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.

Trolling in Tehran

04-197208XX 04When I set off last year on a business trip to Teheran and other Iranian cities, I had the dottiest picture in my mind as to what it was all going to be like. The only thing that I knew as a fact was that Iran is the most curiously arrogant and corrupt place from a business point of view. With all this naughty bevaviour I had visions of potential gangbang at every street corner. Far, far from it dear Reader.

I suppose we all know that the slant of Moslem culture is towards an easy acceptance of homosexual behaviour both in the home and in public. I’d seen Arabs in places like Jeddah and Beirut walking hand in hand without the public giving it a second glance. But in Iran its all very very confusing. To start off with, in the great cities like Teheran or Tabriz, where there is some degree of western sophistication, overt homosexual behaviour barely exists at all.

But paradoxically, you have only to drive for ten minutes past the Mayfair of Teheran, up the mountains behind Shemiran, and you find a selection of chaikhanehs (tea houses) complete with beautiful dancing boys who entertain largely middle aged clients. You can find the same establishments in Meshed and Isphahan. The fascinating thing is that this sort of entertainment has been provided for the past 2,000 years, but today it seems only to be seriously patronised by the elderly gents who sit quietly drinking tea and watching the gyrations of the boys, some of whom are very beautiful indeed. They retire from ‘business’ at around 18 years of age, and more than half of them get married on the proceeds of their work.

But the gay young things of Teheran or Tabriz would not be seen dead in such a place. To them its all too old fashioned, stuffy and conservative for words. There are literally no gay Bars or Clubs as we understand them in the U.K. It is true that there are a few cafes where you might just have the luck to pick up something interesting, but it is very likely to be rent. You will be far luckier in the lounges of the better class western type of hotel.

I think that there is also a deepseated, but almost entirely unadmitted, resentment of the white mentality, and therefore of the white persons possible sexual approaches. I did meet two charming and highly educated Iranis, but they had both been to Europe, and knew the gay ropes well! They confessed that a white body did not mean all that much to them sexually, and that it was white women that were in demand …. not men!

This reserve is all tied up with the inevitable association of homosexuals with drugtaking hippies and wierdos who have passed through Iran on their way to and from Afghanistan, via Iran.

And that brings me to the matter of Hash and/or Pot. Unless you wish to be shot at sight or sent immediately without trial to prison, do not under any circumstances look for, attempt to buy, or even import any form of Hash. Whilst I was there for a mere 4 weeks on biz, no less than 4 people were shot out of hand because they had been arrested with it on their person.

Before I’d ever got there, people had told me the wildest stories about the goings-on in local Hammams.

I tried four in Teheran and two in Tabriz. They were about as turned on as a Sunday School Treat. In Meshed, which is a sacred Moslem city, complete with shrines of all sorts, I was politely directed to an ‘unbelievers’ hamman. All I saw there was a slightly deformed young man soaping his parts with rather more fervour than was entirely required … and that was about it.

But, and there’s always a but, if you do have the good fortune to meet an Irani who is a member of one of the select private hammams. I’m told that these are not all that innocent, and all sorts of things can and do happen in them.

I just didn’t have the luck to meet a subscriber.

So if you ever contemplate going to Iran for your hold, don’t imagine that its a riot of sex and fun. It’s so hot you can fry an egg on the pavement from April to October, and though it’s beautiful beyond belief, it’s bloody dull if you are looking for what is innocently known as Trade.

Little Gay School Book?

04-197208XX 04On 24 June, young gays from the whole country converged on the plush Central Collegiate Building of University College, London, for another Young Gay Conference. Despite a noticeably poor attendance from certain groups invited, the conference began by discussing critically action taken since the last meeting.

Distinct concern was shown at the complete lack of support from any of the many headmasters contacted over the schools campaign, and other methods were considered including the compilation of a “school’s kit”, which would contain tape-recordings and literature, and could be used by teachers.

