Your Paper And Gay Lib

Gay News is, as has been said many times in the paper, an unaffiliated, independent newspaper, that is open to all forms of opinions and comments. It is not a Gay Liberation Front paper, any more than it is a mouthpiece solely for Campaign for Homosexual Equality, or any of the other active gay organisations operative in Great Britain.

That most certainly does not mean though, that the ideas and aims, as well as reportage of the activities of these organisations, will not appear in our pages. They are welcome to submit copy to us which we will almost certainly print, the same as any other individual is more than welcome to express his/her viewpoints, whether through a letter, an article or by informing us of some news that is relevant to all gays

So we wonder why some members of London Gay Lib find it necessary to be so openly hostile by threatening to ‘take over’ Gay News if we do not print a letter of theirs. GN prints the majority of letters received, and the only time we reject readers/organisations communications is when we have a large number making exactly the same point, or when we can’t read the writing. Other reasons would be when we considered the letter to be racist, slanderous non-factual or unfairly offensive. We do not censor letters and whether the members of the editorial collective agree or disagree with what is being said is immaterial to whether they are reproduced. A quick look at the many letters we have printed in past issues would show that what we are saying is correct.

Why then the hostility from this small group of radicals? Is it because we are not a GLF paper? — for that we most certainly won’t ever be, as we will never be any other organisation’s publication. Is it because GN is critical of some London GLF activities and policies? – possibly, for up until the advent of Gay News no gay organisation received any serious criticism from gay people themselves. Does this mean to say that some London Gay Libbers are so right, so completely pure, that they don’t have to examine their motives, or consider the opinions of others, or even want to be bothered to attempt to communicate their ideas to others who haven’t reached the same advanced state of personal awareness as themselves.

The Gay News Office was invaded just after the publication of our first issue, by a GLF faction calling themselves Radical Feminists (we understand that they are now known as Radical Queens). They objected to us including an article critical of them in the issue we were preparing for publication. After screaming at us for an hour or so, they then disagreed amongst themselves, resulting in extreme boredom for us and a loss of valuable working time. They eventually trooped out, leaving us none the wiser to why they were above or afraid of criticism.

The only point of near communication that we were left to ponder was the slogan ‘Where’s your head at?’ which was frequently bellowed during the incident. This quaint phrase first came into use during the psychedelic boom of 1967, and was subsequently dropped from ‘hip’ language much the same time as ‘flower power’ died.

Does this new takeover threat mean that we will have to endure another hysterical screeching session, or maybe they will go farther and destroy our notes and intended copy, remove our files, damage our typewriters and light fittings and generally behave like a bunch of thugs from the National Front, as they did when invading the Time Out premises a year ago. You can rest assured that nothing more constructive will be coming from them, unless by some sort of miracle they manage to prepare an issue of the paper, which would surely be a one-sided, dogmatic rendering of their own exclusive cant.

The GN collective would of course never allow this to happen, as in the same way we will not allow any form of censorship, whether through intimidation or otherwise. Why can’t these people see that any articles they submit to us will take their place among all the other opinions and criticisms from other organisations.

Is it also necessary for GN street sellers to receive threats such as “What will you do if I rip up your papers?” as happens every so often. On more than one occasion, copies of GN have in fact been destroyed by agitated London Gay Libbers. What is the sense in this, for such action is on a par with book burning.

It is not intended by this piece to attack or even criticise the whole of the Gay Liberation Front movement. Many London members, despite ideological differences with Gay News, manage to maintain a civilised relationship with us, and also do much good and important work for the improvement of the lot of gays generally. Also relations with Gay Lib outside of London couldn’t be better, many of these groups, in fact, sell GN at their meetings and also in their surrounding areas. We have even received generous donations from one or two of these groups.

