We’re Doing Something

EDINBURGH: People working for homosexual law reform in Scotland were astonished to read GN11’s Editorial which — while making very pertinent points on Age of Consent and the heavy task ahead for those who will be promoting sexual law reform in the UK — failed to take account of progress in Scotland in 1972.

The main work has been carried out by the Scottish Minorities Group (Law Reform subcommittee), and by some office-bearers of the Scottish Council for Civil Liberties, to which SMG is affiliated. The whole work was greatly assisted by a donation from an SMG member of £100. Without this vital cash, SMG would not have been able to get beyond the “talking shop” stage.

The moves began in May 1971 when I (the SMG Chairman) successfully guided through an SMG Motion to the SCCL Annual General Meeting, calling on SCCL to take a firm stand on remaining social and legal discrimination against homosexuals in Scotland. This motion was on similar lines to that adopted by the National Union of Students (Scottish Region) in March 1971. A much expanded version is before the NUS Margate Conference, November 1972, proposed by the University of Reading.

In December 1971, the SMG Annual General Meeting adopted Councillor Ian Christie’s motion which instructed the Executive Committee (a) to consult with the SCCL upon the introduction of parliamentary legislation to repeal the 1885 Act as far as it applies to Scotland in order to legalise homosexual acts between consenting adults, and (b) to conduct an energetic campaign to enrol public opinion in Scotland in favour of such law reform.

We got off to a brisk start in January when the SMG pamphlet “The Case For Homosexual Law Reform in Scotland” was circulated to all 71 MPs who represented a Scottish constituency, and to a fair cross-section of Members of the House of Lords who had spoken out in favour of law reform in the 1960’s. The pamphlet was accompanied by a covering letter signed by Peter Wellington, the then Chairman of SCCL. The response was disappointing. Those MPs who even bothered to reply said they’d oppose Law Reform, or said that they were “sympathetic” but didn’t think it was an urgent issue. Liverpool CHE got much the same response when they wrote to all MPs in their area in May 1972. Disappointed as we were, we followed up the letters with an insistent lobbying campaign in the Edinburgh Area. The results of our conversations were quite encouraging (for the first time MPs were face-to-face with homosexuals, and it wasn’t so easy to be evasive), and we gradually realised that our best chances of success lay in the introduction of a Bill in the House of Lords.

Meanwhile (June 1972) we had completed our analysis of the (English) 1967 Act. A summary of this appeared in GN3 (July 1972). The analysis procedure was carried out over a series of committee meetings. We sought the views of SMG members through SMG NEWS, and wrote to several people with a knowledge of Scots law. We also began to write to the major religious and social institutions calling on them to inform SMG of their attitudes towards homosexual law reform, and to support the SMG campaign. So far, the Society of Friends in Scotland (Quakers) has expressed clear support for the SMG proposals.

This was the grimmest period of our work. The task was difficult and often distasteful. The existing law is couched in highly pejorative and emotive terms. Reluctantly we realised that we couldn’t hope to “clean up” all the phrases. The idea of a sexual “offence” is retained in our final proposals, as is the distinction between “sodomy” (buggery in England and Wales) and other types of sexual “offences”. Our legalisation proposals are fixed at 18 absolutely, with strong defence safeguards for 16 and 17-year-olds. No less than 5 Acts (3 exclusively relating to Scotland) are repealed in part or amended, and this explains why we felt it necessary to promote a “Scotland only” Bill — we really doubt whether an English Act could successfully take into account the fundamentally different aspects of Scots law. We have sent a copy of the Bill to Gay News. The Bill will be formally published on 2nd December 1972, and copies can be obtained from Mike Coulson, 9 Moray Place, Edinburgh, 3 at a cost of 30p each, post free.

Although we have had one definite response from a Member of the House of Lords, who has agreed “as a last resort” to introduce our Bill, we are still in the process of sounding out other Members’ views. Our lobbying campaign continues (up-to-date details from our Annual Report for 1972, issued 1st December), and the Crown Agent has congratulated us on the draughtsmanship of the proposed Bill. His main criterion is whether or not reform proposals are enforceable, and our proposals are “thoroughly enforceable”.

We have come under much pressure — even attack — from many homosexuals, some “figureheads”, for pushing ahead with Scottish proposals. When people haven’t been questioning us on the need for law reform (why bother, we’re okay thanks, brigade) others have criticised us for being too timid. Most people seemed to forget that the Law Reform Committee was (and is) working within the terms of the SCCL and SMG Annual Meeting instructions. Within these terms, we maintain, we have made good and solid progress towards Homosexual Law Reform for Scotland.

Ian Dunn

ED: The editorial in GN11 was written deliberately with the hope that we would receive such a response as above. To date we have received no replies from Campaign for Homosexual Equality or Gay Liberation Front.

