WRITTEN OUT The Scottish Press’ portrayal of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

The Scottish Press’ portrayal
of lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender people
The Scottish Press’ portrayal
of lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender people
Introduction by Calum Irving
Gay crime and wrongdoing
Gay makes the story
Gay and sex
Readers’ letters
Intros and lines
Not interested
Stereotypes reinforced
Political correctness gone mad
Reasons to be cheerful
Key findings
Conclusions & recommendations
When working for lesbian and gay equality in
Scotland, time and again you come across one
problem: gay Scots do not want to talk to the press.
People’s legitimate fear of being misrepresented
prevents us from telling the story of gay Scotland.
Why is this? And are we really so much worse off than
the rest of Britain?
This report aims to give us at least some of the
answers. It aims to give an oversight of how lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues are
reported and in some cases not reported.
Covering a six month period, it shows the Scottish
press still love anything ‘gay’. Different news values
are still applied to gay and straight stories. Offensive
stereotypes and language are still used and sexual
orientation still equates simply to sex in the minds of
many news editors.
Whilst it’s not all bad, a considerable effort is
required to make it clear to journalists and editors
that gay is not fair game – and someone’s sexual
orientation or gender identity shouldn’t ‘make’ a story
of itself or justify vitriol.
What the report tells us is that there is much that
Stonewall Scotland could do to work with journalists
and LGBT people to create a better balance of stories
– to move coverage of gay stories from sensationalist
to mainstream.
I hope that it acts as a springboard to a fairer
representation in the press for lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender Scots.
Calum Irving
Director, Stonewall Scotland
Gay crime and wrongdoing
It quickly became clear during the period of
A DEPUTY Headteacher has been forced to resign
monitoring that gay people and gay issues often crop
after downloading explicit gay porn onto his school
up in stories of crime or wrongdoing. Although the
study did not look at how straight people are
Married Allan Pollock quit his £45,000-a-year job at
portrayed in these stories, it seems gay people are
Charleston Academy, Inverness, after education
featured in this context in a frequent, possibly
chiefs found the X-rated material.
disproportionate, way. The tabloids – and in particular
the “red tops” – are the worst offenders.
Here are some examples from the News of the
But the News of the World can also reveal that dadof-two Pollock led a secret life – as a regular at a
notorious gay pick-up spot nearby...
Sources within the Highland Council were already
concerned that he often visited the North Kessock
picnic area – a mile from the school – which is known
for seedy sex encounters.
(“Head quits over gay porn shock”, 07/01/07)
Soham murderer Ian Huntley has ended his obsession
with Maxine Carr – and fallen in love with a GAY
The monster, 33, spends hours every day in his jail
cell with vile Dean Wood, who is serving life for a
Its sister paper, the Sun, also covers similar stories:
homosexual slaying.
And he is showering his new boyfriend with gifts
from an ARGOS catalogue!
Guards have seen Wood, 29, holding Huntley's face
in his hands and KISSING him on the lips. They share
The son of a nurse hacked to death during Robert
long SHOWERS together, and Wood was also spotted
Mone and Thomas McCulloch's brutal Carstairs
GROPING Huntley's groin when they were reading at a
rampage told last night of his family's anger that the
killers are being prepared for release.
(“Huntley has a gay lover”, 17/06/07)
Neil MacLellan, 46, was butchered with a homemade weapon when the gay lovers broke out of the
IT'S a horror story that no parent would ever want to
state hospital.
read, but the reality is that gay priest Jeremiah
(“Family's fury at free killer”, 13/07/07)
McGrath WAS able to take his paedophile lover to a
primary school.
Scots gay serial killer DENNIS NILSEN won the right to
(“Kids must be protected”, 17/06/07)
receive hardcore pornography after arguing that a jail
ban on it violated his human rights.
Nilsen, who was jailed in 1983, insisted the ban
violated his right to freedom of expression and the
right to receive information. In particular Nilsen, who
was jailed in 1983 for murdering six young men, said
he should be able to receive explicit gay porn in
prison. British prisoners had only been allowed to
receive soft porn available on newsstands before the
The Daily Record gives us:
Many of these are major, newsworthy stories,
regardless of the sexual orientation of the
protagonists. But all too often it seems only the fact
the person is gay turns a minor story into one worthy
of publication.
AN OBSESSED stalker followed an unsuspecting male
jogger around for 10 years.
It is also worth noting how often the stories focus on
gay sex, making it out to be seedy. The capital letters
David Leverett went to parks and nature reserves to
in the first example leave us in no doubt about how
watch the 37-year-old computer programmer.
shocked we are supposed to be about Huntley's
(“GAY STALKER'S 10-YR CRUSH; Jogger followed for a
behaviour. The deputy headteacher is said to go to a
decade”, 06/06/07)
place "known for seedy sex encounters".
