have brought this plague upon us should be locked up,” said one of their readers. “Burning is too good for them. Bury them in a pit and pour on quick lime.”
“In leading a moral crusade against the decadent sexual attitude of a society that condones homosexuality and prostitution and thereby fosters the spread of Aids, Mr Anderton is articulating a deep-rooted feeling in Britain,” said an editorial in The LONDON STANDARD (12 Dec) and this seemed to be borne out by a telephone poll on LBC radio (12 Dec) which showed 74 percent in favour of Mr Anderton’s views. The Manchester police claimed 99 percent support for their chief from the “hundreds” of calls they said they had received.
And yet criticism for Mr Anderton’s speech came from unlikely sources. The Government being one of them. Minister’s involved in the Aids education campaign were quick to jump on the outrageous remarks. TODAY newspaper (13 Dec) opined that: “Policemen, it is said, have big feet, James Anderton has a big mouth, too … His outburst … will do nothing to stem the growing hysteria over this disease.” And even THE STAR managed to say: “When the deeply religious Mr Anderton attends church tomorrow, we suggest he reflects on two words of criticism from the Terrence Higgins Trust … unchristian and uncaring.”
But on Sunday (14 Dec) the right-wing press were once more on the bandwagon, causing it to roll even faster. “Mr Anderton’s remarks will strike an answering chord in the breasts of many men and women in the pew who cannot be described as stupid or intolerant.” wrote the Rev. William Oddie in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, “the tragedy that follows disobeying God’s instructions was not surprising.”
“James Anderton is right,” editorialised THE SUNDAY EXPRESS. “He talks more sense than all the Government propaganda we have had so far.”
“Aids should be made a notifiable disease and buggery, almost certainly the main way of transmitting it, should once more become a criminal offence,” was the predictable response of George Gale in THE SUNDAY MIRROR. And finally, THE SUNDAY TIMES warned: “Anderton has served notice. The Moral Majority is stirring.”
Anderton’s speech has certainly lit the sparks of intolerance, hatred and violence, and now the fascists of the press are anxious for those sparks to be fanned into a conflagration. For if this raw incitement to violence comes from the police, then who will gays turn to for protection from this ghastly threat? The “moral majority” have stirred before within living memory, in Germany. There “morality” was that of the murderer and the beast. They were equally convinced that what they were doing was right and “necessary” to protect their beloved country. Is the same mistake going to be made again?
The next General Election will, according to Joe Ashton MP (writing in THE STAR) be fought on the issue of “Aids, homos, lesbians, Loony Left, race and barmy councils.” The groundwork is already being laid by the Tory tabloids droning on endlessly about local authorities and gay rights. Aids has come along just at the right time to add fuel to this fire. And despite Norman Fowler’s plea that Aids not be used as a party-political weapon, we have sad spectacle of it becoming just that.
The Prime Minister has fired her first volley, so we know it is serious. According to THE STAR (3 Dec) “she said she hoped for a reversal of recent trends which have made homosexuality and drug taking socially accepted.” This allowed The Star to headline its report: “Maggie’s Rap for Gay Out-casts—Aids threat makes them unacceptable.” But is this what Mrs Thatcher really said or just the Star’s interpretation? For the answer to that we have to turn to THE GUARDIAN (3 Dec) to find out that she was answering questions from Tory MP John Townend who “asked her to agree that the spread of the disease could be greatly reduced if ‘there was a change in public attitudes, and in particular if indulging in homosexual activities and drug taking were once again to become morally unacceptable.’ The Prime Minister replied: ‘I’m sure that attitudes are changing in the light of information about Aids … and then I think that much of the behaviour that has been going on will be unacceptable for many and various reasons.” Ominous enough, I agree, but hardly The Star’s contention that she has called for gays to be made “outcasts.” Wishful thinking on their part, I suppose.
The Sun journalist with the highest hate-rating amongst “loony left” students is Professor John Vincent. He wrote in 3rd Dec issue of that rag: “This autumn’s Labour Conference voted … for a public campaign for gay rights … absurd though this is. For gay rights today are much the same as anyone else’s, and are not under any obvious threat.” (Where has this man been for the past three months?). “There is not much sign of a public campaign from Labour’s National Executive. Presumably being sensible men, they realise that there are few more uphill tasks than promoting gay rights in the middle of the Aids plague.”
