‘No’ to repealing anti-gay laws

03-197207XX-04The Democratic convention in Miami has turned down a proposal, advanced by gays in America, to repeal all laws involving voluntary sex acts in private.

Gay Liberationists, from all parts of the country, have gathered in Miami for the convention. Some quarters had supposed, because of Senator George McGovern’s liberal leanings, that this was the time to press for the removal of the many laws that still keep homosexuality a crime in most places, even a major one in some States. It is still possible to receive, for a gay sexual act even between adults, a prison sentence which could be as heavy as one passed for a major criminal act, such as armed robbery. The older gay community can still remember when ‘offenders’ felt the full severity of these sentences.

Gay Lib people have already had one brush with the law whilst being in Miami. The cities staid, retired citizens had apparently been ‘shocked’ and ‘horrified’ by seeing gays in drag in the streets and parks. But, much to the indignation of the elder citizens, the gays successfully pleaded in the city courts that the First Amendment entitled them to engage in transvestism if they so desired, and in public too.

Gay Pride Weekend

03-197207XX-05

Gay Pride Grande Ball, Fulham Town Hall.

  1. Arriving at the Ball.
  2. Protection from bomb-scare and skinheads?
  3. “Is that Gay News?”

Gay Pride Rally in trafalgar Square; the march making its way through the West End streets of London; ending with a Gay Day picnic in Hyde Park.

  1. Just in case!
  2. Ready, Steady, Go………
  3. Speeches underneath Nelson’s Column.
  4. The outset of the march.
  5. Gay Pride isn’t just for men.
  6. “Smile please.”
  7. Smiles along Charing Cross Road.
  8. Keeping the audience back.
  9. Relaxing in Hyde Park.
  10. Repairing the afternoons damage.

The 1967 Confidence Trick (1)

Law or Sexuality. Which Corrupts?

02-197206XX 2Do you believe that the 1967 Act solved everything? That it gave you the same rights as anyone else. Well, take very careful note of the words of one of their high and mighty lordships (Lord Reid) in deciding that IT was breaking the law in publishing gay personal ads. According to him, and therefore the law, there is “a material difference between merely exempting certain conduct from criminal penalties and making it lawful in the full sense.” In plain English, it’s legal, but then again, it isn’t. To the corrupt minds of their lordships, of the police, and of everyone else in a position of power over you life and mine, our homosexuality is a “vice”, a “perversion”, an “abnormality”.

It cannot be said too often that homosexuality, like any other sexuality, is about life, about people, about love, and not just about sexual practices. That human beings cannot be classified into “normal” and “abnormal”, they are simply different from one another. There is no such thing as “sexual normality”, but if “normality” means the sexual preference of the majority of the population, then it would not be heterosexuality, homosexuality or even bisexuality, but sexuality without a fixed direction. The unpleasant, impersonal things of gay life, like the cottages and sauna baths, the overpriced clubs and pubs are a result of the fear and shame specifically created by the law, because the law forbids us to meet freely as everyone else can, to advertise freely as everyone else can. To live openly and freely is our right, but the law denies this, depressing us into a less than full existence, treats us as less than human. If the way we live is depraved and corrupt (and I most strongly contend that it is not), then it is the law which is responsible for that and not our sexuality.

Which is more reprehensible – two people making love (or having sex together), or a whole organisation of people dedicated to isolating. punishing and discriminating against ordinary human beings became they make love? Which is depraved? Which is corrupt? Which harms others? Do we seek to keep any group of individuals down, to deny them less than their full rights as fellow human beings, to damage and control them because of their sexual preferences?

Look at the letters reprinted here – they are from organisations of gays working for our rights. Then consider what the law has said. It doesn’t take much to work out who cares about people, and who is depraved and corrupt


THE TIMES 19th June, 1972

HOMOSEXUALS AND THE LAW

From Mr Antony Grey and others

Sir, the undersigned are chairmen of organizations with a combined membership of over 5,000, representing the welfare of homosexual men and women throughout Britain. We have read with the gravest concern The Times’s report (June 15) of the House of Lords judgment in the case of Knullar (Publishing, Printing and Promotions) Ltd v Director of Public Prosecutions.

