Towards A Gay Culture

SO… we have come out from under our stones. Some of us are now satisfied with what we are. Others of us still feel the urge to push the gay movement forward – but in what direction? At this moment in time, two approaches dominate.

The first, deriving partly out of the liberal-reformist elements of GLF, and the activist elements of CHE, focusses on the issues of civil rights. Not one of the minimal demands of the GLF Manifesto has yet been realised. It is obvious that where we do not simply fake them, as when we ignore the antiquated age of consent, and thumb our noses at the law, then a lot of work has got to go on pursuading those who make the laws and determine the policies that derive from them, to take gay people seriously into account. This needs to go on at all levels of society.

The second, deriving mainly out of the more radical elements of GLF, focusses on what we can call ‘the politics of experience’ as they are manifested in the interpersonal relations of a small group. The importance of the latest edition of Come Together (no 14) is that there is here a serious attempt to report on a sustained effort to explore in actual behaviour some of the further-reaching conclusions of the Manifesto. But this is an introverted trend. It moves further and further away from what most gay people – most people, even – are willing to attempt.

The demands it makes lead almost necessarily to a total exclusion of other concerns which, while not bearing in any sense on gay liberation, have their own importance for those involved in them.

The significance of these trends must not be minimised, either by invidious comparison of one from the standpoint of the other, or by a cynical debunking, from the sidelines, which may give the illusion of being above any shit-work, but serves in the main to demonstrate a crass and insensitive complacency

These two categories correspond more or less to two of the three categories outlined by Jeff Weeks in his article on the GLF movement some weeks ago (GN6). His third category, Gay Socialism, has yet to make itself felt, even though it transcends both the others, as far as he is concerned. The people who could be to us what Juliet Mitchell and Shulameth Firestone are to the Women’s Movement are around – we can only suggest they get on with the job of providing us with our own definitive texts.

But what Jeff Weeks’ analysis missed is another trend which has yet to be named. This is a broad trend which shows itself in the accumulating written week-to-week, month-to-month experience of an increasing number of people who neither identify nor wish to identify with any of the particular dominant strands that can be discerned in the gay movement. It is beginning to fill the great vacuum between the limiting rip-off porn, and the limiting technicalese of certain professions which do well out of calling us deviant, examples of it are the less specifically committed articles to be found in back numbers of Come Together, in Gay News as a whole, and in Lunch.

They document the immediate past and the ongoing present. They represent a self-pronounced perspective on ourselves which does not so much seek identity, as assumes it. We no longer have to preface what we say with any remarks of justification addressed to some named or nameless majority. This in itself is an immense step forward.

But all of these journals tend to evoke a sense of transitoriness. The necessary brevity of each item in their contents is a major factor, flashes of occasional insight incapable of being transformed into sustained exploration.

Interestingly enough, there are stirrings elsewhere, that seem to be a response to recent changes in the gay sense of self. Over Christmas I came across and read a book by Dirk Vanden (‘All Is Well’ Olympia Press), a self-confessed gay-pulp author, which seems to be a prelude to what is to come.

‘All Is Well’ is basically concerned with the progression of one man from a state of extreme sexual repression to a form of liberation. The first state has introduced tremendous mental blocks which effectively divide the man’s consciousness into two parts. The first rigidly defines the limits of his sexual-emotional life – even his masturbatory fantasies are confined to memories of sex with his estranged wife. His relations with his son are distant and authoritarian.

On the other hand, a frustrated unconscious side begins to emerge from the first page in the form of apparently external threats to the man’s life-style – poison pen notes, later combined with pornographic photographs and actual threats on his life. Certain key events lead to an integration of these two partial personalities. The puritan Robert fuses with the immature sexually destructive Bobby to become the liberated Bob.

Vanden’s idea of liberation leaves a great deal to be desired. It is a variation on the theme of prick-power, coupled with a curiously amorphous mysticism which envelopes the final pages. The latter can be criticised both for its failure to recognise a continuing context of oppression – all is not well, insofar as this is ignored, and its lack of general viability. Finally the book is a very patchy literary product.

