He Wasn’t Kidding

19720914-07BOB STURGESS is a member of London CHE, and also attends many GLF meetings. He is a journalist, and apart from writing and speaking on homophile and allied subjects, Bob contributes articles on the theatre scene to various publications. Three of his own plays have been professionally produced (“In a modest way”) in London.

His interest in Councillor Kidd stems from the fiasco last August, 1971, when Kidd attacked homosexuals and got a lot of publicity as a result. This year, Kidd’s letter to GAY NEWS (Issue 5) prompted this interview, written when Bob was in Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival.

Anatomy of a closed mind
by Bob Sturgess
Edinburgh, September 3.

Pointing through the window of Edinburgh’s Festival Club to Calton Hill (a popular gay venue). Councillor Kidd of Edinburgh Corporation asked me point blank:

You know what I’d do to the homosexuals who pollute our lovely countryside with their presence?

No, I replied, although I had a pretty shrewd idea. He is an imaginative man.

I’d put the Edinburgh Corporation’s police dogs on half rations for a week — make them right vicious — and then you know what I’d do?

No? Gourmet-like, he was savouring the thought with his tongue.

I’d set them loose and let them sink their fangs into all those nancy boys up there; make right mincemeat out of them they would.

He sat back to enjoy the effect of his words but, seeing no reaction on my face, added for good measure:

I said as much in the Council chamber. You can quote me.

I will. Outwardly a kindly man. Councillor Kidd had agreed, at some personal inconvenience, to meet me in person at the Festival Club.

I’m going away tomorrow, he had said over the phone. Must it be a personal interview?

It would be better, I answered.

It’s not a disease you know, it’s — filth.

Would six o’clock be convenient?

Very guid!

How will I recognise you?

I’ll be carrying a stick.

It was with some trepidation that I had entered the Club on the dot of six, to avoid at least gratuitous retribution, and it was a relief to see that, having hurt his leg in a fall, the Councillor was using his stick supportively, not offensively. We sat down in the bar. At the adjoining table sat a brace of purse-lipped Glaswegian parents with their pre-pubescent daughter, who was evincing an unhealthy interest in our conversation, for the Councillor was not of a mind to pull his verbal punches.

Born like it? You think some might be born like it? No, no. It’s a weakness in their bloody minds; they’re easily led – to filth.

You think they all choose to be that way?

I don’t think it, I know it.

The learned Councillor took an ostentatious sip of his ginger beer:

They’re like all those alcoholics and drug addicts who never do an honest day’s work in their lives — they contribute nothing to the life of the Nation.

Do you think journalists contribute anything to the life of the nation?

Most definitely.

Not all journalists are heterosexuals.

His rheumy eyes looked engagingly incredulous.

Really? I didna know that. That surprises me.

He said this very gently, naively, with such child-like simplicity that one could not doubt his sincerity.

They should all be bloody well burnt. Hitler may have had his faults, but you can say this for him — he knew how to deal with those — Arabs.

I thought Goering was a roaring homosexual.

GOERING WAS A ROARING WHAT?

Councillor Kidds’ hearing was anything but acute, and our high-decibel conversation had widened Glasgow’s eyeballs to the size of farmhouse saucers.

A ROARING HOMOSEXUAL.

The little girl gave a frisson of excitement.

Really? That surprises me.

Are you against adult homosexuals engaging in private sex?

Most definitely.

On the assumption that most male and female homosexuals are not that way from choice, wouldn’t you in effect be condemning them to lifelong abstinence?

Most certainly I would. And if they must have sexual outlet, they can always get it for five shillings from a woman of the streets.

But we’re assuming that, being homosexual, they wouldn’t want to go with the opposite sex.

It’s what I said; they’re weak-minded.

Many male homosexuals and lesbians are isolated and unhappy —

They canna be unhappy enough if that’s the life they lead.

— so would you at least allow them social contact with each other?

Most certainly not. It spreads, you see. We have to stop it spreading to the schools — we have to protect our children.

But don’t you think that enlightened sex education would alleviate many people’s unhappines in later life?

We have millions and millions of guid youth. We must protect them from filth.

Scotland’s Mary Whitehouse cast an avuncular eye around the thickly-carpeted room and thought of past battles.

I’ve done a lot to clean up Edinburgh. Everyone knows my views.

I’m sure they do.

If I was running this club, I wouldn’t allow them in; they flock in here in droves, you know, at Festival times. In droves. You can tell them a mile away, stinking with dirty cheap scent — the dirty brutes.

Would you set up a sex-testing panel at the door?

A young waitress caught the Councillor’s roaming eye.

They’d be far better off falling in love with these pretty girl waitresses —

I’m sure it’s what many gay sisters would love to do, but how could they if you didn’t let them in?

… the first step to a guid clean Christian life.

Are you a Christian?

Yes.

Do you detect any contradiction between your religion and your attitude to people?

I dunna take your meaning.

How, for instance, do you think Christ would have treated homosexuals?

Were there any in those days?

It’s a safe presumption.

But I’m talking about today; our country’s going downhill fast.

Wouldn’t Christ have …

I’d put them to real hard work on the roads. Or in the Army. To make men of them. National Service will come back when we’re in the Common Market. I’d put them to marching all day. In my six years in the army I never once came across a homosexual. You’re too tired for sex in the barrack room. You just want to get into bed.

Many homosexuals did a lot of marching in the last war, but it didn’t make them heterosexuals. They simply came back tired homosexuals.

I’d give them a pill and clear them out o’ the road.