As we feel that no-one is exempt from constuctive criticism and we will never pander to pressure groups by withholding news, censoring our opinions and editorial comments, or allowing one faction or group to have more of a say or influence than another. The day we did allow this would be the time for us to quit publishing, for it would be betraying the trust people have in us, who rely upon our independent position to inform them factually, unbiasedly and without any preaching or politicising.

In a recent London GLF Diary (Nov 9-18) the embittered faction responsible for that edition suggested that people read such American Gay Lib publications as Gay Sunshine, Gay Liberator, Flaming Faggots as they would ‘prove more palatable than reading Gay News’. Apart from these papers only being available in limited numbers at a few bookshops, the writer(s) of the quoted piece completely fail to explain or communicate their reasons for such criticism. Possibly the truth and realities of matters and events nearer home are unpalatable. Possibly the vacuity of London Gay Lib during the last year is a matter they would rather sweep under the carpet.

We remain the only national fortnightly, independent gay newspaper in this country, and we mean to stay just that. No matter what threats we may recieve.

Gay News Editorial Collective

ED: The complete list of periodicals mentioned in the GLF Diary are as follows: The Body Politic, Lesbian Tide, Flaming Faggots, Gay Sunshine, Fuori and Gay Liberator. We would add to that list The Furies and The Advocate, America’s largest selling gay newspaper. Bookshops in London likely to have a few copies of these papers in stock are Housmans, Agitprop and Compendium.

Ball And Chain

Recently, I spent a few days in London after a year’s absence. I am no newcomer to the London gay scene, after having spent seven years as an integral part of it. Yet, over the past year, the totally different way of life, lived in an almost totally different kind of environment, has seeped into me sufficiently for me to be able to look somewhat objectively at the way my gay friends in London live, whilst knowing the scene intimately from the inside.

The London gay scene can be an exciting, colourful world full of people who are either beautiful or interesting; you occasionally meet people who are both. I can remember such people, but fortunately, I only knew them for a few weeks. Being the pessimist I am, I do not intend to extol the wonders of London when there are so many things about it which are bad and prod one’s social conscience to comment upon them.

What I see in the gay scene, (that which I saw in myself over a year ago but fail to see in the majority of non-gay society) is the incessant preoccupation with sex and the constant orientation around gay being, or, we might alternatively say, being gay. It seems that there is a type of gay person whose entire existence revolves around their being gay, and that nothing matters or holds any interest for them other than the possibility of what they might get into bed with next. To me, this myopia is alarming, but to them, I guess, my university intellect is equally horrifying in its universalism and exposure to the overwhelming fullness of the world. Being gay in a gay world, or what sociologists innocently call subculture, is a comfortable security when the rest of society is painfully anti-gay. But when the entire extent of one’s life is limited to cruising and its obsessed mentality, then I think one begins to question the value of comfort and security. I should be able to understand the life of being gay, after all, I was leading it a year ago.

My transcendence into a new way of life was both planned and accidental. Now things are different, I have changed, and I look upon my old experiences almost as if I hadn’t had them. Why? Well, for one thing I have become involved in Gay Liberation since I moved out of London. However, although I have had a lot to do with GLF here, my views differ from those of the protagonists in London. The following, I hope, will illustrate this.

When I sent an article to the editors of Come Together for the special International Gay week edition, they published it but prefaced it with a pictorial comment – the article was called ‘Coming Out for Straight Gays’, and it attempted to analyse the problem of homosexuals sympathetic to the call for liberation, but confronted with some degree of interest in ‘straight’ society. I argued that liberation did not necessarily mean copying the radical feminists and wearing glittering clothes and eye-shadow, since few women do this anyway. Neither did it mean pinning oneself to a label. I reiterated the position I adopted at the GLF Birmingham conference, that with many gays like myself, Gay Lib was just one facet of something bigger and broader and that gay people shouldn’t enclose themselves in the specifically gay struggle for liberation, but should see the person as being part of a non-gay environment trying desperately to integrate with it without being swallowed up in it. Pandemonium ensued; at least from the Rad Fems and others whose brotherly love gave way to the most horrid bitterness of all. I rather suspect that the editors who prefaced my article with a picture of a ball and chain manacled to a boot were in the same frame of mind as those who castigated me at Birmingham. The point of contention was, in the last analysis, this: those that demand a change in one’s whole life in order to achieve liberation in their gay being are, I conject, those who are completely immersed in being gay and lead a totally gay existence. Those, like me who have a part to play in the non-gay world and are only gay in bed, can’t be doing with a total change in their whole lives.

