1973: EURO GAYS WE MIGHT BE, BUT THE STRUGGLE MUST GO ON

As 1973 dawns it is time for the Homosexual Society to take stock of its position and to decide what action must be taken in the days that lie ahead. The record so far is reasonably satisfactory. It is not as bad as some of the critics and carpers make out: nor is it as good as some of our professing activists and demo-mongers profess.

For those who are fighting for our cause and for those who are only too well aware of the nature of the problems which confront us much of what follows may seem repetitive. But, as a great advertising man, Sir William Crawford, once said, the key to a successful campaign is domination, concentration and repetition. State the message loud and clear, use all the available resources in such a way that that message is got across and go on sending it out until people are forced to pay attention. It is better to say a few things firmly and often than a great many things in the form of a confused dissertation.

The first priority must be to penetrate the political barriers of hostility and inertia and to set on foot further reforms of law on homosexuality. The most important, and the most obvious because the present state of affairs is so patently ridiculous, is to bring the age of consent for men down to 16. To claim that women are so much more mature that a gap of five years is justifiable is plain stupid and not in accordance with the facts of Life. It is time for a bit of Men’s Lib for a change.

The Scots, who are always boasting that they are better educated as a nation than anyone else in Britain, should undertake some effective self-education and press for the existing law to be extended to their own country. In Northern Ireland a bit of sanity would be welcome for once. Now that Westminster is in control, or claims to be, the same conditions should be made to apply.

The social segregation of the Armed Forces and the Merchant Navy is undemocratic and demonstrably absurd as well as being somewhat laughable under all the known circumstances. There will be resistence from the top-brass who always resist change on principle. It should be pointed out to them that such an attitude is an admission of failure on their part to keep order in their own house. And that is a very poor advertisement for the powers of leadership of which they are so proud.

Relationships with the Police must be reviewed at top level otherwise the situation threatens to deteriorate and that is not in the interests of the Force who have quite enough problems on their plate without adding to them. The new Commissioner of Police is a great reformer: this is one reform he should tackle as a matter of urgency.

There must be an end to harrassment and effective action must be taken to stamp out the offensive and immoral practice of “queer-bashing” which is an abuse of civil liberties and worse than “mugging” which is causing much more public alarm. The rules concerning homosexual assembly must be abolished and that involves political as well as police action as also does the whole question of advertising as was made clear by the ‘IT’ case.

Socially, an advance must be planned on three fronts: the education of parents, teachers and children, the improvement of medical training and understanding; the recognition of the existence and position of homosexuals by men of religion.

The Ministry of Education must be approached with a view to discussing the establishment of enlightened sex education, including education about homosexuality, in schools. Until a directive comes from above, local education authorities and headmasters will be unwilling and afraid to act. There is plenty of evidence of that. Parent-teacher organisations must be persuaded to support this move so far as is possible.

Margaret Thatcher may not be everybody’s pin-up girl and the new Under-Secretary, Norman St John Stevas has not been made exactly welcome in every quarter. But they both like to lay claim to being progressive in their outlook. They should be confronted.

The Medical Profession should be challenged with regard to its failure to implement the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee. At a meeting held at Guys Hospital in 1972, the Chairman, a distinguished physician, declared at the outset that he knew nothing about homosexuality. That was not any sort of a joke. The answer to him and to those like him is physician heal thyself. The campaign must be carried into the medical camp and there must be more meetings not only at hospitals but local doctors and psychiatrists should be invited to address meetings under the auspices of homosexual organisations.

The Churches must be clearly asked to state their attitude to homosexuality and homosexuals. This must be done not only at the level of parish priests and the like but also at the top. The veiws expressed by Dr Norman Pittenger in his book “Time For Consent” should be put to them and their reactions to them should be sought. Unlike Pilate we have time to wait for our answer – but not for ever. The meeting of Jewish homosexuals in London, despite the snide remarks which appeared in Gay News, was a courageous and heartening occasion. It is hoped that progress will continue to be made in that field.

