Editorial

It’s an undisputable fact that the loneliest people are those who belong to minority groups — blacks in a predominantly white area, old people in a predominantly young community or gays in a predominantly “straight” society.

It’s equally true that the isolation that makes members of minority groups feel lonely – often to the point of suicide, in the extremest of cases – is made even more telling at times of general festivities and group happiness happenings, from which they feel excluded.

Christmas is just such a time. It’s a time when the conventional image of Christmas means that families close their doors and, with few exceptions, friends are forgotten temporarily. It’s a time when all of us in minority groups are going to feel left out. Possibly because we haven’t got a wife and two kids to rush back to, possibly because we haven’t got the skin colour that’s part of the commercial image of Christmas.

White Christmas

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Christmas, and this isn’t yet another piece attacking the increasing commercialism of the festival – or its increasing religious importance – because it was, after all, a pagan festival before Christianity was ever thought about.

The image the festival enjoys as purveyed by the media in both editorial and advertising space has become a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Christmas for the family unit with income big enough to buy the trappings.

It leaves out gays, blacks, the old and the unemployed. The over-cheerful, satiated Christmas projected by all the media is one that, by definition, cuts out minorities. It makes the minorities feel their minority-ness even more sharply than ever. It makes some desperately lonely.

We hope that you won’t feel lonely and we’d ask you to do one thing. Christmas could be a time for gays to show what a minority can do. What gays should do this Christmas is to try and spread a little happiness to our brothers and sisters not just in the gay world, but in all minority groups.

Don’t be self-conscious. Spread a little love.

The Ersatz Image

At the risk of sounding like a sermon, it’s worth looking at what the family fireside Christmas in the semi-detached that’s still heavily mortgaged is really about. This media image of Christmas is a mistaken ersatz impression of love.

Love is what the office parties are aping. There are four cardinal virtues: Faith, Hope, Charity and Love. And the greatest of these is Love.

It’s love that all the minorities will be feeling the lack of at Christmas. So in practical terms you can spread a little love by taking that old lady who lives in your block to the cinema, or perhaps the pub. You can invite people in for a meal or even to watch television.

New Weapon For Gays

Gays are used to being a minority. This Christmas is an excellent opportunity for us to spread a little love, a little happiness to reach out and make someone else’s Christmas special.

We are the best-equipped, through our experience as a minority group, to take practical action without self-interest and really communicate with others. Not just gays, but anyone who isn’t finding Christmas too happy a time.

This form of individual action without self-interest could prove to be a new and extremely powerful weapon for gays to fight prejudice.

Christmas All The Year Round

Christmas is a lonely time for many gays. Yes. But let’s not get too self-indulgent yet awhile. Christmas is a lonely time for lots of other people too. It’s a lonely time for the very old who have outlived, become separated from, or ignored by their families. It’s a lonely time for the divorced, the widowed, for those men and women who just don’t happen to have got married. It’s a lonely, bleak time in institutions. It can be a lonely time in the family circle when the ring of faces is only made bright by the reflected glow of a television show canned before the leaves fell from the trees. Sometimes the cruelty of Christmas seems to outweigh the sweetness of its message.

Cruelty? Because instead of bringing peace on earth and goodwill to men, Christmas merely underscores alienations that during the rest of the year are either submerged or easier to tolerate. Not just between gay and straight, but between young and old, attached and unattached, blood and water. Of course, Christmas is supposed to serve a precisely opposite function and much time is spent at this time of year paying lip-service to this myth from the fatuous rhymes in cards and the banalities of Victorian hymns (mistakenly called carols) to the whole carapace of empty phrases that emanate from Canterbury, Rome and Windsor.

Christmas is a time when barriers are generally reinforced, not melted. We are reminded of the less fortunate, the weak, the sick, the distressed and perhaps some people are stirred enough to buy cards from a charity and thus ameliorate the minor stab of guilt. But compared with the money lavished on unspeakable toys, on aggressive displays of illuminated decorations for the streets, on advertising displays for commonplace cigarettes packed in tinsel, a fiver on cards for multiple sclerosis is tokenism of the worst kind.

