Your Letters

Please note that any letters received by us at Gay News are liable to be published unless you state otherwise.

Save Your Eyesight

London W11

Dear Gay News,

Well, I’ve finally got the money together to put another personal ad in Gay News – Well, I’ve just got to meet some friends somehow. The loneliness can make you go blind, I tell you)

I would just like to say how much I agree with you over your conclusions in “Standing In The Shadows”, while we are bitching with each other… discussing Marx instead of the heartache and fear of thinking you’re different from absolutely everyone else, there will be an unlit gas ring hissing somewhere tonight. I think Gay News should repeat that statement every now and again (perhaps as a headline over an editorial or subscription page).

I did not, however, quite follow your bitch against ‘tall slim, longhaired, passive, warm and generous — always generous’ unless you were getting at ‘sex with beautiful bodies’ as opposed to meaningful relationships.

I was also pleased to see the ideas expressed in ‘Who’s Kidding Who?’ in print and put so fully and coherently. I only hope that Miss LaRue reads them. (Incidentally, the same comments apply equally to a ghastly TV (sic) spectacular that Tim Brooke-Taylor did last year with Cliff Richard).

And — to end this letter, or ‘hymn to David Seligman’ — I’d just like to add that his comments about the cinema in “Criticism of Criticism of Criticism” are right on too!

Rick Vaughan

Tawdry, Passé and Uncritical

London NW1

Dear Collective,

Sorry but I must agree with Daniel James (GN14). Gay News does appear tawdry, passé and uncritical in terms of content. What is particularly unfortunate is that what once might have been a policy of being non-aligned has been shown to become one of middle-ground politics which is inevitably male biased. By all means have all points of view represented so that issues of bisexuality, Womens Liberation and Radical Feminism and the political left generally are also given coverage in your paper.

This is important because the demand for equality is in essence a revolutionary demand. Equality for gays cannot be achieved within the present social format. True equality (and freedom to cottage and make it with 16 year olds is not that) means the abandonment of the nuclear family and the whole ethos of male dominance and sex-role playing as integral social norms. In turn, none of these things can be achieved without the destruction of the economic system which relies on and fosters them.

You report that Angie Weir is now “more convinced of a proper Marxist understanding of the situation” but we are not told what that is. Fortunately we don’t all have to go through Angie’s experience to come to a similar understanding. Individual liberation has to be related to the wider political fight for Socialism (not one of the perverted beaurocratic versions thereof which are the product of a male supremacist movement that did not adequately link the elimination of sexism with the ending of capitalism) where individual actions and hopes can be brought together in the creation of a better society for all oppressed people. Homosexuality only exists as. a negative label now because it is necessarily deviant within a social construct based on role division at social and economic, at all levels. Gay Liberation means the ending of sex-class divisions which has to be connected with the elimination of economic-class structures. The liberal-reformist alternative is the aping of warped, stereotyped relationships of heterosexual “normality”.

As far as GN is concerned I am making a plea for you to see your ‘open house’ editorial policy as encompassing the Socialist left in general and bi and gay radicals in particular. For a start, please try and get an article by Angie Weir — wouldn’t that be the first feature article by a woman as well as the first putting gay oppression into a fundamental political perspective? – and one by one of the socialist organisations like L.P.Y.S, or IMG on how it views the liberation from sex-roles generally, and of gays especially, which would also serve to add to the demands for making an analysis of sexism a more critical part of their programme.

Ray

An End To Isolation

6, The Lawns,
Mount Pleasant,
St Albans, Herts.

Dear Gay News.

I am writing to you because David Seligman’s article, “Standing in the Shadows” (GN15) seems to me to be both sensible and civilised.

There are a great many homosexuals living in the provinces and the country, to whom the gay world, as expressed by London, is neither desirable nor understandable. What your kind article showed was that there are still many homosexuals living in an unnecessary isolation.

I would like to see a series of organisations, without political message or dogma, existing in the provinces to bring together all homosexuals, regardless of age, size, colour or creed. So that in any town there would be no need for any man to remain alone and lonely. It would then be possible for a man to move from area to area in the sure knowledge that he would be able to talk to, and to meet with, those persons who are best able to help and befriend him: namely his fellow homosexuals.

I am not distressed about the young foe they are able to look after their own interests; often with devastating ruthlessness — but I am distressed about the older homosexual. I think that it would be beneficial were we all to remember that we are not immortal, and that an older manls behaviour is not that behaviour which is wholly strange to ourselves: that it is, in fact, a preview of our own middle and old age.

