Gay Liberation Films

The 26th Edinburgh International Film Festival includes two short documentaries about Gay Liberation, one British, one American. The British film, Come Together, shot in early 1971, was made by John Shane (not his real name, it seems, which is hardly a shining example of liberation). It is colourful, confused and rather appealing, like GLF itself. There are restrained examples of meetings and demonstrations, and the film is held together by crosscutting with interviews of half a dozen or so varied representatives of the movement. Political statements tend to cancel out: GLF must ally itself with the struggle of all oppressed people, GLF must concentrate on Gay issues. By its warmth and vitality the film should (if they ever manage to see it) convey a message of hope to timid provincials wistfully longing to escape from their closets. To straight society it says, successfully I think: homosexuals are real people, not the stereotypes you try to make out of us, and we want a fair deal.

By comparison the American film, Some of Your Best Friends (University of Southern California, directed by Kenneth Robinson) is more coherent, more searching, perhaps just a shade clinical. What basically gives it its different flavour is the more abrasive American situation, and the correspondingly more determined and purposeful action of Gay militants. A meeting is told how a landlord has tried to evict a Lesbian by force. John Platania (a screen natural) describes with vigour and humour his arrest by a police agent provocateur and the subsequent court case. We see the Christopher Street West parade of 1970, catching just a glimpse of that famous Vaseline jar float, and fascinating action shots of the take-over by GLF of a meeting of psychiatrists assembled to hear a lecture on aversion thereapy. In an attempt to range across the whole activist scene, there are shots of a meeting of the Westside Discussion Group, a more CHE type of organisation, and someone makes the entirely valid point that most people cannot be expected to jump from the closet to the streets in one fell leap.

But the impact of this sequence is vitiated cinematically by the fact that the participants did not want to be identifiable on the screen. Let us face once and for all the truth that those shadowed faces and wingbacked chairs are horribly counterproductive, reinforcing in the public mind the image of the homosexual as a lurking, inhuman creature of the dark.

In the same programme (now I wonder why?) a preview of a film made by Brian Mahoney for Scottish Television about our incomparable Lindsay Kemp. The title sequence contains the most quintessential Lindsay, as with his sweet-sad-vulnerable face he stands and creates some of those fragile, Cocteauesque drawings. The rest is perhaps a little thin, despite some charming shots and a commentary that contains interesting apercus: his work, he says, is about failure, as the work of great clowns usually is. I said a preview, but it seems that someone in STV has had cold feet about the full frontals, and so Scottish sitting-rooms will stay unviolated for the present.

Sexual Offences Report

REPORT ON SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT 1967 of the SMG LAW REFORM SUB-COMMITTEE

03-197207XX-04We hold as basic to our philosophy the principle that the State has no cause to interfere with or punish sexual behaviour or expression which does not involve assault, interference with children, or an affront to decency causing annoyance or nuisance to the public.

The 1967 Act falls short of this principle in a number of respects. We list as the most outstanding anomalies the following:

AGE OF CONSENT (Clause 1 (1)). 21 is now even more difficult to justify than when the act was passed, in view of the fact that the legal age of majority has been lowered to 18 by the Family Reform Act 1969

‘IN PRIVATE’ The definition in Clause 1 (2) is more restrictive than that envisaged by the Wolfenden Committee, and is undesirable both because of its discriminatory nature and the handle it gives to blackmailers.

EXCLUSION OF MEMBERS of the Armed Services and the Merchant Navy. (Clause 1(5) and Clause 2). This goes beyond the Wolfenden proposals and extends to off-duty circumstances which could not conceivably affect discipline and which could not constitute an offence if committed by a civilian.

EXCLUSION OF SCOTLAND AND NORTHERN IRELAND (Clause 11 (5)). Under the differing sexual conduct laws in different parts of the United Kingdom, adult male homosexuals in Scotland and Northern Ireland have fewer rights than those in England and Wales. At the same time it should be mentioned that at least one penalty under the 1967 Act is harsher than its equivalent under the 1956 Sexual Offences Act. namely that prescribed in Clause 3(2), where the maximum penalty is increased from 2 to 5 years.

MAXIMUM PENALTIES as laid down need revision and rationalization, as do those for sexual offences generally. They are in every case too severe. The primary consideration in assessing the gravity of an offence should be not the precise nature of the act committed but the degree of compulsion or intimidation involved.

PROCURING a homosexual act (even though not for purposes of gain) which is not itself an offence remains punishable under the 1967 Act (Clause 4).

CONSPIRACY is not dealt with in the Act. In the light of recent charges of “conspiracy to corrupt public morals” it would appear that invitations to commit lawful homosexual acts may be an offence in circumstances where similar invitations to commit heterosexual acts are not. The recent House of Lords narrow interpretation of the 1967 Act (14 June 1972) confirms this.

BYE-LAW OFFENCES vary widely and are outside the scope of the Act.

Michael Coulson
Convener, Law Reform Sub-Committee.


S.M.G. August Conference.

The Scottish Minorities Group is holding its Conference on Homosexuality in the Heriot-Watt University Students’ Centre, 30 Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, on Saturday 5th August 1972, from 10am to 6pm. (Entrance Fee £1 per person.)


SCOTTISH MINORITIES GROUP.

MEETINGS;

  • EDINBURGH, from 7.45pm to 9.00pm in the basement of 23 George Square. Check with Mike Coulson at 031-225 4395. Women’s Group at 7.30pm. Saturdays from 9.30pm to 12.30pm coffee/food/dance at the same address.
  • GLASGOW, meetings every Tuesday at 8.00pm at 8 Dunearn Street. Glasgow C4. Women’s Group at 184 Swinton Road, at 8 00pm. Third Friday of every month at 214 Clyde Street (library of community house) invited speakers, from 8pm.
  • DUNDEE, every Friday at Dundee University Chaplaincy. Social. Details from 041-771 7600.
  • ABERDEEN, Weekly social meetings. Details from 041-771 7600