1999 July

Top Toy Maker ERTL Threatened by Boycott

Top toy manufacturer, Ertl, is being condemned by the gay rights group OutRage! over its link up with British right-wing guru, Christopher Monckton, designer of its latest puzzle game, Eternity. The new game, which could net the company over £10 million in world-wide sales, is being launched shortly in the US.

Monckton has urged that the entire population of the United States and Britain should be compulsorily tested for HIV, and that everyone with the virus should be forcibly quarantined for life. He wants up to 3 million Americans and 30,000 Britons with HIV locked up permanently.

Ertl is the company that markets Postman Pat and Thomas the Tank Engine. It prides itself on a liberal, progressive reputation which, says OutRage!, makes the association with Monckton “ethically inappropriate” and “bound to be harmful to Ertl’s corporate image”.

OutRage! spokesperson Peter Tatchell warns: “Ertl could be the target of a boycott campaign if it continues the link with Monckton and goes ahead with the US launch of Eternity. There are plans for a glizty New York debut for Eternity in about two weeks, with Monckton being flown over to the US for the launch party.

“The Bank of Scotland and fashion house Laura Ashley were forced recently to cancel deals with right-wing US television evangelist Pat Robertson after protests against his homophobia by gay and human rights groups in Britain. This success shows the power of consumer boycotts to influence corporate policy. We hope Ertl will realise that associating with bigotry is bad for business.

“OutRage! has written to Ertl’s Chief Executive, Bob Dods, at its global headquarters in Illinois, USA, urging the company to pull out of the deal with Monckton. If the US launch goes ahead, we are likely to join forces with American groups to spearhead a ‘Don’t buy Ertl’ campaign”, said Tatchell.

Monckton is a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher and ex-chief leader writer of the London newspaper, The Standard. He is the designer of Ertl’s latest multi-million pound money-spinner, the mystery puzzle, Eternity. Reputably impossible to solve, a prize of £1 million is being offered to anyone who comes up with a solution before 30 September 2000.

Launched in Britain on 2 July and priced at £29.99, Eternity is a highly sophisticated jigsaw, requiring players to fit 209 jagged green plastic pieces into a 12-sided grid.

Ertl’s Managing Director in the UK is Robert Mann (01392-44.54.34), and its global Chief Executive is Bob Dods (+1-630 790 3507).

Monckton spelt out his solution to the AIDS crisis in an article in The American Spectator, January 1987:

“There is only one way to stop AIDS. That is to screen the entire population regularly and to quarantine all carriers of the disease for life…Every member of the population should be blood-tested every month…all those found to be infected with the virus, even if only as carriers, should be isolated compulsorily, immediately, and permanently.”

To prevent global HIV transmission, Monckton’s article advises:

“Strict controls would be needed at all borders. Visitors would be required to take blood tests at the port of entry and would be quarantined in the immigration building until the tests had proved negative.”

Responding to criticisms that quarantining such large numbers of people would be impossible, Monckton claimed:

“In the United States, between 1.5 and 3 million people are already carriers of AIDS. Isolation of so large a number of people would be an enormous and daunting task, though not altogether impossible…In Britain, my own country, only 30,000 carriers are known. Isolation of this comparatively small number would not be insuperably difficult.”

CHRISTOPHER MONCKTON – BACKGROUND BIOGRAPHY

  • Son of Viscount Monckton of Bletchley, a former advisor to the Royal Family and ex-general with the British Army of the Rhine.
    Brother of Rosa Monckton, who is married to Dominic Lawson, editor of the Sunday Telegraph, and a former close friend and confidante of the late Princess Diana.
  • Member of the Downing Street Policy Unit 1982-86, advising the then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.
  • Assistant Editor, Today newspaper 1986-87.
  • Chief leader writer, The Standard newspaper, 1987-92.
  • Member of the far right Conservative Family Campaign, which lobbied against abortion, sex education in schools, and lesbian and gay equality.

The Ertl Company
P.O. Box 500
Dyersville, IA 52040-0500, USA.
Phone: +1-319-875-2000
Fax: +1-319-875-5674
E-mail: consumer_services@ertltoys.com

OutRage! invites Blair to “kick ass”

Following receipt of lacklustre replies from the Home Office and the Department of Education to letters sent in the wake of the Soho bombing, OutRage! has written to the Prime Minister, inviting him to effect coordination and instill a sense of urgency by assigning responsibility to a competent, dynamic and committed individual, who is empowered to ‘kick ass’ and get things moving.