Why just at Christmas? Multiple sclerosis exists the year round. Why pancakes (which are nice) on one day only; why bonfires (which are nice) on one day only? We jump like rats to a bell and shake out our required responses when required, then wrap them up and put them away until next time. Christmas builds barriers.

Also it promotes a wholly unreasonable selfishness, rationalised into ‘it only comes once a year’ (hear the bell?) or ‘we’re only doing it for the kiddies, have another gin-and-tonic’. Is there any wonder that half the population dread Christmas when the other half is ruthlessly enclosing itself in an impregnable cocoon of self-indulgence. The rich man stay’s at his table and the poor man is forever at the gate.

Is there any wonder that the suicide rate rises quite sharply during the Christmas period. Psychiatrists who, of course, once they have detected a phenomenon must instantly explain it, sought a reason for this suicide increase. It was suggested that the central figure of Christmas, the Christ-child, is a symbol of unattainable perfection and that when faced with this concept many individuals become acutely aware of their own imperfections, their own failures and are thus brought towards a suicidal state.

It’s my guess that they feel so bloody rejected and alienated, so fed up with seeing lights behind windows, so put-down by the relentless cash-bang of the High Street that oppressions felt during the rest of the year, but handled, rise sharply to the surface and get trapped in the cul-de-sac of the mind.

But the symbolism of Christmas is potent, complex and reaches far into the unconscious. It asserts certain standards, certain patterns of behaviour and certain ways of life, projected as ideal but rarely questioned.

In the west it is impossible to escape the influence of the myths; so impossible that the idea of escape never occurs. Christmas has undoubtedly inspired some of the greatest painting and music the world knows. But whether it is projected through Messiah or through a clumsy message picked out in cotton wool on the shopwindow, the assumptions remain the same. Christmas ecapsulates the systems of society which, of course, utterly reject the homosexual who is left kicking on the edges of the festival trying desperately to find a way in.

The central tableau is a family scene, the prototype, if you like, of the nuclear family, a single consumer unit given its consumer goods in the form of gold and frankincence and myhrr. The concept of the family is central, is firm, is essential. But the Holy Family is a strange one with a father who is not a father, and a mother who remains a virgin. So we have, in one image, one of basic contradictions – an assertion of procreation, of new and hopeful life linked with a complete repression of sexuality and sexual love.

How do gay women relate to the Virgin Mary? Talking around one gathers that many lesbians have a strong need for children, yet reject the essential male interaction. AID is a strong subject.

The imagery goes further with a statement of social division, not unity. Consider the attendants on the scene: the shepherds and the magi. The proletariat and the establishment. They meet in common worship in a stable. But they remain divided, their roles are set and the unity of common worship is a sleight of hand designed to suggest an equality that never exists. Paul sent the converted slave back to his master, still a slave.

This concept is a meaningless gesture that has been chucked around through the centuries. It has been revived in the plays dedicated to Moral Re-armament where industrial disputes are settled by shop stewards and management finding a common faith -which is about as relevant to strikes as everyone patronising the same tailor.

All these things are implicit all the time, but are asserted in strength at this time of the year. As I suggested earlier, it isn’t just gay people who are lonely at Christmas, but those who feel lonely and bereft at Christmas but are not gay, do at least have in-built defenses to sustain themselves against this barrage of conformity. They know they have the potential to take part in this festival of family and capitalism.

The gay person has no such defenses. At this time of year if he or she is at all sensitive then they must see themselves as alone and quite outside the structure everyone else seems to be celebrating. I said earlier that gay people were trying to Find a way in. Such is conditioning. Is it something one wants to find a way into? Even those gays who remorselessly claim that there is no difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals must, at this time, realise, somewhere, that this is too simplistic a view.

For sex (what you do in bed) is repressed out of the Christmas story and the root of homosexual alienation at this time must be sought elsewhere. Sex is irrelevant. The homosexual just doesn’t fit into the way society works and that’s that. And Christmas brings this home with force.

