Letters Continued

Bristling Inaccuracies

9 Moray Place, Edinburgh 3
Dear Gay News,

I never thought I’d find myself springing to the defence of Sir Michael Swann, but your news item in GN14 bristled with so many inaccuracies that the record must be set straight.

  1. The reference to his brush with Scottish International omitted the essential point, which is that he’d got hold of the wrong end of the stick. He thought that the story about a warden at another Scottish university was a bizarrely distorted version of something that had happened at Edinburgh.
  2. The teach-in on Homosexuality on March 8th is not being organised by the Scottish Minorities Group, but by a specially formed committee of staff and students (more non-gays than gays) from Edinburgh University and Heriot-Watt University — containing, by the way, not one professor, but two.
  3. Sir Michael did not write letters complaining about the abusive letters he’d received, though he did ask the Deputy Secretary to the University to tell me that the Teach-In could not be described without Senatus approval as an official University event, as the Glasgow Herald (for reasons best known to itself) had labelled it.
  4. To say that ‘he has taken steps to make sure that no university funds are spent on the teach-in by telling university committees that they may not regard the teach-in as official’ is almost libellous. Our Committee has no evidence that this has happened.
  5. In short. Sir Michael is not ‘on record’ as being anti-gay. It would be quite untypical of him to take any such positive stand. I have recently heard that in reply to at least one of the ‘abusive letters’ he started off by reassuring the writer that the Teach-In was not an official event and ended by saying that the University believed in encouraging free discussion. This hedging of his bets strikes me as far more characteristic of the political animal that he is.

I am not happy about the attitude of the University committees we have approached for help; their reasons for rejecting our applications strike me as specious and unconvincing. But individual prejudice, conscious or subconscious, could well be a sufficient explanation. Making wild and unprovable accusations of behind-the-scenes rigging is just playing into the enemy’s hands. In the long battle for gay rights we have to learn to be cunning as well as courageous.

Michael Coulson

Back In Business

Gay Arrow,
Reading Gay Alliance,
Room 7, 30 London Road,
Reading.
Dear Gay News,

We would like to clarify a point in your article “Angry Silence Hits RGA” (Gay News 14). It ended with the suggestion that complaints from a member of the public may gave made the landlord “forget” to renew his music and dance licence at the Tavern.

This is not true. The complaint to the brewers regarding the press advertisement came after the lapse of the licence. The landlord has done his best to ensure that our meetings go ahead without problems, and was very apologetic at the loss of the licence. He continued to let RGA use the club-room free of charge for the period without extensions or dancing, when attendances were very low and his revenue negligible.

The help he has given RGA since social functions started last June has been the most that could be expected from any licensee in business for gain, and in no other way associated with the aims of our organisation. This contrasts with the attitude of his monopolist employer.

We are pleased to report that he has now regained his licences, and our socials and discos are back in business.

Dave Thompson, Goff Sargent,
Editors of Gay Arrow

Not So Lucky

Albany Trust,
32 Shaftesbury Avenue,
London W1V 8EP.
Dear GN,

Your editorial spiel on money and the gay movement was dead on — except for your belief that “the Albany Trust is lucky enough to have a charitable trust supporting it just now.” I wish this was true, but it’s not. Last year we did receive just under £3,000 from the Gulbenkian Foundation.

But that was a once-only, emergency grant aimed at helping us keep our heads above water to the end of 1972 so that we could continue with the vital job of co-ordinating counselling and befriending activities for the homophile movement. The money has all been spent now, and the grant was necessitated because our 1972 income had dropped to half of what it used to be.

Now, at the beginning of 1973, the Albany Trust is once again faced with the prospect of being out of business within a few months unless adequate support is forthcoming. Our autumn appeal – designed to put us “in the black” for this year as a first step – was a failure. Yet we are not only “carrying” all NFHO’s administrative expenses but have also been contributing to those of CHE and other homophile groups. This can’t go on unless the gay world shows positive signs of wanting it to.

To expect more work to be done by gay organisations when they haven’t enough cash in hand to keep going at present levels is futile. There’s no question of “chicken or egg?” here. Given the cash, we will do the job. But time is short – for the Albany Trust and for NFHO, as well as for Gay News.

Antony Grey, Managing Trustee

Editorial

There’s an awful lot of fat queens sitting around on their butts spending all their money on themselves, and not on the gay movement – that’s the opinion of one of the top men in Britain’s homophile organisations.