In other cases, however, it seems some minor
stories would never have made the papers at all if it
were not for the gay element. Some readers must
wonder “If they were straight, would it be in the
While the Sunday Mail tells us:
Take the following examples and note the wording of
the headlines:
AN ARMY corporal sexually attacked a sleeping
teenage soldier in a base in Iraq, a military court was
A BITTER feud between two groups of lesbian lovers
Bisexual Gordon MacGlashan, 45, who passed
sparked a terrifying road rage battle between two
himself off as a padre, bought the 18-year-old Scot
women drivers.
Margaret Grant reacted furiously after spotting gay
drink in a NAAFI in Basra.
The Royal Regiment of Scotland private fell asleep
on a bench and awoke to find MacGlashan had his
hands down his trousers.
love rival Sharon Spence in another car on the A9, a
court heard yesterday.
She veered across in front of Miss Spence's car
The soldier told the court: “I pushed him away and
before braking fiercely - causing her rival to slam on
the brakes.
shouted. I felt sick because I'm not gay.”
(“PERVERT 'PADRE'; Corporal groped teen”, 15/04/07)
Sheltered housing warden Grant, 39, accelerated
and slowed several times to box Miss Spence in on
the road.
And the cars narrowly avoided colliding with each
other as they drove at 60mph, the court was told.
The Daily Express and the Daily Mail also feature
The incident was sparked by a feud between two
stories along similar lines.
groups of lesbians who had swapped a number of
about which criminals, often notorious ones, are gay
or might be. In some cases, this is unavoidable and
essential to the story, but in others it seems to be
mentioned just for the sake of it.
partners in the past, Perth Sheriff Court heard.
(“Lesbo rage”, Sun, 13/04/07)
Some newspapers still feel compelled to remind us
KILLER Darleen Zavaroni enjoyed a steamy kiss with a
female pal as she waited to be sentenced.
The 24-year-old was filmed in the lesbian clinch at
New Year, days before she admitted stabbing 27-yearold lover Allan Osbourne.
One pal revealed: ‘She said she and this girl had
done a lot more than just kissing.’
(“Fiend's lesbian kiss with pal,” Sun, 17/07/07)
A MAN attacked his partner after his parents
disowned him for being gay, a court heard.
David Richardson, 22, grabbed James Tiffoney by the
throat and bit him on the lip in Bennets nightclub,
Glasgow, in January 2003.
(“Man attacked gay lover in club,” Evening Times,
A MAN was attacked moments after leaving a gay
nightclub by a thug who had wanted to go home with
Colin McCluckie was waiting for a taxi near to
Bennetts in Glasgow city centre when George
Alexander approached.
(“Gay bar brush off sparked attack,” Evening Times,
The papers are still disproportionately interested
when gay people do bad things and will constantly
remind readers of the sexual orientation of gay
criminals, even if it is not relevant to the offence
committed. Stories that would not otherwise make the
paper appear because the protagonists are gay, and
in the context of crime stories, gay sex is often
portrayed as seedy and sordid.
Gay makes the story
It’s not just in crime where the gay element makes
The Daily Record tells us:
the story, and throughout the press it’s easy to find
articles which without the gay element would never
appear in print.
Take this example from Glasgow's Evening Times:
TWO lesbians have achieved their dreams of
becoming mums - thanks to a gay drag queen they
met in a nightclub.
Trainee lorry driver Stephanie Burns, 23, became
Now Stuart admits he loves to dance. But he hadn't
pregnant first after asking pal Joanne Bartle, 40, to
banked on being propositioned by the male chief of
help her find a sperm donor.
They were introduced to female impersonator Ryan
‘When I told his friend I wasn't gay it caused a real
Egeley, 21, who was desperate to become a dad.
Stephanie said she was overjoyed when she found
stink,’ says Stuart.
‘I was threatened and had to leave. It was a very
she was going to have baby Elijah Jo, now 13 months
scary moment.’
old. She said: ‘It was the best feeling in the world.’
(“Soap actor Stuart found his life in danger on his
travels...” 11/06/07)
Again, it is unlikely this would be considered a story if
Would this even have been mentioned if he had been
the three involved were straight – but it is worth
propositioned by a woman?
noting that the tone of the piece is positive.
It is clear that different news values are applied to
gay and straight stories – stories that would not
otherwise appear make the paper because the
protagonists are gay.
Gay and sex
Newspaper coverage can often reinforce the view that
Life in Weatherfield is far from gay for young Ryan as
sexual orientation is all about sex. It is rare to read a
he goes to Sonny's in order to get to the, er, bottom
story about gay issues in an everyday context.
of his break-up with Michelle. Unfortunately, when he
Instead, gay people are much more likely to feature in
gets there he actually finds out...
the papers in the context of sexual health statistics,
(Coronation Street review, Scotland on Sunday,
or of gay education in schools purportedly
“corrupting” our youngsters. As far as many
newspapers are concerned, gay people do not go
GAY campaigners last night urged tourists to boycott
home, put their slippers on and snuggle up next to
the Orkneys in protest at a ban on a homosexual
their long-term partner.