There are two things that gay people can do about this situation. One is already being done. That is – to get together over Christmas. Both GLF and CHE are having open parties and encouraging those gays who are physically alone at this time to get together for the holiday: “Not necessarily on a sexual basis, just brothers and sisters seeking a friendly and warm relationship”, as GLF’s newsletter so neatly expresses it.

The second thing is less easy. And that is to acquire an attitude of mind, a way of thinking in which Christmas and the terrible strictures it implies upon the gay community becomes irrelevant, where the images have no power to hurt and reject. To reach a stage where there is no need to find a way in because it isn’t worth getting in to; where the gay alternative is better and more rewarding. And not just for a week at the end of December, but all the year round.

The Rural Homosexual

19720901-05I quote from Gay News No. 4 editorial ‘It is on this level, with individuals telling it like it is, that progress is being made towards liberation (in the true sense of the word, not just as a slogan).’

This is what it is like with me. This is what it is like at the opposite extreme to the ‘liberated’ city gay mixing freely and openly with his ‘liberated’ friends.

Thousands of people in Britain live not in cities or towns, but in villages, hamlets, farms and farm cottages (using the word literally), and in every group of 1,000 such persons there are, supposedly, 50 who are homosexual. I am one of them. I write only to say what it is like with me, but I am probably saying what it is like with many others.

In a truly rural society no individual can escape observation and comment. For him there is no anonymity. He is a subject of gossip and speculation, and while he may be accepted as a ‘character’ or an eccentric, let him offend against the rural community’s code of acceptable behaviour and he will find he has few, if any friends — and perhaps no job.

So the rural homosexual person, once he understands his predicament, either heads for the city (how many have done this because they were homosexual and not because they were looking for work?) or lives on where he wants to live, guarding his feelings and wondering who the other 49 (24½ males — 12 adult?) homosexuals are in his group of 1,000 — or have they all fled and is he all alone?

I can hear the ‘liberated’ city gay saying: “Come out into the open” or “Come and join us”. I admire the courage of those who have declared themselves openly, but I suggest, with respect, that the rural homosexual’s case is slightly different. The homosexual city dweller who declares himself may lose some friends but he will gain others. He may encounter discrimination and unkindness, but at the end of the day he has understanding friends to help restore his shattered morale.

At the end of the day I am alone. And, no offence meant, I don’t warn to join them. I want to live where I am.

Of course I want to love and be loved. For a long time I have been putting out discreet and tentative feelers and in recent months have made contact with members of a group in a city. In that respect I differ from the majority of rural homosexual persons who are ignorant of the means of making contact, but my equilibrium is worse now than it was before contact was made.

Twice I have been to the city (nearly 100 miles away) and mixed with group members on social occasions, but I was not one of them. Barriers built up in isolation take a long time to dismantle. I was accepted — they were friendly, but each had his own circle of friends, and I was in a world which was very strange to me. One would have to go there very frequently to build up the sort of friendships one is really seeking.

So I returned home on each occasion sad and depressed — sad because I had met people with whom I wanted so much to make contact but who were too deeply involved elsewhere, and depressed because these traumatic experiences had taught me that I could never be integrated with the group so long as I lived so far from it. To recapture my former comparative tranquility I should forget the group.

Forget the group? I can’t do that. So long as they work, as they do, to improve the lot of homosexual people I must identify myself with them. I must identify myself with all those whom they work.

So that is what it is like with me now. If anyone thinks he detects self pity in this writing, I assure him there is none. I have just told it like it is.

I did not choose to be homosexual. I do choose to go on living here, and one can get by without sex. But I still want someone to love. Is that wrong?

A Free Small Ad

03-197207XX-07“We hope that Gay News will never be so completely serious that no-one could smile, laugh, or maybe happily cringe at parts of it. News is not only the bad things that can happen to us all, but knowing about what others are doing, sharing, achieving.” Thus your first editorial.

