It’s been a time of marching again, and one of the most heartening phenomena of the last few years has been the growth of protest movements outside the normal channels. The normal channels are now more clogged than a chain-smoker’s arteries, and where apathy has been the response of some, others have taken to the streets in blazing fury.
First there was the REMAIN march on 23 March 2019 (the day after my 70th birthday party). Estimates varied between 800,000 and a million, but that didn’t include those who couldn’t get onto the march itself because the transport networks were swamped, and the roads were impassable. It took me over forty‐five minutes to get out of Green Park tube station and into the road, a mere twenty‐five yards away.
The BBC, as usual, completely underestimated the size and scale of it, while exaggerating the tiny LEAVE march whilst Nigel Farage was taking his photo opportunity before swanning off and leaving the bedraggled racists to squelch a few more miles. And if anyone protests, they are not all racists. Remember Will Self’s wise words on Question Time: “Not all who voted Leave are racists, sure, but you can bet every single fascist and racist in the country voted Leave.” If I voted Leave honourably, I would be ashamed of the company I was keeping. Like Peter Oborne.
Queers feel particularly passionate about this, because so many of the freedoms which we have won over the last forty years have come from Europe, either the EU or the Court of Human Rights. If it wasn’t for the ECH, gay sex would still be illegal in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. We are still having to use the ECH to fight for gay marriage in Ulster.
Withdrawal from the EU threatens to unpick all those gains, as the European Convention on Human Rights is eroded. Would you take seriously any Government promise that they will not be affected by Brexit? Would you trust Jacob Rees‐Mogg with your liberties?
But at least we are not going to be stoned to death for our sexuality, unlike the gays (and lesbians) in Brunei, if the current Sultan Hazi Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah gets his wish, and since he is an absolute monarch who has an extensive secret police spying on his subjects, he will.
He has invoked Sharia law to introduce stoning to death for homosexuals and for adultery, despite the penalty being one‐hundred lashes for the latter in the Qu’ran. The Sultan, whose wealth is beyond obscene and who lives in a 1700‐room palace which is the largest in the world, and who owns over 900 cars including several gold‐plated Rolls‐Royces, has been married three times and keeps a rotating harem of thirty to forty women, none of whom have any rights at all.
Sharia is conveniently biased to the male, rich and powerful. It is also responsible for the death penalty for homosexuality in another eight or so countries. It is heartening that there has been such an outcry against the Sultan’s move, spearheaded initially by the Hollywood great and maybe good, but extending round the world and eventually including even the managements of his own hotels.
Saturday 6 April 2019 saw me on a freezing afternoon outside the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane, along with about 2,000 other people of a variety of sexualities.
For two hours we chanted, shouted and paraded up and down with banners, under the stony gaze of the half‐dozen police who were there to protect the spoilt and petted overgrown children who were inside. To be fair, those of the S&POC who ran the gauntlet of the demo seemed genuinely to engage, and pleaded their bookings were made before the laws were passed, or in ignorance, and promised not to re‐offend.
Despite several attempts, nobody managed to break through into the hotel, although we heard of a couple who went into the hotel on the previous Thursday, ostensibly for afternoon tea, and then produced a megaphone to explain to the diners exactly what kind of barbarity they were supporting with their custom.
The high point (literally) was when a small group formed a human pyramid and managed to jam a rainbow flag onto the spikes over the entrance intended to deter burglars.
As on the Remain march, there was a high degree of good humour and witty placards which you never find on the pofaced Right; the Right always marches with clenched teeth. My favourite placard was “Anal Sex and Adultery ‐ what a luxury hotel is for”. This was so good that I adopted it in slightly altered form for the song Hotel Homophobia that I was inspired to write following the event.
The other one which caught my eye was ‘Shut the Dor’, which I thought missed an opportunity because it really should have been ‘SHUT THAT DOR’, to reference the late Larry Grayson, although La Grayson was around before most of the marchers were born.
The most heartening thing is that there is a new inspiring generation of young Sexual Avenger/Outlaw activists responding with anger, humour and genuine creativity to the threats to LGBT society and social injustice. These young people also seem to have a passion for our heritage and for those National Queer Treasures like Andrew Lumsden and Stuart Feather who have been in the forefront of the great effort of the last fifty years. I only hope the youngsters have the same staying power.
18 April 2019