(Sun, 08/01/07,had the headline, "We won’t take it up
the isles".)
Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail (25/05/07) tells
Youngsters are also being treated to a puppet show
The News of the World, on the other hand, is less
starring two male Cinderellas. It's part of a £600,000
project aimed at 'familiarising' children with gay and
lesbian relationships.
I don't have a problem with talking about
homosexuality in schools. But not primary schools, for
heaven's sake. This is robbing young children of their
A FURIOUS mum has taken her 13-year-old daughter
out of school where she was made to read aloud from
an Aids leaflet detailing unnatural sex acts.
The use, or misuse, of language and jokes also help to
(“Fury at girl's gay sex class”, 08/07/07)
further this link between "gay" and "sex". Jokes
alluding to anal sex are a particular favourite. For
For many papers, it seems, gay=sex, and “unnatural”
sex at that.
At this point we really needed someone who could
ram a firecracker up the collective rectum of the
gathering thousands, so thank the Lord of the Dance
for Scissor Sisters, who were my highlight of the
(T In the Park review, Scotsman, 10/07/07)
Readers’ letters
Readers' letters were a surprising source of vitriol.
The tone of the opinion pages can occasionally match
Statements of remarkable homophobia and ignorance
the postbag. One Daily Record commentator says:
were contained in letters pages.
I OBVIOUSLY lit the pink touch paper last week with
HAVE any of our Lords and MPs with more than one
my reference to those with unnatural sexual
brain cell thought how easy it would be for
paedophiles with no known history to say they are
Yes, I'm getting fed up using the word "gay" out of
gay and want to adopt a child? The result will be
politeness. But I didn't see much politeness in my mail
terrible, if not tragic. This is bound to happen. And
bag or emails last week.
any child brought up in a gay environment will have
(Bob Shields, Comment piece, 20/03/07)
experiment not interfere with their human right to an
upbringing with no hidden agenda?
no choice but to copy gay ways. Does this new social
(Daily Express, 01/02/07) Also note the assumed link
between paedophilia and homosexuality.
Papers seem to be prepared to print letters containing
a level of homophobic abuse which would not be
I have no problem with homosexuality, having a gay
accepted if it were racist.
family member, whom I consider a perfectly normal
human being....
(Daily Express, 27/03/07) Although this is a seemingly
positive statement, the implication is that somebody
might reasonably consider gay people not to be
BRIAN Souter is one of 90 per cent of the Scottish
people who are against the promotion of homosexual
practices as an acceptable way of life.
(Daily Express, 23/03/07) No reference was given for
the statistic.
GAYS should never be allowed to adopt children. They
could never be the same as a proper mother and
(Daily Record, 30/01/07)
Over the past few years, millions in National Lottery
funds have been squandered on inane projects such
as aiding rodent farmers in South America, gay bars
in Fife and extremely left-wing organisations.
(Daily Mail, 20/07/07)
Intros and lines
One problem facing gay equality campaigners is that
THE Catholic Church in Scotland last night furiously
their voice or standpoint does not appear to be as
accused ministers of creating a "thought crime" after
newsworthy as those with a more conservative view.
Tony Blair refused to exempt Catholic adoption
This is naturally dictated by news values - a senior
agencies from gay equality laws.
church figure slamming the latest changes to the law
(Scotsman, 30/01/07)
is always a "better" line than people welcoming such
a move.
Church leaders, in particular, have a significant
CATHOLIC adoption agencies will defy new antidiscrimination laws, the Church warned last night, as
amount of space devoted to their views. This is
the row over allowing gay couples to adopt
particularly true in broadsheets or one-time
threatened to divide religion and politics.
broadsheets, such as the Press and Journal or the
(Scotsman, 26/01/07)
Scotsman. Take these examples of intros from the
Scotsman or Scotland on Sunday:
SCOTTISH ministers were accused of discrimination
yesterday for asking Westminster to permit Catholic
adoption agencies to turn away gay couples.
(Scotsman, 25/01/07)
THE Catholic Church in Scotland is threatening to take
ADOPTION rights for gay couples in Scotland are
legal action to block new anti-discrimination laws it
under threat if new discrimination laws are blocked by
claims will force faith-based adoption agencies to
Ruth Kelly, the communities minister in England.
close down.
(Scotsman, 22/01/07)
(Scotsman, 26/02/07)
THE Catholic Church is to go to war over new
CARDINAL Keith O'Brien said the government's
legislation on rights for homosexuals, vowing to
decision to compel Catholic adoption agencies to
create "gay rights martyrs" if the laws are passed.
place children with same-sex couples was evidence of
(Scotland on Sunday, 28/01/07)
a "deeply hedonistic society", where ancient morals
were being replaced by "issues of life-style and
(Scotsman, 07/02/07)
THE Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland has backed the
Catholic Church in its war of words with the
government over Tony Blair's decision to push ahead
with controversial gay equality laws.
