Standing In The Shadows

A few days ago the letter reproduced below, arrived at the Gay News Office.

Dear Sirs,

I picked up a copy of your newspaper — not knowing what it was — in a small bookshop the other day.

I was quite shocked at first when I read it, and rather embarrassed that I had bought it. I could never go back to that shop again.

But I must admit, I am a homosexual, and it was nice to find something written about it. I’ve never seen anything written about it before except in a ‘Home Doctor’ book. I didn’t understand most of the stuff in your magazine, though, and neither could a friend whom I showed it to. He suggested that you call it “Gay News” because “gay” is a euphemism for homosexual, if this is so, then it seems unfortunate because even homosexuals who do not have reputations to keep up and who have the knowledge of where the dirty bookshops are, and have the courage to took for homosexual books, would miss “Gay News” because they didn’t know what gay meant.

I am a schoolteacher…

Naive, unbelievable; I suppose it is to us here in London pontificating at a CHE or GLF meeting, writing film reviews for Gay News, or trolling in an Earls Court pub, but I have no reason to believe the letter isn’t genuine.

Let’s think for a moment of Kinsey’s very conservative figures, which would suggest that there are something in the region of two million male and female homosexuals in this country. If you take the total number of persons belonging to GLF, Sappho, CHE, Challenge, etc, or who frequent gay pubs, clubs, cottages or even Hampstead Heath, on a fairly regular basis, I would imagine you would get a figure of about 250,000, and this as loose as defining a practicing homosexual as someone who every few weeks or so has a quick fuck with someone he’s picked up in a cottage, before returning to the wife and kids.

Even in gay organisations like GLF, there are men and women who live two lives, that of a respectable heterosexual and a fairly free gay. The amount of times I’ve hear “I couldn’t buy one of those in case the old woman saw it,” when I’ve been selling the paper in the Boltons in Earls Court, is phenomenal.

Most gays who create for themselves some sort of lifestyle according to their sexual desires make their way to large cities like London, often still furtive, standing in dark corners of pubs or sitting in CHE or GLF meetings, stunned into agonised silence by bureaucratic procedures or academic’s jargon. Unless of course they happen to have those magical good looks, “David Cassidy type”, as one of our personal ads recently dictated, in which case much in demand and therefore full of confidence, our friend will fall into bed with a never ceasing, more and more unsatisfying “tall, slim, longhaired, passive, warm and generous”, always generous.

The majority of homosexuals are alive and well and living with their husbands/wives and children in a semi-detached Ford Cortina in Biggleswade, considering their fantasies and desires as what you watch in a dirty raincoat or receive in a plain sealed envelope, and I suspect “Gay News” quite often fits into that category. Let’s move 30 or 40 miles south to a bedsit in West Hampstead, and a round mirror on the wall above a gas fire, where a young man is looking at himself, bemoaning his unattractiveness, or fighting his conscience. Instant coffee or the Heath.

The politically based gay organisations with little exception, seem to nurture an elitist attitude — “We are gay, we’ve come out, we’re liberated.” In London at any rate CHE and GLF seem to be so concerned with vague terminology, and self congratulating themselves on their campaign for changes in the law relating the the age of consent, that they have completely lost touch with our friend in Leeds who knows or cares about as much about CHE as the likley discovery of gold dust in a sewage farm in Ruislip.

The gay movement is too full of men with university backgrounds preaching revolutionary theory at great length, looking down on people who cottage or condemning Gay News as non-political. We have reached some people at least who had no previous means of expressing their gayness. I am not being self-congratulatory, I know this; they write and phone us often, but we, like every other gay group, paper, befriending service or whatever, are skating along the surface of a very large lake with very thick layers of ice, and while we’re bitching with each other rather like the ‘socialists’ and the ‘conservatives’ do in their little defunct institution, or just working on our own in small groups, or holding meetings to discuss whether GLF publications should go under the counter in the London CHE office. While we’re discussing Marx instead of the heartache and fear of thinking you’re different from absolutely everyone else, there’ll be an unlit gas ring hissing somewhere tonight.

David Seligman
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David Seligman

David Seligman was a founder of both Gay News and of the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard.
David Seligman
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Author: David Seligman

David Seligman was a founder of both Gay News and of the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard.

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