Well, are my views such that they make me manacled to a ball and chain? Can I achieve liberation by attempting to integrate with straight society even though I don’t agree with it? My policy is ‘yes, integrate to liberate’. What we need to change is not only ourselves, and that on the inside, not on the eye-makeup side, but society as well. Read your manifestos you GLF people, and on page 7 it mentions a ‘revolutionary change in our whole society’. That includes us, but the change must be in our heads, deep inside our personalities in fact. The drag-fanatics have not quite found out what that means yet. If it is question time, then let’s also ask whether the liberationists are not also manacled to their own ball and chains, simply because they never concern themselves with the outside world and all its other oppressions.

Like the scene people, the professional liberationists are, to my perspective, over-involved in being gay. This distorts their understanding of how society oppresses them and what they have to do to liberate themselves from its oppression.Their rejection of the straight world (without being part of it) makes them suspicious and critical of me when I purport to move between gay and straight ways of life with an easy conscience. I can appreciate that gay being means security, as much as I understand that one does not want to be integrated with a sick society, one that gives males privilege and dominance over women, children and gays; but I do not drop-out of the straight world altogether, simply because you have got to fight it from within – and because one does not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

There are some good points about straight society but the liberationists seem to deny this.

In my Come Together article, I admitted to having a vested interest in the world which oppresses me – that was simply a paradoxical way of saying that so long as I remain straight in the street and gay in bed I can be left alone to lead a quiet comfortable life and suffer the oppression of being taunted behind my back and denied any equality with other people. That is precisely where the straight-gays and the closet-queens stand; it is the difficult, disheartening position of those who want to be or must be involved in straight society, and who don’t go to gay pubs and don’t cruise physically or mentally. So, when liberation and coming out are suggested one gets into a very difficult position. What are we to liberate ourselves from and into? If it’s the answer given by the present generation of London GLF, then I for one am quite content to stay oppressed, London libers have been trying for two years or more to find out what democracy is all about and they still have not succeeded; they have dismissed bureaucracy because it is part of the straight world and have blocked their ability to organise as a result. Hence there has been little liberation in London, although there has been a lot of jiggery-pokery with social values, and a lot of political gymnastics which have done more harm than good.

No, I don’t feel that I am manacled to a ball and chain; quite the opposite. It is not so much the ball and chain being on the other foot as the foot which has it being on the other leg, ie my critics. The only way to get at straight society is to compromise with it, and accept what you know to be good and reject what you know to be bad. There is, after all, a lot about being gay which is bad; and being gay at the expense of everything else is just such a thing.

Seconds Out

In the past few weeks three major books about women’s liberation have been re-issued in paperback. If you are at all interested in what women’s lib is about, and why the women active in the movement consider their struggle necessary, then these three books are essential reading.

The first is The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. Originally published in France in 1948 (the English translation first appearing in 1953), this book still remains one of the most indispensible works on women and their position in male-dominated societies.

The second is Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics. This American writer’s book is considered by i many to be as important as Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. Her comments on homosexuality, both male and female are particularly interesting.

Lastly, The Dialectic of Sex, (subtitled: The Case for Feminist Revolution) by Shulamith Firestone, is thought to be a contemporary continuation of the analysis of sexism as first defined by Simone de Beauvoir. It presents an articulated blueprint for sexual revolution by one of the most outspoken of America’s Radical Feminists.

