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 92, May 1986

Eddie Shah’s fuzzy newspaper TODAY, carried the text of a speech by Noman Tebbit, chairman of the Conservative Party and, I’m told, an extra in the film “Zombie Flesheaters”. Mr Tebbit says that all the ills of the present day stem from the permissive sixties. “Legislation on capital punishment, homosexuality, abortion, censorship and divorce – some of it good, some of it bad – but all of it applauded as ‘progressive’ as ushered in in quick succession, leaving an overwhelming impression that not only were there going to be no legal constraints but there was no need for any constraints at all. Tolerance for sexual deviation generated a demand for deviance itself to be treated as the norm,”

Commenting on the speech THE GUARDIAN said: “There are two things wrong with what Mr Tebbit is saying. First, the problems are about things that are happening now, not twenty years ago. After seven years of Conservative government it is pretty pathetic to blame the wrongs of today’s world on the Wilson era… Was it really a debasement of standards to legalise homosexuality? Mr Tebbit’s speech came close to being outright anti-gay”

The Guardian believes that Mr Tebbit is “testing popular temperature to see how a general slagging off of liberal values will go down electorally.”

Hopefully it will go down with all hands.


The Press Council’s rejection of my complaint about THE SUN and its notorious “I’d shoot my son if he had Aids” story has taught me a bitter lesson – never make a complaint to the Press Council, My disturbing conclusion is that this complaint might have done more harm than good because now The Sun can crow that it has ‘official confirmation of how responsible and balanced its coverage of Aids has been.

The story complained about was, to my mind, a classic example of the sensationalism, exaggeration and distortion that has led to the present climate of hysteria. The Press Council maintained that the article would not provoke “discriminatory action against people with Aids.” This is clearly nonsense. As Anna Durrell, another complainant about the same story, pointed out, the article implied that the only way to stop the spread of Aids is to kill people who have it.

My advice to people who are angered by the continuing scaremongering in newspapers and magazines is to forget the Press Council and find an alternative way to complain. There are lots of ideas in the “Right to Reply” pack which is available for £2.95 from The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.


To illustrate how newspapers feed off the myths they themselves have created about Aids, let’s look at some of the stories that have appeared during the past month.

The CHISLEHURST TIMES reported that Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World is being held this year in Chislehurst Caves. “Sex Show in Caves Plan” said the headline in the paper and quoted a local councillor, Mrs Joan Bryant, as saying: “Ordinary people have got to use these facilities and I couldn’t be more alarmed. Aids may fester in the drains and sewage pipes.”

The STAR gossip columnist, Peter Tory—a man hardly noted for his sensitivity—reported that: “It is proving difficult to sell the late Rock Hudson’s house.” The reason—you’ve guessed it. “People are just spooked by Aids. I don’t know whether they are afraid of catching it from the door-knobs or what. But they just don’t want to know.”

THE DAILY EXPRESS told us that “Two prison officers wore green ‘space suits’ to flank an Aids prisoner in court yesterday. As well as the protective coveralls, the officers had respirators available, they did not carry them into the dock.”

The “Aids prisoner” in question was, it turned out, simply antibody positive (this was not what the Express said, they don’t seem to have grasped the difference between being antibody positive and having Aids). “He has been treated like a leper while on remand in Leicester Prison. His food was passed to him through a hatch and everything he touched, including reading material, was burned.”

The Express also told of the “scandal” of three “Aids victims” (once more, they meant HTLV-3 positive) being allowed to “mix will other prisoners in at overcrowded, under-staffed, top-security jail.” A spokesman for the prison officers is quoted as saying: “Needless to say, the other prisoners don’t know. You can imagine what would happen if they did.”

The MAIL ON SUNDAY tells us that “insurance firms are considering ways of identifying Aids victims who apply for life insurance.”

The catalogue of appalling ignorance, the frightening over-reaction and cruel prejudice continues to grow. It must have started somewhere. Someone must have fanned this panic. For the culprits I think you need look no further than Fleet Street and Wapping.


Commenting on the Government’s advertising campaign on Aids, NEW SOCIETY says: “Isn’t there something missing here—like homosexuals? They do, after all, account for 90 percent of the 305 Aids cases recorded in Britain so far. Yet the word ‘homosexual’ features only once in that ad and in a negative context: ‘Does Aids only affect homosexuals?’ it asks.  No. If your eye happened to jump over the ‘only’, you would get a message that was the precise reverse of the truth.”


