Arrant Nonsense

I am writing in outrage at the recent item from the “Evening News”. It appeared in the column of the (?noble) Lord Arran.

I have in my time read a not inconsiderable amount of material concerning “our” world and could fairly say that this particular jeremiad on the emergence of the gay scene is only describable as ArranT (sic) nonsense.

For years gay people have been harried and hassled; in the past by blackmailers, and currently by certain elements in the police.

As regards the latter, of course, the practice of entrapment (inducing someone to commit an unlawful act, and then arresting him for it) is far less rampant in the UK than elsewhere (viz. USA). It’s just unfortunate that certain cottages in London seem presently to be the nightly haunt of those fuzz who delight in ‘nicking’ gays.

THE EDITOR of a “gay” magazine sends me a copy. He says rather pathetically “I don’t expect you will approve.” I don’t. But you could say it was all my fault.

One nostalgic piece from an elderly gentleman is revealing. He writes “We ... looked forward to the day we would be legal just like the Jews await the Messiah”

“Now it is all legal, gay plays, gay films, gay Lib. I sometimes wonder are we really any better off? Perhaps it is just distance lending enchantment, but those were the days my friends ...” 

This bears out what people have told me that some of the homosexuals used positively to enjoy the risks. Some perhaps, certainly not all.

However, to return to my original theme, the noble Lord seeks to condemn – in just a few scanty paragraphs – the fact that gays are coming out, and not skulking furtively in the shadows of a limited number of “gay bars” He wonders if we are really better off in these times of gay plays, films, etc. Well, why should an individual not be liberated? Just because I prefer to go to bed with a boy rather than a girl, why should that make me — or any of us – unacceptable to society at large?

Arran quotes the reaction of an “elderly gentleman”; is this really valid in regard to the gay scene as a whole today? There always have been, and will be, closet queens: if they choose to be so that is up to them.

The article concludes by stating yet again that old, old (oh, so very old) chestnut about some gays “used positively to enjoy the risks” (ie prior to the 1967 Act).

Apart from a very minor few masochistic types who thrive vicariously on possible danger, such a statement is lamentable only by its crass stupidity. Not only that, it also displays a fundamental lack of knowledge of how most gays think, of how they wish to be integrated into society and not treated as outcasts or different.

Take two boys walking down the street holding hands. OK, I know not everyone wants to do this. But even so, one has always at the back of one’s mind the thought of reactions.

I am in the process of producing a detailed study on the “International Times” case, which I hope to present to “Gay News” when it has been completed and considered by a barrister.

Just one little quote relating to my comments re holding hands (which apply equally to kissing or any displays of affection) arising out of my researches into the I.T. case. In a House of Commons debate on 2nd August, 1972, on the subject of the I.T. prosecution, Mr William Hamling who had raised the matter, quoted (*) from the book by Lord Devlin ‘The Enforcement of Morals’ as follows:-

“If. . . two men were to be similarly charged with flaunting their relationship in public, a jury might be expected … to convict.”

I can only conclude by saying that, according to legal advice which I have very recently received, the above quotation still applies today, here and now, 1967 Act notwithstanding.

Let us try to do something to alter this unhealthy state of affairs.

Love to all – gay IS good,

Stevie Williams

(*) Hansard (Commons) Vol. 842: No 170, at c. 922

Pederasty

It is accepted now in educated circles that the right to enjoy sex is a basic human liberty, not to be denied for example to homosexuals. Your paper again draws attention to the viciousness of the law in Scotland and Northern Ireland (fortunately rarely enforced) and to the remaining archaic restrictions on homosexual activity in all the United Kingdom.

May I mention the position of pederasts, people who seem to have been overlooked in the past?

Pederasts, who are attracted to boys aged from say 15 to 19, are little more attracted to men than they are to women, if at all. Sexual activity with boys is totally illegal, although they frequently have more experience than quieter men ten years older. Pederasts must be reconciled, on leaving their 20’s to paying heavily for their sexual satisfaction for the rest of their lives, something not easy for those on incomes of less than £2,000 p.a.

They have to face the neo-Puritan hostility to prostitution of GLF; and they cannot find sexual partners in CHE, all members of which have to be over 21.

They cannot advertise in your columns. The 1967 Act has increased the penalties they are liable to suffer. In effect, they have to choose between sexual starvation, furtive crime or exile abroad.

It may not be possible to offer paedophiles anything other than prison, electric ‘cures’ or prep-school teaching sublimation.

There is no reason why the fate of the pederast should be the same. Reform of the law, concerning pederasty must be one of the major priorities of the homophile movement.


