The majority of British people have no problem at all with same-sex relations, according to new data released by the government.
Over two-thirds of the British population – amounting to 68% of people – reported that sex between two people of the same gender was ‘not at all wrong’. In 2012, that number was only 47%, and in 1987 it was 11%.
There is still 17% who say sex between two adults of the same gender is ‘always’ and ‘mostly’ wrong’.
But on a positive note, 71% said two adults being in a same-sex relationship is not at all wrong.
Moreover, the younger people reported the highest acceptance of same-sex relationships, with 80% of the group saying the same. This is compared to 29% of the population aged 75 and older.
Across the LGBTI spectrum
Attitudes towards trans people in the UK among the public are relatively positive, despite a massively transphobic mainstream media.
81% of respondents said they were not at all prejudiced against trans people. However, this is slightly shadowed by the fact the much smaller proportion of 52% said prejudice against trans people was ‘always’ wrong. Women and younger respondents were more likely to be accepting of trans people.
Minister for Equalities, Baroness Susan Williams, said in a press release: ‘On Valentine’s Day, everyone should be able to love who they love, and be free to show that love to the world.
‘I am encouraged to see that people are changing their attitudes to be more accepting and more tolerant, but as government we still have work to do to make sure our society is truly fair, and truly free.’
Work still needs to be done. In the National LGBT Survey by the government from the same year, two thirds of British LGBTI people said they avoided holding hands in public for fear of negative reaction.
Daily Star Sunday has issued a correction after claiming child murderer Ian Huntley is transgender.
The tabloid published the correction last week (10 February).
Huntley was convicted in 2003 for the murders of two 10-year-old girls.
The paper claimed in a story published on 8 April 2018 that Huntley ‘has been wearing a blonde wig and asking fellow inmates to call him Nicola’ in a ‘plan’ to be transferred to a women’s prison.
The correction said: ‘Ian Huntley would like to make it clear that he does not own a wig,
‘And has never been asked to be addressed by any name other than his own.
‘There has never been a plan to change his gender identity.’
The Daily Star has also removed the story from its website.
‘Tabloid trash lies all along’
The correction was published in the Daily Star Sunday on 10 February | Picture: Twitter @thejeremyvine
The correction was published in the Daily Star Sunday on 10 February | Picture: Twitter @thejeremyvine
Several newspapers picked up the story including The Sun and The Daily Mail.
Trans Media Watch (TMW) provides support for trans individuals engaging with the media.
TMW founder Helen Belcher told Gay Star News: ‘Since the Huntley story first appeared in January 2017, based apparently on a single source, it has been used relentlessly as evidence that trans people are dangerous.
‘Now that story has been shown to be false there are questions around what IPSO will do as this story has underpinned many others.
‘If the press continue with burying corrections in the small print, they avoid the pressure to comply with what the public expect.
‘Which is true, honest and accurate reporting.’
‘Retraction tweet is… where?’
Chief reporter at Daily Star Isobel Dickinson wrote the original piece.
Twitter users are asking the journalist what her ‘plans’ are for ‘making amends’.
‘So now we know this is a lie,’ one tweeted.
Another said: ‘Retraction tweet is… where?’
GSN contacted Dickinson for comment.
Yet this is not the only time a newspaper has gotten into heat for an article.
Earlier this month, a man from Chechnya said he is suing a newspaper for naming him as one of the men rounded up by agents as part of the gay purge.
One of the most impressive features of humanity is our ability to adapt.
The ruling classes tried to stomp out homosexuality for centuries in Britain, deploying everything from oppressive laws and an aggressive police force to society-wide shunning.
Rather than be crushed beneath the weight of this cruelty, London’s gay community in the early 20th century adapted. Not just by creating underground scenes, but by developing a whole other way of communicating: Polari.
Polari was an ingenious tool for survival. The secretive language was passed down from man to man and it’s use a kind of initiation into the gay ‘scene’. Its phrases were bouncy and playful, but indecipherable enough that gay men could insult someone in a cafe, or talk about attractive someone was, without anyone knowing.
What is Polari?
Technically a ‘cant’ – a coded selection of words used by a group to avoid detection by outsiders – its vocabulary is derived from multiple sources. Bits were taken from Italian, some stolen from Cockney rhyming slang, and others lifted from Yiddish and Romani slang.
No one wrote it down; instead the language was passed down from person to person. This meant that variations sprung up across London, with someone in the west speaking something slightly different than someone in the east.
Polari was typically spoken by working class men, using it to rebel against society and express their sexuality.
Middle and, especially, upper-class men were protected somewhat by status and money. For example, when Parliament debated the Sexual Offences Act (1967), Home Secretary Roy Jenkins was able to comment – openly and shamelessly – ‘those who suffer from this disability carry a great weight of shame all their lives’, despite having a male lover.
Working class men were not afforded this privilege. So they adapted.
The cant is similar to that spoken by performers, particularly in Punch and Judy shows | Photo: Pixabay
Its parentage is complex and its origins dark, but the language is playful and fun. ‘Camp’ is in Polari’s DNA.