In the face of all the anti-gay propaganda which newspapers carry, I wondered whether they actually have formal policies of homophobia, or does it all stem from the ignorance and prejudices of individual journalists?

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH is quite open about it. When it announced its ‘new look’ a few weeks ago, the editor, Max Hastings, wrote: “The Daily Telegraph’s political commitment to the Conservatives as the only party currently fit to govern the country remains undiminished. So too does our belief in traditional moral values. There will be no sudden discovery of enthusiasm for Gay Lib in the columns of the Telegraph.”

Well, at least we know where we stand there. But what about THE DAILY MAIL which published that grotesque and slanderous piece by George Gordon last month? I asked the Assistant `Managing editor of the paper, Mac Keene, what their policy was about homosexuality and the reporting of Aids. “The Daily Mail does not have what you call a ‘policy’ towards homosexuality or Aids, just as we have no ‘policy’ towards deaf people or towards diptheria. We cover news stories on all subjects factually as they arise.”

Factually? You will remember that George Gordon’s article contained the sentence “If their teacher was gay, and in my mind that means a carrier of Aids, I would want to yank him straight out of the class.”

And now we have ‘Lord’ Frank Chapple, posing as a journalist, writing in the same paper that Aids is a “homosexual-induced epidemic”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘induce’ as “Bring on by artificial means”. Is Frank Chapple inferring that gays somehow created Aids?

I asked ‘His Lordship’ this very question. He replied: “Let me ask you a question. Don’t you think it would be a good idea if homosexuals stopped spreading the disease?”

My answer is yes, I do. I also think that it would be a good idea if those who have access to the mass media stopped spreading clap-trap about a serious and tragic issue.


On telly we have another American sitcom tackling a gay theme. Kate and Allie (Channel 4) concerns two divorced women who set up home together to save money, and as a mutual support system. In one episode this month the two women decided to pose as a gay couple in order to avoid paying a rent increase. (The serial is in a part of America where gays are recognised as having rights.)

The landlady who demanded the increase was very happy that her tenants were gay because so was she, and she produced her lover to prove it. From then on the misunderstandings and embarrassments that stemmed from the initial lie snowballed.

Kate didn’t like the deception because she had come to like the two lesbians and didn’t want to hurt them. And besides, she wailed, although she hadn’t done much with her heterosexuality lately, she didn’t want to give it up.

As is the fashion in these rather syrupy sit-coms, they came clean —and everything turned out right in the end. The two gay women made friends with the two straight women, there was a little homily about tolerance working both ways and they all ended up at the gay centre having a wonderful time.

Although these American series have a constant undertow of schmaltz, they are invariably good-natured. The gay theme was handled sensitively and the gay characters given a full range of expression and dignity.

Our home-grown comedy shows are crude by comparison—they only seem to be able to present gays as mincing hairdressers or silly waiters. Which says a lot about the state of things here.


Now for the case of the invisible gay customers. It happened at Lucky’s, a restaurant/cocktail bar in West London which operates a gay night each Sunday. In an advertising feature in the WEST LONDON GUARDIAN we are told “There’s never a dull moment at Lucky’s … with our new kid’s disco on Sunday afternoon. On Monday and Tuesday nights you can tune in to Lucky’s jazz-band. Wednesday it’s Ladies Night … Thursday, Friday and Saturday disco nights … something for everyone.”

Everyone? What happened to Sunday night? It seems to have disappeared. Along with a very lucrative band of Lucky’s customers.


Writing in NEW SOCIETY, Jeremy Seabrook warns against the dangers of dismissing The Sun as “a ‘comic’ unworthy of serious attention.” He makes a convincing case to explain the Sun’s popularity. “The details of the horror stories are not important; it is their cumulative effect which counts.”

And, indeed, the cumulative effect of their relentless homophobia counts against us very dearly.

GAY TIMES 93, June 1986

“Vile book in school!” screamed the front-page headline in THE SUN “Pupils see pictures of gay lovers,” was the sub-heading on this so-called “Exclusive” story. It concerned a book called ‘Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin’ published by Gay Men’s Press. It has been available for three years but The Sun managed to discover it the day before the elections for the Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority, who have made the book available to their teachers.

The Sun described the book as “a shocking schoolbook showing a little girl in bed with her homosexual father and his naked lover.” A more outrageous piece of distortion would be hard to imagine. It is, in fact, a friendly and reassuring attempt to help the children of gay parents understand their situation better. The Sun typically makes it sound like a sordid piece of porn all wrapped up in incest and child exploitation.

