“Over there Mr. Roving Mike”

01-197205XX 3Over the airwaves came this sane, rational, slightly wary programme, busy with being reasonable, a little tinged with nervousness and heavily colourwashed with a genteel shade of apologia. But the programme as she is spoke was a little different.

You couldn’t see the paraphenalia of speakers and microphones, the small group of hard chairs in a room fit to hold at least twenty more. And a good many chairs were empty. You didn’t have to sit through the build-up from the producer and Jimmy… about how they hated to edit the programme, so no cussin’ and so on. About the number of listeners, to remind us of our responsibility. About who we were, anywhere we came from and again the confusion of Gay News with Gay Lib came up. And then some wise child asked the producer if he was gay and was told, “In inverted commas, ‘no’, otherwise yes.”

Radio suffers from being non-visual, as well as deriving certain advantages from it. When someone began talking about bleached hair, we all laughed because Jimmy Saville has bleached hair. When Jimmy talked about the number of people there, he was able to imply the existence of a fair sized gathering, when in fact there were fewer than a hundred, probably as low as fifty. When he said we all looked sober and businesslike, you couldn’t see me in the front row with me blue velvet jacket and bright silver boots (among other things, I hasten to add).

But more important than the little white lies radio allows you to tell is the greater one – that this was a free programme of people being given a fair chance to have their say. Let me explain the set-up. Jimmy was on a little stage with the group. On the floor of the room they were using as a studio, one at each side, were rather sober and not-unheavy gentlemen, each carrying a microphone attached to many yards of wire. You got your chance to speak when Jimmy allowed it – and since he obviously thought we were going to be troublesom, and the running order to which he frequently referred did not include any discussion of radical gayness, it took him a long while to send it our way. Often I found that the discussion had taken a sidetrack and by the time he waved a mike to me, my point was irrelevant. Other times the subject was changed altogether. How far this was influenced by the voice of the producers in Jimmy’s earpiece, I cannot say. Yet when the programme began to change character, and started to pursue any topic in depth, it seemed to be the exact moment for another piece of music. In short, it was in no sense of the word a discussion programme.

Actually talking into the mike was intimidating, too. Since I was sitting right in Front of Jimmy, the man holding the mike stood between us (then was room to one side). Consequently I had to either talk to the mike itself, or try to see how Jimmy was reacting via this large gentleman’s armpit – but it didn’t seem to matter most of the time, as Jimmy was usually looking at the other roving mike, and positioning it so he could cut in swiftly when I or anyone else paused for breath. The major occasion when we actually talked to one another was in arguing about drag, transvestites, and so-called effeminate behaviour, which he and everyone else had bundled up into one package labelled bad. It is not easy, in a few sentences, and in these surroundings, to separate the three and defend them, also separately. Especially as Jimmy was more interested in making the point written down on his order sheet (which presumably said ‘homosexuals are not like that’, where it ought to have said ‘not all… etc.’). And so he tried to steer me up the garden path and strand me, because I wasn’t in drag. I could have been a mite less honest than I was, and said that there was no point when the audience were listeners, not watchers – but in an already rather dishonest programme I did not wish to compound the felony.

As far as I could tell, both from the way the talk was steered and the reception of some of the statements, the plan of the programme was to present gays as nice, safe, normal, unremarkable people just like everyone else, valiantly fitting in where they are plainly meant not to go (since the law still treats us as perverts and a danger, and so do most people). It said nothing about gay people who believe, as I do, that we are different and in some respects better, and that we are capable of evolving a lifestyle of our own which would be perfectly compatible with every other possible sexual and ethnic group (something which predominantly heterosexual societies have never managed to do). Of course, taken as a whole we are no better or worse than anyone else, but we will not become anything like compete as individuals whilst we play pretend marriage and domesticity, which are plainly not, and never will be, the ways in which two or more men can build a life together. Only legal and financial lies, coupled with societal pressure of belief, make sure that heterosexual marriages continue at all. And this is what is meant, at basis, by being acceptable – it means behaving like a certain group of people who are plainly different in a fundamental respect from ourselves, and in a way which they themselves find near impossible.