Masculine words are dolled up; already seemingly effeminate words are transformed into camp masterpieces. ‘Money’ becomes ‘handbag’; expressions like ‘wonderful’ explode into ‘fantabulous’.
Dr Paul Baker, Professor at Lancaster University and author of upcoming book Fabulosa: The Story of Polari, says that while the cant’s primary use was survival, its playful nature meant it brought groups of gay people together.
‘There was probably more a focus on the secrecy aspect earlier in the 20th century and especially during the more oppressive 1950s.
‘Some conversations took place in public and secrecy was therefore more important, while others would have taken place in private clubs or homes and the need to disguise your language wasn’t really that necessary,’ he told Gay Star News.
‘Although we shouldn’t assume everyone on the scene was super-friendly towards each other. As is ever the case, there will have been rivalries. And real insults, mock-insults and ambiguous insults are part and parcel of the Polari speaker’s repertoire.
‘Bonding could be banter. And banter could mask conflict.’
Gays against the police
Two friends could decide whether someone is ‘naff’ (Not Available For Fucking – originally a word for a straight boy, eventually taken into the modern lexicon and is still used in Britain today) in public. They could even insult another gay person’s ‘onk’ (nose) or ‘ogles’ (eyes). Through these actions, it strengthened the gay in-group dynamic.
Gay identity, instead of shameful, became something that brought people together against a society that hated them.
Perhaps most revolutionary of all was how it was used against authority. The police posed the biggest threat to gay men in the 20th century. Up until the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1967, men could face up to life in prison for having sex with another man.
Polari thrived before the gay liberation movement, when police weren’t forced to protect the right to protest (Pic: Gays Against Fascism, London, 1974) | Photo: LSE Library
Gay and bisexual men were also subject to a lot more violence than their straight counterparts, particularly from the police. In this way, Polari was particularly well-equipped to attack them.
The police were seen as a bastion of masculinity and macho behavior, yet Polari transformed them into non-threatening entities. They were called Lily Law, Betty Bracelets, Orderly Daughters, Hilda Handcuffs.
Not only did this force the police to be spoken about in the same way the rest of society spoke about gay men, it reflects the liberation Polari gave to its speakers.
Paul continues: ‘The Polari speakers didn’t take themselves (or anything) seriously. They made fun of real tragedies like being attacked or arrested – you can’t take the police seriously if you call them Lily Law.
‘It’s not so much that laughing at something bad will stop it from hurting you, but it gives you a way of coping with the hurt.’
Britain’s gay and bisexual men eventually stopped speaking Polari. Part of the reason is influence from America, where they traded campness with a stronger attachment to extreme masculinity. However, its true death came when it stopped being effective – or necessary – for survival.
The passing of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 repealed the ban on same-sex intercourse after years of incredibly hard work from activists.
Polari was no longer needed to avoid police. Despite this, it still would have been a useful tool to avoid detection by a hostile society. Unfortunately, the BBC show Round the Horne blew the language’s cover.
Both of these events were defining moments in the story of gay liberation and both of these pushed Polari over the edge.
One of the most popular shows on BBC Radio 4, Round the Horne featured two gay characters, Julian and Sandy. The audience wasn’t explicitly told they were gay – the show first aired in 1965, two years before the Sexual Offences Act.
Instead they were given a variety of signifiers: the characters were incredibly camp, they were ‘theater types’, and they spoke in Polari.
Being the two most popular elements of the show meant Polari was thrust into the mainstream. Under the spotlight, it crumbled.
As time moved on, its demise continued as it began to be viewed as old fashioned. A lot of the phrases and words are obviously sexist, while there’s some casual racism (like schvartze as phrase for black people).
In an effort to normalize homosexuality to the rest of society, activists shunned it too. The shine of protection faded and it became a symbol of oppression; words that ghettoized its speakers.
Bringing it back from the dead
The language is not entirely lost. The internet has given people new access to Polari. Thus gay people, keen to keep their history alive, are reclaiming it in interesting ways. One such example is Putting On The Dish – a short film spoken entirely in Polari.
Perhaps its most enduring legacy is the fact we still use these words today. Family homes in London and the eastern counties use words like ‘naff’ every day.
It may have cost Polari its life, but its eventual popularity gave us some of the most enduring slang in the English language.
Dr Paul Baker believes that we should keep the language alive: ‘It’s useful to know how we got to where we are and just how bloody difficult it was really. Our freedoms are so hard-won and so recent – and horrifically, as people in Egypt and Russia are finding out, they are not necessarily for good.
‘The people who spoke Polari were seen as camp, silly and apolitical at the time and they were not really part of the Gay Liberation story. But they just got on with things – they refused to stay at home, they continued going out, taking risks, having sex, dealing with negative attention, having fun on their own terms.
‘And for me their existence is a political act in itself, even if they weren’t carrying placards. They weren’t going and they couldn’t be ignored. Would we have been as bold as them?
‘Incidentally, bold is a Polari word that’s gone by the wayside. Now we’re fierce and sassy. I prefer bold.’
Polari is a piece of history that can live through us. Queer men of all stripes would honor our forebearers’ memory by speaking in their tongue. It might not be as bold an act as theirs, but it certainly would be bona.