He reckons there’s £7¾ million being earned each year by members of societies that belong to the National Federation of Homophile Organisations.

This estimate and the accusation that rich gays spend their cash on themselves only came at the annual meeting of the NFHO, held last month.

What caused the plain talking, after the first half of idealism, hopes and plans, was the fact that Gay News is — in plain English – broke. Flat broke, or, at least, it was at the time.

Immediate Donation

The NFHO asked Gay News to tell the meeting what it was like running a fortnightly homosexual newspaper. And we told them. After that people’s reservations about talking money crumbled. The NFHO gave Gay News an immediate donation of £50 from its all too small funds.

Antony Grey, the managing trustee of the Albany Trust, said an appeal which, ten years ago, would have raised £3,000 to £4,000, now raised £300 to £400 if they were lucky.

Why is money drying up? Are there less gays? Of course there aren’t.

Poverty Parade

It would seem that ten years ago, before the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, even the rich gays were prepared to write a cheque now and then to keep the few organisations then brave enough to exist to claim our civil rights as gays.

Now they have been given half of what we want — we are half-legal, we half-exist— and it seems they can’t be bothered to keep supporting those who are doing the fighting on their behalf.

It’s not just Gay News that finds money hard to get, the Gay Liberation Front parade its poverty in its regular newsletter. CHE needs money. Friend is young and poor

The Albany Trust is lucky enough to have a charitable trust supporting it just now, the NFHO – which could link up the disparate efforts towards gay liberation, given a chance — is starved of funds.

Selfish Gays

As the senior man from the organisation that belongs to the NFHO said, it’s time these gays stopped being complacent and started doing something to benefit the rest of the gay community — if it exists at all, rather than selfishly spending all those £7¾ million on themselves each year.

The editorial collective decided some time ago that we weren’t going to deal with internal matters in the editorial column (that’s what “Here We Are Again” is for).

But the present money shortage in the laughably constructed “gay world” has hit all gay organisations and publications. Therefore we feel that the matter is more important than being merely a domestic shortage.

Independent and Determined

The fact that this copy of Gay News has been printed is proof of what we intend to do. We’ll keep on keeping on. Keeping on at the authorities who have only given us half a life and keeping on at those selfish gays who can’t be bothered to support their organisations.

The fact that we have received donations and loans from various quarters — more details elsewhere – does not mean that we are going to start toeing anyone else’s line.

From now on Gay News is Gay News. And it’s here to stay.

Shoe-Strings can Strangle

We started without enough money to get past issue three. This is Gay News 14. Through cost-paring and seemingly never-ending days of work, this paper runs on a shoe-string. But a shoe-string isn’t good enough.

How many gays have to get by on £15 a week? Because each member of the collective never receives more than that. Gay News is here now. But it still needs money. £500 immediately. With another £1,500 to follow to guarantee our existence for 1973.

It’s not the only gay organisation to need money. We all do. Just to stay in existence — for some of us.

Big Mouths

People are generous enough with their praise, the sound they ought to produce if they think the gay organisations are doing any good is the sound of pens on cheque books.

1973: MAKE OR BREAK YEAR

When the National Federation of Homophile Organisations held its first annual general meeting on 9 December, one fact stood out very clearly: that unless the homophile movement speedily gets much more realistic about relating resources to objectives — and in particular about money — it might as well pack up shop in 1973.

The present situation is only too lamentably plain. Too many self-consciously overlapping groups are trying to do far too much with far too little. Unless this unreasonable competitiveness stops, and a greater willingness to pool scarce assets and work together for the common good emerges, we shall all get nowhere fast.

Much of the homophile movement, to my mind, is far too reminiscent of those children’s games of wish-think, where the more grandiose and fantastic your dreams of self-importance are and the more euphoric you become the more it is all a case of “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

Want a great big gay social club? An instant nationwide legal aid and counselling service? More law reforms? Bigger and better issues of ‘Gay News’ and other gay mags? Of course.

So you join CHE, GLF, Sappho, SMG, Challenge or one of the other homophile groups, and feel jolly virtuous and recklessly generous if you give them even a nominal quid above their slender subscription rate.

And then you grumble when the great big club and the bigger, better newspaper don’t materialise. Come off it. A collection of paupers in a workhouse planning to gut and refurnish Buckingham Palace would be as sensible.

