Believe It or Not

19720901-07As you may have read in Gay News No. 4, and have possibly noticed in this edition of the paper, I (Denis Lemon) have been arrested, and remanded twice, on a charge of ‘wilful obstruction’. Of course, at present I can make no comment on the case as it is sub judice.

But what I can comment on is the fact that on the Sunday evening of 27th August (at approximately 10.45 p.m.) I was taken into custody for suspected possession of a stolen camera.

Earlier that evening I had been selling copies of Gay News in The Colherne public house in Old Brompton Road, London SW5. After ‘closing time’ I crossed to the opposite side of the road to the pub, where, after seeing a group of four uniformed police officers moving people on outside the pub in an unnecessarily rude manner, I took a photograph of them.

No sooner had the flash of my camera died than the police officers came bounding across the road, as if there was an armed robbery taking place behind me. Incidentally the policemen had left their own ‘manor’ because The Colherne side of the road is under the jurisdiction of Chelsea Police, whilst the opposite side is under the control of Kensington Police. Undeterred by this minor legality I was questioned about why I had taken the photograph, and had the camera snatched from my hands in a way which could hardly be described as polite. I explained that it was my job at present, to take pictures in the vicinity, and of any police action outside The Colherne, as there have been many allegations of unnecessary harassment received at the Gay News office. This apparently was of no interest to the four policemen who then immediately started questioning me about my camera and whether I could prove, there and then, that it was mine. I told them that I couldn’t, but possibly could, if they cared to come either to my home or to the paper’s office. They weren’t particularly interested in this and told me that I would have to go to the Police Station with them.

Having recently enjoyed the delights of a cell at Chelsea Police Station, I insisted that as they were taking me into custody in Kensington that they should take me to Kensington Station.

After some discussion they finally agreed to my request with which I was bundled into the police van they had arrived in and was driven off into the wilds of Kensington.

On arriving I was searched thoroughly (even the pockets of my jacket were well sniffed for God knows what). Then I was questioned about my activities and the remote chance that I might not have committed a felony to obtain the camera. To cut a long story short, after two hours I was taken to my home where I produced the box that came with the camera when it was bought, which finally convinced the police that it had come into my possession legally. But I was severely warned that it was highly dangerous to walk about in the streets with property that I couldn’t prove was mine.

“People have gone to prison before now”, was a parting comment they left me with.

What might interest you is some of the comments the police made whilst I was their guest: “It’s bad enough that there are places (The Colherne) like that”; “Piss Off is a term used by everybody nowadays so it is unlikely to cause offence to anybody”; “Soon all you homosexuals will be driven out of sight again”; “The public has had enough of hearing about your sort”; “Papers like yours and the underground press will soon be stopped”; “If you took a picture of me I’d knock your head off”; “There are 195,000 people in Kensington who would like to see homosexuality stopped”; “The crime rate is going down so we are not wasting our time there (The Colherne)”.

Most of these comments came from the Station Sergeant at Kensington Police Station, who on various occasions throughout my two hour stay with them, informed me that I was a “pervert”, “a queer”, and “an abnormality that had to be stamped out.” He also said that he did and always would refer to black people as “wogs”, and that they didn’t mind and it was “too bad if they did”.

But what did make the whole fiasco almost worth while was the one constable who came into the room whilst the others were busy elsewhere, who said, “I’ve got nothing against homosexuals, I just get sent there (The Colherne)”. Thanks to that one police officer I still retain a little respect for the police, who are in my opinion doing in Kensington and Chelsea, one of the best anti-public relations campaigns in the history of the police force in this country.