But what the programme did do was to reach a number of people who have never met another gay person in their lives before, who have lived in loneliness and fear, and now find that they are not alone. In the couple of weeks following the programme the Albany Test alone had over a hundred letters of this kind. And it must have given courage to many others. It will have helped to case the tensions in a home such as mine, in which I live with my parents and only recently faced them with the fact that I am gay. It will have helped the painful process of dispelling all the history of prejudice and censure that we have faced and still do. Above all, it slated loud and clear the one fact that must be said again and again – that gayness is about love, that it is no different in any way from heterosexuality, that both are as good, as fulfilling, and as human as each other. The only perversion is their persecution of our freedom as though we were less than human.

As with so many other things, the control of the producer is the crucial factor, deciding as it does the image of a particular person or group of people which is communicated to the audience. When the audience is as large as 5 or 6 million, as it is with Speakeasy, then the producer of that programme has an enormous responsibility to the group he is portraying – in this case, gay people. Yet there was little preparation for the programme and it only lasted one hour, and so time was precious, an attempt was made to exclude certain sections of the gay community, who do have something to say, whether or not you agree with it. Those organisations which were represented did not cover anything like a wide range, being for the most part composed of people who seemed not a million miles from the self-pitying legions of the unfortunate living out their twisted lives – ‘but it wasn’t our fault’. So much more consultation should have taken place, so much more time spent before and during the programme. The only way we can be at all sure that a fair image of us goes out to those who don’t know is to do the job ourselves. It will be, I am sure, a very interesting exercise for both the producer and the participants.


 

c/o The Albany Trust
32 Shaftsbury Avenue
London W.C.1.
22nd May 1972

“Gay News”
19 London Street
London W.2

Dear Peter and David,

Anthony Grey tells me that I am in the dog house as far as Gay News is concerned. I also seem to be pig-in-the-middle over the BBC Speakeasy programme. I am sorry that it has been construed that I was indulging in jiggery pokery. It’ll teach me in future not to be lumbered with other people’s chores. The BBC rang and asked me to find thirty gay people as representatives of as many organisations and groups as I know, excepting Gay Lib. They also talked about something called “Challenge”, which I assumed was a Gay Liberation Front venture. There seems to be have been some misunderstanding and a right cock-up in the arrangements for the programme. I am sorry if I have hurt anybody’s feelings or made them feel that there was dirty work afoot I am glad everybody represented in the programme seemed to take a full park in the discussion and the Gay Liberation Front more than held its own.

May I wish Gay News every success. If at any time you feel I could contribute anything useful, let me know.

Yours sincerely,
Michael Butler

Manchester Club hits out at Women. Five arrested

01-197205XX 3Early in March Samantha’s, a gay club in Manchester, changed its policy of freely admitting women members and allowing them to sign in as guests. One night two women members of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, one a Samantha’s member and the other her guest, were refused admittance. They were told that the club no longer had women members. Later this statement was changed to stating that although the club had women members, no more women would be allowed to join, and existing women members were no longer allowed to sign in guests. A dialogue with the owner of the coub-failed to produce any change in this policy and as it was in direct pooosition to CHE’s objective of equality between women and men, and likely to produce an all-male ghetto club, it was decided that leaflets would be produced to be given to people going into the club, containing details of what had occured and stating the objections. It asked those people who were against the club’s policy to say so to its management.

The first night the leaflets were given out the management told us to go home, it was too cold for fooling about. The second night they were less pleased to see us and an irate/scared member called the police, who told us to go, otherwise we’d all be arrested. Unsure of whether we were committing a legal offence, we decided to move.

On the day after, five of us, (Bobbie Oliver, Alan Blake, Steve Lath, Glenys Parry and Liz Stanley) gave out leaflets to the six people who went into the club. We had consulted two lawyers from the National Council for Civil Liberties who had told us that the only offence we could be arrested for was obstruction, and that if we all walked briskly about and didn’t attempt to prevent anyone from going into the club then we would not be committing any offence.

We behaved exactly as the lawyers suggested, gave out only six leaflets, saw only one car pass by: and yet were arrested. For obstruction.

We had a witness who stood nearby on the same piece of pavement for over twenty minutes, but the police took no notice of him whatsoever. The hearing was held on the 28th March, when we were committed for trial on 21st June. The prosecution said that we were members of Gay Lib and that we were trying to pressure the club into letting people of the same sex dance together. In other words, that the club was a straight one, and that we were trying to turn it gay. CHE has backed our action, and has agreed to finance an appeal if the court finds us guilty, or pay any fine they may impose.