(Scotsman, 31/10/07)
The Press and Journal can do the same:
Holyrood was yesterday accused of undermining the
traditional family by a Christian political party which
launched its election campaign yesterday.
A Highland anti-gay crusader is to contest next
month's Holyrood election for the Scottish Christian
A SENIOR member of the Catholic Church in Scotland
yesterday criticised the Labour Party and said he will
not be voting for them at May's Holyrood election.
There are other examples of this in the Sun, the
Edinburgh Evening News and the Sunday Mail. These
papers will often include positive stories on gay issues
too, but it is worth noting that in the interest of a
"good" news line, prominence is often given to those
with conservative views, or who come from a religious
standpoint. This can get in the way of conveying the
views of gay equality campaigners, who may end up
at the foot of the story, if at all.
Not interested
Some papers do not seem very interested in covering
gay issues at all. For example, the word "gay" only
featured 58 times in the Press and Journal in the eight
month period monitored, compared with over 600
mentions in other papers.
Gay issues were also notably absent from Glasgow's
Evening Times. Gay references would inevitably crop
up in film or book reviews, and there would be brief
news references, but any major treatment of issues
central to gay life was absent. This contrasted notably
with the Edinburgh Evening News' approach. It did not
shy from news of Pride events, or features on the Gay
Police Association, for example, and approached
these in a positive way.
In most publications, lesbian issues are given very
little prominence.
Stereotypes reinforced
Some newspapers seem to portray a very one-
EDUKASHUN News: February is Lesbian, Gay,
dimensional view of gay life, where gay stereotypes
Bisexual, Transgender History Month in which skools
are reinforced. This is particularly obvious in the case
will spend hours teaching this fascinating subject in
of gay men, who are often depicted as highly camp or
order to "counter the misinformation and prejudice
harmless figures of fun.
that fosters homophobic bullying" blah, blah. It is,
This is largely done in two ways - language and
inevitably, sponsored by the Executive. I pop into our
context. Words like "mincing" and "prancing" are still
local skool to ask them who William Wallace was.
used regularly. Furthermore, some newspapers will
Blank faces. Robert Burns? Dunno. Sir Winston
latch on to stories about a gay person acting in a way
Churchill? Eh? Aonghas the Mincing Cleric? All the
which confirms a particular stereotype. The recent
brats' hands go up!
Hamilton court case of a gay hairdresser who was hit
with an ASBO (anti-social behavioural order) for
playing Tammy Wynette's “Stand By Your Man” is a
I WAS devastated to learn that Sir Peter Maxwell
good example. A number of newspapers picked up on
Davies has dropped his plan for a gay union in Orkney
the story and followed it right the way through.
due to some incomprehensible row over which
The Daily Express is worthy of note for the way it
registrar performs the ceremony. I was so looking
latched on to camp stereotypes. These largely
forward to a knees up (no juvenile puns, please) on
featured in the Hickey diary column:
Sanday. When Mrs H and I forged our own union all
those years ago, I do not recall us being bothered who
it happens, I suspected of wearing eye shadow.
officiated. In the event, it was Bishop Milburn who, as
In the same vein as smuggling exploding cigars to
Fidel Castro, Yank boffins came up with an even more
outlandish secret weapon. According to recently
released information passed on to me by cousin
Hiram J Hickey Jr, the plan later abandoned was to
This news story is along similar lines:
spray a chemical over enemy troops, the effect of
which would be to turn them into a regiment of
prancing gay persons "Left, Right... Quick Mince", I
suppose. I tell Hiram that we have a device which
appears to have a similar effect on a large number of
A COMPANY director who used his boss's money to
people gathered in the same place. We call it the
fund a lifestyle said to rival that of Posh and Becks
Edinburgh Festival.
was jailed for five years and three months yesterday...
One former colleague recalled ‘He loved Beyonce and
even pranced about like her in the office. If he did not
STRATHCLYDE Diversity 'n' Fire 'n' Rescue bosses may
have a wife and child you would swear he was gay. In
be interested to learn that next Sunday there is to be
fact, a lot of the lads had a laugh when they found out
a "Gay Pride in Latvia, Standing Up To Homophobia in
he had spent £15,000 on women's lingerie. They
Eastern Europe" event in Riga to which "activists"
could imagine him wearing it.’
from Scotland are going. Maybe they should send
(“Prison for cheat who used boss's credit cards”, Daily
their pink-painted fire engine to show the force's
Express, 21/03/07)
While these are probably intended in a spirit of light
A TAYSIDE cop is about to join Scotland's strangest
heartedness, it is clear that camp stereotypes of gay
club... the laydees.
men would be reinforced in the mind of the reader.
The Scottish Sun revealed yesterday, below right,
The examples also undermine efforts to combat
how the 48-year-old bobby will be getting a new ID.
homophobia in Scottish society.