But most gay people aren’t paupers. On the (not excessive) assumption that a high proportion of them earn average incomes of at least £1000 a year, the 18 member organisations of NFHO represent individuals worth £5 million. And if one considers that there are probably between 4 and 5 million British gays (and bis), the whole gay community – charitably assuming that there is such a thing – commands a formidable spending power. It would certainly seem so when one surveys the cash changing hands over the bars and counters of their favoured pubs and clubs every weekend!

So why is the homophile movement in danger of fading out for lack of cash? Maybe it’s because not enough people know the facts. Here are some of them.

To start with what you’re reading, ‘Gay News’ own economic problems are compounded by the refusal of the big monopolistic distributors to handle our only community paper – although despite this it has built up a circulation of several thousands in thirteen issues: a most creditable achievement. £1000 at least is urgently needed NOW to ensure ‘Gay News’s’ survival through 1973. Practical suggestion to everyone who reads this article: put £1 in an envelope and post it to ‘Gay News’ immediately!

No single homophile group is looking forward to a 1973 budgeting surplus on present membership levels and current subscription rates, and most have only enough cash in hand to look ahead on a month-by-month basis. This makes long-term development planning virtually impossible, and the sheer nitty-gritty of keeping the organisation going is a chronic worry for those responsible. (I know – I’ve talked to most of them).

The need tor centralised information services to deal with the ceaseless flow of personal enquiries and requests for help reaching all gay organisations and publications cannot be met without the necessary money to set it up and maintain it. NFHO and the Albany Trust have agreed in principle to do this – but the funds must first be found.

The Albany Trust, whose staff currently consists of myself, one secretary and a clerical assistant who gets only out-of-pocket expenses, is short of £5000 a year to ensure its survival even on this slender basis. Its recent appeal for new Deeds of Covenant has so far brought in only £300 instead of the £4000 £5000 hoped for, and we cannot go on living on “windfalls” in the shape of legacies for much longer. Unless more support is forthcoming from the gay world pretty quickly, the Trust – which was responsible for most of the positive work done for gay people between 1960 and 1970, and still has many valuable contacts in the political and social-work worlds – could have to close down during 1973. That would mean that NFHO’s plans for collective counselling and information services, and the Sexual Law Reform Society’s work on further law reform, will all be jeopardised.

As Chairman of NFHO, I have told all the member organisations that this movement is at a critical point where it must either go sharply uphill in terms of committed support and finance, or it will go down the drain. If the gay community of this country really wanted to, it would raise £50,000 a year for its own organisations and services with little difficulty. It all boils i down to this: do most gay people want a vigorous and effective homophile movement, and are they willing to support organisations and publications which work actively on their behalf – or are they contented with the present situation of lamentable public ignorance about, and discrimination against, homosexuality?

If the latter is the case, an increasing number of people will begin to wonder whether the gay minority is a minority worth working and fighting for. I hope it is, because I have spent the last ten years of my life doing just that.

Some Of My Best Friends Are Doctors

LONDON: Even the sub-dean of Guy’s Hospital Medical School learned a little about the gay world at the London Medical Group symposium on Society’s Responsibility to the Homosexual, which was addressed by a Cambridge criminologist; Antony Grey — “Britain’s number one homosexual” — of the Albany Trust; and a Roman Catholic priest who has written a book on advising gays.

Professor J. R. Trounce was the symposium’s chairman and he told the meeting: “This is something that I, for one, know very little about.”

He then heard the cold medical facts from Dr D. J. West, of the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology, who said: “It is not identical to have sexual relations with a member of the same sex and to have a preference to have sex with the same sex.

“In recent years it has become possible to measure the response that homosexuals have for other men. Most recently the penis measurement machine has made it possible to be accurate in this form of response measurement.

“It is fairly sure now that the only people who can be ‘cured’ of homosexuality are those who would like to have sex with the other sex. In fact, the rate of success of clinicians turning homosexuals into heterosexuals is very small.

“I think this is because of the widespread nature with which this condition occurs – that is what causes it. The fact that it is so common leads one to doubt how it can be purely pathological.

“By and large, no survey of both male and female homosexuals has been carried out in this country.

“Until recently we were told that male and female hormones were present in the male homosexual. The general feeling now is that homosexuality is decided by endocryne levels. The level of andronogens will alter the strength of the sexual drive of the individual.

“Most homosexuals see themselves as males or females. In many cases there is a very strong attachment to mother and a disturbed relationship with father.