And as for “exclusive” —the book was ‘exposed’ by THE NEWS OF THE WORLD several years ago, and the week before The Sun’s story, THE ISLINGTON GAZETTE was using it to get at the Labour-controlled council there. And only the weekend before that wheezing old windbag George Gale (who has moved from the EXPRESS to the SUNDAY MIRROR) was on about the same book: “I don’t mind what homosexuals get up to so long as they don’t frighten the horses or spread Aids,” he says magnanimously, “But like the great majority of people who lead normal and natural sex lives rather than abnormal and unnatural ones, I get fed up with the gay lobby. The idea that homosexuals form an oppressed minority is nonsense. The notion that they are entitled to propagate their peculiar practises at the public’s expense is preposterous.”

Can you believe the arrogance of this man? Not only does he pat himself on the back for his “normality” he’s got the almighty conceit to suggest that anyone who isn’t exactly like him is “unnatural”.

Not wanting to be left out of this free-for-all gay bashing, that tiresome old toss-pot John Junor in THE SUNDAY EXPRESS put his size twelve in. “Which porn shop is peddling this filth?” he demands. (He’s talking about the book, by the way, not his newspaper.) “No porn shop … the Inner London Education Authority.” You’ll be pleased to know that Sir John’s long-overdue retirement is imminent, thank gawd.


The opinion polls had forewarned the Tory press that Thatcher was going to take a pasting, so they pulled out all the stops in their dirty tricks campaign prior to the recent elections. “Row over call for gay education in schools,” lied THE MAIL, whipping up a “storm” over a leaflet distributed by the Campaign for Homosexual equality to all candidates in the ILEA elections. All the leaflet said was that candidates should try to remember that not everyone is heterosexual. That simple message somehow became “children should be taught that relationships between men and women are not necessarily normal” in the hands of the Mail’s Home Affairs Correspondent Anthony Doran.

Meanwhile, Mr Shah’s tatty excuse for a newspaper, TODAY, proved that despite all its claims to be ‘different’ it is really just more of the same. It went on about a feminist group in Haringey, North London who were campaigning against racism and sexism. With the deftness of a practised liar, the Today hack transformed it into: “A feminist group in a left wing borough has been attacked for trying to turn people into homosexuals.” It’s so ludicrous it’s laughable.

And THE MAIL couldn’t let this story pass, either. They said the group was “urging Haringey council to publicise lesbians as loving, caring, perfectly normal women with special teaching on the subject in the borough’s schools plus the promotion of books like The Joy of Lesbian Sex in local libraries.” The DAILY TELEGRAPH told us of Islington Council’s “Job priority plan for homosexuals.”

Local papers, too, went to town on the “gays-under-the-Labour-bed” routine. THE EALING GAZETTE created a non-story about a local Labour candidate (who also happens to be a priest) after he vaguely spoke in favour of gay rights in a private letter. It didn’t work. The Tories lost control of Ealing along with many other councils.

But has this taught the newspapers the lesson that the more lies you tell, the less notice people take of you? I doubt it. In the run-up to the general election we can expect to see our lives used as a political weapon more and more. I just hope the Labour Party and the Alliance won’t allow this tactic to scare them away from their commitment to gay rights.


Television event of the month was the screening of ‘An Early Frost’, a TV movie about Aids and the effect on a middle-class American family when they discover their Son has the disease. The subject was sensitively handled, although it was constrained by the conventions of the TV movie genre. It is reported that the script had to be rewritten thirteen times before production was authorised by the network censors.

On the whole it was well-intentioned and had moments of real emotion and compassion but, strangely, the gay lovers never touched each other, not even in the privacy of their own home. When they were eventually reunited after a long and painful separation they didn’t even shake hands.

By the end, all the homophobes had seen the error of their ways and the whole family was hugging each other and crying, which seems to be the mandatory conclusion to all American TV movies.

However, given the present right-wing mood, we should be grateful to see that American TV can still find time for thoughtful, liberal drama. ‘An Early Frost’ will have helped a lot of people understand something that is still being deliberately misrepresented by other sections of the media.


Much further down the telly scale comes ‘Trapper John’ (Thames TV), an American series which is a sort of cross between ‘Dr Kildare’ and `Starsky and Hutch’. It is shown very late at night for, I suspect, those who need an aid to sleep. A recent episode concerned itself with the attempted assassination of a gay policeman in the San Francisco force. As the injured rookie recovered in the hospital where the series is set, his bigoted father turned up and went bananas when he discovered that his son was a “fag”. Before the programme was over, of course, they were hugging each other, crying and saying, “I love you, pop” and “I love you, too, son”. Zzzzzzz.


