It's difficult to believe that less than half a century ago homosexuals in Britain were a persecuted minority. That's because they weren't. The reign of Henry VIII saw An Acte for the punysshement of the vice of Buggerie
, which made such unnatural relations a capital offence, a sanction that was repealed only in 1861. Even so, such executions were few and far between, one notable exception being that of Captain Henry Nicholls
in August 1833.
With the relaxation of the law, most Englishmen of all classes showed remarkable tolerance for this vice, following the dictum as long as they don't do it in the street and frighten the horses. It was still frowned upon however; the Queen's grandfather, George V, is supposed to have said of homosexuals, "I thought men like that shot themselves".
All throughout the 20th Century, homosexuality was illegal but tolerated, indeed when in 1953 the actor Sir John Gielgud was arrested for coming on to an undercover police officer in a public toilet, the system tried to cover up for him. It was only because a court reporter recognised his distinctive voice that the story got out. Gielgud was fined £10, and apart from the usual sniggering, that was the end of the matter. Alas, in an age when homosexuality is now tolerated, some would like to see it made compulsory, as is clear from the Stonewall indoctrination campaign
This two part BBC documentary series
sees Stephen Fry donning the mask of righteous indignation to champion those he calls gay
people in an odyssey that takes him from a London gay
pride rally to Hollywood via Uganda where with more enthusiasm than common sense, one politician is attempting to make buggery capital again.
Among those he meets is Elton John, who is hardly an average homosexual or indeed an average anything. Like Fry he is the quintessential English eccentric, but in spite or perhaps because of his colossal musical talent
, he has suffered from his own inner demons. Neither man mentions the fact that in 1984 Elton married the sound engineer Renate Blauel
when he was desperate to live a normal life.
On flying out to Uganda, Fry goes head to head with a man who does not subscribe to the perverse and now near universal euphemism for homosexuality, gay
. Fry tells him he is obsessed with sodomy, but it isn't this fellow who is promoting it, and he is rightly concerned with the rise of AIDS in his country and Africa generally.
After this encounter in which he was heartily routed, Fry meets a lesbian woman who was subjected to "corrective rape".
Fry continues his propaganda campaign telling a small but receptive audience that homosexuality is not a threat to the children
and families of Uganda, and that homosexuals (gay
people in his parlance) don't recruit. What planet is this guy living on?
From Uganda he travels to Los Angeles where he explores reparative therapy, sadly too late to help himself. He finishes, predictably, in Hollywood, where he enjoys a joke about sodomy with another out homosexual actor. Next episode will see him flying down to Brazil and then to Russia, the latter of which he believes now to be a truly horrible place.
For all his veneer of tolerance though, Fry is anything but. This is clear from earlier in the programme when he talks about school bullying with the hidden subtext that there should be anti-hate crime laws dedicated specifically to the "protection" of homosexuals.
What is missing from this programme? Something that Fry himself, unusually for male homosexuals, appears not to engage in: rampant promiscuity, anonymous encounters with strangers in darkened cubicles, and everything else that makes this lifestyle anything but gay
. If we should open our eyes, then he should open his