In the Press 1991 -1993
As this is being retroactively posted – I started this part of the site from Episode 2, rather than 1 (whoops) – Here is how the LGBT+ (well gay men in particular) community and AIDS was portrayed in the British Press at the time. As these are pre-internet days, I am using The British newspaper Archive and Gay Times Media Watch for research.
Well, I have to make do for the ’90s!!
When I’m using quotation marks throughout this blog post – it’s because I’m directly quoting from the papers, NOT poking fun at any part of the LGBT+ community.
So, to begin, in The Stage on 10th January 1991, page 3 – some locals in Skegness are ‘FURIOUS‘ that a gay weekend was going to happen at Butlins! The Mayor was reported to have said, ‘There is nothing personal in it. I Just don’t think is that sort of image we want to associate with Skegness. We have always projected a family image‘ – I do however like the promoter’s rebuttal as he points out – ‘the family is where the gays come from‘ I will give my hat off to Butlins, as they were reported to have said it provides, ‘entertainment for everyone, regardless of “tastes, religions and cultures“.
In The Daily Mirror on March 25th 1991, page 6 in the right-hand corner (stop putting gays in the corner!!!!!) Ronnie Kray became Agony Uncle for ‘tormented gays‘, apparently a German man wrote to him for the advice of his feelings towards the same sex, and Ronnie replied, ‘If they’re true, it’ll make no difference. He apparently ‘revealed his role’ to Scene Out, which was described as a ‘homosexual magazine‘!
Now back to The Daily Mirror on April 6th 1991, page 3, which sports a nice spread of darts players, for a ‘board meeting‘ nice large photo, with a nice, write up but in the left corner, we have our National Treasure, Steven Fry… who at this time was a ‘self-confessed homosexual‘ as the opposite of the time was a ‘hounded-out-of the-closet-by-the-press homosexual‘, he started to write his first novel which includes these themes – ‘gay sex, murder, drugs and child prostitution‘ – Fry, on the other hand, called it a ‘Comedy Thriller‘
Still with The Daily Mirror on June 19th 1991, page 7 – I have downloaded PDF’s of these, as my search is simply for ‘gay’ on the British Newspaper Archive – I had to look THREE times for the gay article, found it… This would be more newsworthy today, but here it is in full glory – ‘Gay Payout’ A California court as confirmed that the estate of AIDS victim Rock Hudson must pay his gay lover Mare Christian £3million. ‘ – I seriously haven’t cut that down – that’s the FULL ARTICLE. I’m trying to figure out why the lack of space for this, was because it was a ‘gay’ story or an ‘AIDS’ one? It did have a black border around it…hmmm.
Now for a quick ad break! In The Daily Mirror on July 27th 1991, page 23 I’m guessing that The Mirror hates the LGBT+ community in the ’90s, but has no issue taking money off them!! – Stephanie Anne Lloyd can help with ‘Gender identity Issues‘, for those that don’t know who she is, she is/was ‘probably Britain’s most famous transexual‘ You could either book her ‘directly’ (it’s an 0898 number….!!!!) but there were FOUR different numbers you could call, that gave ‘24 hour confidential information‘.
The first one:
‘Are you TV or TS? Are you gay? Transexual Case History Homorne Treatment – The Options, The Sex change operation‘.
I’m guessing this is why this advert was in the paper – as this is the second line is for:
‘Transexuals Male to Female, Crossdressing and the law, Why do TV’s seek female domination? TV’s and TS’s – Fantasies and Fetishes. Forced to be female – a personal experience‘
WOW – I mean dang… I’m honestly lost for words.
‘Gay & Bi-sexual TV’s, She-males, TV changeaways Breast development Sex change.’
If I remove the ‘breast development’ from the list (pun intended), I think, what we really have here is the first taste of none binary people in the ’90s – these where derogatory terms in the ’90s – I mean who would want to come out as a ‘gay transvestite‘ one or the other is bad enough to come out to your parents… or a ‘she-male?’ – no wonder you would expel yourself from the gay scene if that’s what someone called you to your face.
So, here is what ‘I think’ the list in 2021’s eyes means… Gay and Bisexual TV’s – gender fluid?, She-males – pre-bottom-surgery trans?, TV changeaways – none binary?, Sex Change – full-surgery-trans? – Please educate me if I have jumped to the wrong conclusions here. I remember these out-dated terms being either in the newspapers, straight porn magazines etc and used in a derogatory context – possibly the reason why certain people didn’t come out. I do however have to applaud her as the advert DOES say, that her true ‘aims and desires…of…her campaign is to…reduce the public misunderstanding, fear and prejudice that surround the subject‘ – albeit, on a premium phone line number!
Right, enough of the tabloids, let’s go a bit more high brow…
The Independent on 10th January 1992, was the first to report that The London Gay Theatre Company plans to interpret William Shakespeare’s plays from a gay point of view (Andrew Doyle would have loved to have seen them! – He has tweeted this to support this sentence ‘I studied sexuality and gender in Shakespeare back when it was only slightly fashionable and not yet compulsory.‘). The Sun and The Star saw this, and saw an opportunity for bad puns – ‘Romeo and Julian; The Fairy Wives of Windsor; A Mince Summer Night’s Dream; Julius Teaser‘ – oh joy….! But at least The Times was open-minded enough to point out, ‘there are hints of homosexuality to be found in most of the Shakespearean canon … Go for the words and find whatever you want there, with pleasure. The old fellow is a manifesto for all seasons‘.