Also on the credit side for 1972 have been the activities of CHE, SMG and GLF. It has been asserted in certain quarters, including in the correspondence columns of Gay News, that such organisations tend to promote a ghetto mentality and to increase, rather than decrease, the division between homosexuals and the rest of society. That is poppy-cock. To begin with, if society had behaved in a more intelligent and rational manner such activities would not have been made necessary. Such considerations apart, they provide important and essential grounds for homosexuals to meet one another and to exchange views. They are also of the greatest social and psychological value for those homosexuals who are lonely or depressed.

Gay News, a product of 1972, is a courageous venture which deserves to succeed and prosper in 1973. It is a forum for opinions of all kinds by homosexuals and others and that is healthy. Because not enough space is provided by the main media of communication it fills the gap and it may well encourage its colleages in the Press world to pay more attention to the subject. Every homosexual should support a publication which speaks out fearlessly for the cause. This is no time for reticence or silence: those days are over.

On the political front CHE held fringe meetings at all the Party conferences in the autumn. In 1973 it holds its own conference at Morecambe. These public appearances are important because they help to make clear that we are not an element to be disregarded with impunity. There are over a million and a half, probably more, of us. Politically that is something which should not be forgotten. It is particularly something which the Liberal Party, which is aiming at a national revival, should note. All political candidates from now on should be sent the questionnaire which was prepared by CHE and sent out at Sutton and Cheame by-election. Gay News should be encouraged to publish the answers so that we may know who are our friends.

A fringe meeting was held at the Conference of the National Union of Students at Margate. It was a constructive and stimulating occasion. It seems likely that one outcome will be a closer association of all University Homosexual Groups and that is all to the good as it will increase their influence. After all the ultimate future is in the hands of youth and that means our future.

In 1973 it is important that all homosexual organisations should increase their activities and their membership and that they should work as closely as possible together. We all have the same object in view: the achievement of our rightful place in society. It is essential that more people should be willing to take part in these activities. In the past too much has had to be done by too few at too great a cost both mentally, physically and financially. The time has come for all homosexuals to stand up and be counted. The only thing to fear is fear itself. Our campaign is on the march. In 1973 we must aim to go farther and faster and there must be more of us.

The Unconventional Wisdom

04-197208XX 04Dr John Loraine has recently published a book entitled “The Death of To-morrow”. It caused considerable excitement in that it has a foreword by the Duke of Edinburgh which could be taken as condoning the view expressed by the author that “unless reproductive activities are controlled there can be no future for mankind”. This relates directly to family planning and, by implication, to abortion. In the chapter of the book which deals with the subject and which is headed “Reproduction and the Conventional Wisdom” Dr Loraine also touches on homosexuality although very briefly. He states: “For homosexuality in men and women the conventional wisdom has no truck”. This is somewhat sweeping generalisation although it can be said to be true of a high percentage of public opinion. He is, of course, a Scot working in Edinburgh and the Sexual Offences Act does not run in Scotland. That is something which ought to be put right and it is reasonable to ask what Dr Loraine and others are going to do about it in the light of his fears about reproductive activities. The one thing that homosexuals cannot be accused of, even by the most prejudiced and uninformed of their critics, is increasing the population by over-production.

Dr Loraine asserts that “the monolithic pose of the conventional wisdom with respect to homosexuality will not endure indefinitely. The obsolescency of the approach will eventually become self-evident…”. Here again the relevant word is eventually – when is that to be? Dr Loraine indicates that he is not prepared to predict when he declares “It is evident that a fog of bigotry and prejudice surrounds adult homosexuality. What period of time must elapse before the winds of change finally disperse it?” But winds of change do not blow of their own accord: they have to be stirred up.