He will wear a full female uniform and don a ginger
Transgender issues are still very much seen by
tabloids as a source of “fun”, and the coverage is
even more prurient than on gay issues. The papers
also seem to show absolutely no compunction when
But what sort of inner torment drives blokes to
dress up like birds?
Professor Vince Egan is one of the country's top
is comes to “outing” transpeople and do so even
experts on the subject. He teaches forensic
more readily than they out gay, lesbian and bisexual
psychology at Glasgow's Caledonian University with a
people. Take these two examples from the Sun:
specialist interest in sexual dysfunction.
("Frocky horror show", 24/01/07)
EIGHT o'clock on Wednesday and an army of
Unlike the Sun, we have deleted names to protect the
subject’s privacy. Journalists seem largely unaware of
the consequences of publicising someone’s sexual
orientation or gender identity without their consent.
frighteningly ugly women are pouring into a boozer
called Prism for bingo night. Or at least from a
distance they LOOK like women.But then you see the
poster on the door.
And you realise that this isn't just any bingo night.
It's Drag Queen bingo night.
This example also highlights how the tone of reporting
can detract from quite serious discussion. Although
Now, I can't pretend that my devotion to this
the professor’s commentary goes on to be quite
column is such that I wiggled along to see how it
thoughtful, references to Little Britain characters and
went. Not when I got there and saw someone going in
the term “sexual dysfunction” undermine his careful
with the same frock.
However, my sources tell me it went a little bit like:
Many papers still rely on stereotypes when they
"Two fat ladyboys... 88. Unlucky for some ...
report on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
unprotected sex. Five and two... Danny La Rue."
issues, and words like “mincing” and “prancing” are
And someone shouted: "Really nicely-decorated
still in the tabloid vocabulary. Although this might be
meant as light-hearted, it reinforces stereotypes in
It was all part of Gay Pride Week right across British
Columbia, an annual event that draws in tens of
thousands from all over Canada and the States.
(Bill Leckie column, 06/07/07)
the readers’ minds.
Political correctness gone mad
The phrase “political correctness gone mad” is a
SPECIAL courts dealing with discrimination cases
favourite of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday,
involving homosexuals and other minorities are set to
and is catching on with other tabloids to a lesser
be created in Scotland.
Under the contentious scheme, selected sheriff
These newspapers rejoice in suggesting that work
courts would become centres for equality issues, with
to further the cause of gay equality merely
sheriffs and justice officials receiving special training.
demonstrates how a “politically correct mafia” is
They would deal with alleged discrimination involving
taking over.
the supply of goods and services. Workplace disputes
Take these examples from the Daily Mail:
would fall outwith their remit.
Ministers yesterday announced that the move was
in direct response to controversial equality laws
approved earlier this year...
And the NHS would be allowed to open special
PLANS to squander £1million of taxpayers money on
facilities for gays and lesbians and ethnic minority
employing 20 diversity officers in the NHS to ensure
groups to target illness and disease prevalent among
homosexuals, immigrants and other minorities are
not discriminated against have provoked widespread
public outrage. This comes as new figures have
revealed that one in five patients contracts life-
VIOLENT thugs will receive harsher sentences for
threatening superbugs in the worst of Scotland’s
assaults on gay people than for those on
infection-ridden hospitals.
All NHS resources should be directed towards
heterosexuals under plans unveiled by the SNP.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has promised to
ensuring hospitals are clean and safe. More than
introduce legislation that will see assaults on
1,000 Scots a day are fighting hospital-acquired
homosexuals become 'aggravated hate crimes'.
infections. In the face of this crisis, it is appalling
This means judges will have to hand out harsher
£1million should be wasted on political correctness.
punishments if gay, lesbian or bisexual people are
The PC obsession is now literally killing people, since
attacked because of their sexuality.
lives could be saved if this money was diverted to
making hospitals infection-free.
The head of this Directorate of Equalities and
Planning will be paid a salary of £52,000, with 20
But campaigners last night questioned why attacks
on gays should be punished more severely than those
on heterosexual victims.
Mr MacAskill revealed on Wednesday that the
more staff bringing the bill up to £1million to harass
Scottish Executive wants offenders who would have
hard-pressed hospital staff with PC nonsense. Even
been jailed for six months or less to be given
militant gay pressure group Stonewall Scotland
community service instead.
concedes there is no problem to be resolved.
Under this plan, the new announcement could see
(Opinion piece, 13/07/07)
thugs who attack homosexuals jailed while those who
It’s also worth noting that “militant gay pressure
target heterosexuals go free.
group Stonewall Scotland” said nothing of the sort
(“Anger over plan to punish thugs more severely if
and has been both quoted out of context and
victim is gay,” 08/06/07)
THE scene is a burning office block. Flames lick
Another tactic used by the Daily Mail is to lump gay
around the windows and thick, black smoke billows
people in with other "controversial" minorities, e.g.:
through the corridors, engulfing staff searching
frantically for a way out. Thank heaven the burly
firefighter wearing breathing apparatus arrives when
he does.