I ask that you should place this letter in your columns, not because it has merit, but because I wish to ask all homosexuals in St Albans and surrounding areas, to write to me so that we can arrange to meet: all of us with each other. I hope that people will write, and that we can meet regularly. I do not expect that we shall all like each other; similarity of sex does not necessitate affection. But I do expect that we should try to form an organisation so that there should need to be no lonely homosexual in St Albans. If we are to be civilised then we must care for each other: and care, not because we are beautiful, witty, erudite, or anything exceptional; but because we are all homosexuals.

Once again, may I thank you for an extraordinary article. It was humane informed and sincere.

David Richardson

A Continuing Problem

Oxford

Dear Gay News,

I scanned Gay News 15 from cover to cover, looking for some hint that this might be a paper for gay women as well as gay men. The clues were very few; even your Gay Lexicon didn’t contain one word of lesbian derivation!

Granted, this could well be our faults, there are fewer of us — and who knows – perhaps we do less! But don’t you think you are making it harder for lesbians who have not yet “come out”, by tacitly ignoring their existence?

Perhaps it is time you jogged your female colleagues on the editorial collective… but whoops! There are no women on the EC — just Glenys Parry up in Manchester. No wonder we’ve got problems!

I’d like to suggest that all women who read Gay News could make some literary contribution to it, an account, a letter, even a small ad! I’m sure it would enrich the paper, and encourage other women to identify with it.

Congratulations to the Gay News staff who are bearing up so nobly despite our absence.

Diana

ED: Write on Diana.

Problem Column

Abingdon, Berks

Dear Gay News,

I am yet one more of your ardent devotees, only too glad to be kept up to date efficiently and cheaply, especially living in such isolation from the gay metropolis! May I mention an idea which you probably thought of long ago and rejected?

How about a “Dear Auntie” problem column? If you have considered this, why have you not bothered with it? Surely, for homosexuals, this sort of service must be needed even more than for heterosexuals who can go to any number of people and agencies for help.

I would be willing to help answering, though you would probably have better qualified contacts. Whatever the practical problems, I am sure it is worth considering, as both valuable and probably amusing as well.

Chris Rose

ED: We welcome the idea of a ‘problem column’. In the early issues of GN we attempted to get one going, but the response was fairly negative. If any readers or organisations can help, please get in touch.

Gay Life In Hull

Hull

Dear Gay News,

As a recently arrived young assistant lecturer on the staff of the University of Hull, I was horrified to find that the university has no active gay group, either CHE or GLF. The sexual liberation society, which functioned up until the last academic year is no longer active. Neither is there a CHE or GLF in the city – with a population of some 300,000.

If any staff, students or people in Hull are interested in setting up a group for social activities, or political activities (if the latter is something people want to participate in) would they contact me, at 133 Park Avenue, Hull, or telephone Hull 403553. and we could make a start in reviving a gay life in Hull.

Howard Johnson

Not So Simple

London NW6

Dear Collective,

I always thought that if I saw someone (of my own sex) I fancied, I could approach him, chat him up, and ask him back: he could either agree or refuse and that was that! I was astounded to read in “Still At It” (GN15) that this is in fact illegal!!

Not only is this law ridiculous, it is positively criminal!!

E R

ED: This letter is referring to the continued use of agent provocateur methods by the Chelsea police in the vicinity of The Coleherne, Earl’s Court.

We’re Waiting Mr James

London SW12

Dear Gay News,

I am surprised that Daniel James (GN14) chose to write to you in the way he did. You are no doubt producing the best you can with your limited materials and resources, and have little need for non-constructive criticism.

I look forward to seeing a well-written professional article from Mr James in one of your future issues.

Ian Clark

Letters continued on page 10.

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.

Bisexuals – Oppressed And Oppressor

We don’t fit in — either with the gay or with the “straight” (hetero) communities. Both seem to regard us as some kind of freak. It seems as if it’s OK for us to love/fuck either women or men but not both. We know about the oppression of gays from personal experience and then we get into a women’s lib book (especially “Sisterhood is Powerful” — ed. Robin Morgan, Vintage books V-539 — probably the easiest to read and not so likely to bog down a new reader to the subject) and discover (if we don’t already know it) that we, bisexual males, are oppressing our ladies in the same way that society oppresses us/them.

The rest of this article will be written in the first person singular. I’d like to write ‘we’ all the way through, but everybody’s experiences are different (as are their attitudes, degree of gayness, etc, etc.)

My first problem is recognising the degree of my gayness. If I overdo the gayness, I lose my hetero love(s). So I can only come out to a certain degree, and if that certain degree isn’t enough I have to repress all my gayness which leaves me lonelier and angry with myself and with society for creating the situation in which I have to be either one or the other. I want my bread buttered on both sides, but can’t find the butter knife and so I just have bread and man cannot live on bread alone. Sometimes, from the looks I get from both sexes, it seems as if another Hitler movement’s starting. I should describe myself as a fur-coated, nail-varnished “hippie” for want of a better word, especially as somebody yelled ‘Bloody kinky hippie” after me about half an hour ago).