Bernard Levin, scab journalist at THE TIMES, wrote an interesting piece headlined “Why gays must not create a new ghetto”. His thoughts had been prompted by a visit to Larry Kramer’s play ‘The Normal Heart’ (Albery Theatre). Mr Levin told us that he fully sympathises with our plight and can see the impatience we feel over the lack of political interest in Aids because it is perceived as ‘the gay plague’. “After decades of brutal incomprehension and indeed persecution, the homosexuals’ desire to assert their nature positively rather than defensively is fully understandable. But to assert it in terms of an entirely separate nature is to risk exchanging one kind of ghetto for another,” So what does Levin see as the answer? “Perhaps we should not think in terms of ‘homosexuals’ at all, much less of a ‘homosexual community’ …But impatience and anger will be wasted (as well as resisted) if they lead to claims for a separate status, let alone a special one.”

There may be some truth in what Levin says. In the end we can’t all live lives apart from the majority, and few of us would want to. But in the face of tyrants like his own paymaster and an establishment that doesn’t just drag its feet over change but actively tries to push us back into the closet, can it be wrong to want to unite and fight? The ‘gay community’ is a political rather than a social or religious grouping. We are so diverse in our opinions, backgrounds and priorities that we could never form a discernible ‘community’ In the same way as the Jews or the ethnic minorities do. Dennis Altman got nearest to it in his book ‘Aids and the New Puritanism’ (Pluto Press) when he used the term ‘gay constituency’.

But whatever we choose to call ourselves, we won’t be pushed back into the bad old days, not by AIDS or Murdoch or Tebbit. We’re here and we’re staying here.


‘La Cage Aux Folles’ opened at the London Palladium to predictably ecstatic reviews. A couple of the ‘liberal’ papers tried some political analysis of the first Broadway musical with a gay theme. Michael Billington in THE GUARDIAN though it “about as daring as a Sunday school outing”. He makes the point that the gay ‘marriage’ at the centre of the show is too bland and placid to be real. “The show’s trick is to pander to an audience’s liberalism without ever testing it,” he says. Michael Ratcliff in The OBSERVER quotes one line from the show: “In the minds of the masses a lush is more acceptable than a fruit” and then says, “the audience titters because it is true and most of them agree.”

The only thing that offended me about ‘La Cage’ was the hype that preceded it. The male ‘chorus girls’ couldn’t wait to tell TODAY that they weren’t gay. “I’m married,” said one, “And I’ve got a steady girlfriend, let’s get it straight,” says another. THE MAIL said the star of the show, George Hearn, “would like it to be known that he is a three-times married heterosexual father of one, who likes pretty dresses but likes them best on women.”

Eventually Dennis Quilley, the co-star, told THE STANDARD “I am tired of having to answer questions about how a straight man could play the role of a gay club owner in France.”  Just so long as we all know—nobody, but nobody who has anything to do with ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ is gay. OK?


A POLL in the DAILY EXPRESS conducted amongst single women between the ages of 16-30 showed that “29% thought homosexual relations between consenting adults were morally wrong”.

Does that mean that 71% thought they were perfectly OK?

GAY TIMES 97, October 1986

This month’s award to gross disservice to British journalism goes to The Star. Step forward Lloyd Taylor editor of that detestable organ, and claim the honour of managing to achieve the impossible—becoming even more squalid than The Sun.

The scene was set by The Star’s gossip columnist Peter Tory who still subscribes to the “gay plague” interpretation of Aids and therefore considers it a suitable topic for jollity. On two days this month (3rd and 5th Sept) he made bad taste and vicious “jokes” at the expense of people who are suffering from the disease. A more despicable use of newspaper space would be difficult to imagine until you come to The Star’s new columnist “Mills”.

He was introduced to us on 2 Sept under the heading “The Angry Voice”. We were told we could expect yet another semi-fascist ranter. “Mills will often find himself sharing a political bed of nails with… the National Front … ‘patriots’ … and all those whose political philosophy is entirely encompassed by the four-point plan: ‘Hang ‘em, flog ‘em, castrate ‘em and send ‘em home.” He would, he promised us, also rail against “Wooftahs, pooftahs, nancy boys, queers, lezzies—the perverts whose moral sin is to so abuse the delightful word ‘gay’ as to render it unfit for human consumption.”