“In the case of transexuals, the feelings for mother and against father could almost be called psychotic.”

Mr Antony Grey, managing trustee of the Albany Trust said he had once been introduced as Britain’s number one homosexual. He said: “The problem about homosexuality is really ignorance.

“It is a disgrace that sex education and even professional training for doctors ignores sexual deviation.

“The law is very discriminatory against homosexuals. The police have more interest in harassing homosexuals rather than investigating heterosexual offences.

“The stigma applied to someone who declares himself to be a homosexual is immense. Society’s responsibility to the homosexual is the same as society’s responsibility to anyone: that is to let them exist in society as people without any restraint being put upon them.

The Rev Michael Holings, author of the book ‘Counselling the Homosexual’ gave a Christian view of homosexuality. He pointed out that: “When I wrote my booklet, I knew that to the majority of the Roman Catholic Church homosexuality meant just one phrase ‘mortal sin’. But if you are a human being you have to recognise that human beings are different.”

After the speeches the audience, mainly medical students, was allowed to ask the speakers questions. All of them came from gays. The medical students stayed silent – perhaps they did not want to learn.

Laurence Collinson, author of the banned book ‘Cupid’s Crescent’ said: “Dr West raised the subject of transexuality, which is very different from homosexuality, but that is not the impression he gave.”

Paper Turns Down Ad

LONDON: The Jewish Homosexual Liaison Group, the new organisation for Jewish homosexuals in Britain, is being stifled by the Jewish community’s own newspaper.

The Jewish Chronicle, which is the newspaper for Britain’s 450,000 Jewish people refuse to accept any advertisements for the group’s first national think-in which contain the words “gay” or “homosexual”.

Simon Benson, who’s getting the group going told Gay News: “The editor’s secretary said it was a family newspaper and the words would offend certain people.”

The think-in is on Sunday, November 19 between 2pm and 10pm at the West Central Jewish Club, Hand Court, High Holborn.

Speakers will be Dr Alan Unterman, student chaplain to Manchester University, Francis Treuherz, social worker with the Jewish Welfare Board and Antony Grey, managing trustee of the Albany Trust.

Criminals, Queers, Etc.

19721001-04LONDON: The London Medical Group, a Christian-Medical group is running an open debate on Society’s Responsibility to the Homosexual on October 17. And among the speakers will be a high-ranking criminal psychiatrist.

The meeting’s chairman will be Dr Trounce, the sub-dean of Guy’s Hospital Medical School, who is a physician, Mr T. J. West, MD, DPM, of the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology, Mr Michael Hollings, author of Counselling the Homosexual, and Anthony Grey, of the Albany Trust.

The meeting will be open to the public at 5.45 at Guy’s Hospital Medical School.

Your Letters

ALL LETTERS RECEIVED BY GAY NEWS ARE LIABLE TO BE PUBLISHED UNLESS YOU STATE OTHERWISE.

04-197208XX 02Epsom,
Surrey

Dear Gay News,

Thanks for the first two issues of G.N., they were more professional-looking than I expected. Inevitably as a ‘straight gay type’ I find the extensive coverage given to the Rad. Femmes rather tedious but I daresay I’m in a minority there anyway.

I’m enclosing a cheque to help things along, hope plenty of other people are doing the same! Looking forward to bigger and better issues – keep it up (I meant the paper).

A.F.T…


Leeds Gay Liberation Front,
Liberation office,
153 Woodhouse Lane,
Leeds. Tel. 39071

Dear Gay News,

May we comment on the various articles concerning the Rad. Femme faction in London GLF? There are things happening in the Capital which give us cause for great concern. Most of all we are extremely worried at the prospect of GLF (or even our GLF group) being ‘captured’ by any faction whatsoever. GLF is a movement not an organisation – an organic entity rather than a closed structure with a unified ideology. In our present state of affairs that is, to say the least, a point of some tactical worth. We are aware that within one movement there are various political viewpoints — Liberal, Marxist, Radical, Feminist, Situationist – being expressed. We welcome this. We believe that a consideration of all our revolutionary theories and the establishment of a dialogue between the various points of view is of great service to our growth as people and as a movement. All this demands that we guard against a takeover (either practical or ideological) by any faction within the movement. If the London Rad. Femmes are attempting such a takeover they can be assured of our undying opposition.