Despite the glaring contradictions in this short piece, Prof. Vincent is probably right about the Labour Party. But I don’t see that the Tories really have any reasoned argument for going to the opposite extreme and trying to take rights away from gay people. Indeed, their bluff was called as THE DAILY EXPRESS (6 Dec) reported: “An allegation about Tory gays in ‘high places’ shocked the Commons yesterday during a Conservative attack on Labour council policies. Angered by Tory complaints about gay teachers in Labour authorities, the party’s front-bencher Mr Jack Straw claimed there are some in high places in the Conservative hierarchy who have homosexual tendencies … He said gays holding senior posts in the Conservative party deserve the same tolerance that Labour Councillors are trying to give in their own areas. He added: “Members better put up or shut up on this because if they are saying it is wrong for homosexuals to teach in schools, are they also saying it is also wrong to seek leadership of this country and to seek prominent position within the Tory party and in this House?”
It seems like a reasonable point at first sight, but THE SUN (6 Dec) wasn’t long in turning the whole thing on its head. “Power-hungry gays have infiltrated the top ranks of the Tory party”, and you see how easily the whole thing turns into a witch-hunt within the Tory party, and how this would add to the growing paranoia and hatred of gays in general.
Indeed, there are signs of it happening already. The SUNDAY MIRROR (7 Dec) revealed that “would-be Conservative candidates were sent on a weekend of intensive interviews by Tory Central Office.” They were told that if they wanted to get ahead, they must get a wife. “All the bachelors in this group were taken aside and told that they had ‘little chance’ unless they got married. The MIRROR says that when bachelor ex-PM Ted Heath was asked about the ban he retorted “It sounds like nonsense”. Another unmarried Tory, Charles Irving said: “It’s a typical Conservative attitude from the Victorian era.” But aren’t the Tories into Victorian values? Perhaps Mr Irving had better watch his seat (if you’ll pardon the expression), along with a lot of ambitious, but closeted, Tory politicians.
Faint hope comes in a quote from a spokesman for Norman Tebbit (THE SUN 6 Dec): “Mr Tebbit knows homosexuals” (not in the biblical sense one assumes) “and has a high regard for some of them.” But then, Norman Tebbit is lower than a snake’s belly, so who’d trust anything he said anyway?
More from the crazy world of Aids reporting. The good news is that some papers have tried to look at the issues sanely, rationally and calmly. Full marks to TODAY (Nov 19/20) for an informed four-page special. Much of the credit for the realistic tone of the piece must surely go to gay journalist Harry Coen. The DAILY TELEGRAPH (Dec 1/2) also tackled the issue satisfactorily with a two-day feature by Lesley Garner. The GUARDIAN continued to be sensible and restrained with several excellent features and letters.
The low-life tabloids, however, persist in their campaign of wilful distortion, sensationalism and trivialisation. The SUN has been particularly nasty, as you’d expect. “Gay Santa Gets Sack—Fairy grotto bust up” said the front page of 6 Dec. They wallow and rejoice in the pain and humiliation being heaped on gay people because of Aids. They, and their sister paper, THE NEWS OF THE WORLD, have harassed and pursued Kenny Everett, almost willing Aids on the poor man. They published a cartoon by Franklin on 5 Dec which would disgust anyone with a grain of compassion.
THE LONDON STANDARD also hit rock bottom with a tasteless Jak cartoon (24 Nov). Aids is causing monumental suffering to a lot of people—and human misery and death are not the material that jokes are made from. These peddlers of hate should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
Here’s a selection of other quotes from the past month to illustrate how serious the threat to our lives has become:
“The surest way to protect the public from Aids is to outlaw homosexuality and lock up offenders. —Desmond Swayne, prospective Conservative candidate for Pontypridd (WESTERN MAIL 22 Nov).
“Isn’t it time the Government either stopped pretending that the fairies who started this disease, and the even filthier fairies who keep spreading it, are the fairies at the bottom of the garden,” —John Junor (SUNDAY EXPRESS 30 Nov)
“It disturbs me that the growing ‘army’ of homosexuals is infiltrating the world of children’s television… We cannot allow this to continue. And more especially when studio audiences are invariably brought into contact with these persons,” (Roy Court, CHELTENHAM SOURCE 23 Oct)
“I have no sympathy with promiscuous young people and homosexuals with Aids. They’ve asked for it. If people lived as the good Lord provided, there would be no Aids,” – (Letter in DAILY MIRROR 8 Nov).