For the personal attention of:

The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, MP,
10, Downing Street.
CC: Hilary Armstrong, Min. for Local Gov.t and Housing;
Tony Banks, Minister for Sport;
David Blunkett, S.S. for Education & Employment;
Dr. Jack Cunningham, Minister for the Cabinet Office;
Dr. Mo Mowlam, S.S. for Northern Ireland;
Clare Short, S.S. for International Development;
Chris Smith, S.S. for Culture, Media & Sport;
Jack Straw, Home Secretary.
Date: 21st July, 1999.

Dear Mr. Blair,

Government Action for Freedom from Discrimination

Following the Soho bombing, OutRage! wrote to Jack Straw (3rd May) and David Blunkett (25th May), appealing for urgent Government action to eradicate homophobic discrimination.

You may recall your own message to London’s Pride celebrations in 1997, read by Chris Smith and televised, in which you stated: “The New Labour Government wants to build a New Britain, free from discrimination. I want to assure you of my commitment to achieving such a free society. … Let us be proud of what we are, of who we are, and of what we can achieve in the months to come for equality and justice for us all”. — I was therefore greatly surprised to be told by your office last week that, since your “message of support” to this year’s Pride was classed as a personal communication, the text could not be released! However, I have since learned with dismay that, despite asserting that “all decent-minded people believe … that members of Britain’s minority communities have the right to live full lives, free from prejudice, and without fear of attack”, it makes no mention of legislative reform in any area.

1 — What legislative reforms on gay issues is the Government currently prepared to support?

Reply from the DfEE

Of the two replies, that from the DfEE (6th July) has the greater cosmetic comfort factor: reaffirming that Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 has never applied to the governing bodies or staff of schools and that schools can cover gay and lesbian issues if they choose to do so, (as stated in the previous administration’s guidance document to schools, circular number 5/94, Education Act 1993: Sex Education in Schools); and stating that, since “equality of opportunity in employment is imperative and all discrimination is unacceptable”, L/G/B/T (lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender) teachers should feel free to be seen as positive rôle models and disclose their sexuality.

Sadly it appears that David Blunkett does not yet feel able to issue a public proclamation of encouragement to all school governors and staff, (following the exemplary initiative by Tony Banks in May for gay football players to come out); there is currently no requirement (or even encouragement) for schools to offer a complete, balanced, nonjudgemental syllabus to ensure that all their pupils have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and become well-informed and well-adjusted citizens; and “the issue of homophobic bullying and its unacceptability in schools” has got no further than a consultation document for guidance, (a copy of which the DfEE omitted to consider enclosing).

2 — By what legislative mechanism and in what timescale does the Government expect to honour its pledge to repeal Section 28?

3 — What is the Government’s intention with regard to placing a legal obligation on schools to provide honest, nonjudgemental information about gay issues (including but not limited to gay sexuality and gay ’safer sex’), rather than leaving these to the arbitrary whim of individual schools?

Reply from the Home Office

The reply from the Home Office (23rd June) was somewhat less impressive, failing even to refer to a number of the points we raised, and shamelessly evading others. -

The Sunday after the Soho bomb you demanded tougher sentences for racially motivated violence. OutRage! cannot see any difference between hatred fuelled by racial prejudice and hatred fuelled by prejudice based on differing sexuality: yet the Home Office stated “the Government does not accept the need for specific legislative measures to deal with homophobic attacks”. Tellingly, they did not attempt to offer any justification of the unequal treatment.

4 — Why is the Government promoting antigay violence by avoiding equal action against it?

While the DfEE mentioned that Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Home Office reply (which was delayed several weeks, allegedly to coordinate responses from other Departments) omitted even to cite the much repeated mantra that it will be repealed “as soon as a suitable legislative opportunity occurs”.

5 — Why is there no effective coordination between Government Departments at Ministerial level?