But what is important is the altogether positive stance it ends on. Contrast this with the end of ‘The Boys In The Band’, for example, where the principal character sidles off to early morning mass. Nemesis, in the form of the knowledge that deep down he is not ‘glad to be gay’, has caught up with him, and he makes appropriate reparation. Vanden’s character is moving onward when the book ends.

There needs to be more, and better examples of this longer-term stuff, since it so effectively extends the difference already demonstrated by current short-term journalism between what we thought we were, and what we think we can be.

If the work is a play, there can be interesting side-effects. Bruce Bayley recently wrote and directed a play at Kingston Polytechnic which deals in a surrealist manner with gay issues. From his account of the difficulties of production and their gradual resolution, it is quite clear that there were valuable outcomes before the first night. The very act of needing to play roles which went against cast-members’ assumptions of personhood and sexuality proved a useful consciousness-raising experience for them.

Vanden’s book and Bayley’s play provide just two examples of where energies can be usefully directed. Both are additions to the developing gay sense of self. It seems to me that we need to aim consciously at creating a gay culture which not only differentiates and sensitises our responsiveness to what we are and can become, but also augments straightforward political statements and activities.

A contemporary gay culture also needs to discover and understand its roots. Most of us know nothing of homophile movements in the past or their articulate representatives. In the present, extensive critiques of the treatment of homosexuality by writers, filmmakers etc, just do not exist. We need to start up historical and cultural studies of this kind. We need to find whatever there is to find, and make it readily available.

In practical terms, this would be possible in very small groups – the current standard unit of the gay movement.

University gay groups at a loss what to do might consider these suggestions seriously. They have the access to materials, and, at least in principle, the time to pass them on. But for other groups there are other sources of information – the local library used effectively can be one of them. Finally, no group whatever its size or location has a monopoly on creative skills, though making a film is obviously a highly specialist activity.

Every movement in the past – and Black Liberation is a recent example – has recognised the need to create and elaborate an authentic culture where only distortion and/or ignorance has prevailed before. It is needed as a primary basis for a real and continuing awareness among members of that movement. It is this superordinate task which defines the essential unity of the gay movement, whatever internal differences of opinion may exist. Recognising this as a conscious aim will make us generally more positive towards, though not necessarily less critical of, those activities or ideas which we would not carry out or hold ourselves. It will redefine the apparently divisive tendencies that seem to be generated as different paths taken in essentially the same direction.

Something Nasty In The Non-Fiction

LONDON: It’s hardly surprising that the majority of libraries in Great Britain refuse to carry gay newspapers or magazines when you consider the sort of bigoted attitude that emerged in a letter to the Librarians’ Association Record in the latter part of last year.

John Noyce, who writes a column on magazines librarians might be interested in, for another paper, the Assistant Librarian, innocently said: “As usual, the British alternative press papers seem to be following their American counterparts. The general papers are in difficulties – Seven Days and Ink gone, Frendz and IT are in financial troubles – but the sectional papers grow ever more numerous.”

Then he listed Spare Rib, and Gay News, along with GIN, Lunch, SMG News, Arena Three and Sappho.

Little did he know there was something pretty vicious waiting in the non-fiction section. A librarian wrote in to say: “In the August issue of Assistant Librarian, a contributor lists for our special benefit or enlightenment (I’m nor sure which) an extraordinary catalogue of recent outlandish periodicals, the very latest from the front line of the sexual revolution, suitable, perhaps, for educated perverts and emancipated Bohemians, as well as Lesbian librarians with doubts about their masculinity, and, of course, any pouffes-in-boots and beyond-the-fringe eccentrics floating around the outer reaches of cosmopolitan professional librarianship, but to the membership at large, of no use, one would have thought, whatsoever, unless, in the present phase of cultural pollution, we are to be credited with the same tastes.” And so he goes on. And on. Quoting George Bernard Shaw and T S Eliot. He’s read them!