“If Saatchi and Saatchi were advising the Vatican, they could not avoid the point that the market needs a strong line on gays, not a gentler one. St Paul’s view on those who in unnatural lusts would be decidedly populist today,” – Mary Kenny (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 30 Nov).
“I regard homosexuality as a misfortunate,” – Archbishop of York (DAILY MAIL 21 Nov).
“Homosexuals should be viewed as handicapped people,” – Archbishop of Canterbury (DAILY MAIL 22 Nov)
“Chastity will become once more a virtue… and homosexual practices – which have brought this disease upon us – a moral, legal and social offence,” – George Gale (SUNDAY MIRROR, 30 Nov).
“The inference that ‘gay’ is on a par with ‘straight’… is homosexual propaganda very cleverly done, riding on the back of public concerns about Aids,” – George Gale (DAILY MIRROR 26 Nov).
“The chief apparent object of last week’s full-page ads (‘Aids is not prejudiced’) appears to have been to protect homosexuals from ostracism… Ordinary people may be ill-informed on Aids but they are not fools. They note that councils pay full-time officials to proselytise on behalf of homosexuality… that books advocating homosexuality are circulated amongst children by local authorities, that clubs and facilities, often subsidised on the rates enable homosexuals to meet, pick up partners and so spread the disease,” – Paul Johnson (SPECTATOR 6 Dec).
“Christmas is coming and so is the Jew-baiting season,” wrote Martin Page in THE SUNDAY MIRROR (16 Nov) “Does the New Testament teach us to hate Jesus’s people? If it does, should the offending scripture be purged of the offending passages? The Right Revered Austin Baker, Bishop of Salisbury and chairman of the Church of England’s doctrinal commission answers yes on both counts. He also says: “Unselective love is central to the spiritual wisdom of Jesus.”
I see. Well, while the Right Rev has got his blue pencil out, perhaps he’d like to have a look at one two passages I could point out to him. Or is his ‘unselective’ love not quite so unselective after all? Maybe the gay Christians would like to pursue the matter with him?
One glimmer of hope is that Gavin Strang, MP for Edinburgh East is introducing a Private Members Bill into the House of Commons which will be concerned with protecting the rights of people affected by Aids. According to THE GUARDIAN (10 Dec) this will include “making it illegal for employers to sack staff who are carrying the Aids virus.”
We must all help get this Bill through, and we can start by writing to our own MPs and demanding that they support the measures when they come before the House. If you live in a Conservative area, you could point out in your letter the damage that viewing Aids as a party-political issue could cause. I would be pleased to see any replies which Gay Times readers receive to any such lobbying?
“Look out, look out, wherever you are – Rupert’s coming to find you.”
That’s the message to gays who think they’re safe in the closet—and you don’t have to be a celebrity to find yourself on the end of the tabloid exposé machine. This month’s list runs from Elton John through Harvey Proctor, Russell Harty and even a vicar from Peterborough. Rentboys, agents provocateurs and sneaking, slimy journos have been colluding this month to ruin the lives of honest citizens.
There have been a record number of front pages over the past few weeks in THE SUN, THE STAR and DAILY MIRROR, devoted to “Naked Arab Boys”, “Gay Mag Boys”, “Rent Boy Riddles” and “Elton’s Mock Wedding to a Man”. The grotesque thing about the sickos who run these rags is that if they miss the story themselves, they moralise about the other papers who beat them to it. “Even if the stories are true,” says Alix Palmer in The Star (4 March) about Russell Harty, “why should they alter our judgement of someone who, from time to time, occupies our television screen? Either he entertains us or he doesn’t.”
Fine words—except that I haven’t the slightest doubt that if The Star had been offered the dirt by the greedy little git who went to the News of the World first, they’d have snapped it up.
The Daily Mirror (4 March) said: “He [Harty] sticks in my mind as the most charming, wonderfully amusing and genuinely interesting star I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.” Once again it’s good to see the Maxwell mob decrying the News of the World’s penchant for paying rent boy sneaks for the sordid details. But wasn’t it only one day later that THE MIRROR carried the front-page headline: “Naked Arab under MPs Bed”, exposing Harvey Proctor’s holiday fling with a Moroccan youth?”
