25 OCTOBER 1963, Page 34



This insidious assertion certainly contains a higher proportion of truth than most ten-o'-clock- tested, doctors-recommend, science-has-proved claims in commercials. A quick survey of the public scene confirms its usefulness as rule-of- thumb for sexing celebrities. It will usually be found that any famous figure whose portrait appears to be ageing in the attic, while he re- mains unmarked by time, is a card-carrying member of Them. Dorian Gray was always

rather an unconvincing woman-hunter in Oscar Wilde's novel. He is the archetype of the boy- who-never-grows-old—half Peter and half Pan. The millions of citizens who will endure any- thing to belie their birth certificates—from carv- ing nut-cutlets to breaking the ice on the Serpen- tine—should not find homosexuality too rugged a regime.

I make the suggestion not simply as a bad- taste joke. To discover at puberty that you are enrolled in the ranks of an unpopular, and in this country illegal, minority is more likely to toughen than to sap. the will to survive. As a homosexual friend of mine remarked the other day (it is disgraceful that even now I should feel a glow of progressive daring at writing those words), 'Being queer has been the saving of me.

I could so easily have become like my father, weak, timid, unambitious. Instead I have had to justify my peculiarity by becoming successful and famous.' There are other reasons too why homosexuals should seem to have that over-drive which keeps them running when the others have stopped. George Orwell once pointed out that' working-class women looked old at an age when the middle-class matrons were often at their most attractive because they had ceased to ex- pect courtship. After thirty, most of us take on the appearance our neighbours expect us to have. Even the most obsessional heterosexual Don Juan gives up expecting to be wooed and ogled by chance acquaintances once he has barricaded himself in a family home and chosen a mate to guard the door. From then on, he is more likely to fall in love by intention rather than by acci- dent. For a homosexual, the barriers of age, class and race do not exist. The sanctions of law, custom and conventional morality are denied his liaisons and therefore neither support nor obstruct his search for a partner. Like a courte- san, he will tend to be open to offers at any time or place. He may reject them all and opt for a stable and permanent relationship with another male. But, in my experience, the ever-present consciousness that he is beyond the law makes fidelity rare and difficult for him. Few homo- sexuals have ever slapped another's face at an

improper proposal. `Thanks, but no thanks' is the only brush-off permitted by his etiquette. Like the courtesan, his theoretical availability and accessibility gives him a glow that his married rivals cannot match. There is nothing for preserving the good looks like a constant massage of the ego.

But if an advertising campaign, skilfully play- ing on envy and curiosity, is only a fantasy, how are homosexuals to change a law which makes them victims of a sexual apartheid? I have heard the proposal that they should stop appealing to the converted in dignified statements to the pub- lic in papers like the Spectator but invest all their money in hiring a private detective to investi- gate the private lives of their self-righteous opponents. I doubt whether any form of counter- blackmail would be effective. The great weakness of the homosexuals' campaign for -freedom to behave as they wish in private is that they lack that sense of solidarity any mass movement needs to change public opinion. They themselves often like to compare their position to the American Negro and the parallel obviously has super- ficially encouraging resemblances. The difference is that there are no secret Negroes. The very fact that colour is on the outside is what maketi segregation possible. If science discovered a pill which bleached the pigment, the colour bar would obviously disappear overnight. The best thing that could happen to homosexuals would be that they could be recognised at a glance.

As it is, the homosexual minority lacks all cohesion and is riddled with Quislings. There are rich homosexuals who would not vote Labour even if Mr. Harold Wilson embodied the Wolfen- den proposals in his platform. There are political homosexuals who are prepared to support the law in public and break it in private. The over- whelming mass of the public is entirely incapable of identifying a homosexual, picturing him as the effete, shrill, girlish caricature they used to see on the musk halls. The situation of the homosexual in Britain today is more like the position of the Communist in McCarthy's America. Then Mrs:Roosevelt argued that non-, Communists could not fight on the Communists' behalf so long as they remain under cover masquerading as liberals, or even Republicans. Her slogan was—'Stand up and be counted.' The Communists dismissed this as the action of an unconscious agent provocateur. They replied. with some justification, that it was the equiva- lent of saying—'Stand up and be persecuted.' Yet Mrs. Roosevelt may have been a shrewder tactician than they realised. I am not sure that' the only worth-while move for British homo- sexuals isn't to identify themselves openly in enormous numbers. It would be an act of im- pressive and almost unimaginable courage. But for that reason, it might also crash the barrief' of ignorance and prejudice like a mass march on Whitehall.

It could also be accompanied by a national programme of education on the realities of homosexuality. How many ordinary men and women realise the number of English sovereigns who have been practising homosexuals? (The details are most easily obtainable in the appen- dix to Mr. Montgomery Hyde's Trial of Oscar Wilde.) How many of them understand that even such gruff, tough, totem-figures in the public ikonography as Lord Kitchener, Cecil Rhodes and Gilbert Harding (to name only three who can no longer be harmed by the revelation) could be homosexuals? Jean Cocteau made no secret of his love for males—are there none of our playwrights, novelists, actors, film directors, journalists, and television personalities who are willing to risk the same confession? Homo- sexuality, after all, is not illegal per se. The police have little doubt who the famous breakers of this infamous law are at this moment. Would they be risking prosecution any more, nearly by the revelation?

If this declaration of sexual allegiance is thought to be soliciting arrest, cannot the Women's Auxiliary (homosexual is a word with 1,),, no gender) at least throw off their disguise? After all, lesbianism, however physically mans' fested, is no crime. It is an article of faith with tl` most homosexuals that they are not ashamed of t4i;

their deviation from a rather shaky norm. They '4;

claim that they do not feel guilty, whatever the to law may decree. If this is true, then, like the

Communists of the First International, they ni

should 'scorn to conceal their aims.' I realise '10 that such advice is all too easy for those of its 1,•4

who only fear a parking ticket. But it is the only

alternative I see to a long, slow, painful process ktil of piecemeal change during which many martyrs will suffer for our ignorance.