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.