Peter MacKay explored the whole phenomenon of these latest revelations in The London Evening Standard (2 March). “The rotten little creeps who have been parading through newspaper offices are unfit for any kind of work that does not involve self-absorbed acting out of tedious fantasies about themselves. An appallingly hypocritical theme has been developed which is designed to cast sympathy on the rent boy and greater odium on his alleged client. This is the old ‘fallen woman’ gambit. Having spouted the details (no doubt for gain) the rent boy suggests that male prostitution was his only way of making ends meet (so to speak) in the cruel Thatcher economic climate. The News of the World said of their latest squealing, pig-tailed rent boy: ‘Dean is now unemployed and has given up his life of vice.’”
The Star (March 5) offered, a different explanation: “If you have been wondering why these verminous rent boys have been emerging from their lairs to tell their stories, it is because business is at a standstill. Aids has deprived them of a living, so they have been making a buck by selling their sordid kiss-and-tell memoirs—or should that read spank-and-tell?”
Perhaps the whole thing was best summed up by Derek Jameson in Today (7 March): “The shame falls not on the head of those betrayed but rather on those who open their purses to these scavengers. I feel more guilty than most. I once edited the News of the World.”
Less understandable was The Guardian’s decision to run a court report (4 March) about a cottaging incident: “A vicar tried to solicit a plain clothes police officer for immoral purposes in a public lavatory.” The unfortunate clergyman’s full name and address was published. The Guardian is supposed to be the champion of liberal values, and yet it acted in concert with the police to make the victim of this entrapment suffer even more. What The Guardian failed to ask was what a plainclothes policeman was doing, hanging around in a public lavatory, if he wasn’t acting as an agent provocateur. Nor did they ask whether setting out to destroy the lives of good citizens is the best use of police resources at a time when there is an explosion of violent and murderous crime.
It was Francis Williams who said: “Newspapers indicate more plainly than anything else the climate of the societies to which they belong.”
Which is bad news for gay men, because if what appears in newspapers is genuinely a reflection of society’s attitudes to us, we are in for a very rough time indeed. The News of the World invited its oh-so well-informed readers to say what they thought about Aids, and apparently half those that replied thought that “homosexuality should be made an illegal offence” (sic). But the majority also said that carriers should be sterilised and given treatment to curb their sexual appetite, and pregnant women who have the virus should be compelled to have abortions.”
Anyone who took even two minutes to think about these questions would realise how stupid and dangerous they are. What on earth do these polls of pathetically ignorant people, compiled by alarmingly unenlightened journalists signify? All they tell us is that the British population is grotesquely ill-informed and their lack of knowledge is being encouraged by these mischievous newspapers
Where it all may lead was explored in a feature in Today (24 Feb) headed “Big Brother Aids”. This article faced up to the prospect that I imagine has played a part in the nightmares of many gay people, of enforced isolation for those carrying the virus and, eventually, others in the “high risk groups”. Today says that the social consequences of such action would be “colossal”. “Huge numbers of people from every level of society would simply vanish from their jobs. Those who refused to be isolated would be criminals, hunted by specially formed Aids squads, and a fugitive underground would develop. The material cost of implementing this plan is incalculable, but the social cost is quite clear. It would mean, quite simply, that Britain would become a police state.”
An unexpected and consistently enlightened source of information on the Aids situation is The Financial Times. In its issue of 13 March it carried a guardedly optimistic piece which seemed to suggest that perhaps the dreadful predictions aren’t all going to come true. Statistics from America show that the rate of spread of the disease is slowing. In January 1982 it took five months for the number of cases to double. In December 1986 it was taking 13 months for the cases to double. This still represents tens of thousands of people, though, and the carnage will continue, so there is certainly no cause for complacency.
Another difference between the American experience of Aids and the British one is the attitude of agony aunts. In this country the advice-givers are by far the most liberal aspect of the press. They are well-informed and sympathetic to the problems of gay people. Contrast this with a woman called “Dear Dotti” who wrote in America’s Weekly World News (20 Jan). “Dear Dotti: I am a gay man and I’ve just learned that I have Aids … I’m so depressed I’ve seriously thought about blowing my brains out. I don’t care whether I live or die.”—Dotti replies: “Neither do I.” Yuch!