Gay News in issue Number 2 will be reporting the outcome of this particular incident.

It seems to us that it is completely unjustified to discriminate against women in this way, and we wish the women (and men) involved every success in their fight against harassment and discrimination.

It would also seem that the many stories we hear of protection money being paid to certain members of the police force in Manchester by club owners are at times not completely without some element of truth in them. In time we will attempt to find out the truth behind the rumours.

Youths went Queer Bashing

01-197205XX 3It’s still happening. Punch ball ‘poofs’ – deflating prancing ‘queens’ with sheath knives. It’s only ‘one of them’ so what’s so had about “conspiring together to cause grievous bodily harm to persons unknown”. And especially to 30 year old Patrick Dobson who was beaten about the head with a “lump of wood” whilst being stabbed.

Seven 14 to 16 year old youths, products of a world when childish illusions disappear quickly, were charged at Brighton juvenile court with murderously assaulting this latest victim.

Patrick was yet another casualty of the constant practice of ‘queer bashing’. This sort of action by silly little boys and their contemporaries is very hard to take and more so because there is very little that gays, let alone the judicial authorities, can do about it. Or so it seems.

Obviously, probation and borstals are not the answer. For the magistrates they are the punishments to be dealt out to the few who get caught. What then is the answer to this particularly distressing subject? And remember, all male homosexuals are vulnerable to being confronted by a troop of ‘queer bashers’.

There is no immediate solution. But wouldn’t a possible beginning to finding one be a more thorough investigation into the reasons why such events take place? Isn’t part of the answer in the whole way homosexuality, amongst other things, is ‘treated’ by the police, the courts, the medical profession, the education system, to name just a few of the institutions that make up our society. Doctors receive usually half an hour’s instruction on how to ‘deal’ with ‘sexual deviants’; the police’s attitude towards gays is as misinformed as most heterosexuals; ‘queers’ to the courts are just another nuisance like traffic offenders; and where, except in the most progressive schools, is

subject of homosexuality discussed or examined?

Patrick, hopefully, will receiver from his injuries and return to living with no serious mark on his personality. But we’ll probably never know. One can be certain though that this assault will not be the last. We will read about another such incident fairly soon in another paper, and maybe the victim won’t be so lucky, like Michael de Gruchy. Or maybe fate will be even more vicious as in the case of the gay on Wimbledon Common who fought back against the torments and threats of a police officer and another man, who along with their wives, had a distorted idea of after-eleven-o’clock-closing-time-fun. But that time the tables were turned and the gay stupidly lost control, which ended with the manslaughter of the off-duty-out-of-uniform police officer.

We gays must fight back against the violent pressures put upon us by society, of course without the weapons sometimes used against us, but with justified anger at society’s failure, up to now, to deal with and protect us from such atrocities as ‘queer bashing’.

Come Dancing Together

01-197205XX 3A town hall somewhere in West London. GLF, and the gay world outside come together with two groups, disco, light-show and a bar, charging higher prices for drinks than most gay pubs. There are about 400 people and most of them seem to be enjoying themselves, dancing drinking, chatting; but there are lonely isolated people, perhaps the ones who are not pretty or trendy, who sit in corners on their own. GLF is supposed to be trying to break down this awful sexist custom where we only talk to people, dance with them, if we fancy them and want to go to bed with them. Then surely the whole point of dances run by GLF should be to start relating to the many non-GLF people who attend them, the non-politically motivated who are content to remain in their gay pub/club ghettoes, the meat markets. How can we do this? We should have group dancing; GLF literature should be available where you buy your ticket. It isn’t!

Ironically, the attendance by GLF members at these dances is falling off. They are held more and more frequently and always have the same formula – disco, lightshow and two heavy rock groups. Not everyone digs heavy rock music or dancing. Why not one group and a drag artist, or one group and a film?

At the last dance held at Kensington Town Hall about ten people started jeering and attempting to make one of the groups leave the stage as its lead singer was girating in a very sexual way. They shouted, “Sexist, Sexist, get off, get off,” and finally violently mounted the stage and tried to push the group off, ignoring the majority who either saw nothing wrong and wished the group to continue or else wanted to talk about the situation, not scream and kick; this frightened the non-GLF people who should feel relaxed while beginning to experience the true GLF ideology and its love which still exists, though distantly.