J. Martin Stafford, BA Explains

The news that J. Martin Stafford, BA – member of CHE’s Executive Committee – had urged Lord Longford and the Director of Public Prosecutions to take private action against Gay News, naturally enough caused somewhat of a stir within CHE itself and in the gay community at large.

Mr Stafford felt it necessary, therefore, to give an explanation of his actions. His memorandum was circulated to local groups of CHE and to delegates of CHE’s National Council (which will be reported in Gay News 14).

The item that horrified him was “what purported to be a photograph of Lord Longford in a naked state”. J. Martin Stafford, BA, makes it clear that, though he mentioned his position within CHE in his letter to Lord Longford, he did not suggest that he was acting on CHE’s behalf.

He writes: “I am convinced that the Gay Liberation Front and all bodies and publications of a similar persuasion are a potent menace to the cause which I embrace and a hindrance to the realisation of ends which I – and no doubt most other people in CHE -esteem desirable. For let us be quite clear about this: GLF, by the outlandish appearance of many of its adherents, by the lunatic extravagance of its professed aims, and by the blatant indecency of its publications, makes social acceptance and further law-reform less probable, not more so; since almost everything which it does, says, and is – far from dispelling prejudice and assuaging potential sympathisers confirms all their gravest apprehensions that homosexuals are freakish perverts … etc etc etc”.

He continues: “… there is absolutely nothing in GLF or Gay News with which any person who held a position of responsibility or who had any concern to maintain his own good name and reputation would wish, or could afford, to be identified, however erroneously”.

Still linking GLF and Gay News together, he believes they give an impression of homosexuality as misleading as that offered by Dr Reubens. He urges CHE to “disassociate itself from all jargon-happy idiots and to renounce their theories as mistaken; their recommendations as impracticable.”

He writes: “I therefore took the view, by which I abide, that any lawful means of eliminating this menace was justified, and proceeded to conspire its ruin.”

After a further paragraph of attack on GLF and Gay News during which he suggests that in himself homosexuals will see they have “at least some spokesmen fit to plead their cause” and also that “some homosexuals have the sense to reject the idle pretentions of revolutionary fanaticism”, he concludes by asserting his intention of remaining on the Executive Committee of CHE “until 1975, or at least until it suits me to leave.” And ends: “The role I play can not, alas, be a very constructive one (sic) but perhaps a restraining influence is not altogether without value.”

At CHE’s National Council, delegates having read Mr Stafford’s hysterical memorandum (for those of us with less intelligence than that Mr Stafford claims to possess found the path from a cartoon of Lord Longford to the “idle pretensions of revolutionary fanaticism” a little difficult to follow), proceeded to give the little fellow a severe trouncing. He sat it out with his usual cool and it was only later in the day that he delighted his fans with one of his celebrated stamping performances.

Mr Stafford told the council that Gay News should be suppressed and “all its shallow and immature gestures eliminated” since it confirms all the worst impressions of homosexuals that people already possess.

A delegate from London (Kensington group) pointed out that Mr Stafford’s action was entirely antagonistic to all the law reforms CHE seeks because he represents himself as a spokesman who wishes to impose restrictions. “He has done everybody a grave disservice”, concluded Peter to loud applause.

The chairman of London’s Putney group remarked that for a homosexual to “recommend that heterosexuals should take legal action against homosexuals was utterly abhorrent”.

The chairman of the Brighton group, speaking with controlled anger, said that Mr Stafford’s action was outrageous in itself, but his “arrogant explanation has added fuel to the fire; the excuse that he is speaking only for himself is rubbish”, said John, “until now Martin Stafford has been a joke. But unless he is removed he will become a menace”.

It was a delegate from London (group 1) who rose to associate himself with Martin Stafford. In a peculiarly confused speech he insisted that he “strongly associated himself with Gay News and had even renewed his subscription. Yet when he saw the relevant cartoon “I was shocked, I thought it in gross bad taste”. Clearly the concept that merely being shocked by something is reason to try and get it prosecuted in the most punitive way, still exists.

Finally two resolutions were put before the Council. The first, from the Croydon delegate, said: “This council disassociates itself from the action of Martin Stafford over Gay News and deplores that a member of the Executive Committee should consider such an action”. Three people voted against this.

The second, put by Bernard Greaves of Cambridge said: “This Council welcomes Gay News‘s existence, applauds its editorial independence and thanks it for its contribution to the homophile cause while not necessarily agreeing with everything contained in it”. Again an overwhelming show of agreement with two votes against.

Martin Stafford embodies all the negative, depressive, death-dealing qualities of the acutely self-repressed homosexual. It is most unfortunate that he has acquired a position on the National Executive Committee of CHE. He admits he will not support his colleagues ard states he will always try to act as “a restraining influence.” His efforts at restraint have hitherto only been exercised within CHE and, while acutely disturbing, have had no relevance to the gay community at large. But in this case he has moved outside CHE to attack (in what is potentially the most vicious way) the efforts of another group of people (homosexual and heterosexual, unaligned to any organisation) to bring those much needed elements of contact, communication and information to both gay and straight communities.

