With the first gay and lesbian couples finally permitted to legally marry in the U.K. only a few weeks ago, it is kind of sad to run across the special guide to London clubs published by New Musical Express in 1978. The “Gay Scene” category was both transgressive for the times, but quaint, and included the private, prohibitively expensive Maunkberry’s, frequented by the music and entertainment elite, as well as the Bang Disco on Charing Cross Road (opened in 1976) at the top of the list, a “good mixture of gays and punks.” The category leads with the bummer of a caveat:
Habari! Habari! Hungry for play? Well, let love and joy abound on your London safari. But first a note to all you guys ‘n’ gals, cuties ‘n’ chickens, rent boys ‘n’ muscle men, leather lovers ‘n’ sock eaters: REMEMBER, British Law permits homosexual activity IN PRIVATE between two consenting adults of 21 and over. Any sexual contact in public is forbidden.
Sabotage Times recently mentioned in a fascinating history of London’s gay clubs:
1976 was a groundbreaking year for the development of gay discos in London with the arrival of Bang: London’s first gay superclub. Held at The Sundowner on Charing Cross Road every Monday night, subsequently opening on Thursdays due to popularity, Bang had a 1000+ capacity; a good, loud sound-system; all the hot, new disco imports played by experienced DJ’s Gary London, Talullah and Norman Scott; and dramatic lighting effects operated by the venue’s very own lighting engineer.
As 1976 was the year of the first commercially available 12” single it was perfect timing for a night like Bang – improved audio quality and extended track length for a bigger and better dancing environment.
Below, a look at the Brixton Fairies, a much-needed support network and lifeline for British gays and lesbians in the ‘70s:
One of Boy George’s best pieces of music—well, in my book, anyway—is 1988’s seldom-heard slice of fierce, dance music protest, “No Clause 28.” I picked it up, neither knowing what it was about, nor having actually heard it, because of the amazing cover artwork by Jamie Reid depicting Boy George as Enid Blyton’s “Noddy.” It’s a pretty amazing record of its time, in more ways than one.
Clause 28 or Section 28, as it was also known, was an addition to the Local Government Act of 1988. Clause 28 stipulated that local government councils in the UK “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”
This was the end of the Thatcher era and due to newly widespread awareness—and fear—of AIDS, then considered a gay disease, homosexuality was frowned upon in such a way that it was thought necessary to officially condemn it and protect children from it. The matter was largely a symbolic issue, but it caused many gay and lesbian groups at high schools and universities to close shop.
The night before Section 28 became law (May 24, 1988) a lesbian chained herself to the desk of BBC Six O’Clock News presenter Sue Lawley. Parliament was also invaded by lesbian activists scaling the building like rock climbers.
In many ways, Clause 28 is what saw the cohesion of Britain’s modern gay rights movement. Aside from Boy George, many big name celebrities spoke out about Clause 28, such as Ian McKellen, beloved One Foot in the Grave actress Annette Crosbie, Helen Mirren, Jane Horrocks and comics great, Alan Moore.
The Section was repealed on June 21, 2000 in Scotland, and in the rest of Great Britain in November of 2003. It’s worth noting that Prime Minister David Cameron was vocally in support of keeping the Section intact, although he thought better of this later and apologized in 2010.
My first reaction on hearing of the international “Slut Walk” movement was “brilliant.” About bloody time! What a horribly demeaning word, one loaded with judgement that denies a person the basic enjoyment of their own sexual activities and bodies. “Slut” is rife for reclaiming - because there is no term for a person who enjoys copious amount of sex that is not pejorative. Why not, as other social groups have done in the past, take an already existing term of abuse and strip it of its negative meaning? It’s hard to fathom that the word “slut” still holds so much power in this, the twenty first century. Are we still to feel shame for our sexual desires and appetites? Does Michael Sanguinetti believe that if all women were to suddenly don burkhas all rape would be wiped out? No, because a rapist will commit a rape regardless of what a person is wearing, slutty or otherwise - the risk factors lie with the rapists not the victim.
So, my partner and I turned out for Slut Walk Manchester on last Friday evening, to show our faces and bodies and in some small way reclaim the place will live as being safe from harassment and abuse. Of course it’s only a small gesture but that in itself does not make it invalid or worthless. By all accounts Manchester is a very protest-friendly city, but the turnout of roughly a thousand was very healthy and exceeded expectations. We walked for over an hour, winding our way through the city centre streets, stopping traffic and emptying public transport. The reaction from passers by was supportive and not negative like I had assumed it would be, and even though no official license had been granted for the march by the council, the police were helpful and friendly, and guided the mass of people on their way rather than hemming them in.