“Mills” assured us that he would be an original and refreshing voice, but from this introduction he sounded to me just like all the other raving right-wingers who pollute the pages of our press: George Gale, Jean Rook, Paul Johnson, Peregrine Worsthorne, Richard Ingrams—any of them could have described themselves as Mills did.

Needless to say, his lack of anything new to say about gays was proved in the following column (9 Sept) which was headed: “Get back in the closet!” He wrote: “Insidiously, almost imperceptibly, the perverts have got the heterosexual majority with their backs against the wall (the safest place, actually …)” (Yawn) “The freaks proclaim their twisted morality almost nightly on TV … where will it ever end? Where it may end, of course, is by natural causes. The woofters have had a dreadful plague visited upon them, which we call Aids, and which threatens to decimate their ranks. Since the perverts offend the laws of God and nature, is it fanciful to suppose that one or both is striking back? … Little queers or big queers, Mills has had enough of them all—the lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals, the hermaphrodites and the catamites and the gender benders who brazenly flaunt their sexual failings to the disgust and grave offence of the silent majority. A blight on them all says Mills.”

Sound familiar? “Mills” hadn’t finished, though, and continued to cram in every cliché, myth, lie and prejudice that has ever been invented by the anti-gay lobby. At any other time I would have written all this off as a sad example of the lamentable state of our press, but taken in conjunction with the other things that are happening all around us I can only describe it as an incitement to hatred and violence. It made a mockery of the NUJ’s “Campaign for Real People”, flaunting all the union’s codes of conduct. I have complained to the NUJ’s Ethics Council, but I hold little hope that there will be any check on the way the press are orchestrating this vicious campaign of anti-gay propaganda.

Campaign for Real People? Perhaps the NUJ would be better engaged in a Campaign for Real Newspapers,


When is a disease not a disease? Answer: when it’s associated with homosexuals. Then, apparently, it becomes “a straightforward moral issue.” This is the opinion of the Scottish Health Minister, Mr John McKay as quoted in The Guardian (5 Sept). Letting us know that he “did not think the public would expect him to make extra resources available to combat Aids”, he is quoted as saying: “I’m afraid it will just have to be treated as one of the problems of the health service. The only other payround is for people who get it to pay themselves, or someone else is always going to have to pay.”

So where does the “morality” come into such an argument when human misery and suffering has to take second place to money, and gay lives have a significantly lower price than heterosexual ones. If Mrs Thatcher and her insane back benchers share these values then I fear greatly for the future.


Thelma Holt “a middle-aged, heterosexual Christian” wrote a passionate, and compassionate letter to The GuardIian (12 Sept) in reply to the Minister’s comments. She spoke of her horror at the insidious idea that gay victims of Aids should be regarded differently to others. She also made the point that Aids is no more “self-inflicted” than those diseases caused by excessive alcohol, tobacco or rich food. Indeed, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the hoo-ha if it was suggested that lung cancer victims or those with hardened arteries should be compelled to pay for their own treatment.

“Psychiatrists,” Ms Holt wrote, “point out that those who agitated vociferously or hysterically to prevent the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in private were often fighting their own sexual proclivities; we were to understand that such a theory held good however many children such campaigners had fathered. We need to recall this theory…”

She also chided “some newspaper commentators who have for years incited the public to harry and despise: homosexuals” and reminded them that theirs was a “line of argument which Adolf Hitler pursued and took to its ghastly conclusion in the death camps.”

Is anybody listening?


The Sunday Mirror carried another of its interminably boring Royal Gossip features of 14 Sept. It started with the old story about the Queen Mother wanting a drink. “She simply shouted down to the kitchen ‘Is there an old queen down there who can bring an old Queen up here a gin and tonic?’”

In a single moment Britain’s best-loved royal had shown how many of the family feel about the known homosexuals working in their service.

Shock! Horror! Scandal! A “Gay Mafia” operating at the palace! But the royal family don’t seem unduly perturbed even though these pernicious gays have “brought the Royal Family some of its darkest moments”. Like what? “There was the time for instance,” says The Sunday Mirror, “when nine members of the Royal yacht Britannia’s crew were jailed for forming a homosexual vice ring.” Now just a minute—what the Sunday Mirror perceives as a “vice ring” ordinary people simply call “affairs” or “loving relationships.” In the bizarre world of the tabloids, of course, homosexuals are incapable of such things.

The truth of the matter is that all the “gay scandals” that have been attached to the royal family have been entirely contrived by the tabloids. Their two favourite subjects, homosexuality and royalty, can’t often be linked, but when they can… well, batten down the hatches your Majesty.