With a wonderful old-fashioned hatred like that, a man could get a job with the Festival of Light.

Here We Are Again

The occasional difficulty we have with the Here We Are Again column is how to begin it. There’s always lots of things to tell you about though, if you’re interested in how your paper is getting along. If there are ever any aspects of the paper you particularly would like to know about and see in print and we don’t cover here, all you have to do is drop us a line, addressing it to Here We Are Again. By the way, the problem getting into this piece seems to have been overcome.

Letters

Mentioned in the previous paragraph is a line about writing to us if there’s anything you want to find out about. Whilst on the subject of letters, we at GN have noticed that there has been a general falling off in the amount of correspondence you have been sending us for publication. Maybe the Christmas period had something to do with it. Remember though, the success of the letter page depends entirely on you, our readers. So if you have any comments, criticisms, complaints, information or whatever, you think should appear, don’t hesitate to write to us, stating of course if the letter is for publication or not.

W. H. Smith & Sons

The other Wednesday on BBC 2’s late-night Edition programme, a representative of W. H. Smith & Sons, the well known monopoly newsagents, distributors and moral censors, was defending the companies actions of restricting the amount of papers, magazines and books they allow the public to read. The Smith’s spokesman wriggled and avoided most of the questions put to him quite well and left viewers with no doubt as to why they don’t stock certain publications etc. The reasons obviously being that this firm have set themselves up as censors, thus deciding the amount of information, entertainment and awareness they think the British public should be able to get its hands on. Another gentleman on the programme, who squirmed delightfully and passively to the tune of Big Brother W. H. Smiths, ended the discussion with a most historically ludicrous comment — straight out of the Dark Ages – for he remarked that people in the provinces did not want or require the papers, magazines, et al that Smith’s won’t handle. What absolute rubbish. As Colin Wilson said in his recent book Order Of Assassins, ‘creative evolution’ is a must for a progressing and expanding society, and what better way is there of helping people to evolve and reach new levels of awareness than by supplying them with all available information and telling them of new ideas and theories that are currently being developed.

No News, Maybe?

Whilst a large number of our readers, and organisations, send us details and news of what is happening in their areas, there are far too many cities, towns and counties that we never receive anything from. Possibly the reason for this is that they have not yet heard of Gay News, or have been unable to get hold of copies (thanks to well known distributors who will remain anonymous). But this doesn’t explain away all the places where apparently nothing every happens. So come on people, let’s hear what’s going on in your part of the country, if you are not already keeping us informed. We are a newspaper, aren’t we? Please help us keep on being so.

Just so you don’t have to do all the work yourselves, Gay News is taking advantage of the news clippping services of Romeike & Curtice. But even they won’t be able to clear away all the gaps that appear in our news and information coverage. The rest is up to you.

Still Only 10p

Many of you when buying GN directly from a Gay News collective member remark, “Still the same price?” Cheerfully we allways chirp back, “Of course”. In this day and age, prices do not often stay static for very long, but we consider 10p to be a fair and reasonable price for GN and try and keep it the same for as long as we are able. That should be for some time we hope, even though we are intending to increase the number of pages in the not too distant future.

Personal Ads

As we said on the cover of GN14, that edition contained more personal ads than we have ever printed before. We take it to mean that you are finding the ads to be useful and judging by the amount of box number replies we send off, the ads are certainly being seen by more people than ever before. That’s great with us, but please don’t forget, if you have to be too explicit in your wording of an ad, we unfortunately will have to tone it down. The vast majority of ads are perfectly acceptable, so to the few people who can’t save certain things until answering the letters of those who reply to their ads, please don’t get too annoyed with us. As we see it, it’s better to have — for the time being at any rate – a slightly inexcessive personal ads service than to invite prosecution, which could well result in there being no paper at all.