The crowd was mixed, with a lot of men walking and a good range of ages (though most on the march were young). There were a handful of drag queens and queer activists as well - Manchester has a large gay population and an active male sex industry, so male rape is not uncommon. If I have one gripe it was with the placards handed out to the crowd by the Socialist Worker Party, an act that to me seemingly hijacked an apolitical march for its own ends. The placards read “No Means No” on one side, with “Clarke Must Go” on the other. Sure, Ken Clarke, the British Secretary of State for Justice made some very unwise comments on rape a few weeks ago, but I did not need the SWP to help me call for his resignation, or tell me that my body was my property. It just came across as petty point scoring. Other placards of interest held by members of the march included “Police Rapists, Not My Fucking Wardrobe”, “My Minge My Rules” and “Queer As in Fuck You (But Only If You Consent)”.
At one point during the march I was approached by a man for a cigarette an we got chatting. He seemed not to be of the typical student/protester mould, more a working class guy fond of a few pints, but I had noticed him before and though he might have been one of the organisers. As we were walking he asked me if I had been raped. I answered that thankfully I hadn’t, but I still wanted to show my support as I know people who have. Almost with a sense of confrontational pride he told me that he had been raped, and that it had happened while he was 9 years old and living in care. He asked me what the march was about and if it was specifically for women. He didn’t know what a “Slut Walk” was, he had never heard of it, he just happened to be in town and saw it passing. So I explained about the concept, the reclaiming of the word, and the comments on rape Ken Clarke had made. He kept clarifying that he was not gay - at first I thought this might have had to do the leather gear I was wearing, but soon realised it was more to do with the societal taboo of male rape and this man’s own experience of it. Eventually he turned to me, looked me in the eye and said he had never told another man about this before. I shook his hand. I understood where the confrontation was coming from - it was not with me but it with himself and the fact that he was facing up to a dark part of his own past he had buried for god knows how long. A part he probably would not have faced up to had it not been for the Slut Walk.
This is, of course, appalling but entirely predictable: Conservative Christian hate group “Save California” is starting to make waves with an online advertisement titled “Protect Your Children from Harvey Milk Day in California.”
Somewhere in Des Moines or San Antonio there is a young gay person who all the sudden realizes that he or she is gay; knows that if their parents find out they will be tossed out of the house, their classmates will taunt the child, and the Anita Bryant’s and John Briggs’ are doing their part on TV. And that child has several options: staying in the closet, and suicide. And then one day that child might open the paper that says “Homosexual elected in San Francisco” and there are two new options: the option is to go to California, or stay in San Antonio and fight. Two days after I was elected I got a phone call and the voice was quite young. It was from Altoona, Pennsylvania. And the person said “Thanks”. And you’ve got to elect gay people, so that thousand upon thousands like that child know that there is hope for a better world; there is hope for a better tomorrow. Without hope, not only gays, but those who are blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us’s: without hope the us’s give up. I know that you can’t live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you, and you have got to give them hope.
All over the country, they’re reading about me, and the story doesn’t center on me being gay. It’s just about a gay person who is doing his job.
We must destroy the myths once and for all. We must continue to speak out and most importantly every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your family, you must tell your relatives, you must tell your friends, you must tell your neighbors, you must tell the people you work with, you must tell the people in the stores you shop in, and once they realize that we are indeed their children and that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all. And once you do you will feel so much better.
Why does it bug these people so much to see this man honored? Not only that, Harvey Milk Day, each May 22, falls on the weekend this year. So much for protecting the kids!
I’m always of two minds when it comes to embedding idiotic videos like this, although I do tend to side with the “point and laugh” approach every time! I doubt that many—if any—DM readers would be swayed by what they see in this clip. The thing is, “Save California” can see where their traffic is coming from, so they will see a link to this post in their YouTube user stats and they’ll read it and see themselves as the object of scorn and ridicule. I encourage everyone to let them have it in the comments, because rest assured they will read it. If you want to flag their YouTube clip as “hate speech” you can do it here, where it says “Flag” just above the title.
Harvey Milk is a man who will never be forgotten. No matter what these ultimately impotent hate groups like “Save California” think or what they may say or do, nothing is ever going to change that. It’s called American History and it’s not on their side.
I’d be remiss in my duties as a liberal scold if I didn’t ask the members of “Save California” how they will feel in the future when their own children and grandchildren—who they tried so, uh, valiantly to “protect” from the legacy of a heroic man like Harvey Milk—come to realize what monstrous, hateful, small-minded assholes their parents really are?
The trailer for Rob Epstein’s Academy Award-winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. You can watch the entire film on YouTube here.
Strangely, despite the spectacle of under-18s cursing on camera, this lovely spot and campaign by political activist and nonprofit marketing consultant Luke “Sissyfag” Montgomery hasn’t made the outrage rounds on Fox after being posted 11 days ago.
Give it time, I guess. Meanwhile, Luke’s tactical approach here has come under a bit of discussion in some of the comments. But I’d think it’s immaterial since at this point it seems the play now is NOT to convert California voters since the issue of gay marriage is going to the Supreme Court, right?