I hold no brief for royalty, but my estimation would rise if once-just once—they would repay the loyalty of their gay staff in standing by them when they are being hounded and vilified by the press.


The whole confused cocktail of Aids, homophobia, sex education and Tory “morality” was given another outing in a ludicrously contradictory editorial in The Daily Telegraph (16 Sept). While the leader writer accepted that “education” was essential to stop the spread of the virus the good old Telegraph couldn’t just say “OK get on with it” – there had to be ‘controls’. “Councils which insist on instruction on homosexuality cannot be prevented; but they can be sensibly countered… If the medical message on Aids is as serious as many believe, a campaign to instruct, to counsel and to warn – in which, dare we add, a moral undertone, would not come amiss – is the first priority.”

This gibberish is what I think is commonly known as going round in ever-decreasing circles.


The anti-gay lobby is increasing its visibility, egged on by the political strength of its right-wing sympathisers. The Tory Government has created a perfect climate in this country for the anti-sex brigade to propagate its views. The papers are more than happy to assist in the puritan backlash, and here is a selection of quotes to illustrate just how widely the views of our potential oppressors are being disseminated:

“When it comes to aggressive promoting of homosexuality, it is wrong. There is a difference between encouraging and accepting homosexuality.”—Kenneth Baker, Education Secretary, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (14 Sept).

“I do not, of course, have anything against homosexuals and lesbians … my concern is to prevent the corruption of children who are at an impressionable age.”—Harry Greenway MP, EALING LEADER (5 Sept).

“To date there has been no public discussion about the isolation or quarantine of Aids carriers neither about recriminalisation of homosexuality … Such measures may still prove effective.”—Dr Adrian Rogers, DAILY TELEGRAPH (10 Sept).

“The only valid variety of relationship is between a man and a woman. Any other relationship is abnormality, even if – like homosexuality – it is a very common abnormality.”—Coun. Tony Young, EALING GAZETTE (12 Sept).

“If homosexuals themselves are really unashamed of their abhorrent sexuality… they should be able to emerge from behind the gaudy ‘gay’ curtain, and openly and consistently declare and confess themselves to be no more nor less than what they truly are, namely, homosexuals”.– -Dr EJ Micham, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (7 Sept).

“Man was too highly sexed for his reproductive needs. He was out of balance with nature, so nature was killing off the most highly sexed, the promiscuous. The homosexuals were being killed off first because they were more promiscuous and now the promiscuous heterosexuals were following.”—Dr Kevin Hume, DAILY TELEGRAPH (15 Sept).

“Few health officials go so far as to educate the public that homosexuality is not only biologically illogical but spiritually a sin.”—The PLAIN TRUTH (sic) (Oct).

“What next? Can we soon look forward to special TV epics for paedophiles, necrophiliacs, pyromaniacs, sado-masochists, satanists and sundry other freaks?”—WORCESTER EVENING NEWS commenting on the Channel 4 gay season (15 Aug).

“The 1967 Sexual Offences Act sought to remove the fear of blackmail from male homosexuals but did not confer approval on homosexual lifestyles. If Parliament could have foreseen Hackney Council’s Gay Pride Week things would have been very different. But how to put the genie back in the bottle? There’s the problem. – Newsletter of the Conservative Family Campaign.


George Gale was interviewed in London listings magazine City Limits (14 Sept). The interviewer found him rather an amiable chap rather than the expected ogre.

Gale insisted that when he wrote so vituperatively about gays he was really only getting at “the lunatic antics of some left-wing councils.” But George Gale writes regularly about homosexuals being responsible for Aids, and about our promiscuity (“Just as pedarests flit from boy to boy so do homosexuals flit from one to another.”). This doesn’t sound like an attack on left wing councils to me —it sounds like straightforward homophobia.

GAY TIMES 100, January 1987

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Franklin’s cartoon

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Why not write the letter now?

GAY TIMES 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.

GAY TIMES 232, January 1998

These are the stark figures: 16,000 people become HIV-positive every day. Thirty million people have HIV infection or Aids. Some 2.3 million people will die from the infection this year — a 50 per cent increase on last year.

With these horrific statistics, the promoters of World Aids Day tried once again to get HIV back on top of the public health agenda. They had little success. The articles that appeared in the serious newspapers had the feeling of duty about them, rather than any serious sense of alarm at what is happening.