Your Letters


04-197208XX 02Epsom,

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).


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

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.

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,

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.


02-197206XX 1After some very trying times, issue one finally hit the streets, and the first feedback from our would-be readership began. Some of us weren’t too keen on going out to sell the paper ourselves, since there is more than enough work to do in the writing and the preparation of the paper, but the reception almost everywhere was so overwhelmingly friendly that I don’t think any of us will hesitate with this or any future issue.

Of course. there were times when some of us found it a bit trying – like being threatened by a couple of skinheads in Richmond, or being asked “If I buy one can I have you?” (the answer was yes, but the guy didn’t wait!).

People have begun to send in letters, articles, and reviews, whim is really nice and exactly what we hoped would happen – keep up the good work. The number of people dropping into the office has increased, too, which makes life a bit crowded some of the time, but they are often coming to offer help with office work, selling and distribution (all of which is very welcome) as well as just calling in for a chat.

One such visitor was Alan Brien of the Sunday Times, carried into our midst by a whirlwind born of the fleeting press interest in gay small ads, the Spare Rib party, and Jill Tweedie. As those of you who saw his piece in the Sunday Times, 25th June, must have realised, the main topic of conversation was the Radical Feminists in G.L.F. and their behaviour at the Spare Rib party. We both agreed that it was a pity, since most people will now think that Radical Feminism equals Gay Lib, whereas they are only a very small minority on its right wing. Many others in G.L.F. are leaving the movement rather than have these people’s views imposed upon them – on Monday, Harrow local group decided to split from G.L.F. and go it alone under the name “GAY UNITY”: a title which seems to be an appropriate hint to the divisive Rad. Femmes. It appears from what we hear that other groups are considering similar actions.

However, back to the paper. We have now had refusals to stock us from quite a number of bookshops around the country (including an official refusal from W.H. Smith’s on the grounds that we wouldn’t sell fast enough to justify the space we would take up). So we still need you to visit your local bookshops and newsagents as our salesmen, to put these people in touch with us. The more daces you visit the easier it will be for all of us to communicate with each other, and that’s what it’s all about.

One or two people that we met thought the first issue a bit dry, but liked it in spite of that – in fact, the response generally has made the incredible amount of work well worthwhile. Of course, for some it was too radical, for some, too conservative, but you can’t please everybody all of the time. It seems especially difficult to please the Rad. Femmes; since deciding to run the pieces on the Spare Rib party and on what they are doing to G.L.F. generally they have tried to get us to postpone issue two, censor out our opinions of them and generally forget the whole thing. We have made space available in this issue for them to give their version of the events, but at the time of writing this, it has not arrived. It seems unduly hard to make them realise that other people besides themselves have things to say, like the nicer faction of G.L.F. who demonstrated outside the Earls Court pubs. Of course, the Rad, femmes did not support the main body of G.L.F. on this part of Gay Pride week; a prefect example of the selfish way this faction operates.

Anyway, one last thought to leave you with; if you buy the paper from one of the streetsellers in London, the person will most likely be one of us, the editorial collective, so if you’ve anything to say, any articles that other people might like to read, any criticism or encouragement let rip and we’ll do something about it.

See you around.


02-197206XX 4Wednesday, June 28th, 1972

Dear Gay News,

Yesterday, in London’s Oxford Street, I saw a mob of grotesque, raddled and over-painted nellies carrying placards and banners proclaiming “GAY IS ANGRY”. As they ambled towards Marble Arch whooping, jeering, calling out slogans and four-letter words etc., I couldn’t help bur feel utterly disgusted by their behaviour.

What, I wonder, do such people hope to achieve? Where they in any way sensible they would realise that flaunting themselves through the streets of the Capital will only shower further disgrace on all gays and incite more and more youths to go “queer bashing”.