The effect of this would seem to be that homosexuals are prohibited from making contact with one another for non-criminal purposes through the public press – a freedom which is not denied, so far as we are aware to any other group of Her Majesty’s subjects. We deplore the House’s apparent judicial belief that homosexuals “corrupt” one another, and we are impelled to seek urgent Parliamentary action to clarify, and if necessary amend. Lord Reid’s dictum in relation to the Sexual Offences Act 1967 that there is “a material difference between merely exempting certain conduct from criminal penalties and making it lawful in the full sense”.

It was the clear wish of Parliament as expressed in that Act – supported, according to opinion polls, by two-thirds of the population – to relieve adult homosexuals of a criminal stigma which had brought much suffering to individuals and wastage to the community. Are we now to understand that this objective has been circumvented by the courts?

This seems a ludicrous and unintended outcome of reform. It is also lamentable that such old fashioned and ignorant views about the nature of homosexuality apparently still persist in high judicial quarters (eg Lord Hailsham’s quaint notion, expressed on television this week, that it is simply a “vice”). We think it is time for those who lay down the law to do some elementary psychological homework.

Yours faithfully.
ANTONY GREY,
Chairman, National Federation of Homophile Organizations,
MARJORIE BRYANTON,
General Secretary, NFHO,
TONY CROSS,
Chairman, Integroup.
IAN C. DUNCAN,
Chairman, Scottish Minorities Group.
BRENDA GODFREY,
Chairman, New Group, Manchester.
ALLAN HORSFALL,
Chairman, Campaign for Homosexual Equality,
SHARON M. MURRAY, North Eastern Women’s Group,
65 Shoot-up Hill, NW2
June 19.

The Scotsman, 21st June, 1972

PUBLIC MORALS

214 Clyde Street. Glasgow,
June 16, 1972.

Sir, – The decision by the House of Lords on Wednesday, 14th June, that the publishers of “It” had been rightly convicted on a charge of conspiring to corrupt public morals by inserting “gay” advertisements in the magazine, cannot be allowed to pass by without comment.

That conspiracy to corrupt public morals was a crime known to the law of England, was decided by the House of Lords in the “Ladies Directory Cae” in 1962. This decision adversely affected the defences provided by Section 2(4) of the Obscene Publications Act, 1959 where the essence of the offence was “tendency to deprave and corrupt” The Solicitor-General assured the House of Commons on 3rd June 1964 that “a conspiracy to corrupt public morals would not be charged so as to circumvent the statutory defence in Section 4,” but no effective action was ever taken by Parliament to draw the legal professions notice to this directive.

In the “It” case, it is important to remember that the prosecution made no point whatsoever that males under 21 would likely to reply to the advertisements.

The appellants argued that because homosexual acts between mades in private were now lawful by the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 (both parties being over 21), it could not therefore be the law that other persons were guilty of an offence if they merely put in touch two males who would, perhaps, indulge in perfectly lawful activity. This argument was dismissed by their Lordships, who, in a very narrow reading of the 1967 Act, said that if people chose to corrupt themselves in that way it was their affair and the law would not interfere, but no licence was given to others to encourage the practice.

The effect of this deliverance must be gloomy news indeed for all those who hoped for more understanding towards the many problems which millions of homosexual men and women have to face. How are like-minded men and women to meet in a lawful manner? No other minority group in Britain is today discriminated against in such a total way. The decision must adversely affect the gradual improvements being won by such organisations as the Scottish Minorities Group who over the past two or three years have been talking with the caring professions and encouraging new thinking towards counselling homosexuals. What now happens when a doctor, a clergyman, a social worker or a lawyer introduces two isolated men with the express aim of bringing about a happy and creative union? We are told that the law is being broken. It is a fallacy that homosexuals usually wish to meet for the purposes of having sexual intercourse. A principal aim of the SMG is to organise social occasions where homosexuals can meet, and thus banish the foul atmosphere of the public bath and the public lavatory.

And in doing just this, SMG has been highly successful. ls this useful activity now to be viewed with opprobrium?

Neither the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, nor the 1967 Sexual Offences Act apply to Scotland. However, we are assured that “in practice the law in enforced in Scotland in much the same way as it is in England” (Civil Liberty – The NCCL Guide, p. 293). The effect of the House of Lords’ decision is to throw

P.T.O.