'Now,' says the firefighter to the pitiful forms he can
TAXPAYERS have been forced to foot a staggering
barely see through the blackness. 'Can I perhaps
£15million bill for gays, gipsies and asylum seekers
establish from the outset if any among you have
since devolution.
lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender requirements
New figures show the true extent of the funding
which I should take into account during the course of
bonanza for organisations representing minority
saving your lives?
groups since the Scottish Parliament was created in
'You will appreciate that time is rather of the
essence in a rescue operation so I can't promise to
They highlight the relentless rise of the 'diversity'
accommodate every single request, but I will certainly
agenda that has seen millions of pounds of public
do my best. Rest assured, every reasonable effort will
cash poured into promoting equality for gays,
be taken to preserve the dignity of your sexual
transsexuals, travellers and immigrants.
orientation.' It is possibly the most absurd assurance
The sum is enough to hire 600 police officers or 700
a firefighter could dream of giving in an emergency
teachers, and last night there was a backlash as
situation. But, thanks to Scotland's ever-inventive
ministers were accused of pampering minorities at
diversity lobby, it already has a firm footing in reality.
taxpayers' expense.
(“Tyranny of the diversity police,” 10/03/07)
(“Anger over Executive's £15m funding for gays and
gipsies”, 05/03/07)
All of these articles suggest to the reader that political
correctness has gone crazy. Note the clever tactics
used to haul in the readers, such as suggesting that
taxpayers' money is being squandered. Also note the
scare tactics, such as in the second paragraph of the
first example ("literally killing people".)
The articles are peppered with words such as
“contentious” or “controversial” – but often this is no
more than the reporter’s assertion, and not backed up
by the substance of the article.
And articles parodying the so-called “PC agenda” can
It adds: ‘LGBT people can and do have children,
be found elsewhere:
sexual orientation or gender identity has nothing to
do with good parenting or good child care.’…
The section concludes: ‘Individual circumstances lead
to varied family structures and parenting
arrangements. It is important to be aware of this.
... the Equalities conference at the Reichstag this
When talking to children, consider using 'parents',
month. The usual lot will be there: creepy politicians;
'carers' or 'guardians' rather than 'mother' or 'father'.’
Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Operatives; ethnic
Iain Dale, an openly gay Tory commentator who runs
groups; Wimmin; persons in those electric buggies;
his own political blog, said: ‘It's political correctness
Mr Jack with the inevitable crowds of ‘skoolkids’;
gone mad. The money spent on this stupid book could
mincing clerics, etc etc.
have paid for an operation.’
(Hickey diary, Daily Express, 15/02/07)
(“NHS: Don't say mum and dad, it offends gays,” Sun
In some cases, there seems to be a wilful
misunderstanding of what gay campaigners are
Papers use the phrase “political correctness gone
calling for. Writers sometimes choose to look at a
mad” and scare tactics to suggest a PC mafia is
perceived "worst case scenario" of what could
somehow undermining the fabric of society. Often
emerge from new equality guidance, such as people
these stories rely on worst case scenarios and what
loosing their jobs if they fail to comply. The following
seems like wilful misunderstanding for their material.
is a relevant example:
THE NHS should ban staff from saying 'mum and dad'
and 'husband and wife' to avoid offending gays, a
taxpayer-funded report urges.
Instead it suggests they consider using phrases like
‘guardians’ or ‘carers’. Without the change, there is a
risk that gay couples or their children will be
alienated, the document concludes.
Last night the advice was dismissed as ‘politically
correct nonsense’.
The document is called Fair For All – The Wider
Challenge – Good Lesbian, Gay,Bisexual and
Transgender (LGBT) Practice in the NHS.
It says: ‘Using the terms 'husband', 'wife' and
'marriage' assumes opposite sex relationships only
and will automatically exclude all LGB people.
"Using the term 'partner' and 'they/them' to refer to
the partner will avoid this problem. This is also
inclusive of all heterosexual couples, regardless of
their marital status.’
Reasons to be cheerful
However negative much of the press coverage of the
The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday also carry
LGBT community may be, it is worth noting that there
plenty of positive comment pieces:
is some positive reporting out there and even the
conservative newspapers show signs that entrenched
homophobic attitudes are beginning to change.
The Edinburgh Evening News had very few negative
articles, included positive articles on events such as
Today, with Elton John a national treasure, gay
Pride within its general news coverage, and carries
weddings commonplace in Scottish town halls and -
gay events in its listings columns. For example:
most remarkable of all - a gay leader of Glasgow City
Council, Souter's £1m propaganda campaign seems a
relic from a bygone age. Yet this is the man who, if
the SNP seizes power next month, will have
bankrolled the party of government. SNP ministers
THIS reveller dressed as a nun was one of the many
will have to make decisions on moral issues such as
marchers sporting fancy dress who took to the streets
adoption by gay couples, sex education and the fight
at the annual Gay Scotia parade.
against HIV/Aids. Will he who pays the piper call the
Gay, bisexual and transgender communities walked
through the city centre in a major celebration of unity
(Political comment, Kenny Farquharson, Scotland on
and diversity.