Curiously, although the DfEE did not refer to Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE), which includes broader moral and cultural issues as well as sex education, the Home Office acknowledge that this can be used to promote respect for the diversity of and differences between people and state that the “Government is committed to raising the profile and status of PSHE and set up a National Advisory Group to develop a coherent framework, building on good practice and spreading it to all schools”. OutRage! is pleased to hear these good intentions, and would welcome the opportunity to provide constructive input. We should also like to receive a copy of the Advisory Group’s report to which the Home Office refer, when it is published shortly. — We note, however, that the consultation document QCA/99/405, “The review of the national curriculum in England: The Secretary of State’s proposals”, refers on p.21 to non-statutory guidelines that pupils should be taught “to understand that differences and similarities between people arise from a number of factors including cultural, ethnic/racial and religious diversity. gender and disability”, but makes no explicit mention of sexuality. In addition, although various reports at the end of June quoted Clare Short as advising the United Nations (in the context of AIDS prevention) that we should start telling children what they need to know, i.e. delivering sensible, pragmatic, unembarrassed sex education –whilst another (Pink Paper, 25th June) stated that “Officials in Brazil’s Department of Health are advising government ministers that sex education should start as young as four, to prevent the spread of HIV later in life [and] unwanted pregnancies”, and that the proposal was overwhelmingly endorsed by a conference of teachers and education officials– none of this advice had apparently worked its way through to either the Home Office or the DfEE.

6 — Can you confirm that Clare Short’s sound advice will be taken up by the Home Office and the DfEE, and be incorporated in future legislation?

The Home Office completely ignored our concern that there was no consultation between the Government and the wider L/G/B/T community, but only with Stonewall: an organisation which I have personally supported for a number of years but which neither consults nor is accountable either to its own supporters, nor to the rest of the L/G/B/T community, and hence cannot claim to be in any way representative. — Any consultation of significance must be within a larger, democratic, representative and accountable forum, (such as the Equality Alliance is striving to be).

7 — Could we please have your agreement that a broad cross-section of the L/G/B/T community will in future be included in all Government consultations on issues relating to sexuality and sexual equality?

The Home Office states that it has “been working with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to develop guidelines for police forces in dealing with incidents involving the lesbian and gay community and in order to ensure that they are policed in a fair and equitable manner”: but we are concerned that these are only voluntary guidelines.

8 — Will you now bring forward legally obligatory regulations to root out homophobia in the police and other services, with the same vigour that racism is now to be eradicated?

  • homophobia within the police force, including serious allegations of harassment and intimidation of lesbian and gay officers at Soho’s West End Central police station;
  • the seemingly malicious arrest last year of Ian Farmer at the annual Pride March in London on 4th July 1998, and the subsequent gross mishandling of his complaint, (which bears disquieting parallels with the mishandling of the case of Stephen Lawrence);
  • and the lack of any warning in April through the national media to the general public by the Home Secretary and the Police Commissioner that bombs might be directed at other, nonethnic, minority groups.

9 — Your explanation on these three points would be appreciated.

Action, not Words

While it is apparent from various sources that a number of Ministers display a significant degree of goodwill with regard to building an inclusive, nondiscriminatory society with respect for all, it is patently obvious that there is no coordination and no sense of urgency. Given your stated commitment two years ago to achieving a society free of discrimination and with equality and justice for all, within the coming months, we would urge you as a priority to address this disastrous deficiency by assigning responsibility to a competent, dynamic and committed individual, who is empowered to “kick ass” and get things moving. — Despite social progress in some areas since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, there has been only isolated legislative tinkering. How much untold human misery will be caused (including deaths through suicide, self-neglect, queer-bashing, or bombing) if we have to wait another generation (or even for another General Election) before legislation on gay rights is improved? Other countries can do this: what is stopping Britain?

Yours sincerely,

John Hunt.

In Memoriam: Martin Corbett

MARTIN ROGER CORBETT
Queer Activist and Saint
27-November-1944 – 11-July-1996

Martin Corbett, who died three years ago of AIDS aged 51, was one of the great unsung heroes of the struggle for gay liberation. Although rarely taking the limelight himself, his legendary behind-the-scenes organisational skills played a crucial role in every gay rights campaign for a quarter of a century. No one else can claim such a distinguished and unbroken record of commitment.