Whenever Martin Stafford goes on one of his anti-life rampages, he falls back on the fact that he was elected to the Executive Committee of CHE this year with a majority. “Ten months ago the voting figures confirmed beyond all dispute that my views command considerable support; for after submitting myself to election on a question of confidence I was returned to the EC, not only at the top of the poll, but by a very impressive lead.”

This reads well. However it must be pointed out (as indeed the vice-chairman of CHE, Tony Ryde, did point out at the council) that Martin Stafford won 95 outright votes at the election, less than 10 votes ahead of his nearest rival. Out of a potential electorate of about 2,500 at this time, this is less than considerable, certainly not impressive. These facts, of course, only reflect on the inertia or lack of interest of CHE’s membership at large in electing their representatives. It also means that the other members of the Executive Committee are in the same position. However, it must be remembered that the other members of the EC are aware of this and only act after collective agreement and do not go off on individual rampages claiming a massive, but mythical, support.

Roger Baker

ED: We repeat again and again and again – Gay News is linked in no way whatsoever with any organisation.

A Thoroughly Responsible Paper

05-197208xx-4The freedom of the British press is something we have all learned to value. Usually this is understood to mean that our newspapers are not controlled or censored by the government, the state, the police or the army. Publish and be damned is still a good slogan.

However, this freedom is also assumed to mean that individuals and groups of individuals have the right to reply to attacks made upon them by individual newspapers. Quite often this right is freely given. You will find in general that all contentious topics are given a pretty free airing from both sides, whether it is scientology in dispute or Sir Basil Spence’s erection.

A significant exception was made recently though by The Sunday Telegraph. On Sunday, June 2Sth the following item appeared in that paper’s column of pungent tit-bits called To the Point; —

Gent’s Directory

LEAVING aside any dispute about the power of judges to make what is in effect new law, there will be general satisfaction that they have declared to be illegal any advertisement designed to put homosexuals in contact with one another.

It has now become clear that the concept of privacy enshrined in the Wolfenden Act should have applied, not only to homosexual practices as such, but to anything likely to encourage them. The Act was intended to protect an unfortunate minority from persecution, but not to empower them to spread their deviant ideas in society at large.

Presumably no one would dispute the S. Telegraph’s right to express such an opinion. Some people might question the use of emotive language – eg. ‘unfortunate’, ‘empower’ and ‘deviant ideas’, not to mention the use of ‘their’ with its establishment of a ‘them’ and ‘us’ division.

Quite naturally though the paragraphs upset a great many homosexual men and women. And several immediately wrote to the newspaper.

Dear Sir,

I would like to take issue with you, as no doubt others of your readers have done, over last week’s article entitled ‘Gents’ Directory’.

You leave aside the question of whether it is right that the judiciary should usurp the legislature’s function by effectively making laws to cover what a few unelected judges consider to be Parliament’s omission. I have not seen in your columns an equal lack of concern at, for example, left wing youth groups which similarly by-pass the established democratic channels from time to time.

You assert that the denial of advertising rights to homosexuals will meet with general satisfaction. Among the one in twenty homosexuals who read and write for the Sunday Telegraph? Among those who believe in one law for all citizens and abhor discrimination against minorities? Among those concerned at the isolation and despair often faced by homosexuals denied the opportunity for social contact and fulfilling relationships because you do not like them?

You claim that the Sexual Offences Act intended to protect homosexuals from persecution. The Act indeed allowed consenting adult male homosexuals a limited freedom at law. But society persistently denies homosexuals the opportunity to exercise that limited freedom. You justify this with the emotive concept of homosexuals ‘spreading their deviant ideas in society at large!’ We do this, apparently, by seeking to contact other homosexuals via advertisements, just as heterosexuals freely do, on a much larger scale. And if they feel the need, in an entirely heterosexually orientated society, how much more so must we!

The outcry against this social persecution has only just begun. We are comforted by the knowledge that, although this is and must be our battle, we are not alone.

Tony Ryde, (Vice Chairman Campaign for Homosexual Equality) 28 Kennedy St., Manchester.

Dear Sir,

Your editorial comment on homosexuals (Gent’s Directory, last Sunday) has brought considerable and unnecessary distress to a great many people. The note is based on the misconception (which a little unbiased research would have swiftly corrected) that homosexuality is infectious. When a homosexual advertises for companionship then only another homosexual is interested. Society at large remains unaffected.

Surely you would agree that one’s sexuality can hardly be dismissed as a mere idea, but is an inescapable fact of one’s personality.