Now, it seems that even scummy, crummy, lowlife magazines like Titbit (Feb issue) feel that they are in a position to slag off the gay community. In a two-page lead article headed “Poofter’s Paradise” this outdated, smelly pile of garbage trotted out all the myths, distortions and political manipulations that we’ve grown tired of hearing over the past few years. Written by some money-grabbing creep called Jill Bedford, the article consisted of column after column of Mills-type abuse which we’ve become inured to and which I refuse to reproduce here. The author cites one lying newspaper article after another as justification for her rant but, in the end, says nothing that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before.
The editor of Titbits stands accused of allowing this kind of unjustifiable language into his columns without granting a right of reply to those who have been attacked. He should be ashamed of jumping on the sordid bandwagon that is inexorably leading to violence and prejudice against innocent gay people.
How on earth do sensible people remain loyal to certifiably insane churches? What is it that makes ordinarily intelligent individuals give credence to the ravings of crackpots? In The Sunday Express(1 March) we have The Rev. John Banner of Tunbridge Wells opining that “homosexuality and rising crime are due to women’s lack of control over children.” The raving Rev claims that women belong “at the kitchen sink” and says: “Children used to women refuse to would not react to men and this could lead to homosexuality.” Can you make sense of such bilge?
Then we have Cardinal Basil Hume, spouting off to an “audience of parents” in Greenford, Middlesex. According to The Ealing Gazette (20 Feb): “When parents asked him to take a strong stand against the teaching of homosexuality in Ealing schools he replied: ‘The Catholic stand on this is clear. Sexual relationships are only permitted in marriage. Tolerance is not the accepting of what we know to be wrong but showing sympathy and understanding for those who live differently.’” In other words, the silly old duffer doesn’t know what the devil he thinks.
At the same meeting, the waffling of the Cardinal was put into deep shade by Professor Anthony Pinching, an Aids specialist who condemned anti-gay prejudice in no uncertain terms, calling it “a most un-Christian way of encouraging the belief the killer virus was always someone else’s problem.” That will have ruffled the cosy complacency of the intolerant “parents” who had obviously gone along to the meeting for a spot of genteel gay-bashing, and whose depth of selfishness is sometimes quite breath-taking.
Catholic reactions to the Aids crisis in America have been brought to a head by the revelation that as many as “20 percent of Catholic priests are gay and half of them sexually active”. The Sunday Times (22 Feb) told of how the Catholic Church puts its much-vaunted ‘compassion’ into practice. “In Houston, a doctor who has treated eight priests with the disease says that ‘three of them were ejected, just told to leave’ when they informed their superiors of their illness. Four others had decided to leave the Church quietly … Increasingly the Roman Catholic church appears to be closing its doors on Dignity, an organisation which attempts to keep homosexuals within the church, although there is still room for another organisation, Courage, which attempts to counsel homosexuals either to lead a chaste life (in the case of priests) or become heterosexual.”
It was Charles Moore, writing in The Daily Express (6 March) who said: “Labour is the pro-homosexual party. Until recently its preoccupation with ‘gay rights’ was considered a bit of a joke. Now it’s beginning to stir up real rage.”
But is it really gay rights that is stirring up the rage or is it the relentless newspaper campaign of disinformation?
Let’s face it, there have been an unprecedented number of anti-gay headlines over the past couple of years and it is difficult to know who has the real preoccupation—the Labour Party or the newspapers. There is irrefutable evidence that most of the coverage of Labour’s support for gay rights has been either wild exaggeration or simple lies. The Association of Labour Authorities even went so far as to issue a list of examples, from national newspapers, of “loony left” stories showing each one of them to be outright invention.
Strange, isn’t it, how this report hasn’t been mentioned in any of the tabloid newspapers?
Now Labour—and many of its staunchest supporters—are left in a dilemma. Is the party, as some would have us believe, really distancing itself from its commitment to helping gay people, or is it just another Tory plot to cause in-fighting and bitterness within the ranks? The right-wing press are laughing up their sleeves at all this soul-searching, happy in the knowledge that they are almost entirely responsible for it.