ED. This is, we believe, the first time that pederasty has been written about in Gay News.

Perhaps it is time then that this paper ran some information on pederasts, paedophiles and their present plight. The gay world is made up of many different preferences, all of which have a right to understanding and tolerance.

It is up to you to send us information and articles on these subjects.

Not a Member

An Open Letter to all Gay Organisations

It’s depressing to have to be continually critical of the gay organisations; they are all much needed and have their work cut out for them attempting to procure changes in existing legislation and in society’s attitudes towards homosexuality. But it is important that these organisations co-operate with each other, and more importantly, that they are tolerant, amiable and useful to the very people whom they are trying to get the necessary changes for.

So it seems to us here at Gay News that it is unnecessarily silly and bureaucratic when we hear that when a person rang up the Manchester office of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality to enquire about where gay rendezvous are in Norwich, that he should be rudely refused this information. He was told that because he was not a member of CHE that such details could not be given to him despite the fact that the person involved did not know Norwich at all and that he would probably have to spend his time there completely on his own. Or resort to cottaging, the only other means available to him if he did not know anywhere else to go to meet gay company.

CHE is very much against cottaging. Surely to refuse information about pubs and clubs is encouraging it. London GLF too, in the past, has refused such information to people on their own in a strange city or to visitors to this country. Enquirers have received comments like all pubs etc. are ghettoes and that it is reactionary to patronise them. Such dogmatism surely hasn’t been influential in gaining them more understanding and support.


Gay News hopes that we will not have to be critical in this way again. It is bad enough that so many gay men and women are isolated and lonely. Before any other changes come about this is the most significant problem to concentrate on, and work out effective ways of removing it forever.

Don ’t you think CHE, that a good beginning to changing the present lot of so many gays would be to start treating others with a little more respect, helpfulness and friendliness?

Cottaging

Reprinted, with thanks, from Gay Arrow, Reading Gay Alliance’s Newssheet.

Bernard Greaves of Gay Cambridge made something of a name for himself when he took on both the police and the town council in the local paper, exposing their dubious attempts to catch homosexuals ‘at it’ in the cottages (public conveniences).

Since his campaign, council workers have filled in police spy holes.

The incident has given Bernard a greater understanding of ‘cottaging’ as a phenomenon. Now he writes controversially on his findings in a special article for Gay Arrow.

Police harrassment and entrapment of homosexuals in public lavatories appears to be getting more frequent. Or it may be that as the gay community becomes more organised through bodies such as CHE and GLF, and as communications improve, we are merely becoming more aware of it.

When I encountered this kind of police activity in Cambridge about eighteen months ago I was so outraged by the blatant intrusion into the privacy of people, all people not just gay people, using the toilets that I felt compelled to expose the methods of the police, and bring their activities in this field to an end.

It was only later, particularly when I began to be accused of “defending cottaging” that I began to appreciate some of the more general issues raised.

People cottage for a variety of different reasons. The most obvious is that it is the only means they have of meeting other men for sex. So long as homosexuals are oppressed by society and remain hidden this will continue. It is also anonymous and therefore, in spite of the risks, is regarded as safe. Unlike a gay club or bar there is always a perfectly legitimate excuse for one’s presence to satisfy acquaintances met by chance. Some men travel 30 or more miles by car to cottage to increase their feeling of safety and in the hope that if they are arrested the case will not be reported in their local papers. These people are often utterly respectable with good jobs, wives and children. They have a lot to lose, and this seems to them the safest way of satisfying their homosexual desires.


Other Reasons

But there are other reasons for cottaging too. For some the risk, the dangers, and the semi-public setting enhance their sexual excitement. For some cottaging has become an engrained behaviour pattern in which the ritual behaviour routines and the stench of stale urine have by long association become a trigger to sexual arousal. Many of these people are regular cottagers turning up night after night and whose consequent knowledge of one another has led to the development of a friendly social atmosphere.

No Commitment

In sexual terms these variations have one thing in common. The encounters are casual, anonymous and involve no emotional commitment. It is sex without affection, and without the responsibilities of a lasting relationship. On these grounds it is often condemned, in my view quite wrongly. For it fulfills deep-seated needs that are not going to be eradicated by the emancipation of homosexuals. Cottaging is too complex to be dismissed with simplistic moral judgements.

It needs a deeper understanding as a phenomenon and a more humble sympathy with those who practice it. Whatever the homosexual’s role in society, it will not disappear. Some men will always find the sight of another’s penis arousing.

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.