I find myself rather in agreement with the Lords Beaumont and Arran who expressed their views on Gay News in your first correspondence column. And yet I have subscribed, blindly, to your paper; further I am now writing for it. I’d like to think I subscribed through generosity and a desire to help but the basic reason was selfish curiosity. What would the paper be like? What would it do for me. a forty year old homosexual (unlike the person who accosted Alan Brien, I dislike the description “gay people”)? Would it not be too alien in taste to a reader of the Observer, the Sunday Times, New Statesman, an admirer of the B.B.C.?

Wait and see is my verdict after issue one and that I will do after sending my best respects to Julian Denys Grinspoon, whose piece on the Biograph I found not entirely to my taste. None the less, I have some fellow feeling with the old boy (he surely must be old if I’m any judge of prose style). Anyway. Jule, if you’re under 35 pop round any time and we’ll pull the curtains, switch on the telly, and pretend we’re at the Biograph) because I get randy too. And that’s one of the reasons I joined the CHE correspondence list – I thought something might come of it. There must be many of your readers who are on it or who are contemplating having their names included. Your paper could assist a great number of us by providing a forum for an initial general discussion on what we hope to gain from corresponding with each other.

My main modest ambition was to land up with one or more in a similar age group to me and with some like interests. If, somewhere along the line, a somewhat younger man or woman chose to write to me, and then to meet me, I would have no objection; similarly I would have no objection to hearing from the elderly, although I resolved to discourage the elderly and the effeminate (insofar as I can judge from prose style). Largely, I’m sure, because I live in an agreeable part of the country. I had several letters. Because of this, I felt it cowardly myself not to initiate at least one piece of correspondence and so I selected a man who appeared from the list to be very similar to myself; I gave him the option of not replying. He didn’t, which was one in the eye for me, since I thought giving him that option would clinch it. Next time I shall write to a twenty-one year old and then I can blame the age barrier if there is no reply.

The following briefly sums up the situation with those who wrote to me.

“A” was about my age and he came to see me for the day. We turned out to have little in common. We went to bed, but not with too much enthusiasm, simply because for my part I was feeling like Jules sometimes feels. I wasn’t happy after he’d gone until I’d flung open all the windows and washed all the things his body had touched.

“B” was also about my age but sounded to me (and to ”C” – see below) terribly camp. I have decided to shun those who introduce the words “active” and “passive” too early in the correspondence. I decided the best way of disposing of him was to “outcamp” him in a letter of my own. It was effective, but on reflection, it was also cruel and I shan’t do it again. Also, it would have been awkward for me if it had encouraged him.

“C” is a very lovely memory. About fifteen years younger than me and beautiful. We fucked when we met and while not wishing to intorduce any “Which?” best buy element into this serious subject, I can only say that it was the best I’ve had for years. He’s now moved house and job but I never deluded myself into thinking he would be a permanency in my life.

“D” is my current white hope. I haven’t met him yet; he’s a tardy corresponder but likes my letters. He’s my age though I don’t think our interests altogether chime in. But I like the sound of him and. as I have told him, I think he may turn out to be more like myself than any of my other corresponders.

“E” and “F” are both elderly; “E” clearly wants not to be his age and sounds very effeminate. Unfortunately, he lives very near me. I don’t want to meet him. “F” said in his letter that our interests were similar. When I looked down the list, I could find little that we had in common.

So there are my six. At present, I’m still searching for the ideal one and shall go again on the next list. What does “the ideal one” constitute? Very simply, a friend with whom sex will come (slowly perhaps) to be a simple and natural part of the friendship, not a matter of convenience (sic) as it was with “A” or a once and for all experience like it was with “C” A walk on the downs or a visit to the cinema and then home to bed. I wonder if that’s too much to hope.

Well, it shouldn’t be because it’s something surely, that a lot of people want. It’s just a matter of pairing off correctly. I would be very interested, meanwhile, to hear and read, in your columns (your columns, Neville), the experiences of others with the Che correspondence list. We might all be able to learn something. Is the age barrier important? Do we place too much hope on a happy sexual outcome? (Combining the two, I realise I’ve never had, or wanted, sex with a man considerably older than myself, yet “C” never turned a hair). Does the meeting, after sometimes lengthy correspondence, more often than not result in dissapointment? At least the method allows us to warn the other parties of our defects and I’ve taken full advantage of doing that when writing.