The recently formed London University Homophile Society, GAYSOC, by whose ingenity the conference room was procured, announced definite success with the university’s medical staff, as did the representative from Bath University. Kent representatives, however, were somewhat depressed at their university’s reaction, and their numbers remain minimal. Attempts had been made to enliven various “straight” discos on London and provincial campuses, with some success.

The London CHE Youth Group expressed surprise at the somewhat conciliatory attitudes of the London University Christian Union, whom they have recently met. Hugh Farlie (Bath) considered that diehard Christians were a definite source of prejudice. A possible solution was iterated by Gough Sergeant (Reading) when he suggested that a letter of St. Paul to the CHE might be found, so throwing the Biblical fundamentalists into confusion!

Tony Ryde questioned the setting up of exclusive university groups, and others thought that some students might consider that such societies would be of a transient nature only and so be reluctant to commit themselves. Advertising of such groups was also considered, and it was concluded that this should not be of a too aggressive variety.

In the second half the suggestion for a “schools kit” was reiterated, and the preliminaries towards the publishing of a LITTLE GAY SCHOOL BOOK were discussed. It was also suggested that in the case of a stubborn headmaster, the appropriate parents association might be contacted.

In universities, it was agreed that more co-operation was necessary between gay and straight students. The more introverted students must also be encouraged to “come-out”.

Dr Reuben’s book was again unanimously condemned, and further action to restrict its distribution by local bookshops was agreed upon.

A member of the ‘SAMARITANS’ who attended suggested that local homosexual organisations should achieve greater co-ordination with regional Samaritan directors, so the relevant homosexual cases could be forwarded.

In conclusion, the whole meeting expressed a desire to ensure closer contact with the CHE, GLF and GAYSOC groups present. This wish was followed by an expression of overall satisfaction at the conference, and further liaisons were arranged; for instance, over combined
activities in UK universities’ “freshers’ weeks” next October.

Thanks were extended to CHE London Youth Group, to GAYSOC and also to the conference Chairman, Robert Maynard, who showed obvious prowess in fulfilling his task.

“COME TOGETHER?”

04-197208XX 04Durham Gay Liberation Front is not dead, only sleeping. At present there is no demand for a GLF here it seems that the gay population is in the enviable state of not needing liberation! The few people who still come to our meetings also attend Newcastle GLF – which is flourishing – so it was my original intention to disband the group. However, I have been persuaded to change my mind, and we are just suspending meetings until a demand for them occurs.

We have just succeeded in placing an advertisement in the Northern Echo, and are planning a publicity drive in the Durham student population next year: if we obtain sufficient interest the group meetings will be restarted, and if not then we will be sadly forced into liquidation.

First published in “Muther Grumble”, the North-East’s Other Newspaper.

Challenge?

04-197208XX 05Challenge was founded in February by five people who felt that there was a need for a group which was neither politically oriented nor ‘over-organised’. We have weekly meetings, of around forty people at present, which usually start with someone giving a talk about something of interest, and continue with a social get-together over drinks. We have a brief manifesto and a good way of showing our intentions would be to quote the first three paragraphs:

The aims of Challenge are to bring about greater social acceptance of homosexuals by means of charitable and social work within the whole community, and to combat the isolation and difficulties, so often experienced by homosexuals, through discussion and mutual help.

Challenge will have no religious leanings or political policy beyond the advocation of equal rights with heterosexuals. Exhibitionism, hostility towards heterosexuals, and the provocative demonstration of affections in public will be avoided.

Challenge will be constructive and positive in order to further, by example, the acceptance of “gay” people amongst the “straight” majority. Advice, and where possible assistance and home visits, will be available to gay people suffering from loneliness, depression or a breakdown of health, and to anyone in despair.

So far we haven’t been as successful as we would wish in promoting the social work aspect but this isn’t through lack of trying.

I would like to point out that we welcome interest from anybody and we will shortly be having branches as our membership looks as if it will increase quite rapidly in the near future. At the moment we meet in a room above a pub in Kilburn and charge 10 pence per person. Perhaps interested people would care to look us up on the back (information) page.