Now, for some more Arts and Culture again, or more apt, thanks to Section 28… lack of Arts and Culture, as The Stage on March 12th 1992, page 2, reported that thanks to Section 28, an ‘increasing number of private firms as well as local authorities..oppose funding for gay theatre‘ – The Pub Theatre Network nearly lost funding for a project, but thankfully won, and they had this to say about Section 28 as it, ‘has made it acceptable for homophobic views to be aired openly aven by large corporations‘ – I wonder now – if these are the same corporations that now support BLM/LGBT+ openly so that people don’t realise how bigoted they were in the past…hmmm!
It wouldn’t be the 1990’s if we didn’t have some Tory sleaze now would it, in The Mirror March 10th 1992, page 4, ‘A Tory quits after gay sex arrest‘ – This Tory was found on Hampstead Heath which according to The Mirror was ‘a popular pick-up place for homosexuals‘ as the ‘800-acre heath…has been turned into a no-go area for families by the gays who gather there‘ – The Tory had been quoted to say it was ‘childish and stupid, and not enough to warrant his complete ruination, and so naturally he chided the tabloids for their “squalid reporting’. – This just gave the tabloids ammunition as The Star was reported to have said that it was his own choice to ‘wander at dusk at a place which has been turned into a no-go area for decent families by perverts practising what many people would call another dirty, dangerous and anti-social habit. His downfall must be sad for him. But he shouldn’t try to tar us with his own muck.’ – What these papers FAIL to tell you is that on the other side of Hampstead Heath is a dogging ground for STRAIGHT people… – I know – I accidentally went on the wrong side of the Heath!!! (Hey, I’m the gay guy that couldn’t find a gay bar in Brighton!)
Onto HIV/AIDS – Richard Littlejohn doesn’t even hide his homophobia in The Sun, in May he was quoted to have said, ‘It’s not been the best of weeks for the “we are all at risk” brigade, Kenny Everett and Holly Johnson, the latest celebs to declare they have the Ads virus are both notorious homosexuals.’ then on 25th June – ‘Champagne corks must have been popping in gay bars all over Britain this week,’ he wrote. ‘The news that one girl has died of Aids after heterosexual intercourse and three other women have been infected by the same man has put the disease back on the front pages. The homosexual lobby will seize on these unfortunate women to ‘prove’ that Aids is not exclusively a ‘gay plague’ … I am not among those who have ever claimed that Aids is exclusively a ‘gay plague’. But homosexual sex – along with intravenous drug use is the predominant method of transmission. That’s why it was disturbing to read that homosexuals are trying to persuade schools to distribute pamphlets to 12-year-olds promoting their sexual preference. Why not just hand out dirty needles at the school gates?‘ – And this gives a young gay guy a good reason to come out??
You think the straights are bad – oh, no, some gays will do anything for a salacious headline for The News Of The World… This is in August 1992, where Kieth Russell, who was a drag queen at night, and a salesman during the day put an advert in the Boyz paper and got a reply from a gay policeman. He sold his story – during all this, as Terry Saunderson said in The Gay Times, ‘I hope you’re proud of yourself, Judas Russell. You’re just the kind of person the gay community could do without. And I hope any cash you got from Murdoch’s filthy rag makes you very pleased with yourself’ – I absolutely agree Terry!
And Finally, In October 1992, Terry Saunderson wrote this in the Gay Times, and it still holds true today, unfortunately,
‘The Guardian (October 28th) carried an article by Richard Smith — a name familiar to readers of Gay Times— about the present preoccupation of gay men with body culture. “Take a straight person to a gay club these days,” wrote Mr Smith, “and the first thing they’ll comment on is all the muscle on show —the well-developed young men taking their tops off and getting their tits out for the lads. All those bulging biceps can come as quite a shock. Especially if you’d been expecting a load of limp wrists.”
Indeed, for those of us with a less than perfect physique, the present obsession with body sculpting is somewhat alarming. Gay clubs and pubs — which have always been ruthlessly competitive anyway — have now become almost gladiatorial in their philosophy. “Survival of the fittest” hardly covers it. “Marty Mark, Right Said Fred, Take That and Bad Boys Inc are the first pop acts since Samantha Fox who’ve been sold on the size of their tits,” says Richard Smith, The culture of the gym has become something of a mania with some gay men and it isn’t difficult to see why. Let’s face it: if you ain’t got much muscle upstairs, you can always get your share of attention by developing it downstairs.’
Yes indeed, I was a VERY slim thing early on in the gay scene around this time, and I looked pitiful against the ‘muscle mary’s of the day – gay men can be very ageist, heightist, chubbiest, skinniest, just look at dating profiles, and you’ll see what I mean!