Goals for Gays: if I were asked to select the one most conspicuously missing from the current scene, I’d plump for Credibility. New gay groupings and ‘gay leaders’ mushroom these days who takes them seriously? How seriously do they take themselves? Occasionally, all too painfully so. But humourless solipsism (or ego-tripping run riot) isn’t any substitute for a cool, realistic look at where we are in mid-1972 and where we should be travelling to.
In the past decade and a half, life has improved for gay people, though by no means far enough. In the middle 1950s homosexuality was a taboo subject, save for court reports usually in the more lurid ‘Sundays’ with such typical headings as “Scoutmaster gaoled for serious offences”, or “‘You Are Filthy Beasts’ Judge tells men”. Since then, we’ve advanced, via the tepid 1967 “two-consenting-adults-in-private” law, from the hush-hush criminal bracket to ‘underprivileged minority’ status; a situation still legally and socially quite inadequate but giving real scope, at last, for some solid self-help. Which is what “the homophile movement” is about. The movement, inevitably, is a mosaic, a spectrum: not a monolith. To progress it must, surely, work as a coalition in which every element, from ‘radicals’ to ‘fabians’, does its own thing in its own style and reserves most (hopefully all) of its powder and shot for the anti-gay instead of sniping at other gays.
For what are the facts? The facts are that we are still a generally disregarded, disliked and misrepresented minority whose prime need is for increased public comprehension and awareness of what not merely ‘gayness’ but warm, responsive human living is all about. For such a mammoth task (which amounts to the reeducation of a whole generation) we are lacking in resources, manpower and. to some extent, the necessary self-insight. To succeed, we have to make universal sisterly and brotherly love the prime principle of our gay politics as well as of our gay living. As a friend who’s done some hard and courageous work for our cause in Northern Ireland said after hearing the Jimmy Saville “Speakeasy” programme, “All that talk about better social acceptance sounds fine, but when, oh when, are we going to start treating each other better? That’s where it all begins . . . One youngster I know is currently very depressed by the values he feels expected to adopt from people, even of about his own age, on recently encountering the gay scene a sort of environmental pollution.” Or as another fledgling put it on contrasting his ideals with the meat market, “If you can’t beat them join them” – and promptly did. There’s food for thought here.
But even when we’re not being our own worst enemies, we have some pretty complacent friends as anyone who watched the recent BBC2 “Measures of Conscience” series must have concluded. What was remarkable about this lengthily researched exploration into the roles of Parliament and pressure groups in achieving the death penalty, abortion, homosexual and other reforms of the latter 1960s was the politicians’ obvious sense of high adventurousness at having dared to tackle such “unpopular” subjects and their seemingly universal lack of recognition that anything further remains to be done. In the final programme that white hope of all small liberals, Roy Jenkins, seemed to feel that about the right balance between the claims of personal freedom and state-enforced morality had now been struck and was apparently oblivious to the remaining inequalities in the laws affecting gay people. (It was of course the same Roy Jenkins who in a 1960 Commons debate said: “I wish that people would not speak as though one were representing a pressure lobby of homosexuals. In considering this question, I am not concerned only with what homosexuals want or even primarily with what they want (boldface mine) I am concerned with what I think is a reasonable law for a civilised country.”) And the by now well-known Arran-Abse duo reeked of its usual paternalism in the earlier programme on the ‘Wolfenden’ reform. What is simply astonishing about the whole operation is that none of its political protagonists seem even in retrospect to have considered the propriety of legislating for a substantial minority of three or four million people without contemplating the desirability, let alone the necessity, of endeavouring to obtain some representative views from homosexuals as such. Would they have dared to treat issues of racial discrimination similarly?
Speaking of Lord Arran and Mr. Abse, one wonders whether either of them will care to expound to readers of GAY NEWS the precise grounds for their vehement opposition to the notion of social clubs run by gay people for gay people (and, of course their straight friends) on non-exploitative lines? Anyone who remembers the flurry of protest which the mere mention of COC brought forth after law reform from both its sponsors might conclude that they regard ‘club’ as a four-letter word. Or maybe they think ghettos are created by those who are pushed into them? Would the exclusive establishments to which they belong welcome (or elect) self-proclaimed homosexuals?
The most effective way to eliminate ghettos, of course, is to break down the thought-barriers erected by the prejudiced or unthinking majority. If there were no exclusively heterosexual life-style and culture, there would be no need for anyone to think in terms of gay counter-culture. Which reminds me: some people do play this game to excessive lengths. I was once entertaining an acquaintance to a – so far as I was concerned – totally unerotic tete-a-tete. I put on the first record which happened to come to hand; the Max Bruch G Minor violin concerto, if I recollect aright. Immediately his eyes lit up with anticipation. “Ah!” he said, “you’re playing homosexual music”.