Sunday, 25/03/07)
(“Revellers get back in habit at gay parade,”
It also carries positive feature-length pieces on gay
issues – for example, "At ease with faith and their
sexuality" (15/06/07) about three people who felt
challenged by their sexuality but grew to be
comfortable with themselves; "When Policing seemed
like another world" (20/04/07) piece on the Gay Police
Association and how attitudes in the police are
changing; and an opinion piece by the Director of
Stonewall Scotland.
The Herald and Sunday Herald seem much less
afraid than other papers to address gay issues.
Between them, they have this year carried features
on gay stars such as Beth Ditto, Andy Bell, Colin and
Justin, Alan Carr, Rhona Cameron and Sandi Toksvig.
Their sexual orientation may be alluded to, but that is
generally one small part of the interview and it is
treated in a non-salacious way. Other features such as
the Sunday Herald's unsensational treatment of the
Glasgow drag scene (08/07/07), "25 Years of love and
fear" (09/06/07) about the partner of Terrence
Higgins, and numerous other pro-gay stories and
comments add up to a pretty positive picture.
I'VE been struggling with this, and I know it might be
Scotsman news stories often start with a positive gay
unpopular, but I have to be honest about what I
rights stance:
believe, because I think it's vitally important for our
society. There is in our midst a group of people whose
activities I find unacceptable.
I have heard them argue that their actions are
based on profound, sincere and even unchangeable
THE Kirk is considering giving gay ministers in civil
feelings. That, quite simply, they can't help what they
partnerships the same pension rights as those with
do because they were made that way. That they are
entitled to have their beliefs respected. That they are
entitled to be treated in the same way as everyone
THE leader of a radical Christian community has
Well, I'm sorry, but I can't do that. I simply do not
spoken out at the General Assembly in favour of
believe that this group of people is entitled to be
homosexuality and same-sex partnerships.
treated as morally equivalent to those who hold other
beliefs and have other social practices.....
In short, I do not feel that I should have to treat
In 2000, just one third of Scots said they were
members of the Roman Catholic Church in the same
completely at ease with homosexuality. That figure
way that I treat non-Catholics. I do not believe their
has now risen to more than 60% following a series of
unions, their traditions, their lives, have the same
liberalising measures, including equal rights for gay
worth, value or merit as those who do not profess the
couples in areas such as adoption and the advent of
same faith. I choose to focus on the vile acts of abuse
civil partnerships. Only 6% of Scots are now
committed by some Catholic priests, and to treat as
"completely against" homosexuality compared with
20 per cent in 2000.
clergy and many unmarried observant Catholics...
(Sex survey, 11/02/07)
abnormal the abstinence practised by all Catholic
There, in black and white on the page, the overt
sectarianism looks ugly and alien, a grotesque recall
of days long gone and unlamented, and a grim echo
of the football-terrace vitriol that still scars parts of
modern Scotland. Even typing the previous paragraph
The Evening Times manages to report some court
feels uncomfortable - and I don't even mean it.
cases or tribunals involving gay people in a factual,
But if you substitute "homosexual" for "Catholic", it is
balanced and unsensational way.
also a fair sketch of the Catholic hierarchy's position
The Press and Journal reports positively on Aberdeen's
on government regulations that will enforce equal
Pride event, and a police constable who was awarded
treatment of all people, regardless of their sexual
for her efforts with the Gay Police Association. It also
practices. And it cannot be accepted in a liberal
carries positive readers' letters and an article with
comedian Craig Hill.
(Comment, James Kirkup, Scotsman, 31/01/07)
The Sun carries factual articles and will give voices to
SIR Elton John has urged the public to stand up and
gay rights campaigners, such as in:
speak out against homophobia...
(“Stop gay bashing, says star,” Daily Record,
22/03/07) However, the headline is still in their
inimitable style.
A VIDEO showing Aberdeen fans hurling homophobic
GAY rights activists are to hold a kiss-in after two men
abuse at Rangers star Nacho Novo is being
were arrested for smooching in public in Italy.
investigated by police.
(Sunday Mail, 29/07/07)
(“Cops probe into Novo abuse vid,” 24/05/07)
STAGECOACH tycoon Brian Souter's £500,000
The Daily Record’s editorial on a businessman's
donation to the SNP sparked fury last night.
tribunal win was the most positive piece amongst a
The 52-year-old previously funded the unsuccessful
sea of coverage, and was in stark contrast to the
campaign to prevent the abolition of Section 28,
stance taken by a number of other newspapers, which
which blocked the promotion of homosexuality in
chose to tear him apart:
SALESMAN Jonah Ditton won nearly £120,000 in an
(“£500K Souter gift fury,” 19/03/07)
employment tribunal after he was taunted for being
FROM America's world of sport, more proof that The
Land Of The Free is one of THE great misnomers.
gay. He deserves every penny.