If the object of “Gay News” is to campaign on behalf of exhibitionists such as these then your battle is completely lost, and you should toss in the towel right away. No self-respecting gay would want to concern himself with these drop-outs. They are a menace, not only to gays, but to the whole of man/womankind.

Yours faithfully
Simon L. Manson.

This letter is a comment on a G.L.F./Radical Feminist action, presumably part of Gay Pride Week. Gay News welcomes other inter pretations of this event.

Spare Rib Attacked or When the Communicating Stopped

02-197206XX 6Gay Liberation Front has always consisted of numerous small groups, each in its own way expanding and experimenting with new possibilities to develop gay pride and gay awareness. Also in their actions and in communication Gay Lib has attempted, often successfully, to alter societies ill-informed knowledge of homosexuals and to end the discrimination against gays which appears in many ways in this country, as well as, of course all the countries of this planet. But in the last few months, G’.L.F. – to many – has been stagnating or going off at tangents which totally fail to communicate anything to anyone.

On Monday 19th July, the Gay News collective had been invited to attend the Spare Rib party. This was being held to celebrate the coming out of this new monthly magazine for women, run by women. Spare Rib is intended to communicate women’s lib ideas, but without the dogma that so many fall foul of; as well as providing a magazine that truly is a women’s paper, instead of the existing mags that are run by men who think they know what women want. In other words, Spare Rib is attempting to communicate news and ideas to all women.

The Gay News collective and I arrived at the party, being held at The Place in North London, just before 9.30pm. The party had been in progress for just over two hours. As we were climbing the stairs to where the event was being held, we noticed a fair number of people leaving. When we were at the bottom of the final flight we met a few members of the self-styled Radical Feminist faction of Gay Lib. They warned us that the party was a waste of time; that it was nothing more than a middle-class trendy cocktail party. I tried to get the most agitated member of this group to explain but with little success. We said that as we hadn’t even gone into the party yet, we thought we would have a look around (and a drink) ourselves before passing judgement. This was greeted by hysterical screams of “Don’t go up there!”, and “Where’s your head at man?”. The screams continued as we ascended the final flight.

The room when the many was being held was pretty crowded, and what was immediately noticable was the lack of smiles. And the whole room, to us, had a general aura of uptightness. Gay News people melted into the chilly throng to speak with friends and acquaintances, many from other papers such as Time Out, IT and OZ. I had a chat with Rosie Boycott, one of the editors of Spare Rib, after which the reason for the apparent bad scene became cleaner. The Radical Feminists had arrived (no-one still has any idea who invited them) in a flurry of crumpled silk, grumbly cotton dresses, fur wraps, stilettoes and large amounts of makeup. (One of the women present later joked with me that the makeup looked more like warpaint.) The Rad. Femmes had taken exception, so it seems, to the fact that many of the women’s husbands. boyfriends and male friends went also invited (the gravest sin being that Spare Rib’s accountant was a man) and that the magazine wasn’t a more extremist periodical. They were accused of selling out, and. as is obvious now, must have completely misunderstood the intentions of Spare Rib. Which, to me, is to communicate to as many women as possible; through information, news and less rigid explanation of women’s lib ideas., but without the preaching.

I have been informed by members of the Rad Femmes faction that I should not be writing this piece, as I didn’t get to the party till just before 9.30pm. This I take (and this is a personal opinion) to be an attempt at censorship; maybe they have at last realised what a grave and stupid mistake it was to create such a exhibition of themselves at the party. But although I was not there from the commencement of the party, I did, for the rest of the evening, talk to as many of the women and men who had been present throughout the evening. This is what I heard; at least thirty copies of Spare Rib had been torn up by the Rad. Femmes (they haven’t got round to burning words yet), someone called someone else a “cunt”, but from which ‘side’ this abuse came is still unclear as I have heard so many different versions. A guy who is completely out of the game of sexual role playing was abused for being a mere bisexual; one women endured being shouted at for two hours, so she could try to understand the grievances of the Rad Femmes, she was unfortunately none the wiser after her attempted indoctrination. Chris Rowley, of OZ infamy, thought at the time the best way of showing he had no antagonism towards gays, tried to kiss one of the dragged-up radicals, only to be bitten for his more physical attempt at communication. And I could go on and on.