Last month, we saw Muslims (not to be confused with Islamist extremists who give everybody the creeps) getting from the press the sort of treatment that gays used to get. They were being presented as the enemy of all the values that “we” hold dear (just like we used to be), as a terrible threat to the fabric of society (just like we used to be) and as aliens leading lives that are incomprehensible to ordinary people (just like us, in fact). Of course, it isn’t quite an exact analogy. The nearest gay activists ever came to terrorism, even at the height of our unpopularity in the early eighties, was to threaten to “out” a few closeted establishment figures who were making our lives a misery.
So, while the Muslims in this country complain about poor media representation (just like we did), and discrimination (just like we did), and being denied full participation in society on their own terms (just as we did), the gay community seems to have reached that nirvana of complete acceptance and integration.
Certainly that is the opinion of Virginia Blackburn, a columnist on The Daily Express who is of the opinion that gay people no longer have anything to complain about, so why don’t we shut up. Her rant was provoked by the Gay Police Association’s advertisement that claimed that many homophobic incidents had a religious motivation.
“Why do the gay rights lobby do this kind of thing?” she asked. “No reasonable person wants gays to be discriminated against: many of my best friends and all that. My mother knows an 80-something gay man who was afraid to enter a civil partnership because he thought homosexuality might be criminalised again, and there would be evidence to bring him to trial. Happily, he had second thoughts. The point is,” Ms Blackburn says, “the gay lobby have won their case: no-one turned a hair when Sir Elton John made an honest man of David Furnish. But campaigners are now going too far…. It is safe to say that, these days, not only is homosexuality tolerated but it has become a dominant cultural force. There is no area of life where homosexuality would hold anyone back… What more do you want, boys and girls? Gays and lesbians have been given pretty much everything they’ve asked for. Now, perhaps, it is time for a period of quiet.”
I suppose the kind of thing that Victoria Blackburn was complaining about (and her article was headlined “Gay lobby must stop baying for more blood”) was that of Councillor David Clutterbuck of Bournemouth, who sent a jokey email to a colleague sending up the ever-growing list of regulations and prohibitions that local authorities have to deal with. His email was then circulated around the council and he was accused of harking to the bad old days of Tory discrimination. The Lib Dems called for him to have compulsory equality training. The Daily Mail (arch-enemy of “political correctness”) soon pounced on this as a prime example. The 72-year old Mr Clutterbuck’s crime? The email had stated that if Noah were to build his ark today he would require planning permissions, have to meet building regulations, carry out and environmental impact study, install a fire sprinkler system and seek guidance from the RSPCA. Mr Clutterbuck said: “I imagine now it would be illegal to only have animals of the opposite sex!”
Lib Dem councillor Claire Smith said: “It goes against the recent motion in full council… to remind us all to be inclusive. Can we expect an apology and a reassurance that we will not be copied in on these tedious and frankly offensive remarks?”
Oh, for Christ’s sake! What’s offensive about a bit of gentle ribbing? I know the Lib Dems have political points to score (Mr Clutterbuck was a Tory and therefore a legitimate target for politicking) but please don’t crack on that you’re trying to protect the feelings of gay people from such mildly joshing remarks. It makes us all sound like shrieking ninnies who must be protected from even the mildest criticism. It also gives The Express and The Mail the opportunity to keep presenting us all as vengeful nasties who will punish anyone who dares show even the mildest disapproval.
But never mind these po-faced politicos, has Victoria Blackburn got a point? To find out, let’s take a little ad lib troll through this month’s papers and see what kind of image the great British press, at least, has of us these days.
Blackburn’s point about cultural dominance found an echo at a private seminar on impartiality that the BBC held for its staff. The minutes of the seminar were leaked and The Daily Mail used them to launch an attack on the BBC’s bias. Among The Mail’s gripes was that the staff at the BBC was unbalanced by young people, gay people and ethnic minorities. Not enough right-wingers, bias against Christianity and favouritism for Islam etc. etc.
Certainly if you spend any time at the BBC, it rapidly becomes clear that there are an abnormally large number of gay people working there. But why is that? Is it because of politically correct quotas, or because they bring an exceptionally creative sensibility with them? Let’s not forget that one of the Beeb’s highest-paid (and popular) presenters is Graham Norton, and yes, he’s there because he’s gay, but also because he’s a great entertainer.