It sounds an incredible sum, especially as he was
English-born NBA basketball player John Amaechi has
sacked by the Glasgow firm he worked for after just
told how he kept his sexuality hidden until he retired
eight days.
from the sport...because the two states where he
But he was subjected to a humiliating, non-stop
earned his living were among the THIRTY-THREE
campaign of verbal abuse from company boss Warren
where you can be sacked for being gay.
Think about that. More than half of the supposed
(Record View, 13/02/07)
champion of liberty sees homosexuality as a crime.
(Bill Leckie column, 20/02/07)
Clearly, almost all the papers are perfectly capable of
fair reporting of gay issues when it suits them.
The Daily Record and the Sunday Mail were generally
fairly positive. There was plenty of factual and
unsensational reporting of gay issues, e.g.:
RIGHT Said Fred singer Richard Fairbrass was attacked
at a gay rights demonstration in Moscow yesterday.
(Daily Record, 28/05/07)
Key findings
Many papers are still disproportionately
interested when gay people do bad things and
will constantly remind readers of the sexual
orientation of gay criminals.
It is clear that different news values are applied
Some papers do not seem interested in
covering gay issues at all, and in most papers
lesbian issues receive very little prominence.
Many papers still rely on stereotypes when they
report on lesbian, gay, bisexual and
to gay and straight stories – stories that would
transgender issues, and words like “mincing”
not otherwise appear make the paper because
and “prancing” are still in the tabloid
the protagonists are gay – and this is a problem
vocabulary. Although this might be meant as
which needs to be addressed.
light-hearted, it reinforces stereotypes in the
Newspaper coverage can often reinforce the
view that sexual orientation is all about sex, and
that gay people do not form committed, long
term relationships.
Some of the most out-of-date and jaw-dropping
statements of homophobia and ignorance were
contained in letters pages. While most papers
would never dream of printing vitriolic racist
abuse on their letters pages, they do not
hesitate to give their most homophobic readers
readers’ minds.
Papers use the phrase “political correctness
gone mad” and scare tactics to suggest a PC
mafia is somehow undermining the fabric of
society. Often these stories rely on worst case
scenarios and what seems like wilful
misunderstanding for their material.
On a more positive note, almost all the papers
are perfectly capable of fair reporting of gay
issues when it suits them.
a forum for their ignorance and prejudice.
In the interest of a "good" news line,
prominence is often given to those with
conservative views, or who come from a
religious standpoint. This can get in the way of
conveying the views of gay rights campaigners,
who may end up at the foot of the story, if at all.
Conclusions and recommendations
Although positive changes have been made, fair
To tackle these problems and improve press coverage
reporting and representation of LGBT issues in
of LGBT issues we need:
Scotland’s press is still the exception and not the rule.
While different news values are still applied to gay
and straight stories, offensive stereotypes and
language are used and sexual orientation equates
simply to sex in the mind of many news editors, gay
people are simply not being served by the press – and
papers suffering circulation squeezes are ignoring and
alienating a large potential readership.
The attitudes of the press also have an important
impact on the chances of achieving LGBT equality – of
winning over the hearts and minds of Scotland’s
people, as well as getting equality laws on the statute
books. While papers still print offensive, biased and
inaccurate stories about gay people, is it any wonder
that their letters pages are a source of homophobic
More everyday stories about LGBT people in a
non-sexualised context.
Increased use of confident, media-trained LGBT
people as case studies to illustrate and explain
why “controversial” or easily misunderstood
laws and policy changes are necessary.
Resources for the LGBT community to improve
communication with and feedback to the press,
especially for groups who do not access
traditional forms of media.
Better monitoring of national and local papers
to see how LGBT issues are covered.
Improved resources for journalists to explain
central issues, relevant vocabulary, and to put
them in touch with appropriate case studies.
Formal and informal training and awareness
raising for journalists on LGBT issues.
This study was a qualitative examination of how gay
issues were presented in the written media over an
eight month period.
This study was restricted to analysis of Scottish
newspapers or stories in London-based papers which
have a Scottish link or would be likely to appear in the
Scottish editions. It analysed articles published
between January 1st and August 15th, 2007.
The research involved the following publications:
Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Mail, Mail on
Sunday, Daily Record, Sunday Mail, Edinburgh
Evening News, Evening Times, Herald, Sunday Herald,
News of the World, Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday,
Sun and Press and Journal.
ContactFor further copies and information contact:
Stonewall Scotland
9 Howe Street
Telephone: 0131 557 3679
Email: [email protected]
Design - [email protected]
C Stonewall Scotland 2007