After we had been at the party for just over 15 minutes the real trouble started. This was heralded by some really frightening screaming. What exactly happened is still not clear, but someone, either from the Spare Rib people or the Rad. Femmes, had had enough and a running fist fight started. This skirmish descended down from the party to the front door of the building, where a two sided screaming match took place. After a while Spare Rib people and friends began to reappear, some with cuts and grazes, others with blood running down their faces. Some people said that some of the women had had violence tableaus enacted out upon them, by members of the Rad. Femmes, but this I haven’t been able to verify to my complete satisfaction. Whilst in retreat the Rad. Femmes had managed to take with them the remaining eight bottles of wine, a truly revolutionary protest.

So what does it all mean? To me it doesn’t matter who is in the wrong or the right, for if communication breaks down completely, especially into senseless violence, then no one wins, everybody is a loser. But one point it does raise is what exactly are these warriors in dresses on about? Are they into ending sexism and the exploitation of women? I don’t think so, their actions showed them to be no more than exploiters of the women’s situation and in the words they so often use themselves on people, they left many at that many thinking of them as ‘male chauvinist pigs’. They accuse others of telling women what to do, what then are they doing?

Do the Radical Feminists represent the general direction that Gay Lib is going in? No, they don’t. Except for a wobbly unity amongst themselves they seem very much on their own. G.L.F. as a whole cannot comprehend the delight they seemingly have for the type of alienation and hostility they create. Unforunately, Gay Lib as a whole will suffer because of these people, because as we all know, it’s those who shout the loudest who get the attention. I have spoken to many G.L.F. people since the event, and find that my opinions are shared by many within that movement. Even amonst the Rad. Femmes, there are those who really are trying to communicate and find the action of the others, like so many, mindless and damaging.

One interesting point this incident does raise, is why weren’t the Radical Feminists present at the coming out parties of Cosmopolitan and Plexus, two magazines that truely exploit women and help continue the dangerous myths about sexuality. Why

Gay Liberation Front has done many important things in the past, but unfort unately their continuing fault has been their failure to communicate, usually, to all gays. Of course there is always a need for a spearhead of people to always be attempt ing to change the many misguided and harmful parts of our society, but what good is this if at no times does anyone under stand them.

G.L.F. will suffer from the mindlessness, selfishness and intolerance of these few people. Wake up Gay Lib! As Warren Hague said at the door of The Place, “these few people are just looking for a label to exhibit their neuroses”.

Another Opinion

02-197206XX 6The confusion of repainting the GLF office was broken by an announcement “Does anyone want to go to the Spare Rib party”, “Yes” we chorussed; so we did: we being most of the people who were in the office that Sunday; wouldn’t it be lovely to have a chat with the people who were getting out a new womens lib magazine – even if we did think the editorial line up from Friendz, Oz, Vogue, etc. rather trendy. So off we went in our paint stained frocks.

When we got there (there being The Place, just off the Euston Road) we found we were in the midst of a full launching ceremony; friends, journalists and the stars all jostled at the bar; it was like being at a fifties celebrity occasion; the chat centred around nothing in particular – the magazine was being given away, but most people preferred to pocket it and read it later, rather than talk about it there.

We all had a quick look read bits in more detail and talked about it amongst ourselves; but weren’t we there as allies of the womens movement – if not more. So we broached the topic with some of the women in the room.

“What did they think of the glossy format -ooh and the only names on the cover were those of G.Best and R.Neville – and wasn’t that an ad for Woolies slap on the back cover”.

“Well you’ve got to sell your first issue haven’t you”.

“I mean, how do you get through to the women in the street if you don’t give her something familiar to hang on to”.

