Fifth Formers Defend Gays

BIRMINGHAM: Fifth-formers have come out strongly on the side of Birmingham Gay Liberation Front members whose educational visit to their school has been mauled by the local and national press.

Halfway through December a party of five gays from Birmingham GLF went to Coleshill Comprehensive School in Warwickshire as part of a school conference on sex education. At the time the visit seemed to go smoothly, no one was worried, shocked, assaulted. Instead the GLF members met a lot of school-kids and put over the problems gays face and the theories of gay liberation.

Paper Tigers

Then Birmingham GLF published their newssheet. A copy went to the Birmingham Post and Mail group.

The next thing the gays knew was that they had scandalised parents by going to the school, according to the Birmingham papers.

Then the national papers picked up the story, and as queer-bashing in print is a Fleet Street hobby, the papers invented a ‘row’ over the sex talk.

That was something that neither Birmingham GLF nor the school knew anything about.

A spokesman for Birmingham GLF told Gay News: “There was no particular response from the school until this week.

“It seems that everything has been stirred up by the local papers. The Birmingham Post got hold of a copy and as far as we know phoned up parents and said ‘Isn’t this shocking?’ just to get a story.

Girls Take More Interest

“We were just part of a conference on sex education. For some reason the girls seemed far more interested in what we were saying than the boys.

“Now the fifth formers have rung up the newspaper and told them that they weren’t corrupted in any way by meeting us. We’re glad the kids are backing us. We’re also grateful to the school for their backing.”

Mr Thomas Wilson told the Daily Telegraph: “I was not aware of any row and have received no complaints from parents.

Positive Help

“I thought it was a risk to invite a homosexual speaker, but it turned out to be of positive help to the pupils to understand better the problems homosexuals have to face.”

Mr Dennis Prosser, a retired magistrate and chairman of the school’s governors told The Times he’d not known the gays were attending the sex-ed conference until afterwards. But, he said, “If you are going to have a talk on homosexuality, it is better to get someone who can talk with authority.”

Parents had been sent a letter telling them what was going to happen at the conference and that they could deny their children the right to hear all or any of the speakers.

All Aspects Of Sex

Mr Wilson went on to say that the pupils had asked the school to arrange the conference to reflect all aspects of sex.

Meanwhile The Daily Express reported someone from Birmingham GLF as saying: “We don’t see what all the fuss is about.”

The secretary of the school’s parent-teacher association, Mr Louis Power admitted that he was “concerned” that gays should be allowed into the school.

He said: “I don’t complain about sex education itself. But there is no need to push homosexuality in front of youngsters so strongly.”

Dilly Boys Make The Times

LONDON: Britain’s press has suddenly discovered the ‘Dilly Boys’ after a book by the same name was published by a small publishing house, Croom Helm. First in where angels fear to tread was the Sunday Mirror. With dazzling originality it called its Sunday Mirror Documentary on the Dilly boys ‘The Dilly Boys’ and admitted that it borrowed heavily from the book.

It saw a Picadilly Circus peopled almost entirely by 13 and 14-year-olds playing the flipper games and the market at Playland and the other mausement arcades, but carefully avoiding naming names or getting close enough to the problem for the article to be more than an empty piece of plagiarism from Mervyn Harris’ book.

It seemed the only people at Piccadilly Circus older than 14 were either older men there to pick up the boys, probation officers leaning on the anti-pedestrian railings or even Sunday Mirror reporters.

The Mirror’s story said: ‘We traced the case-histories of five Dilly boys who, homeless and short of cash got caught up in the dragnet.

‘Two have graduated from amphetamines to hard drugs; one has gone to jail for stealing another has put a girl “in the club”. The fifth has managed to get out of the game and gone back to Bolton.’

Midnight Piccadilly: A day’s rest over, a night’s work begins. [Photograph: Peter Mundy]
Earlier, Victor Sims, the Mirror’s man in the dirty mac at the Dilly had told us: ‘Nearly all of them have heard about the easy pickings to be had in London’s rich heart, and reckon they can eke out a living on their wits.

‘more often, they finish up frozen, half-starved, asleep inside a telephone box, huddled for warmth in a deserted railway coach, in a hotel car park or even in warehouse packing cases.

‘It’s at this stage of disillusionment that the trouble starts. They hang around Piccadilly, desperate for food and shelter. Instead of pocketing their pride and going home, they become easy prey to anyone who will offer them a warm bed …

‘Horrifying? Shameful? Almost unbelievable?

To the senior police officers and detectives at West End Central police station, the problem is very real.

‘The Chief Superintendent told me: “The situation created by these juveniles, who drift into our area is one of the most difficult we have had to handle.”’

The Chief Superintendent didn’t mention gay trade at the Dilly being more of a problem than any other drop-out youth situation there. But the Mirror chose to run as its second headline on the piece: ‘Their trade shames a national showplace’ and under it published a picture of a probation officer ’at “The Meat Rack”, the Piccadilly Circus haunt of young boys waiting for homosexuals.’

Five days later it was Friday and the Times lifted its skirts and had a slam at the Dilly.

In a series called Policemen Talking, Peter Evans wrote a piece on the ‘Missing boys and girls enmeshed in Soho vice nets.’ Racey stuff this for The Times. Police sergeant M Woodheath of the Juveniles Squad, gave us the low-down from her point of view. She said: “If they are young lads, men will start speaking to them and take them home and be nice to them. These boys are usually naive and often accept. The man demands something more of them. Eventually they put these lads on the streets as male prostitutes and they give the men part of their earnings. Their ages can range from 14 upwards. Many of these boys end up as permanent homosexuals. It is very difficult to get at the men in charge of them. Boys are reluctant to give a description or a name and address. They are frightened to give you much.

“One man had ten little boys working as male prostitutes for him from 14 upwards. They were reluctant to give evidence. Some turned up at court to give evidence. He was convicted.

“The same sort of thing happens to girls. Lesbians pick them up from 13 upwards. Three girls from Cardiff were arrested for soliciting before we discovered they were juveniles…”

And so on. It seems you get the Dilly’s dirty washing aired just as publicly in The Times as you do in the Mirror. And The Times gives its readers more details of the washing its discovered.

ED: We’ll carry a full review of Mervyn Harris’ The Dilly Boys in Gay News 17, and we’ll try to look a bit deeper into the rent scene in the future.

Editorial

04-197208XX 02As 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”.