What you refer to as the “spread (of) deviant ideas” is the simple assertion that the homosexual man and woman have a human right to exist in equality with our heterosexual brothers and sisters. A society which happily accepts our contribution to its economy (mostly greater than that of married people) yet continues to condemn us to a crippling emotional isolation might itself be judged deviant.

Roger Baker
Press Officer: CHE 28 Kennedy St.
Manchester.

Dear Sir,

I was dismayed to read your editorial “Gents Directory”.

To many heterosexual adults, the subject of homosexuality appears to be aligned with pornography, bestiality and intentions to deprave. Anyone admitting to being a homosexual is branded as unclean and considered fair sport for either mental or physical punishment.

This is manifestly unjust. It is surely the case that homosexuals are by accident of birth made what they are. How many of your readers would endorse your condemnation if it were directed at another branch of society different from the norm of which there are so many tragic examples.

I do not agree with the aims of the Gay Liberation Front and others which appear to show the homosexual as superior to his brethren but I am sure that the majority of this section of the population merely want to be accepted for what they are and have the equal rights to which we subscribe in every other walk of life.

In the present isolated environment that has been forced on them, why should we even now deny them the right to try and establish contact with each other? Your own endorsement sir, of the recent Court ruling aggravates the present bigotry and further delays the coming of a free and well adjusted society.

Anonymous

Dear Sir,

I read with astonishment your editorial ‘Gents’ Directory’. I can only hope that your extremely distasteful and hostile remarks stem from a complete ignorance of the nature and effect of homosexuality, rather than a wilful desire to inflict suffering by perpetuating wicked myths.

I and my colleagues, who include doctors, surgeons and priests, have daily brought home to us the misery and unhappiness of that minority whom you gratuitously describe as ‘unfortunate’. Our clients problems are not caused by their homosexuality but by the very attitudes within society towards homosexuals as examplified by your editorial.

If, as a responsible, opinion forming member of that society, you should wish to discover the truth, I and my colleagues would welcome the opportunity to inform you of our work. If, however, your prejudice will not permit you to take up our offer, then I hope your conscience will restrain you from publishing such ill-informed editorials in the future.

Michael Launder
(National Organiser)
Friend,
Broadley Terrace,
London.N.W.1.

These are clearly sensible, reasoned letters, hardly the work of maniacs or cranks. But of course, none were published. Instead, Brian Roberts the 68-year-old editor of the Sunday Telegraph took what seems to be the unusual step of replying personally to his correspondents.

Sunday Telegraph
Fleet Street,
London.E.C.4.
Tel: 01-353 4242

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your letter of June 28.

There is nothing in our editorial which I wish to withdraw. It did not attack the protection afforded to homosexuals by the Act. In rightly supporting the recent Court ruling against advertising, it took into account that there must be many what I might call “borderline ” homosexuals whose often courageous resistance to homosexual practices should not be undermined by such proselytising. Tolerance is one thing, encouragement another.

B.R. Roberts
Editor

One could, of course, go on for several paragraphs about the implications and — perhaps more important – assumptions of Mr. Roberts’ letter. Tony Ryde, in fact, did reply, as follows: —

Dear Mr. Roberts,

Thank you for acknowledging my letter. I did not ask you to withdraw any part of your editorial but rather to recognise that there are other views, equally strongly felt and perhaps as widely supported. Perhaps you intend to publish such an alternative view this Sunday since presumably the Letters Column in the Sunday Telegraph, as is generally the case, doesn’t have to reflect the Editor’s personal opinion.

I recognise that your editorial did not attack the protection which the 1967 act affords to homosexuals (so long as they are over 21 and live in England); I do not think I suggested it did. Rather I pointed to the social persecution which continues unabated and is reflected by your own views, albeit in the guise of protecting borderline cases from temptation.

Of course there are borderline cases on both sides. If I, being predominantly homosexual am tempted to heterosexual practices neither I, not I think you, will applaud as courageous any resistance I might offer. The morality or immorality, surely, depends not on the act but on the spirit. For you, as for the proponents of the 1967 Act, homosexuality is to be considered as intrinsically evil or sick. Whereas CHE, together with all homosexuals campaigning for full civil rights argues that truly fulfilling, responsible relationships have nothing to do with hetero- or homosexuality per se, but with people and personal values. The borderline homosexual therefore has an equal chance of, and right to, meaningful homosexual relationship as to a meaningful heterosexual one.

In any case you cannot contend that homosexual advertisements appeal primarily to ‘borderline cases’ and you will admit I think I that trying, I believe misguidedly, to protect them you are denying a far greater number of confirmed homosexuals the opportunity to I make contact with other confirmed homosexuals in the hope of relieving their loneliness and establishing mutually rewarding relationships.

If CHE proselytises it is for this freedom which should be an unassailable right; so long as it is denied to us tolerance is pure fantasy.

Tony Ryde

What is disturbing about the whole episode is The Sunday Telegraph’s inability to admit another point of view — and a point of view backed with rather more experience of the real situation that the author of the original article.