We might add that the behaviour displayed to the sisters working on ‘Spare Rib’ shows a monstrous lack of solidarity. Surely we should not publicly criticise actions in other areas of struggle? Surely this sort of thing tends to suggest that the various people’s struggles are not linked to each other, when what we ought to be suggesting is that they are?

We are hoping that the alarms are exaggerated. If they are not we shall fight every attempt to wreck the gay movement, whoever it be made by.

Power to the People
Leeds GLF XXX


The Albany Trust,
32 Shaftesbury Avenue,
London W1V 8EP.

Dear Friends,

Thanks for asking me to tell you what I thought of your first two issues. It’s nice to be billed as a “Special Friend”, and I hope I’ll go on being that even if I’m a candid one as well! So here goes.

Well, I think your “egg” symbol just about sums it up – as the curate said, good in parts. Mostly very good. It looks good, feels good (full marks to your choice of paper, type and layout design) and a lot of it reads good; though I agree with your correspondent who pleads for a more wideawake proof-reader. You’ve elevated gay journalism head and shoulders above your oh-so-trivial predecessors and have given us, for the first time, a sincere, serious minded yet lively and entertaining newspaper by gay people.

I nearly added “for gay people”, but stopped short, saying to myself; “I hope not”. At least, I hope not just for gay people. For if Gay News is to fulfil its most sorely needed function, it will not only tell us more about ourselves but (and more importantly for the betterment of things) also really increase understanding of us in the non-gay world. What this movement needs most of all – and most urgently in Britain — is improved communications; amongst ourselves, yes, but primarily the initiation of a meaningful dialogue with the wider community, too many of whom view us through the distorting mirrors of myth, stereotype, ignorance and prejudice.

That’s why I very much hope you’ll keep your powder dry and not squander talent, energy, strength and hard-won bread tilting prematurely at windmills. For instance, I believe it’s more vitally important, for the sake of many thousands of gay people who don’t even know yet that you exist, to consolidate Gay News and ensure its regular publication and wide circulation, than to get caught up in a fruitless hassle with the more antiquated elements of the British establishment over such relative trivia as small ads.

Not that I think the recent ludicrous IT judgment can be allowed to stand – indeed it must be strenuously fought, and will be – but I want you to be around providing battle reports, not clobbered into silence.

Your wise philosophy of not forgetting that we’re all. whether gay or straight, people confronted with many of the same rather lousy human predicaments in our living and loving, I like. Your concept of Gay News belonging to all its readers, and not just to its regular writers, I like too – creeping censorship is the occupational disease of even the most conscientiously fair minded editors. Certainly I and, I hope, my friends and colleagues in Albany Trust, NFHO and elsewhere, will try to keep Gay News readers informed about what’s going on around our scenes. You’ve already shown quite a flair for lively reporting and trenchant comment. It’s clear that some of us won’t always be pleased at what we read, but where we disagree or feel mistranslated, I’m sure your columns will be impartially open to all coherent viewpoints.

Times change. Much of your VD article originally appeared a few years back as an Albany Trust pamphlet, and became a constant best seller. Yet an influential well-wisher criticised it as a great blunder because he thought it would spread the idea around that most homosexuals were promiscuous and probably disease-ridden. I said I hoped that any who were the former wouldn’t necessarily also be the latter, which was why the pamphlet was written. Thank goodness we can be more matter of fact now.

Two noticeable gaps. So far the world scene hasn’t featured except for the rather pointless piece about cottaging in Canada. Surely that’s not the most significant aspect of gay life there or anywhere else. It exists and needs reporting, I agree, but there’s so much else you haven’t yet touched upon which could have been featured first. Most of your readers won’t be aware at all of the existence of an influential homophile movement in North America and some European countries which has chalked up some really significant achievements in civil rights progress for gay people during the past 25 years. (The notion that campaigning for homophile recognition is something that didn’t exist until about a couple of years ago is just plain wrong.) Second, I hope there’ll be lots of discussion in Gay News, as time goes by, not only about what gay people are doing, but about what they could be doing but aren’t (such as treating one another with more consideration than is often the case; and not talking about “love” when they only mean “sex”).

That’s enough from me for now. Keep right on!

Love and peace,

Antony Grey.


GAYINTERNATIONAL,
Raamgracht 13,
Amsterdam Centrum,

Gay News,

A group of friends, living in Amsterdam, have formed a group called GAYINTERNATIONAL. We are working at presenting opportunities to gays in England to find contacts in Amsterdam – and the rest of the Continent, in fact — and vice versa. This is being done by sending a newsletter to those interested. We feel that Amsterdam is an ideal centre to operate from, because of the relaxed and informal attitude here, and, at the same time, circumventing the harassment and persecution that such an organisation will find, if it were based in England.