We do though, consider it a great pity that SMG have settled for eighteen as being the consenting age for male homosexuals, for as we said in our editorial – ‘The age (of consent) should and must be sixteen, as it is with girls – for to settle for anything else would be an admission on our part that homosexuality is something different and strange.’

Contented Deviants

Professor Carstairs Calls Homosexuals ‘Deviants’ In Medical Handbook

19720901-04A non-gay woman member of SMG brought disturbing news to the Chairman, Ian C Dunn, recently. Researching for her final year studies in Dietetics at the Edinburgh College of Domestic Science, she discovered some particularly unpleasant writing on homosexuality in the prestigious medical handbook “The Principles and Practice of Medicine” (10th edition, eds. Sir Stanley Davidson and John Macleod, published by E & S Livingstone, Edinburgh, 1971).

The offending passage occurs in the section “Personality Disorders” (pp 1076-1078). Homosexual activity is described as “.. . abnormal practices which do interfere with other people”. A little later the writer suggests that “the Sexual Offences Act 1967 for the first time in Great Britain” (my italics) gave freedom to homosexuals. This is a blatant error of fact. Prior to 1885 homosexuals did have the freedom to make love in private, Moreover, prior to 1871, the age of consent was lower than the artificially high 21 years it is today. The writer also fails to point out that both Scotland and Northern Ireland remain outside the law reform of 1967.

“Most forms of deviant behaviour, such as homosexuality, seem to be the result of distorted experiences at the stage of development when boys and girls learn their sexual role.” What sort of advice is this to present to medics-in-training? The writer would do well to undertake a study of heterosexual behaviour before making such sweeping generalisations about homosexuals. Is there a “cure”? The best advice the writer can come up with is a suggestion that these poor people could “dampen down their drives” (by drug ingestion? – we are not informed). “Deviants seem rather content with their lot” is the final remark, and one almost feels like saying, “gosh, sir, thanksalotsir!” It is a thoroughly bad piece of psychiatric writing.

But who wrote (or approved) the article? This is where the shock comes in: for it was Professor M Carstairs himself who acknowledged responsibility when Ian Dunn rang him up to discuss the matter. Did he (Prof. Carstairs) consider the article compatible with his publicly expressed views on homosexuality made as Honorary Vice-President of SMG?

The Professor said that he would have to re-read the article. Would he consider re-writing the section for the 11th Edition (due 1973)? The Professor agreed to consider this, and asked for some notes to aid him in his task.

Here, then, is an opportunity for the gay community to ensure that the real life facts on being homosexual get inserted into the best reference books. I would like to make a direct appeal to those readers who may have the time to undertake this work to get in touch with Ian Dunn, 15 Hope Park Terrace, Edinburgh, EH8 9LZ. Please send in suggestions backed up with chapter and verse references, if possible. Maximum 750 words.

It’s a Man

19720901-07The only male shorthand/typist of the main Staff Bureaus’ lists in Glasgow and in Edinburgh is blond-haired Ian Bitters.

Ian has a shorthand speed of 120 w.p.m. and a typing rate of 50 w.p.m. His regular magazines are MEMO and GAY NEWS. He is fluent in German (his course at Stirling University majors in German) and French. He has a well-stocked library of writing on Germany in the 1930’s, his favourite period. He is keen on opera, especially Wagner.

As he says; “the offices I work for get such a shock when their new shorthand-typist turns out to be a male! I get landed in some very strange situations.”

Kemping It Up

(The word CAMP is locally pronounced Kemp in the posh Morningside area of Edinburgh)

19720901-11Lindsay is back! And boy do we know what to expect!

The Lindsay Kemp Theatre Troupe last put on “Our Lady of the Flowers” late in 1970 at the Traverse Theatre Club in Edinburgh to a storm of critical praise. This production, which will be repeated during the Edinburgh Festival, is significantly different, and a whole lot more interesting for gay men.

I say gay men, because this is a mimed play about male homosexuals. The period is 1938 Paris; the visions are those of an old crone in prison who conjures up the most erotic imaginings as a means of self-stimulation and sexual release. The 1972 production does not falter in presenting these images to its audiences.

The scenes are linked by narrative (reader Lindsay Levy, London GWLG) which is the more interesting because it is read in a half drowsy monotone; a casual “nothing-shocks-one” voice. The play opens in a nunnery, where, in the half light we see mysterious figures. They are the nuns: mindless and aimless, desperate for erotic stimulation. Stimulation arrives in the form of Ian Oliver whose extraordinarily beautiful naked body is carried round the crypt. There is more than a passing allusion to a Christ-like figure. “The chosen one” – a lovely young youth — is stripped naked by the nuns and the two proceed to make symbolic love/sacrifice before the cross.

There are various scenes in the dives of pre-war Paris. One remarkable performance shows the two male lovers gazing into one another’s eyes quite oblivious to the vigorous, but appalling, acting of the cafe’s prostitutes. “Bye, Bye, Blackbird” can never be the same after the twists and enhancements given to it by the Kemp Troupe. The play’s ending is heartbreaking, and here we have the traditional outlook on the homosexual: it must all end in tragedy, in gore. But even this is carried off well – and is much appreciated by the older members in the audience.

