The Campaign for Homosexual Equality got almost three hours of airspace when they took over Radio London’s ‘Platform’ programme — the programme being especially extended to cope with the large number of phone calls from listeners wishing to question the studio panel and audience.
The programme opened with a series of statements (delivered in pseudo-working-class tones) of the conventional prejudices, interspersed with cold, calm, facts, delivered in a distinctly middle-class tone. Which was, in fact, the tone of the entire programme. It constituted a plea for the civil rights of gay people, for greater knowledge and understanding, for more honest and comprehensive sex education, for the right of gay people to marry, adopt children, buy houses – in other words, it requested the right to be as respectable, as conformist, and as dull as the rest of suburbia. Put on your pinny, Lavinia, you’re going to be a real housewife. If CHE has its way.
The reactions of the audience (who phoned in) were interesting, but one couldn’t help the impression that most people who phoned 1 in knew someone on the programme (I did, for example). Perhaps the bulk of the audience were bored away by the initial part of the programme, which consisted of four speeches taped by four different types of gay person – one young man, one old man, one woman and one rather more adjusted young man (since joining up), – followed by a studio discussion of each one. I’d heard a lot of it before, and it seemed to me to go on for too long. But these things were being said over Auntie Beeb’s airwaves, were being talked out frankly and in public. By CHE!
The basis of the CHE manifesto, which is what I shall call the first part of the programme was the call for greater knowledge, because ignorance leads to hostility. And people are brought up with all kinds of unpleasant and untrue myths about gays, which not only make them shun the gays they recognise, but contribute enormously to perpetuating our own feelings of guilt about our sexuality.
Thus the education of children was an important topic – so that those children with homosexual tendencies would grow up accepting them without guilt or fear, and so that their heterosexual friends would not think anything of them for being different. The law would call this depraving and corrupting, I think.
Once knowledge of the true nature of gayness (ie we’re people the same as anyone else) began to be accepted, then the next most important part of CHE thought would become action.
Homosexuality and heterosexuality, as distinct forms of sexuality, would eventually cease to exist altogether. In order to reach that stage, homosexuals should not be discriminated either for or against in societies laws. Thus a gay couple should be allowed to bring up children (after all, even if the child did turn out to be gay, as was suggested by a listener, that was no worse than being straight). Here, even the studio panel and audience disagreed – several of the women thought that a child needed a mother, but had no use for a father. Others thought that if a child had a loving, adult relationship to grow up in the shadow of, that was all that mattered.
Listeners also phoned in raising the questions of joint mortgages and bank accounts for gay couples (both are already possible in some areas, notably Halifax) and similar We-want-to-be-just-like-them questions (I thought gay people had seen by now that marriage doesn’t work, even for straights). Some listeners, notably one John Myers, didn’t accept that gay was as good as straight; he suggested that since homosexuality was (in his words) an abnormality, wouldn’t CHE be better off devoting its time to researching the causes of it so that in future it could be prevented or cured at an early age. He was politely told that to look for a cause was to look for a cure, and since homosexuality wasn’t a disease it didn’t have a cure. Many have looked for one and none have been found. People like him had just to get used to us.
CHE also explained its position on cottaging (in response to a phoned-in question from yours truly) which was: We do sympathise, we don’t approve; the police say they only act when a member of the public complains – we would like that member of the public to make his complaint in court to the magistrate; we would like to see and hear less of police soliciting such offences (which they do); we would like offenders in this respect to be put in touch with us by the courts; we hope to have a bust-fund to help people who want to fight against such arrests instead of pleading guilty to avoid the publicity.
All in all, not so stuffy a programme as I, for one, had been expecting, some lively discussion, and most issues squarely faced. A good statement of where CHE is at and going to, and, thank god, made in public.