Danger! Police At Work

02-197206XX 3All the cottages in battersea Park are under continual surveillance by the police (plain clothed), and a guy was recently arrested at the popular one by the athletics track. After arrest by a plain-clothes-man he was taken to the superintendent of the park, so that in future he would be easily recognisable. When he appeared in court he sentanced to three months imprisonment, was fined £100 (for a first offence!), also suspended for three years, and banned from battersea Park for one year. Another guy, for whom it was a second offence, was fined £400. (All at the magistrates court, Lavender Hill, where there is a virtual stream of similar ‘offenders’.

So DON’T GO TROLLING IN BATTERSEA PARK COTTAGES – or if you do, you know what to expect.

We Know You’re In There

02-197206XX 4The march was scheduled to start at nine, but by nine thirty only thirty or so people were there. Since it seemed unlikely that anyone else would turn up, the march moved off. As they turned the corner into the main road, a couple of slightly hostile policemen cautioned everyone to stay off the pavement, but generally seemed to be rather amused.

The same could not be said of the employees and customers of the two main Earls Court pubs, the Boltons and the Colherne. The GLF leafletters and balloon carriers were quickly ejected from the Boltons and pushed around outside when they persisting in chanting slogans at the people within – “Come out of your shells! We know you’re in there!” and “What is Gay – Good! What is the Boltons – Crap!” did not appear to amuse anyone. All that happened was a minor exodus to the Colherne over the road. There the reception was even more hostile, and the exodus of customers back to the Boltons even larger, but the majority of people seemed singularly unmoved. In fact, there was a total lack of comprehension of one another, which made the customers ignore the marchers and drained any attempt at further action. People just stood around, and the guy from the Colherne gave up yelling “Fuck off” when it had no effect. It seemed obvious to me that no-one in the pubs saw any need for a march, and since they had come out for a drink and to cruise that was what they were going to do. People aren’t too keen to come out and be seen, and shouting at the doors of the pub they are in seemed a singularly ineffective way to persuade them that they would be better off if they did. I’m not at all sure what the march was intended to achieve anyway, but whatever it was, it didn’t. Granted, the passive acceptance of so many people of the whole “gay scene” is a depressing phenomenon, and one does wish gay people would create places for themselves as an alternative, but I didn’t hear a word about that all evening. It was all, alas, entirely predictable, right down to the policeman who moved everyone away at closing time with the immortal words “If I see any of you lot around here again, I’ll arrest you”.

Fulham, Stucco and Drag

02-197206XX 4Gay Pride week got off to a friendly but not very inspiring start with a dance at the Fulham Town Hall – all thirties glass and stucco. The hall was responsible for the poor sound – it was either too loud or inaudible – and so the first group deafened me whilst Rupert Herries gentle songs were lost. In the former case, it would have helped if the hall had been full, but, alas, the attendance was only fair.

The most noticeable feature of the evening was the quality and quantity of guys in drag, from those who took themselves very seriously and were got up in variations on a theme by Mae West/Yvonne de Carlo or even a sort of Drag Valentino in a velvet mirrorwork gown, on through the dollybird to a sort of Gert-and-Daisy character in a print shift, woolly socks and hush puppies (not to mention the hairy, stockingless legs and the three-day growth). Major entertainment of the evening for me was watching one guy lifting his skirt and hauling down his tights in order to join we poor trouserbound males at the urinal. But I do wish that the people in make-up had made up their minds too – most attempts at combining thirties vamp and Cherokee warpaint are doomed to failure, I’m afraid.

It was O.K. as dances go, certainly more fun than the last, and I’m quite sure a few of the town hall staff were given considerable food for thought. It’s a pity more people from outside GLF weren’t there – still, never mind, eh?

Samaritan Enquiry Part 1

02-197206XX 4
Part 2 of this series is in issue #3

Many people who are lonely, frightened and isolated go to the Samaritans for guidance and comfort – and although they advertise themselves as a last ditch help service for suicides, they are accustomed to handling personal and social problems at all levels of intensity. Their policy of deliberately keeping their distance and not giving active advice makes them an attractive prospect for people like gays, who don’t want or need someone to moralise at them.

“If you go to the London branch and say yours a lesbian, you’ll see Chad Varah, and when you admit what your problem is, he’ll pat you on the knee and say ‘congratulations!’