Martin’s activism began in 1970, when he joined the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). This was the first movement of openly gay people, and the first to reject defensive pleas for tolerance, demanding instead nothing less than total acceptance and full equality.

Having witnessed the failure of “begging-bowl” style polite lobbying, Martin enthusiastically embraced GLF’s unapologetic, assertive direct action. This idea that homophobia had to be confronted and challenged – not appeased – remained the lodestar of his activism for the rest of his life.

Drawing on the queer tradition of camp, GLF invented a whole new style of political campaigning, “protest as performance”, where the claim for human rights was projected with imagination, daring and wit, instead of the usual boring format of marches and rallies.

During the GLF’s famous disruption of Mary Whitehouse’s Festival of Light, Martin calmly strode into the basement of Westminster Central Hall and ordered out the staff with a wave of “official” authority. He then proceeded to plunge the Festival into darkness by disconnecting the electrical and broadcasting cables, much to the misery of Mrs. Whitehouse, Malcolm Muggeridge and Cliff Richard.

With the creativity of a stage designer and the technical know-how of a structural engineer, Martin was the quartermaster and prop-maker for many of GLF’s zany zaps. One of his masterpieces was the making of a giant 12-foot cucumber, which he delivered to the managing director of Pan Books. This was GLF’s irreverent response to the publication of Dr. David Reuben’s homophobic tome, “Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex”, which suggested that gay men were obsessed with shoving vegetables up their backsides.

As well as wacky theatricals, GLF also conducted serious civil disobedience campaigns. Martin was one of the orchestrators of the freedom rides and sit-ins that ended the refusal by west London pubs to serve “poofs”, perversely delighted that the police sent in the heavies of the Flying Squad to deal with a non-violent pub occupation.

Together with other GLFers, Martin helped to found groundbreaking community institutions such as Gay Switchboard, the first major gay information and advice service, and “Gay News”, the first gay community newspaper.

Post-GLF, he was prominent in the Gay Activists Alliance, and, in 1977, in the campaign to defend “Gay News”, when Mary Whitehouse prosecuted it for blasphemy.

In the 80’s, Martin helped convene the important (but regrettably fractious) Legislation for Lesbian and Gay Rights Conference, which led to the formation of the Organisation for Lesbian and Gay Action (OLGA). It was OLGA, with Martin’s crucial input, which spearheaded the fight against Section 28, the notorious spawn of Thatcherism, which banned the so-called “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities.

Galvanised by a spate of horrific queer-bashing murders and apparent police indifference, Martin in 1990 was one of the co-founders of OutRage!. Incensed to discover that more men had been arrested for victimless homosexual behaviour (mostly cottaging and cruising) in 1989 than in 1966 (the year before male homosexuality was ostensibly decriminalised), he eagerly joined the invasion of police stations, the noisy disruption of New Scotland Yard, and the busting of police entrapment operations in parks and public toilets.

While years of negotiations by respectable gay lobbyists had done little to diminish police homophobia, this confrontational OutRage! campaign helped produce dramatic results: from 1990-94, the number of men convicted of consensual gay acts fell by two-thirds. As Martin was fond of reminding the critics of direct action, this turnaround in policing policy has saved thousands of gay men from being dragged before the courts.

At the renowned 1991 OutRage! Queer Wedding in Trafalgar Square, Martin played the role of the wicked judge, and he was also part of the group’s “zap squad” which disrupted official celebrations on the Isle of Man in the same year, to protest at the island’s then total criminalisation of male homosexuality.

In 1994, when OutRage! decided to expose hypocrites and homophobes in the Church of England, inviting them to “Tell the Truth” about their sexuality, Martin was one of the first to volunteer to name names. “If bishops bash the gay community, we’ve got every right to bash them back,” he argued. While OutRage! was vilified by all and sundry for daring to point out that the bishops preached one thing and practised something different, Martin remained calm and philosophical, convinced that history would vindicate OutRage! as it had the Suffragettes, once equally reviled. “Mrs. Pankhurst didn’t panic and neither should we,” he said, with characteristic coolness and wisdom.