The tabloids gave the story a couple of paragraphs each — and even then, some of those were condemnatory. Unless some celebrity succumbs in the meantime, that’s probably all we’ll hear about it until next December.

Television coverage was even more derisory. In The Observer, Robert McKie complained that, on the day the United Nations announced the statistics that opened this column, ITN chose to lead its bulletin with Earl Spencer’s divorce proceedings.

“We are plunging into a global epidemic,” wrote McKie, “and clearly we are desperate to raise awareness about HIV. So ITN gave us details of Earl Spencer’s preposterous wealth, his infidelities and a great deal of soap opera fluff. Now, the dumbing down of TV news is not a new problem. But to ignore one of the greatest science stories of the century seems laughably perverse.”

The London Evening Standard managed to give the story a local spin by quoting from a report from the Health of Londoners Project, which looks at the state of public health in London. This report suggests that “one third of all homosexual men in the country live in the inner city” and, as a result, 42 per cent of Britain’s HIV cases are now concentrated in inner London, where Aids is the leading cause of death for all men between 18 and 54— 3,780 mortalities by the end of 1996.

But the situation could have been worse. As The Guardian pointed out: “Fundamentalists who opposed Britain’s liberal approach — safe sex campaigns and free needle exchanges for drug users — should look at how many more people died elsewhere. America, where needle exchanges were banned, has had far higher mortality rates. Neither France nor Spain achieved the same high profile safe sex campaigns: proportionately, France has had three times as many Aids cases as Britain and Spain seven times as many.”

It is clear, then, that forthright, no-nonsense safer sex campaigns save lives. So why do we still have journalistic primitives like Richard Littlejohn in The Daily Mail opposing them? On December 4th he wrote: “A reader sent me a copy of a leaflet issued by Coventry and Warwickshire HIV network. It is entitled Suck it and ? — Information about Oral Sex for Gay and Bisexual Men… The text is beyond obscene. You don’t want to know, trust me. Yet this is financed by tax-payers and presented in a crazy-guy kinda way. There are all kinds of fun tips and advice, yet never the slightest suggestion that this might not be a way to behave in the first place. Mustn’t be judgmental.”

He makes his usual claim that he doesn’t care what consenting adults do “provided I don’t have to watch, participate or pay for it” but then goes on to say, “It is the triumphalism I abhor. And the idea that people who knowingly indulge in dangerous and unhealthy practices are some kind of heroes, to be plied with public funds and protected from the inevitable consequences of their own perversion.”

He ends with a cheap crack about being able to put anything into your mouth these days as long as it isn’t a cigarette.

Daily Mail readers are constantly fed this idea, that they are the persecuted minority, that it is their hard-earned cash that goes to pay for all this perversion and loose-living. The message that is constantly hammered home is that the middle-classes are under relentless attack from the dregs of society — homosexuals, single mothers, drug addicts, paedophiles and endless foreign immigrants. How come honest, normal folk don’t get all the privileges that these poofs and gypsies and pregnant teenagers get? The Government, the Mail asserts, is clearly on the side of these undesirable minorities. But I would remind Paul Dacre, editor of The Daily Mail, of something written by the American thinker Wendell Phillips in the last century: “Governments exist to protect the rights of minorities. The loved and the rich need no protection — they have many friends and few enemies.”

However, those of a conservative frame of mind are by nature selfish. They are not enthusiastic about granting minority rights because they fear that, in doing so, something will be taken away from them. Such conservatives are naturally drawn to The Daily Telegraph (which has resumed its habit of putting the word gay into quotation marks). The Telegraph’s letters column has also recently become a platform for virulent anti-homosexual sentiment.

A frequent correspondent is Dr Adrian Rogers, the celebrated political failure. His letters are almost always given lead status. On November 19th, his familiar message was encapsulated in the pithy headline “Homosexual activity is always wrong”. Then, next day, came a missive from Mr John Cowlishaw, headed “The power of rich homosexuals”.

But best of all was the letter from Mrs Valerie Riches, of Family and Youth Concern, who was making the point that homosexuals had donated £2 million to President Clinton’s election campaign fund, and therefore, “In view of the recent revelations about the £1 million received by the Labour Party from Bernie Ecclestone before the general election, a further issue is raised. Mr Blair has given public support for the homosexual rights movement in this country and is set to reduce the age of consent to 16 on the ground of equality. Is it fair to ask: what did the Labour Party receive from homosexual groups or eminent supporters before the general election and, if any, what strings were attached?”