“… We have special people to deal with the neuroses, depressives, the marital problems. So that just leaves me the female homosexuals and male deviants, a very nice thing lo be left with. They are the most vulnerable and gentle people you could meet.” (Chad Varah, the founder of Samaritans)

It’s true – I did get referred to Chad Varah very quickly, after twenty minutes talking to a woman Volunteer at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook, where Sams started 18 years ago. The Volunteer just said reassuring things and warned me off organisations like GLF on the grounds that “they do a lot of showing off” and “They are very busy being gay and not taking it very seriously.” She hadn’t heard of CHL, or showed no reaction, anyway.

Chad Varah gives me a direct and serious smile, and takes me up to his office. I began where I’d left off with the volunteer, talking quite truthfully about an affair which was breaking up, and he immediately began to give what I felt were traditional replies – the quote above was repealed almost word for word, plus little stories about “the two hundred very genuine lesbian friends I have”, and about a couple who had sent him a card while “on their honeymoon”. I felt even none isolated by this ‘happy-ever-after’ angle, as I’d already been talking about loneliness.

He uses physical contact a lot, holding my hand in both of his, patting my knee and putting his arms round me when I’m crying. I don’t like this very much, partly because I do not want to relax and put it all on to him, and I feel this is what he wants. He also makes a lot of small suggestions relevant to points I make, and I find this worrying, as if he has assessed me and decided how to act, although we have only talked for twenty minutes. He asks whether I am a Christian, and refers a lot to ‘,the boss”. This does not sound very stupid, and he is obviously sincere, but as I do not believe, it makes me feel that, again my statements are being manly pre-judged.

I spend two hours in his study, although perhaps a third of this is spent listening while he deals with telephone calls. I do feel that I want to see him again, when he asks me to make another appointment, but I do not give my name and address, and although I am sure he is genuine, I feel no compulsion to reveal that I am ‘test-marketing’. I thought I might want to admit that I am from ‘Gay News’, but what I have said about my personal life is true, and I don’t want to alter the relationship before I’ve investigated it further.

“Over there Mr. Roving Mike”

01-197205XX 3Over the airwaves came this sane, rational, slightly wary programme, busy with being reasonable, a little tinged with nervousness and heavily colourwashed with a genteel shade of apologia. But the programme as she is spoke was a little different.

You couldn’t see the paraphenalia of speakers and microphones, the small group of hard chairs in a room fit to hold at least twenty more. And a good many chairs were empty. You didn’t have to sit through the build-up from the producer and Jimmy… about how they hated to edit the programme, so no cussin’ and so on. About the number of listeners, to remind us of our responsibility. About who we were, anywhere we came from and again the confusion of Gay News with Gay Lib came up. And then some wise child asked the producer if he was gay and was told, “In inverted commas, ‘no’, otherwise yes.”

Radio suffers from being non-visual, as well as deriving certain advantages from it. When someone began talking about bleached hair, we all laughed because Jimmy Saville has bleached hair. When Jimmy talked about the number of people there, he was able to imply the existence of a fair sized gathering, when in fact there were fewer than a hundred, probably as low as fifty. When he said we all looked sober and businesslike, you couldn’t see me in the front row with me blue velvet jacket and bright silver boots (among other things, I hasten to add).

But more important than the little white lies radio allows you to tell is the greater one – that this was a free programme of people being given a fair chance to have their say. Let me explain the set-up. Jimmy was on a little stage with the group. On the floor of the room they were using as a studio, one at each side, were rather sober and not-unheavy gentlemen, each carrying a microphone attached to many yards of wire. You got your chance to speak when Jimmy allowed it – and since he obviously thought we were going to be troublesom, and the running order to which he frequently referred did not include any discussion of radical gayness, it took him a long while to send it our way. Often I found that the discussion had taken a sidetrack and by the time he waved a mike to me, my point was irrelevant. Other times the subject was changed altogether. How far this was influenced by the voice of the producers in Jimmy’s earpiece, I cannot say. Yet when the programme began to change character, and started to pursue any topic in depth, it seemed to be the exact moment for another piece of music. In short, it was in no sense of the word a discussion programme.