In this context it is worth remembering that the Wolfenden Report was published in 1957. That part of it which concerned prostitution was accepted without delay : the part dealing with homosexuality did not receive legislative approval until 1967. Ten years is a long time even in the life of politics. Even then it was left to the back-benchers to initiate that legislation. The Conservatives, on the advice of the late Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe ‘the hammer of homosexuals’ and later of R.A. Butler, expressed the view that public opinion was not ripe for such a change. The Socialists expressed no opinion but were prepared to allow time for the Bill. It is, let it be affirmed, the function of politicians and particularly governments, to guide public opinion and not to be guided by it. And, in this direction, there is still work to be done.

For those who took the trouble to study it the Wolfenden Report effectively destroyed the popular misconception that all homosexuals were, to put it crudely “queers” and “pansies” who tended to model themselves on Oscar Wilde and to dress and behave in an effeminate manner. Society was made to realise that many of the people whom it regarded as ‘regular guys’ in the office, commuting, in the golf club, in the pub, at football matches and who even played games, were addicted to homosexual practices or were complete homosexuals. It also realised that its children could be either homosexual or bi-sexual; which for most parents was a nasty shock.

Opposition to changing the law centred around the declared menace to the health of society, the damaging effect on family life and the suggestion that men who indulged in homosexual practices would instinctively thereafter turn their attention to boys. It was all summed up under the umbrella title of undermining the moral fibre of the nation. After hearing all the evidence the Wolfenden Committee rightly rejected all these arguments and went so far as to say “We have had no reasons shown to us that lead us to believe that homosexual behaviour between males inflicts any greater damage on family life than adultery, fornication and lesbian behaviour”. This led them, amongst other things, to recommend that it should cease to be classified as a criminal offence.

But although the law has been changed, the position of the homosexual, after five years, has not changed commensurately in society. There is still ostracism, harassment, oppression and consequent repression. Beyond the political sphere education in its fullest form is the key to reform. The Wolfenden Committee indicated the true nature of homosexuality and expressed its views as to what should be the position of the homosexual in society. Although these were ultimately accepted by Parliament they have not been reflected in the attitudes of a great many parents nor by the majority of educationalists. Until this state of affairs is rectified there will continue to be hostility and indifference on the one hand and guilt-complex and depression on the other. Education never ceases in life but for some, so far as sex is concerned, it never seems to begin. Consequently fathers feel that it is an attribute unworthy of their progeny and an insult to themselves. Mothers take it as a contribution against their own sex and resent it. There is none of the sympathy nor the affection which is given to mongols and to children who are mentally or physically handicapped. All this is alarming because it illustrates the magnitude of the problems which confront those who want to put matters right and it also explains why society, from a basis of ignorance and prejudice, is still reluctant to accept the homosexual as a first-class citizen.

Sexually we are what we are. How we behave sexually depends to a large extent on upbringing, environment, and our own capacity to exercise self-discipline. Being treated initially as people whose parents are ashamed of them and subsequently as social outcasts is the surest way of increasing the problems of homosexuals and tends to reduce their usefulness to society and, in many cases, induces an unjustified inferiority complex and a sense of hostility to others.

It is time for parents and teachers to face up to realities. Homosexuals are not perverts they are simply different. And there is nothing wrong in being different. Society through its leaders must accept this. The politicians must continue to rectify the position first of all by changing the age of consent which at 21 is absurd. Scotland and Northern Ireland must be brought into line with the rest of the country. The exclusion of the Armed Forces and Merchant Navy from the terms of the Sexual Offences Act must cease. In addition a clear directive must be given to the police with regard to the intentions of that Act. The religious leaders must accept the fact that homosexuality is not a sin and act accordingly towards the homosexual members of their congregations. The Medical profession must carry out the recommendations of Wolfenden that they should study homosexuality more deeply and instruct medical students with regard to it. C.H.E. and G.L.F. must pursue these objectives and seek to influence public opinion in order that they may be achieved.

This is the unconventional wisdom which must prevail over the conventional wisdom which is prejudiced stupidity. To-day there are two societies – the heterosexual in the majority and the homosexual which is in the minority. The time has come to end this divisiveness so that the homosexual element can play its proper part in the daily ordering of things. It is not a question of adjusting the attitudes of two societies but of creating one society.