John Lyttle Column

The so-called 'gay press' has shown its true colours - and they're anything but pink...
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Indy Lifestyle Online
If you read an article about young gay men being raped and sexually abused by the manager of a gay bar - let's say the bar is Comptons in Soho, London - and that piece represented the victims' suffering as a dirty joke, you'd probably be stunned, and perhaps revolted. Especially if the piece went on to snigger that fags from all over were rushing to Comptons gagging for the same treatment. You'd probably assume the piece was a slur fabricated by some sick, unfeeling homophobic mind on a tabloid newspaper.

Only you'd be wrong. The aforementioned feature appeared in QX, one of the numerous free weekly London publications that masquerade as what is usually, and erroneously, referred to as the "gay press". It was QX's considered - and callous - response to a real and ongoing scandal uncovered by Time Out listings magazine, naming names, places, dates and incidents, all backed by affidavits.

Now, you'd think that one of the main purposes of any sort of "press" was investigating such mundane matters as sexual abuse, especially if that abuse is occurring amongst the core audience it claims to represent. Yet QX instead printed vicious and offensive copy that further demeans the victims, even as it bleats about defending the "community". Furthermore, it attacked the homosexual and heterosexual journalists at Time Out who did what QX and other gay publications singularly failed to do: chase and break the story. There is simply no excuse for this. One of the victims wrote to at least five different gay publications asking for help. QX did print an expurgated version of the letter, but help? No. The gay press did nothing.

There's a reason. Repeat after me: there is no "gay press". A press is usually professionally run, trained and resourced and relatively free. QX etc fail one or all of those criteria. What they are is advertising- driven give-aways, like hundreds of others handed out all over Britain - except Ms London doesn't pretend to speak on behalf of every single commuting secretary. The truth is that QX and friends can't function as a "press" because they exist almost totally on revenue generated from gay phone lines, clubs and pubs. Pubs like Comptons. Which makes them just another branch of gay business and gay businesses, as any au fait gay man will tell you, tend to believe that gayness is enough, and service and standards be damned.

Gay business and the "gay press" are cosy bedfellows; two incompetents covering up for one another and coining it in the process. Time Out's inadvertently devastating exposure of this incestuous relationship - their research has seen the manager of Comptons suspended - accounts for the current hysterical reactions. Instead of congratulating TO for doing a job they are obviously reluctant and ill-equipped to do themselves, the "gay press" is crying "witch hunt" - they would, wouldn't they - demanding to know why TO doesn't go after "breeder businesses" (although it does exactly that in its "Sell Out" section).

As if this were the point, anyway, any more than the suggestion that the real purpose of Time Out's coverage is to depict gay men as sex- obsessed freaks. This by QX, which in the same issue carries a porno tale about the kidnapping and vicious sexual assault (including pilers) of a young straight man. The real point is that it suits the "gay press" very well to define gay men as erotomaniacs. One way or another, sex, and the infinite promise of sex, fuels the pink economy. That's why pictures of mostly naked men constitute the bulk of "gay press" pagination. Not that I object to pictures of mostly naked men. I merely object to those who reproduce them blithely staking the moral high ground and evoking their victimhood to denounce others.

This blinkered self-righteousness stinks, as do belated delusions of adequacy. Thud, for instance, managed an editorial that ran the gamut from ritual hand-wringing to announcing that it would - a drum roll, please - unveil its own feature on gay businesses because "the straight press doesn't always get it right". Except, so far, the straight press appears to have got it very right indeed. So right that Thud is riding on its coat-tails, not stopping to ask itself why the straight press should show more genuine concern for the exploitation of vulnerable homosexuals than the gay press. Nor does it remark on the oddity of a subculture fixated on consumption not having a press that reports critically on that consumption.

This is no accident. As it's no accident that Boyz has minted the term "post-victim politics" - not an ideology, more an advertising slogan. Queer bashing, bigotry, being preyed upon by other gay men... Don't worry - just dance. What's known as the "scene" wants the brothers to keep on gorging, and not to think too hard about a system that tells them what's good for it is good for them, too. Gay men have everything to lose and nothing to gain from believing that. Fortunately, it appears that more and more gay men don't believe the hype. Otherwise why would assimilation - the moving out of the subculture into the mainstream - be the present goal? New days, new ways, new identities. Should that happen, the jig will be up. Or to put it in words that even the "gay press" can grasp: Boyz, the party's over - time to call it a day.

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