I immediately wrote to the editor of The Telegraph to confess that I had donated £10 to the Labour Party’s election fund on the understanding that in return I would receive full equality with every other citizen in this country. My demands have yet to be satisfied, but I will fully understand if Mr Blair is embarrassed by my generosity and wishes to return my tenner. I would not wish him to suffer any further conflict with the Parliamentary Standards Committee. My letter was not, for some reason, selected for publication.

Now let us visit The Express and find out what its contribution to the great gay debate has been. “Only 1 in 100 men says that he is gay” the paper announced on December 1st. It was quoting research carried out by the Office of National Statistics, which surveyed 2,000 people. “Only one per cent of men admitted to practising exclusively homosexual sex,” The Express crooned. “Another one per cent say they have had sex with both men and women. Ninety two per cent said they had only ever had sex with women.”

The paper was also pleased to reassure its readers that “Last year an attempt by the ONS to count the number of stable gay couples for the Government’s General Household Survey found fewer than 20 among 9,000 households. Their number was left out of the survey as ‘statistically insignificant’.”

This, of course, gave The Express the opportunity to whinge about the way society had been misled by “the gay lobby” and its persistent claim that one in ten is gay. It also dragged in the money being spent on Aids prevention. “Critics have said that spending much of the £52.3 million government grant on controversial tactics like handing out condoms in gay haunts tends to encourage homosexual behaviour.”

Also in for the kill came the Conservative Family Campaign (which had probably planted the story in the first place), whose spokesperson, Hugh McKinney, said: “These findings show yet again the misinformation that is used to allow pernicious propaganda to spread through society.”

Ah yes, pernicious propaganda. Mr McKinney knows all about that, because in the very next sentence he says: “American figures show that the life expectancy of a practising male homosexual is less than 40 — around half that of a heterosexual man.” (The source for this statistic is a right-wing American fundamentalist group, so, of course, it must be true).

Not to be left out of the statistical jamboree, The Daily Mail quoted Dr Jacqueline Scott, a social researcher at Cambridge University, who claims to have discovered through her research that “seven out of ten men and six out of ten women deplore and condemn homosexual behaviour.”

Well, excuse me, Dr Scott, but only days before, in The Independent on Sunday, I had read that the Health Education Authority had conducted yet another survey which revealed that “the percentage of people who believe that sexual relations between men are wrong has fallen by more than a third during the last ten years. In 1987, 74 per cent of people thought that sex between men was ‘always or mostly wrong’. This month the figure has fallen to 44 per cent in the survey of 1,442 people.”

Who is telling us the truth, and who is trying to mislead us? Well, you pays your money and you takes your choice. But the principle remains that however many gay people there are in this country, even if it is only half a dozen (and their 250,000 apparently straight supporters who go to Pride), they shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens.

***

Now let’s have some good news. According to The Independent on Sunday (November 30th), the boycott of the Disney Corporation, called by the Southern Baptist Convention in the USA, has failed abysmally. The boycott was ordered last year after the Disney Corporation announced that it would treat its gay workers fairly and equally. The Barmy Baptists demanded that their 15 million members cease forthwith to use or purchase any Disney product.

Well, since then the value of. Disney’s shares has risen by 10 per cent, and their profits by even more. Seems those pious Americans much prefer Goofy to God.

Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph was alarmed to report that “Churches may be forced to marry homosexual couples” (all 20 of them) if the European Convention on Human Rights is incorporated into British law. Baroness Young said provisions covering ‘public authorities’, such as anti-discrimination laws, could include churches and other religious organisations.

She added that adoption agencies linked to churches might be unable to prevent children being placed with homosexual couples. “Lady Young urged peers to exempt the Church of England from the Human Rights Bill, which incorporates the Convention into British law,” the paper reported.

Baroness Young, a major ‘sponsor’ of Family and Youth Concern, has obviously been primed by the right-wing on this one. And Stonewall, the lesbian and gay lobbying group, really needs to get a response on the go.

Finally, Michael Portillo is reported as saying that he thinks the time is coming when it will be perfectly possible for Britain to have a gay Prime Minister. I think he probably means an out gay Prime Minister, because, of course, we’ve already had several closet cases. According to The Daily Telegraph, Pitt the Younger, Disraeli, Balfour and Lord Roseberry were all that way inclined to some extent. There have been others, who cannot yet be named because (a) there isn’t enough evidence or (b) they are still alive, and prefer to keep their closet intact.

Given Mr Portillo’s well-known ambitions, the question on everybody’s lips is: who does he have in mind?

GAY TIMES December 2006

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).