Arguably one of Martin’s finest OutRage! moments was in April 1995, when a coalition of OutRage! and Lesbian Avengers members formed the “Dykes and Fags Gone Mad” group. The group plotted a spectacular zap of the rabidly homophobic psychiatrist Professor Charles Socarides, who was delivering a lecture at Regent’s Park College. Socarides was interrupted, shouted down, and sprayed with pink silly string by the horde of activists who had managed to get into the lecture hall by virtue of Martin posing as an academic in his “straight drag” suit. When stopped on the stairwell by a security guard and asked if he was with “these people” (our troops), Martin snootily replied: “Certainly not, I have an appointment downstairs. Excuse me!” and promptly unbolted the door when the guard wasn’t looking to let the “dykes and fags” in!

Martin’s last OutRage! action was in December 1995 when, despite illness, he joined the fancy dress zap of the Buckingham Palace Christmas Staff Ball, in protest at the Queen’s decree that gay male employees were forbidden to bring their partners. Within weeks of this protest, Martin’s health began a rapid decline and he attended his last OutRage! meeting in February 1996. OutRage! was never the same again as we had lost an amazing man with a wicked sense of humour, who was phenomenally kind, generous, intelligent, practical and devoted, not just as an activist, but as a personal friend to many people in the group and throughout the lesbian and gay activist community. He is, and will always be, sorely missed.

In 1994, in recognition of his quarter of a century commitment to gay liberation, Martin was canonised as a Living Saint by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at a ceremony on his 50th birthday. His title was, appropriately, Saint Martin of the Million Meetings.

Exhibition at the Museum of London

Pride & Prejudice: lesbian and gay London

Friday, 2nd July – Sunday, 22nd August

“The legalisation of homosexuality in 1967 has enabled lesbians and gays to become an increasingly visible part of London’s life. ‘Pride & Prejudice: lesbian and gay London’ is an exhibition exploring the contribution they have made to London’s social and economic life, and giving a historic overview of homosexual culture in London.”

Museum of London flyer

Sodomites and mollies

“Homosexual life in London is very poorly recorded before this century. Most of the evidence comes from court records of prosecutions for sodomy (anal penetration). Men sought partners in secluded areas of public places such as Covent Garden, Moorfields, and Lincoln’s Inn. In the 18th century a path in Upper Moorfields acquired the name ‘The Sodomites Walk’.

“In the 17th century molly houses began to emerge in London. These were rooms in a public or private house which were used as meeting places for ‘mollies’ — a term for homosexual men. Margaret Clap ran a well-known molly house in Field Lane, Holborn. Men met at her house to drink, dance, flirt, dress as women, and have sex. When it was raided in 1726, more than 40 people were arrested. Margaret Clap was fined, imprisoned, and sentenced to stand in the pillory in Smithfield Market.”

Sappho banner, made for the 1980 Gay Pride March by Emmelene Davies.
The banner is in the colours of the Women’s Social and Political Union and has many lesbian and feminist symbols within it: the lesbian love sign, a Labrys (double-headed axe), Isle of Lesbos, and an image of Sappho.

Wearing the trousers

“The history of lesbian London is more difficult to uncover. Lesbian relationships have never been illegal, so court records do not exist. It has always been acceptable for women to live together and enjoy close relationships.

“It is known that female transvestites existed in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially among the poorer classes. It would be wrong to assume that all women who dressed as men were lesbians. Transvestism allowed women to play a fuller part in public life, to have jobs and be financially independent. It is also true that some transvestite women did marry women.”

Museum of London,
London Wall.
EC2Y 5HN.
Tel. 020-78.14.55.02 — Disabled access and facilities
Tel. 020-78.14.55.02 — Press and PR Office
Tel. 020-78.14.57.77 — Interpretation Unit
info@museumoflondon.org.uk
http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk

Admission
Adults £ 5
Students, over-60’s, registered unemployed £ 3
16 years and under, visitors with disabilities and assisters free
After 4:30 p.m. free to all

Public Transport
Tube St. Paul’s; Barbican
Buses 8, 11, 15, 23, 25
Mainline trains Moorgate; Liverpool Street; City Thameslink

Pride March in London 1999

Pride March, London, 1999 , 3-July-1999
©1999 John Hunt/OutRage! London
This picture may be copied in the cause of furthering our aims, provided that the source is acknowledged.