I have insisted to the collective, among whom I suspect the nice people outnumber the nasty ones quite substantially, that if this is published it must be done so under a pseudonym. Nonetheless, if anyone wishes to write to me through Gay News, I’m sure the collective will see to it that any letters are sent to me, and whether You think I can help you or you think you can help me. I’ll do my best to reply. But we can best help each other by giving our views on these pages.

I don’t know whether I’ve made you smile laugh or cringe I only know I want the paper to be a success on as many levels as possible. And if those classified ads on the issue no. 1 were put in by collective or by anyone else, the advertisers should not necessarily assume, because I have not replied, that I don’t want my sporran fondled or that I don’t want to meet someone who’s slim, slightly hairy, and who thinks that sexuality is beautiful. It’s just that I (and I suspect many like me) have some trepidation in replying to such adverts. Anyway, I have turned the tables on them so that they can reply to me through Gay News, having read this article, which should perhaps be Sub-Titled “How to get a free, respectable small ad in Gay News”.

Trouble Shared

01-197205XX 5We’ll do what we can to help and advise if you share this trouble of yours with us in this regular column.

ALONE IN GLASGOW

It’s only recently that I’ve realised I’m as attracted to certain women as I am to men. This came as a big surprise to me and I’m sure it would be more of a horrible shock to my friends; which is exactly the trouble. I know no-one who feels the same as me and I have very little access to meeting them. In fact, I sometimes feel I’m the only lesbian in Glasgow! Glasgow seems to be a more repressed area than most. It’s a huge city but one which prefers to ignore part of its population and keep them in isolation and loneliness. I mean, where can you meet people? I see many women in the street to whom I’m attracted, and I’m sure they feel the same, but there’s this horrible stigma about being homosexual or bisexual or anything which deviates from the norm. It must be really bad as it took me 19 years to even admit it to myself. I believe there’s a great number of people, both male and female who consider themselves totally heterosexual but in fact have a nagging doubt at the back of their minds about this. Men have been conditioned into worshipping females with big boobs and bums and women have just been conditioned into worshipping men in all pimply, hairy and un-deodorised forms! I just can’t understand why people should be outlawed because they are attracted to a member of the same sex. I think it might have something to do with the way men are expected to be extremely manly and women to be feminine. The fact that we are all just people has been forgotten. What I’m trying to say is, I think of myself as a person first and then a woman second and if I’m attracted to a girl it’s because of her personality and then her sex.

I think homosexuals will be more and more isolated as time goes on. You only have to look at the way “Straight” People act physically towards each other – there is no form of physical communication at all – only between members of the opposite sex. This has come about quite recently because 20-30 years ago it was usual and normal to see women go walking down the street arm in arm without half the street turning round for a second look. People are being pressurised more and none into being heterosexual.

In mediaeval times it was usual and highly commendable for young boys to have knights as lovers. In fact it was considered a disgrace if they didn’t!

How times have changed!

I think the only way to bridge this terrible gap of lonely people is for a magazine like Gay News, produced sincerely for homosexual people, to organise a system like box numbers (at the very least) to help people communicate more easily.

I personally hope this will take place in the very near future.

It is a ‘terrible gap’ – and we exist to help bridge it. Although we were, and still are, concerned about the whole business of running box number ads, not least because they might technically be illegal, Gay News does have a small ads column (q.v.) and box numbers. For the sake of the future, though, gay people cannot go on hiding away from the stigma put upon us; we must become known, as people who happen to be gay. No fear ever goes away until it is faced, and nothing is won from this society without some measure of defiance. But the power of the oppression is strong, stronger in our minds, I believe, than in fact, but still with great power. And so in deference to her wishes we have not printed the name of our lonely sister. We’ll pass on any letters we get to her and put her in touch with gay organisations in Scotland.