Actually talking into the mike was intimidating, too. Since I was sitting right in Front of Jimmy, the man holding the mike stood between us (then was room to one side). Consequently I had to either talk to the mike itself, or try to see how Jimmy was reacting via this large gentleman’s armpit – but it didn’t seem to matter most of the time, as Jimmy was usually looking at the other roving mike, and positioning it so he could cut in swiftly when I or anyone else paused for breath. The major occasion when we actually talked to one another was in arguing about drag, transvestites, and so-called effeminate behaviour, which he and everyone else had bundled up into one package labelled bad. It is not easy, in a few sentences, and in these surroundings, to separate the three and defend them, also separately. Especially as Jimmy was more interested in making the point written down on his order sheet (which presumably said ‘homosexuals are not like that’, where it ought to have said ‘not all… etc.’). And so he tried to steer me up the garden path and strand me, because I wasn’t in drag. I could have been a mite less honest than I was, and said that there was no point when the audience were listeners, not watchers – but in an already rather dishonest programme I did not wish to compound the felony.

As far as I could tell, both from the way the talk was steered and the reception of some of the statements, the plan of the programme was to present gays as nice, safe, normal, unremarkable people just like everyone else, valiantly fitting in where they are plainly meant not to go (since the law still treats us as perverts and a danger, and so do most people). It said nothing about gay people who believe, as I do, that we are different and in some respects better, and that we are capable of evolving a lifestyle of our own which would be perfectly compatible with every other possible sexual and ethnic group (something which predominantly heterosexual societies have never managed to do). Of course, taken as a whole we are no better or worse than anyone else, but we will not become anything like compete as individuals whilst we play pretend marriage and domesticity, which are plainly not, and never will be, the ways in which two or more men can build a life together. Only legal and financial lies, coupled with societal pressure of belief, make sure that heterosexual marriages continue at all. And this is what is meant, at basis, by being acceptable – it means behaving like a certain group of people who are plainly different in a fundamental respect from ourselves, and in a way which they themselves find near impossible.

But what the programme did do was to reach a number of people who have never met another gay person in their lives before, who have lived in loneliness and fear, and now find that they are not alone. In the couple of weeks following the programme the Albany Test alone had over a hundred letters of this kind. And it must have given courage to many others. It will have helped to case the tensions in a home such as mine, in which I live with my parents and only recently faced them with the fact that I am gay. It will have helped the painful process of dispelling all the history of prejudice and censure that we have faced and still do. Above all, it slated loud and clear the one fact that must be said again and again – that gayness is about love, that it is no different in any way from heterosexuality, that both are as good, as fulfilling, and as human as each other. The only perversion is their persecution of our freedom as though we were less than human.

As with so many other things, the control of the producer is the crucial factor, deciding as it does the image of a particular person or group of people which is communicated to the audience. When the audience is as large as 5 or 6 million, as it is with Speakeasy, then the producer of that programme has an enormous responsibility to the group he is portraying – in this case, gay people. Yet there was little preparation for the programme and it only lasted one hour, and so time was precious, an attempt was made to exclude certain sections of the gay community, who do have something to say, whether or not you agree with it. Those organisations which were represented did not cover anything like a wide range, being for the most part composed of people who seemed not a million miles from the self-pitying legions of the unfortunate living out their twisted lives – ‘but it wasn’t our fault’. So much more consultation should have taken place, so much more time spent before and during the programme. The only way we can be at all sure that a fair image of us goes out to those who don’t know is to do the job ourselves. It will be, I am sure, a very interesting exercise for both the producer and the participants.


 

c/o The Albany Trust
32 Shaftsbury Avenue
London W.C.1.
22nd May 1972

“Gay News”
19 London Street
London W.2

Dear Peter and David,

Anthony Grey tells me that I am in the dog house as far as Gay News is concerned. I also seem to be pig-in-the-middle over the BBC Speakeasy programme. I am sorry that it has been construed that I was indulging in jiggery pokery. It’ll teach me in future not to be lumbered with other people’s chores. The BBC rang and asked me to find thirty gay people as representatives of as many organisations and groups as I know, excepting Gay Lib. They also talked about something called “Challenge”, which I assumed was a Gay Liberation Front venture. There seems to be have been some misunderstanding and a right cock-up in the arrangements for the programme. I am sorry if I have hurt anybody’s feelings or made them feel that there was dirty work afoot I am glad everybody represented in the programme seemed to take a full park in the discussion and the Gay Liberation Front more than held its own.

May I wish Gay News every success. If at any time you feel I could contribute anything useful, let me know.

Yours sincerely,
Michael Butler