So what can I do? Become a radical gay and fight my oppression whilst at the same time knowing that I too am an oppressor? Everybody must come together – the gay movements (ALL OF THEM), the women’s movement, the black movement, the freak movement. Most of us (the above, not just bisexuals) are seeking reforms, either of laws or of society, and we probably can’t make it on our own. We’ve got to compromise on some things, and yet on others we agree.

Most of us want the removal of all forms of oppression – the break-up of the family, different or no politicians, the removal of the power of the church and less pollution so we can survive to see the things that we’re prepared to fight for.

The problem with revolutionary tracts is that there’s never any solution to the problems that cause the dissent in the first place. What’s the use of bombing buildings that can be used for a better purpose? Why use violence except in self-defence? Why don’t demonstrators prepare themselves for clubs and tear gas? Water cannons and rubber bullets are more difficult to overcome, but everybody can buy crash helmets and army surplus gas masks. I’m not trying to be a leader, or even an active revolutionary (at the moment at least) I just want people to think.

How do I see the future of society? Basically a non-capitalist society, money can be abolished if there is, at first, a system of credit control (people could go mad collecting everything they’ve dreamed of). Money can be done away with later. But all these things are minor compared with the immediate tasks. The actual state of “the nation” can be discussed and formulated at a later date, if and when people get themselves together. I’m neither a politician nor an economist, so there may be people better “qualified” than myself to get this together.

My thoughts at the moment are those of re-education. People must learn not to despise gays. Gays and ‘straights’ need equal opportunities for loving and making love. Both gays and straights must start to accept bisexuals, like me. Everybody has a degree of gayness which they are taught to repress – at least at my school. Active gays, when discovered, were publicly denounced by the boys and occasionally by the teachers. I had my first gay experience at school and because of public opinion have had to repress my gayness for the last nine or ten years. I’ve been shocked when approached by gays in the street, because I’ve repressed my gayness and they haven’t had to.

Ladies must learn that bisexuality is not wrong. There’s nothing bad about it. I had to denounce gays for nine months during one relationship with an American who hated “those queers”. Perhaps you, the readers, despise me for this, perhaps you know what it’s like to tell somebody you fancy that you are gay/bisexual and to be disliked/hated for it.

In my gay moments I must stop thinking of guys as sex objects and in my straight ones I must stop thinking of ladies in the same way. As the Virginia Slims ad in the States might say, “I’ve come a long way”, but I’m not there yet. I need to regard everybody as people. Men women and kids are all equal and vet we’re all taught to discriminate: “A man cannot love another man”, “A woman’s place is in the home”, “Oh, he’s just a kid”. We must stop thinking in terms of sex and age, forget the ads, be ourselves, not what others (society) want us to be.

To reduce this to a personal note, I’d like to see the break-up of the nuclear family and become part of a group one. My idea of perfection is four (at least, but preferably an even number, ie 2, 3 or 4 couples) living together, in an interchangeable bisexual relationship. The problem that I’ve come across in trio group relationships is that one person is liable to feel left out at times and so become jealous. That’s not a good idea, because the jealousy becomes fed back into the group and causes more dissent and hence the jealousy and bad feelings grow.

Before anything can be done to society in general, we shall all have to get our personal lives together. If it means breaking a few laws, that’s our problem. Eventually we’ll have no laws to break. All the repressive laws, church teachings and Mary Whitehouse/Councillor Kidd ideas will be broken. I suggest to all bisexuals that they leave their suburban homes and come out.

We can do something when we’re united. Perhaps you’re afraid that your wives/girl-friends will desert you (or come to that your husbands/boyfriends or any combination of the four). Don’t worry, you can fall in love more freely with others when you don’t need the ties of marriage/domesticity to keep you happy. If every Gay/Woman/Black/Freak went on strike our joint proposals for a new society would have to be listened to. If we all struck, we’d include the army, police and politicians, nothing could stop us being heard.

Perhaps some bisexuals don’t regard themselves as being gay. I know that I do and despite the fact that I don’t fit in with the communities of gays or ‘straights’, I find that I can co-operate with both.

I’m not suggesting a Bisexual Liberation Front, nor just a united Gay Force, I’m saying that all of us who are oppressed (and some of the oppressors, as all males involved in a male/female relationship oppress the females) must unite to get something done.

I’d like to hear from anybody with views on the oppression of bisexuals or getting all groups in favour of restructuring society together, but I can’t promise to write back unless you enclose a stamped addressed envelope (I can barely afford paper and biros) and can’t be prompt in answering if many people write. Let’s all get together and try to do something for once, it’d make a change from sitting on our arses and just talking.

Chris Robbins.
6 Morningside Place, Edinburgh, EH10 5ER