Through this service, Englishmen may in fact safely establish local contacts!

If any of your readers are interested in the group, they should write to us, including an International Reply Coupon for postage, and we will gladly send them information.

D. James.


Park Avenue,
George Street,
BIRMINGHAM B12 9RU

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I was interested to read the various articles about the Radical Feminists in GAY NEWS Number Two.

I knew nothing about the Spare Rib incident, and it’s good to have a newspaper which brings such events to our notice. But I’m a bit worried all the same that you may not be as much in danger of creating sectarian rifts as you say the Radical Feminists are.

Some of your criticisms are perfectly valid. The Radical Feminists – at least, those who presumably belong in some measure to this group and were at the Birmingham come-together – can be very aggressive in their manner, ready to put down disagreements or even nervous questionings in a manner that is male chauvinist. There certainly is a danger — a right-wing danger – in a pre-occupation with individual change which ignores the necessity of changing circumstances and of reaching out to oppressed sisters and brothers less well placed to explore and liberate themselves than all but a minority. In so far as the Radical Feminists think that everyone in GLF should do what they do, there is an element of the fascist freakiness that we all know so well — “do your own thing, so long as it’s my thing”.

But it does not help any to put down the Radical Feminists in precisely the terms that validate their anger. Your correspondent Simon Manson as well as featured writer Doug Pollard and rather more obliquely Denis Lemon all got at the Radical Feminists because they wore frocks, put on garish make-up and were generally a bit of a sight. That is precisely the language of male chauvinism that the Radical Feminists object to and are put down by. Of course the Radical Feminists don’t look ‘normal’; of course they are going to affront all those who cling to rigid definitions of the sex role with their appearance. It is very important indeed to see that this is an absolutely crucial aspect of gay politics. It is not a question of tolerating the Radical Feminists, but of realising two crucial things — one, that we must learn from them, their difficulties and, in fact, remarkable successes m thinking through and acting out what it means to overthrow sex roles; and two, we must see that the affront they are to straight society is a political action in which we are all implicated and from which in the last analysis we shall all benefit.

The GAY NEWS put-downs of the Radical Feminists are all the more inopportune in that the article by the Radical Feminists themselves (-and why call them a faction so glibly?) implies the degree to which they do put alternatives to violence and chauvinist aggression into their thinking, how they intend not to be drawn into situations where ‘male egos oppose each other’, how they are prepared to go deeper than the make-up and dresses that GAY NEWS so gleefully jibes at.

As I say, there are important arguments to be made about the Radical Feminists, about the role of individual liberation and radical action, about the way in which sex roles are to be broken down. But the arguments are not at the level of attacking the life style of the Radical Feminists from which we have a lot to learn and which is working for us in its impact on the political scene. The argument is more about the need to be generous towards those who have never come out. those who haunt the ghettoes. those who lead double lives, and the need to find ways of living with each other in a movement that is emotional sexual and political. Above all. we’ve still got to learn to love being gay. to love other gay people, and to think of ourselves as we gay people, not isolated individuals who happen to be gay.

Richard Dyer.


Nottingham Street,
London W1.

Dear All,

I have issue No. 2 in front of me — and frankly I’m rather sad.

I don’t quite see, for instance, the point of what I consider a rather revolting picture on the front of the newspaper. I am opened-minded, and am not in any way a ‘prude’, but I do feel that it was in rather bad taste.

In fact, to be quite honest, the whole newspaper spells ‘G.L.F.’ — an organisation that appears to have one great big chip on its shoulder. The Biograph Review, does it have to be written in such a school-boyish way? Or is it a school fourth-former that actually does write it?

I am all for a gay newspaper, as all gay people seem to be. But we do want one with a pretty high standard of journalism. Gay News is very young — and it will improve – at least I hope it will. This can’t be done without the help of others – that means us – so perhaps it you do print this, it will spur up some enthusiasm.

George Copeland.