The cast is 9 men 2 women. Lindsay Kemp and Orlando have shouted the triumph of physical homosexual eroticism, and have picked a cast of very attractive, visually stimulating men. Andrew Wilson of London GLF created the music sequences.

Scots Bits

Councillor Kidd reads Gay News!

05-197208xx-3The most surprising thing about Councillor Kidd’s letter is that he actually read the newspaper.

Councillor Kidd is well known in Edinburgh and derided by all political factions. He is a fool and an imposter of the first order. His preoccupation with homosexuals borders on the sick. As I have said before (as Chairman of S.M.G.), he seems to have an unusual knowledge of the goings-on of a certain sector of the homosexual community in Edinburgh. Kidd has commented several times on the “sick fairies of Calton Hill” and he’s publicly threatened to set the police dogs on gay men who frequent the Hill.

councillor-kiddWho is Councillor Kidd? He slipped into Edinburgh in 1947, sat as a Progressive on the Council until the late 1950’s, and is now an Independent Councillor for Newington.

He is lazy and does not attend for the full duration of Council Meetings (but does eat up the free lunches!) He provides an effective voice for the reactionary Right Wing of Edinburgh’s Town Council. He can safely be ignored: there are many fine men -Councillors Christie, Hoy, Smith, Laurie and Ross for example – who are openly gay or who support S.M.G.’s local fight for gay rights.

Ian Dunn

Premises Progress

At a specially convened Policy Meeting on 29 May SMG EDINBURGH took the crucial decision to look for premises for the Edinburgh Branch. Expenditure of up to £15,000 was authorised, and quick cash backing for up to one third of this amount was received from two or three of the Members at that meeting. The meeting warmly welcomed John Compass’ offer to examine likely premises with a view to purchase. His export knowledge will be invaluable, as will be the advice of several other people whose views have been sought.

We are looking for premises which will include a large hall (theatre/dance), a bar, a library/ quiet room and space for offices. If we are fortunate there could be a house-manager’s flat and space for diverse group meetings.

SMG Women

Progress continues in both Edinburgh and Glasgow with the occasional recruit also enrolling from outside the two main centres.

One happy feature is that the women appear to be becoming less “introverted” and are taking an ever increasing part in the general meetings and activities. One related problem which has arisen: a hospitalised non-member, but lesbian, requires accommodation for a period of one month in order to secure discharge from hospital. This could be with either a host or a hostess, and in any area. For full details apply to SMG NEWS. Helping others inevitably puts ourselves to some inconvenience. But if the welfare aspect of SMG is to be a practical reality rather than a lip-service deal we have to be prepared to do just this. So . . . offers of help, please.

Reprinted, with love, from the Scottish Minorities ‘SMG News’.

No Bread but Good Vibes for Gay News

01-197205XX 4The National Federation of Homophile Organisations was born on 30th October 1971. The insemination took place 15 months previously at York University during July 1970. This slow gestation period reflects the changes in attitude and heart of its founder members (SMG, CHE, St. Catherines, womens’ groups) as much as the turtle’s pace which NFHO has tended to move since October, 1971. The Meeting in Catford on Saturday 1O June, 1972 – thanks Tony Cross of INTEGROUP – was to formulate planning and financial policies for the year ahead. 2O people representing most of the structured homosexual organisations in the U.K. attended.

Sadly we began too formally. This imposed a deadness on the proceedings which proved hard to lift, though one or two tried. Quite a few of us were strangers and didn’t really know who was representing what. The rest, (the old guard), were glad of the rare chance to socialise and exchange gossip. We needed no introductions having been active in structured homosexual society since its beginnings in the 1960’s. Wise old cheshire cats we are, delighted and yet bewildered at the great growth and diversification in the gay world since GLF shattered the silence late in 1970.

There was agreement on limited non-controversial topics. Michael Butler’s suggestion of a residential weekend conference 2-3 September at St. Catherine’s on the subject of “Befriending”, was enthusiastically received. We also decided, though less cheerfully, to seek NFHO offices (rented) in principle, which would also house a CHE office, Albany Trust, Albany Society Limited, and A’3. Group meetings would also take place there. “GAY NEWS” was also discussed at some length. The idea of the newspaper as an “official organ” of the National Federation was rejected, but a strong plea was made that individuals should write in to the paper because the quality of the paper depends on the strength of the articles it receives.

NFHO’s best function will be as an organisation for information collation and exchange. It will be best equipped to talk directly with the large Foundations and organisations such as the National Council of Social Service, Marriage Guidance Council, Home Office, D.E.S. However, overshadowing everything is the nagging realisation that NFHO is an extra financial committment for its member organisations.

Anthony Grey urged everyone to think big in cash terms, otherwise the gay movement would never finance itself.