“Its really on attempt to bridge the gap between Vogue and all that womens lib sectarian dogma”.

Our reactions were that it was a sell out – and what a price 17½p; only a liberated middle class mum could afford that – not yer Enids at Dagenham working a full mans week and still having to cook the dinner.

It was admitted to be a compromise venture; and looking at the product, it was brought home to us that a compromise in the face of male dominated capitalist society will always be a cop out. We don’t object to make up – right on Mary Q – but to the way it’s sold with women being used as sex symbols, as inferior beings, as masks not people – as was happening right here in this magazine. How an you compromise on that.

For a womens paper, there seemed to be a fair sprinkling of men – well why not. The IT brigade was there in denims and sunglasses, other undy mags and more respectable rags were present; DJ’s and columnists mixed well here; we thought that a bit more honesty would help the situation.

“Trendy party isn’t it my dear”, “Yes I suppose it is really – plenty of booze though”. “What do you think of the magazine”, “Great effort isn’t it”. “Have you read it yet”, “No – just a peep”.

What sort of liberal shitty nonsense was this; were we here for a womens paper for womens liberation, or a glossy rag as a sop to the system? Rosie wouldn’t tolerate criticism as she’d spent six months living off a friend, borrowing money, and scrounging food. She’d worked bloody hard, and now all we could do was pull it to pieces – which a few people did later on.

It was obvious that this was not an attempt to bridge the gap between working women and the politicised minority; it was an attempt to salvage a conscience; little attempt was being made to find new ways of communicating with the mass of women who aren’t in the movement; rather than politicising them it was letting them know that womens lib was part of the system now folks – so lets all cash in.

In the midst of all the chatter, suddenly some dancing started – charlstons all round, and wasn’t that Alan Brien lifting his skirts up. This seemed to relieve some of the tension that resulted from a honest expression of our views.

In the midst of the jollity, some shouts arose from a gaggle of IT men and some GLF people; tempers had flamed when one man from IT, who said he was bisexual, showed his love for gay people by calling a brother “a fucking queer, you pansy, you filthy fairy” and to a sister “you fucking cunt”; they came to blows and spilled down the stairs and onto the street. This is what happens when male egos oppose each other. Hadn’t we learnt our lesson before – well not in such a plain way – no.

This incident held the key to the whole evening; here at last, in words, and unfortunately in blows, was confrontation. The magazine was fighting the chauvinist aggression of the system on their own terms – how could they win. We have realised that violence is their terms – and we aren’t doing things on their terms; we’ve realised the futility of that; their terms are the product of a male dominated uptight aggressive neurotic society; through staying to liberate ourselves, we have realised that we mustn’t get into that scene again; when we did we realised our mistake; can’t the sisters on Spare Rib see their mistakes as well. They sold out, we won’t.

This article was collectively written by The Radical Feminist faction within G’.L.F. They were also the people representing Gay Lib at the Spare Rib party.

An Open letter To The Rad. Femmes

02-197206XX 7Last night I saw some of you at the launching of Spare Rib. Last night I saw you behaving like the oppressive chauvinist men you claim to despise, but in fact are yourselves. Last night I saw you deciding what other people should think, now they should behave, what they should say, and when they didn’t you turned into a bunch of petulant, aggressive little children, because you couldn’t get your way. It would have helped, perhaps, if, instead of dreaming for attention like spoilt children, you had told someone what you had decided, what you thought, and what you felt could be done to change it, if it needed changing. It might have helped if you had shown some concern for others, no matter how blind, especially as you were in the company of people who, for the most part, were either gay themselves, or at the very least, not unsympathetic. But as usual the opportunities to create more, to build love, to understand each other, were wasted in favour of violent destruction.