Our ‘Gay’ Printers

F.I. Litho, our beloved printers, seem to be becoming the largest producers of gay publications. And good luck to them, they try their best for us. Originally they just printed Lunch*, then along came Gay News, and now Jeffrey* has joined the flock. We’re sure downtown Pentonville Road has never been so ‘gay’.

Legal Advisers

Whilst we are not allowed to mention them by name, it is against some sort of professional regulation, we would like to take this opportunity to thank our solicitors. The legal advice they give us is extremely helpful – many times giving us their time and ideas without us having to ask. And they always find time to listen to, and advise on, anything that is worrying us, no matter how trivial. Thanks a lot, we appreciate it.

Changes

In the next few issues of Gay News, we are planning to change and improve the basic design of the paper. We’ll let you know more about these alterations when we finalise our plans.

New Offices

Although there is a strong possibility that we will be moving to larger premises soon, until things are definitely fixed, please let us know of any offices you may know or hear about in Central London. We really have outgrown our present ‘home’ and are beginning to get a little desperate.

As usual, hope you find this issue up to our usual standard. Thanks for supporting us by buying it. Gay News No 16 will be published on and available from 7th February. See you then.

* Lunch is a monthly magazine, featuring articles, comment and interviews. It is associated with the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, although having strong independent editorial policies. Price 20p.

* Jeffrey is a commercial gay men’s entertainment magazine and is also published monthly. Price 25p.

Other Gay Papers

02-197206XX 11

  • GAY INTERNATIONAL NEWS.
    An international forum from Gay Liberation Front. Price 5p. (8p by post). Monthly. Available direct from GLF (London), 5 Caledonian Road, London N.1. Tel: 01-837 7174
  • LUNCH.
    An independant magazine, edited by members of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Price 20p (25p in shops or by post). Monthly. Available direct from Lunch Magazine, 23 Avon Court, Keswick Road, London SW15 2JU.
  • COME TOGETHER.
    The mouth piece of Gay Liberation Front. Price 5p (8p by post). Out ever four to six weeks. Available direct from G.L.F. (London), 5 Calendonian Road, London N.1. Tel: 01-837 7174.
  • SMG NEWS’.
    Monthly newsletter from Scottish Minorities Group. Free, but send S.A.E. Available direct from S.M.G., 214 Clyde Street, Glasgow G1 4JZ
  • ARENA THREE.
    Published under licence from Esme Langley. A gay womens’ magazine. Price 25p. Monthly. Available direct from Majorie Bryanton, BCM/Sea Horse, London W.C.1. Tel: 01-734 5588
  • SAPPHPO.
    An independent gay womens’ magazine. 25p. Monthly. Available direct from Sappho, Publications Ltd., BCM/Petrel, London W.C.1.

Other Gay Papers

01-197205XX 11

  • GAY INTERNATIONAL NEWS.
    An international forum from Gay Liberation Front. Price 5p. (8p by post). Monthly. Available direct from GLF (London), 5 Caledonian Road, London N.1. Tel: 01-837 7174
  • LUNCH.
    Journal of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Price 10p. Monthly. Available direct from Lunch, 25 Upper Montagu Street, London W1H 1RQ.
  • COME TOGETHER.
    The mouth piece of Gay Liberation Front. Price 5p (8p by post). Out ever four to six weeks. Available direct from G.L.F. (London), 5 Calendonian Road, London N.1. Tel: 01-837 7174.
  • SMG NEWS’.
    Monthly newsletter from Scottish Minorities Group. Free, but send S.A.E. Available direct from S.M.G., 214 Clyde Street, Glasgow G1 4JZ
  • ARENA THREE.
    Published under licence from Esme Langley. A gay womens’ magazine. Price 25p. Monthly. Available direct from Majorie Bryanton, BCM/Sea Horse, London W.C.1. Tel: 01-734 5588
  • SAPPHO.
    An independent gay womens’ paper. 20p. Monthly. Available direct from Sappho, Publications Ltd., BCM/Petrel, London W.C.1.