As you will see on page three, Gay News went to the House of Commons to discuss the House of Lords’ decision in the International Times case with MPs and other interested people. Immediately the formal meeting ended, the seated rows broke up into absorbed small groups talking over all the aspects of the subject. These informal discussions went on until closing time in the St. Stephens Tavern, and Gay News talked to everyone. “This”, said the MP who organised the meeting, “is the real value of all these gas-works get-togethers.”
He is right — there was a thousand times more real communication in these informal talks than in the whole ‘get-the-attention-of-the-chairman-if-you-can-game’ we all sat through first. The important question is – why waste time playing these games? Apart from speech-making addicts, professional chairmen, and people who ease their liberal consciences by attending meetings and sitting silent, who really thinks that anything worthwhile is achieved by the submitting-your-question-in-proper-form game, or that old fun-trip, going-through-the-proper-channels?
Gay News tries to play only the minimum number of these games, those essential to getting the paper out – with the bank, for example, and the GPO. (Have you played what-to-do-if-your-telephone-is-being-tapped? Can anyone tell us the rules?) We deal as efficiently as possibly with these conventional business procedures, because the paper must be printed, paid for and distributed, but we waste no time on ‘correct’ business procedures, and even less on ‘correct’ business people, who seem to think it essential that a letter should sit on their desks for weeks before being attended to. Gay News belongs to everyone who reads it and works for it – and we make the decisions.
The point is that we think as individuals, and work as a group, without outside control. This gives us a ready answer to a recent Evening Standard editorial, referring to the printers’ strike (issue July 28): “What is the matter with the newspaper industry? Why was it not only the first but the only industry to shutdown for five days at a time of grave national crisis? Why do so many people who work in this industry – the highest paid in the country – seem to care so little about their work and their role in society that they are ready to withdraw their labour with such apparent indifference to the effects of their actions? … The loss of goodwill to the papers was vast, as advertisers and readers alike were driven to another means of communication.” We know what our work is; we chose it. And our role in society, whatever it is, is not that of a small cog in a large profit-making machine. And that last sentence quoted answers the Standard’s own question: what is wrong with the industry is that the advertisers come first, the money men – before the readers, and way ahead of those who actually do the work, including in most instances the journalists as well as the print workers.
As a fortnightly paper, we were not affected by the strike – (it was nice to see a paper rack in a straight newsagents displaying Gay News prominently, in the space usually occupied by The Times!). We may even have reached a few unsuspecting non-gay people: “Gay News No. 3? I’ll take double this time, love,” said a friendly newsman in High Street Ken. “Sold out the last one – well, people had to read something!” Sales of issue three are already up on the previous two – how long before we can increase our print order? We need more subscribers, more outlets, more workers, and more money, but we’re here, and we’re busy communicating. Every time you buy a copy, every letter and article you send us is part of the individual communication pattern we are building. Everyone we talk to about the gay world, every story we research, is another step towards breaking the barriers which keep gay people in hiding and the rest of the world in ignorance of the truth about homosexuals. 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).
We know, too, that we must live with the imperfect present situation – one day, we won’t need to find each other through personal ads, but as things are now, this kind of contact is the only way for many gays. This is why we carry small ads, and we shall continue to do so. Another handicap we must fight is the different fears we all have of one kind or another. Some gays cannot tell their families; many fear police harassment, or victimisation at work; the activities of gay libbers who have ‘come out’ scare a lot of people, while those who are ‘out’ face daily hostility from the ignorant and cruel (who are often frightened and unsure of themselves). What we must learn and learn to rely on as a community, is that we have weapons with which to defend ourselves; there are ways of educating ourselves and those who misunderstand us; and, with a lot of help from our friends, the obstacles in our path can be overcome. The success or failure of Gay News depends on the individuals involved in the paper, and we all know it – how about extending this belief in individual responsibility and group co-operation to a few more of the situations we as homosexuals have to face? No one is ever going to find an easy solution to the problems of conditioning and ignorance which we face, and no doctors, or sociologists, or MPs, will ever solve the problems for us. We are the people who know the truth and, difficult though it is, we must make the attempt to communicate it.
Obviously, you can’t do things you are not into, and every individual must decide on his or her own action – but we must work out where we are at, together, and act accordingly if we are to remove the labels put on us by others, and win the freedom to which we are entitled. Perhaps our aim is similar to one stated by Jung: “to bring about a state in which v everyone) begins to experiment with his own nature – a state of fluidity, change and growth, in which there is no longer anything eternally fixed and hopelessly petrified”.