The papers have a very strange relationship with homosexuality. The Mail and The Express love to cling to their traditional hostility, but they are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain. Despite regularly being fed “moral panic” type stories by organisations such as the Christian Institute (latest: “Gay rights books may be forced on children in schools” – not that one again!), the right-wing papers also have to bow to the overwhelming force of gay people in the arts, in politics, in the media – everywhere. Consequently, when a gay person is in the news or promoting a new product, they are usually treated with respect and sympathy.
Take the actor Alan Cumming, who is currently appearing in the revival of Bent at the Trafalgar Studios in London. When he was doing a series of promotional interviews for the play, the issue of his sexuality was raised in all of them, and he talked openly about his experiences. Take this, in The Daily Telegraph (yes, the same Daily Telegraph that wouldn’t use the word gay for decades unless it was surrounded by quotation marks. Not any more): “He was playing gay characters long before he actually came out, most notably the camp in-flight cabin attendant in The High Life, the BBC sitcom he co-wrote. He was married at the time. Could he have played Max in Bent before he came out? ‘I would have been probably slightly scared of it because I wouldn’t have had the experience both in life and as an actor. Then my partner was a woman. Now my partner is a man. I hadn’t really arrived at that person I was going to be. Would I have been able to play the part? Yeah. I just think I’ll be better at it now’.”
Surprisingly, the tabloids were pretty laid back about reporting that a serving policeman had won the Mr Gay UK contest. Even The Daily Mail resisted the temptation to get a quote from some religious fundamentalist, and simply delivered the facts. “He said his colleagues had given him tremendous support over his sexuality,” they wrote.
The Daily Mirror reported that John Barrowman, the actor who is starring in the new Dr Who spin-off Torchwood (created by another BBC gay man) “wants to become a father with his long-term boyfriend Scott Gill” – none of censoriousness, or judgmentalism that would have accompanied such a story only a few short years ago.
In the colour supplements all is sweetness and light, with regular features by, for and about gay people.
In one of The Sunday Times’ many add-on magazines, we were treated to an article by Richard Bunce in which he tells us that “no alpha gay man is complete these days without a pampered pooch. Are they child substitutes or fashion accessories?” Mr Bunce assures his readers: “owning a dog has become a gay rite of passage”. Really? I can’t stand dogs myself, and find these over-arching generalisations about what all gay people do and want extraordinarily irritating – even when they are meant light-heartedly.
Over in The Daily Telegraph, we find that even fuddy-duddy old Prince Charles has got time for gay friends. The paper reported that the Prince “lavished praise” on Fr Harry Williams, an Anglican theologian who died earlier this year at the age of 86. In a forward to a book of Fr Williams’ essays, the Prince says: “His courageous willingness to open up his inner soul and being and to speak from the heart about his own experience of the vicissitudes, complications and agonies of life struck a powerful and immediate chord with huge numbers of undergraduates.”
This only becomes significant when read in the light of Fr Williams’ autobiography, published in 1982, when he said of his days at Cambridge University: “I slept with several men, in each case fairly regularly. They were all of them friends. Cynics will, of course, smile, but I have seldom felt more like thanking God than when having sex. In bed I used to praise Him there and then for the joy I was receiving and giving.”
All of these stories would have been unthinkable until relatively recently – or at least, they would have been decorated with outrage and condemnation. The tabloids certainly haven’t completely grown up, and now they have a new cat to kick in the shape of the immigrants who had expected a tolerant welcome when they came to Britain but hadn’t reckoned with the red tops.
There may still be problems with violence from some sections of the community, and I fear we will never be free of that. But as far as the media is concerned, we’ve come an awful long way, Dorothy.
QUOTES OF THE MONTH
“I don’t think homosexuals have any right to be respected just for being gay. They’ve a powerful claim not to be discriminated against, but there’s no reason why you should like homosexuals or think they’re a good thing!” – Dr David Starkey, TV historian, pundit and out gay man.
“The show was fantastic. I can’t make my mind up whether I want to dance like Josef Brown or dance with Josef Brown” – Sir Ian McKellen at the opening night of the hit musical Dirty Dancing.
“Can I have a kiss goodnight?” – email message from 52-year old former Republican Congressman Mark Foley to a 15-year old male intern on Capitol Hill. (Pressing the “send” button plunged the Republicans into a “morality” crisis that could help finish them off).