Is that what Christ would have done?

They didn’t have a pill in those days.

Don’t you think Christ would have dealt with homosexuals as he dealt with other human beings — with charity and compassion?

I can’t answer that one.

Councillor Kidd, you occupy a responsible public position —

Aye, I’m a family man, and I’ve been 25 years in public service.

Has you aim been to bring happiness to people?

Aye. The great thing about serving in local government is that you learn to give, not take.

Really? Do you have Parliamentary aspirations?

Aye, if God spares me. I’d like to be an MP. The trouble is, every party is agin me. I speak too straight for them. But many people do share my views. I got into local government with the largest majority (3,500) in Scotland for any party.

As a senior public figure do you feel you should be as informed as possible about the subjects on which you pronounce?

It depends.

I see Montgomery Hyde’s ‘The Other Love’ has just been reprinted. It presents a factual survey of (mainly male) homosexuality in Britain and is helping towards greater understanding –

I would never read such rubbish. I wouldn’t I allow the book in my house.

Is it just possible that your views on this subject might be wrong?

Councillor Kidd entered into a thoughtful pause, as if examining a new proposition.

My opinion is not wrong — it’s the opinion of millions.

One gathers that “it was the opinion of millions” that Britain should not rearm against Germany in the late thirties – and that opinion proved almost catastrophically wrong.

That’s as may be. I was surprised, I must confess, that the Churches supported the 1967 Act.

Might they not have been convinced by all the evidence?

What evidence?

The sort of evidence you label as ‘rubbish’.

The room was filling up pleasantly with yoooth and Councillor Kidd had finished his ginger beer. Although Glasgow had left, there were more farm saucers around us than ever, and it was getting time to meet friends and go out on the Fringe. We got up by mutual consent and the mild-mannered Councillor vouchsafed me one last confidence: I’m writing my autobiography, he said, lowering his voice. The things I have to tell — you wouldn’t credit it.

I wouldna, I said.

There, he murmured. I’ve given you plenty of ammunition.

To be directed against whom? I asked.

We shook hands.

If I get into Parliament, I’ll bloody well trounce the London Homosexuals as well.

You could tell he wasn’t Kidding.

‘Since Time Immemorial’

04-197208XX 09The Other Love, by H. Montgomery Hyde.
An Historical and Contemporary Survey of Homosexuality in Britain. First Published 1970 — Republished in Mayflower Paperback 1972. Price 75p.

When talking about the trials of Oscar Wilde at the time, many people said how fortunate the country was to have been purged of the horrible corruption that had been going on for so long. What they failed to realise was that it had been going on since time immemorial and that it was universal and not a product of the country or the time. Many people still think that trial to have been a product of Victorian prejudice and hypocrisy and people talking about it today often say that it would never happen again. It can. It does and Harford Montgomery Hyde in his splendid book on the subject of Homosexuality tells how and why.

With such a difficult subject to approach without prejudice, it is refreshing to find a writer who simply presents us with the facts and leaves us to draw our own conclusions. On the other hand it is perfectly obvious that he has a.very strong bias towards a more tolerant society, who do not prejudice people because of their sexual inclinations. The history of Homosexuality is dealt with in detail and is mainly recorded in the trials that have punctuated our history- It rarely concerns women as they seldom seem to fall foul of the laws dealing with anal penetration or sexual acts with animals – these acts covered by the blanket legal term of buggery. These trials are set out in the sections dealing with the historical survey, but are of more interest to the historian. The more relevant parts are those describing the ‘contemporary scene.’

Mr. Montgomery Hyde relates in a matter-of-fact way, defines his terms and clears misconceptions. There he covers all ground, from the idea that this century has seen a massive increase in homosexual activity, to its ‘treatment’ as a curable disease, and the ‘homosexual professions.’

“Another widely held but erroneous belief that homosexuality is peculiar to members of particular professions and trades such as actors, boxers, interior decorators, sailors waiters. Turkish bath attendants and musicians …..”

The law and its contemporary attitude is portrayed as being particularly hypocritical – the punishment by prison for any ‘sexual offence’ is ludicrous. Montgomery Hyde shows that, far from acting as a deterrent, it actually encourages homosexual behaviour, many judges being oblivious to the fact. The first-hand reports in the opening and latter chapters give a great insight into the law’s two-faced attitude, with their wholly believable details about ‘bent’ coppers and prison ‘screws’. One of the most amusing incidents on this topic tells of the ‘Hammersmith’ queen, who, robbed by a guardsman of her fur coat, flew out in a rage and found a policeman, who quickly recovered the conspicuous garment and went to bed with the grateful owner himself.’ On discrimination, the author says that the social structure pressurises the single man into thinking in terms of marriage.

“A batchelor is liable to be regarded as eccentric and unstable, or even unfit for posts of responsibility.”

But as Montgomery Hyde says later;

“Of course, there are bachelors of unblemished character in public life, such as Edward Heath, the British Conservative Party leader, and J. Edgar Hoover, the late Director of the U S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, but they are the exception and certainly in Heath’s case the lack of a wife has been in some ways a handicap.”

This book is informative, readable and a must for anyone who is gay and has bewildered parents who want to know more. The first and last chapters arc strongly recommendeded. This survey covers all aspects of homosexuality from legal reform, drag queens and small Ads. in International Times to continental social clubs, which have made some headway in social enlightenment.

A book as good as this will help dispel a great deal of fear and prejudice and will help towards greater tolerance and understanding making. I hope, for a happier society.