Trolling in Saudi Arabia

Or Lust In The Dust

19720901-07I have been so pleased recently to find out about your newspaper and CHE that I have been tempted to write to you to say so. I do not live in England and hope that I shall be able to arrange for the newspaper to reach me. I live in Arabia in a society which could hardly be more different from Christian Western society and have spent some time this summer in Britain attempting to appreciate the current attitudes, legal and social, of the homosexual society vis-a-vis the rest of the community. Despite what I have been told about ‘queer-bashing’ and degrading police methods of ‘detection’ work I am sure that the situation is hopeful and certainly a great improvement on the days when I knew London best, the late 50’s. I do have my personal feelings about some of the less discreet goings-on of Gay Lib, as I have about those who continue to say ‘Let’s keep quiet and they won’t notice us’. It is wonderful that minority groups of all kinds are forming and acting in this age when we see more and more the disintegration of the old formalised patterns of society; the family, the street, the village and so on. The more we are concentrated into a high-rise society, numbered, depersonalised, and state registered into anonymity the more acute become the problems of the lonely, the depressed, the anxious and the person who doesn’t fit. It is wonderful to see humanity assert itself. Those of us who have found a haven, a means of identifying or an escape route must try even harder to understand and to forgive those confused few who attack us. We must learn to tolerate, to educate and to love from a position of self-confidence. Even our poor old parents, who must be as confused as anyone.

The Arab world is homosexual if by that I mean it is a male-orientated society. Policemen walk hand in hand and a boy’s best friend is another boy. All will eventually marry and have children. This is economic, necessary and good. Love is a highly romanticised ideal and hardly ever achieved except in the platonic relationships between men. However the majority of men have active homosexual friendships usually with boys between the ages of thirteen and eighteen who respond and actively seek such friendships. Some will say that this is only because the girls are kept strictly apart and obviously if they were not there would be boy/girl sexual friendships, but as this is impossible it is beside the point.

Amongst the Europeans who live here there are many who are gay or bisexual and have formed close friendships with Arab boys and men. Some are shy at first, because in small communities everything is noticed, but they do visit us. They are curious too. They find great difficulty sometimes in understanding our attitudes and once they have become sincere friends they tend to find it more difficult to have a sexual relationship as well. As they say, “You don’t fuck your friend”, but they are interested in the idea and I have seen some happy and full friendships develop. An Arab boy is proud of his body, he longs to love, he is promiscuous but he is also in his own way very loyal. He will give you his last possession and expect the same in return.

You do not enter into such a relationship unless you are prepared to give. I do not mean payment. Probably some readers of this will have spent a holiday in Morocco or Beirut and paid for their pleasures and certainly they need not feel any guilt about this. But I would say that in a society where it is not ‘queer’ or unusual to feel desire for a beautiful boy it is possible to be ‘gay’ and remain ‘normal’. I have used the quotation marks because, paradoxically, there is hardly such a thing as a gay Arab in Arabia.

Leaving aside the differences in our societies there are many ways in which East can meet and help West. English people in our expatriate community which is small and who are not gay themselves have mixed socially with us on equal terms, inviting couples to tea, coming to parties with their children, joining in picnics and so on. If they can do it here, far removed from the prejudices of British society they can do it also in Britain. It is for us to open our doors to them, to understand their difficulties and help them to feel unembarrassed with us.

To close may I say that we should welcome any letters or news from Britain or anywhere else – it is nice to keep in touch if anyone is interested in our rather more than usually cut off bit of the world.


If any reader wishes to contact the writer of the above, Gay News will happily pass on any letters.

Parents of Gay Children

19720901-07A group for the parents of homosexual children has been started in London. It is the idea of Rose Robertson, herself a mother and chairman of CHE’s Catford-Lewisham group.

Rose has been concerned about the relationship between parents and their gay children for some time and in the course of her campaigning activities has met several people in this situation.

“At first I put an ad in the local paper”, she says, “and got a number of replies. However, when I invited them to get together I got no response. And moreover, nearly all the letters I received more or less asked me to recommend a cure – you know, send the pills by return.”

A few months ago she was invited to talk about her project on Woman’s Hour and this produced some response from all over the country and she has now been able to call a meeting.

Obviously, in its very earliest stages the group will have to be local (though a mother travelled from Leicester for the first meeting). And the prime emphasis will be on helping those individual parents who turn up to come to terms with the homosexuality of their sons and daughters. “Many of them have no idea what homosexuality is really like,” Rose says, “and have all the usual prejudices.” So education of parents for starters.