I thought GLF was about love, about people, about life, about freedom, above all, about liberation. Pardon me. I was wrong. I recognise the straight gay ghettos for what they are – something where there would otherwise be nothing, frightened, confined. But I seek to break that confinement, where we can all be what we are and what we wish to be, without oppressing others. You have looked in the ghetto, in fact, you inhabit it more frequently than most other self-styled liberated gays, but you are there in the role of warders. You have come to the conclusion that, if people will not come out of the ghetto, you will build a fence of hate and bitterness about it so that they may rot in a prison of their own creation. Where you will go from there I do not know – perhaps to a final solution of the straight-gay problem, but I will not come with you.

“If they’re not liberated, tell them to fuck off, they don’t belong in GLF.” Who decides if they are liberated, who applies the tests? Who decides what GLF will and will not accomodate – it is for all gay people.

“We found a cocktail party atmosphere . . . . a bunch of straight men telling the women what to do . . . . one of them said she didn’t mind . . . . we told them what they really wanted . . . .” Are you any the less men telling women what to do because you’re dressed in frocks? Or are the dresses just the sheeps clothing from the safety of which you can utter your agression, your chauvinism? How do you know what anyone else wants? Who are you to tell anyone else what what need? Who gave you this wisdom, insight, righteousness? The answer is no-one, because you have none of these things. A Stalin is no less a Stalin because he looks like a moustachioed Mae West. A fuhrer is still a fuhrer in a frock. You do not care for people, because they are neither perfect nor perfectible. You care only for principles, which can be purified. You also reserve to yourselves the right to decide those principles, and to change them at will. Neatly removes everyone but yourselves, doesn’t it? You won’t fight the society and the prejudices which, whilst you may claim they do not oppress you, oppress and are real to many, many people, gay and straight. It’s much more fun fighting the people who were your friends and your lovers, far easier to hun those who have tried to be open, honest and free with you, than to attack people you never meet, never talk to, and, in the case of straight people, never have any need to relate to.

Can you not see that the words, actions, and manner you employ to achieve whatever you want to achieve, is nothing more than masculine agression run riot? Can you not see that the only end you have so far turned them to is a cold and loveless destruction of all who refuse to side with you? You are not new, you form no part of any alternative, because you use fear as your weapon, and repression as your tool You will not frighten people into being liberated, but by the way you behave it is clear that this is what you are trying to do. And in refusing to see these things in yourself you are perpetuating dishonesty and deceit. You are sincere towards others, but you lie to yourselves.

And from where came this hatred of straight people, and l say again, PEOPLE . . ? Neither you nor I nor anyone else are any better than anyone else. We each have our skills and talents, unless the repression of society has twisted us so far as to render us useless. You didn’t chose to be gay, and most of you couldn’t chose to be straight – do you think straights are in any way different, except that it’s a little bit easier for them? Do you think that the majority of straight men enjoy being dependable fathers, husbands, lovers? We are all oppressed and all brothers in our oppression, no matter how blind to the fact or how obstructive, no matter how frustrating and hurtful it is to an those who ought to be on your side placing themselves on the other, when there isn’t even a need for fences.

And on top of this, you have created nothing, Nothing, that is, that is of any use to anyone but your pure little selves in the company of other pure little selves, and even then only within your head. What help have you been to the greater body of people who are trapped within the system, whether materially or mentally? What attempts have you made to reach them? How have you tried to understand and communicate? What have you given to someone who may want only a gay club to go to unmolested, and be free of interference and insult? l’ll tell you . . . . more insult, and from the only group of people – other gays – to whom he can relate. Where have you made any changes except in your ghetto of ideology and pink-sequins? How does that show others the way forward? How does that prove to someone that he or she is oppressed, if all you do is compound the oppression?

Fascism in a frock has come to GLF. A lie masquerading as a truth, an oppression playing at liberation. Your selfishness and your arrogance are not what GLF is for. GLF no longer exists in any meaningful way whatsoever. You go your way, and those of us who still can love, and know the meaning of the word, will go ours . . . . .