Speak-not-so-Easy. Or how Jimmy Saville almost went Gay

01-197205XX 2We knew the programme was going to be about homosexuals again, but, like everyone else except Michael Butler of the Samaritans, who was, it seems, doing the inviting, we didn’t know when or where. I rang Rev. Roy Trevivian’s secretary, who made apologetic noises about the smallness of the room, and the ‘specially invited audience’, so I politely solicited such an invitation for four of us from the paper. She promised to check with the producer himself to are if there was room, and to phone us back the following day. Neither she nor anyone else at the B.B.C. had the courtesy to bother. The day after that I phoned again, only to get the same blurb from the same girl, but this time she added that they’d made up their audience list yesterday and we’d been left out as we weren’t really suitable, and she was terribly sorry. At no time was Roy Trevivian available in person, so we were told. They had come across us “in our researches”. So much for Gay News.

The next stage in the saga took place whilst we were having a collective meeting, and it came to light that one of the C.H.E. members of the collective had been invited to be part of that audience. He had first been telephoned and asked to keep Thursday evening free for “something rather secret”. Later that same week he had been phoned again and told it was another edition of Speakeasy on Homosexuality. Someone else had told him where and when it was to be recorded, but he was “officially” told, by phone, whilst we were sitting in our meeting on the very day it was to be recorded! It was becoming clear that only nice, safe, respectable homosexuals who would conform to the B.B.C.’s idea of the programme and of Gayness were going to get in. As to who decided the criteria for this we weren’t, and still aren’t, quite sure, but since the invitations we knew of had come from Rev. Michael Butler and all his angels, and since it also seemed that both he and the B.B.C. had assumed Gay News was a synonym for Gay Lib., he was the obvious man to contact.

The reasons for all the secrecy and exclusion about a programme supposedly concerned with free speech and letting the unedited words of ‘ordinary people’ out over the air waves was then made clear. I was told that every effort was being made to exclude GLF because the B.B.C. did not want them there, and had threatened to scrap the show if they did get on. I was told that GLF had “ruined” the last edition of Speakeasy on this subject, (all this meant was that one GLF member actually took 5 minutes to finish what he was saying, which the producer didn’t like anyway) forcing the B.B.C. to re-record part of the programme in order to cut out what they had said (!) and that in any case another organisation would be “represented in a roundabout way”. When asked if I was in GLF I replied that I was, but that I wished to be present on the programme as Gay News. The reply was to the effect that what was really wanted was people as people, not as organisations, (though on the programme itself it was clear that everyone there was from some organisation, and, like me, determined to plug it. That’s all very well. but without GLF or Gay News it would have been a depressingly one-sided picture). But Michael Butler did at last relent, bless his heart, and said it was O.K., I could come along, he was sorry to be so cagey about it, and I could bring one other person if I could “guarantee them”, whatever that meant. So the three of us who went from Gay News were placed in the unfortunate position of trying to make the distinction between GLF and Gay News clear, whilst all being members of both. Though GLF did come to know of when and when it was, no-one could be bothered to come although several apparently promised to, largely because no-one at the B.B.C. bothered to correct their impression that it was being recorded, as it usually is, on Friday, when it was,i n fact, done on Thursday.

So, who an we to believe in this welter of secrecy and intrigue from the public broadcasting body and its ‘friends’? Roy Trevivian, along with his secretary, his researcher, and Jimmy Saville, who all, when asked, spread their thin little story about limited space (and why not in the Paris Studio on Friday? Oh, because Jimmy’s going away on Friday. So why not do it another week?) and invited audience amongst whom there was ample space for twenty more at least; or are we to believe the man they seem to have put in charge of the inviting? The whole setup was an open invitation to GLF to disrupt, and they would have been more than justified in doing so. And who told them Gay News was GLF? Why didn’t they bother to do their research properly? Who else did they miss out, and why?

It seemed very ironic to be asked in the course of the programme if we felt that gay people got a fair deal from the media. The point is that we very largely get no deal whatsoever, unless it is either patronising, derogatory, or just plain ignorant, and this bunch, apart from taking comfort from the unctuous phrases of the Albany Trust and the Samaritans, went all three. Their hypocrisy as regards their public image of the programme is self evident. Like most other broadcasts, the people they invite are not there to show how they feel to the general public, and thus present the truth, but to conform to what the producer wants them to look and sound like so as to enhance what he is going to say. Why else is almost everything on radio or television pre-recorded – to render it safe. So why do they wish to exclude the most open and vocal sections of the gay community from the media, when they open to the gay community at all? Because they are not going to be manipulated, as gay people always are, to suit somebody else’s concept of us, and thus be party to even the most liberal and well-meaning lie, such as Speakeasy is.

“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