But it doesn’t take much thought to realise the truly immense potential of such a group. Adjusted parents lead to adjusted families and, confidence gained, the way is wide open for some valuable political action. “After all, a crowd of parents lobbying parliament for law reform isn’t going to go unnoticed,” is the way Rose puts it.

This may be a little in the future just now, but before that will come a voice in Parent-Teacher Associations and thus pressure from another, and responsible direction for better and fuller sex education in schools.

As the group becomes established and well-known, its presence may well encourage other gay men and women to tell their parents. For if the individual gay person has tremendous problems related to coming out, so does his or her parents. The revelation tends initially to provoke shame and possibly disgust. And if not this, then bewilderment and fear, also a sense of failure as parents. If these feelings can be eradicated, put into perspective, then maybe mothers and fathers can begin to play a pretty impressive role in the cause of homosexual liberation.

Rose would like to hear from the parents of gay people and is already thinking of the reverse situation – the straight children of gay parents. Write to her at 16 Honey Road, Catford, SE 6.

Snippets

19720901-07We thought you would all like to know that Gay News is now regularly despatched off to the British Museum. It goes into their archives for posterity. So now we’ll become a little piece of history. Only heaven knows what the future will think of us.

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Which CHE group in West London has orgies and blue movie shows on Good Fridays? Send your answers on a postcard to Julian D. Grinspoon.

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In a future issue of Gay News we hope to bring you an interview with Lou Reed, ex-lead guitarist and chief song-writer with New York’s Velvet Underground rock group. Lou, who is now living in this country is currently recording his second album here for RCA. The record is being produced by David Bowie. In a recent Melody Maker interview Lou described himself as a ‘bisexual chauvinist pig’. One wonders what that means? All will be revealed in our interview we hope. When Lou completes his present recording commitments, he will begin playing live dates across the country.

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Recently in London from the USA was the Motor Cycle Club of New York. Our man in Earls Court reported seeing large numbers of the club’s members in the Colherne on the evening of Thursday 24th August. On being asked where they were headed next, their ‘leader’ replied “Russia”. Good luck and Bon Voyage, see you all next year.

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Incidentally, The Colherne is changing managers at the end of August. The new managers, a married couple, take over on 1st September. We hope they will settle in without too much trouble. To them too, we wish the best of luck. We trust that the pub’s regulars will be patient with them. And to Jeff, the manager who is leaving, we wish all the best in the future and thanks for the improvements that have happened whilst he has been at the pub.

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And don’t forget, people, Bass-Charrington have a welcome for all behind those bright red doors of theirs. So their ads say anyway.

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Competion Corner: When CHE stands up to speechify at Speakers’ Corner, why do two handsome young poicemen stand in the front of the crowd with their arms folded high across their chests ? Writers of the first 5,000 correct solutions opened will receive prizes of pocket tape recorders.

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If you hear any little bits of gossip or chatty pieces of news, give us a ring at the Gay News office.

Olympics

19720901-07MUNICH: Replay of Berlin 1936 Olympic Games are at present under way here. Main interest is not the athletics, yachting and so on but the new permissiveness that’s hit the sportsdrag scene.

Diving events are notable for the bulging trunks with, for instance, Italia written round the boy’s crutch. In gymnastics the USSR has gone for virgin white with a scarlet edge for the girl’s costumes, while the German Democratic Republic has gone for multishade purple Esther Williams nothings.

All that, and J.D.Grinspoon’s favourite clubs makes it completely unsurprising that the Americans can’t drag themselves out of bed for something as boring as running.

It’s a Man

19720901-07The only male shorthand/typist of the main Staff Bureaus’ lists in Glasgow and in Edinburgh is blond-haired Ian Bitters.

Ian has a shorthand speed of 120 w.p.m. and a typing rate of 50 w.p.m. His regular magazines are MEMO and GAY NEWS. He is fluent in German (his course at Stirling University majors in German) and French. He has a well-stocked library of writing on Germany in the 1930’s, his favourite period. He is keen on opera, especially Wagner.

As he says; “the offices I work for get such a shock when their new shorthand-typist turns out to be a male! I get landed in some very strange situations.”