Government hides the truth

If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that's something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can't live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organisations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.
Noam Chomsky

Power is a drug on which the politicians are hooked. They buy it from the voters, using the voters' own money.
Peter Newman


The Mhlako Triumvirate

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Over the past few years I have written several articles that have been published in the local press advocating decriminalisation of homosexual activity between consenting adults. I have done so in the firm belief backed up by the latest scientific research that homosexuals are born gay. Furthermore, I am natuarlly understanding and tolerant of people who do not fit the norm yet whose behaviour does no damage to society in general or any single person. I am of the firm belief, also, that the Constitution of Malawi for which I fought so hard supports their rights to be different. I have heard all the arguments from religion, morals and culture but dismiss them all. I will come back to the specifics in a subsequent blog. I want to tell you about my introduction to gays in the late 1950's in my native Liverpool some ten years before the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in Britain. I hope that it will give you the same insight as it did for me all those years ago. I hope, also, that you will learn to be tolerant, understanding and supportive of our brothers and sisters in Malawi who now live in fear of being themselves.

A straight entry into a gay world
My introduction to the gay world goes back to a time when ‘gay’ was an adjective without its modern connotations. I take you back to 1958 and my youth in Liverpool. In those days there was very little openness on sexual matters. Condoms were never mentioned except under one’s breath, available surreptitiously at the barber’s shop. Of course, we were aware that there was such a thing as homosexuality but knew very little about it. It was, perhaps, still an age of innocence.
During my school summer holidays I took a job selling menswear at Owen Owens department store in Liverpool. Ritchie, an old school friend, had left school earlier and was a window dresser (straight!) for a small chain of menswear shops in South West Lancashire. Wednesday was half day closing for shops in Liverpool. I struck up a friendship with Arthur, who was a window dresser at Owen Owens. On Wednesday afternoons we three would go out together, generally to the swimming baths. Perhaps we should have noticed that Arthur’s horse play involved a lot of body contact but, in our innocence, we thought nothing of it.
We enjoyed each others’ company so much that we often went out together over the weekends or in the evenings. We were on our way home in the evening on the upper deck of an almost empty bus after having seen a film starring Dirk Bogarde - ‘The Wind Cannot Read ’  - described truthfully as “ .. a tearful British star crossed romance effort set against the backdrop of World War II.“  Admittedly, it had been an emotionally wrenching ninety minutes. Ritchie had only one ear. Arthur and I were chatting on Ritchie’s deaf side. Suddenly, Arthur started to weep. Then he confided in me that he was in love with Ritchie but “Don’t tell him.” And I never did.
I was to learn from Arthur that Dirk Bogarde was gay (the word in those days was ‘queer’). I was to learn further that handsome young gays like Arthur would often move to London for a spell and become live-in boy-friends to the rich and famous in the gay community. Arthur seemed to have known Dirk Bogarde. I never did learn whether there had ever been a relationship. But the emotion of the film and the link with Bogarde (later to be knighted by the Queen for his work in cinema) had been too much for his feelings.
From that time on Arthur was to identify to me many famous people who were gay. I learnt what a large and necessarily secret, mutually supportive brotherhood there was. In Liverpool, too, I was introduced by Arthur to many in the gay community with the words “He’s one of us.” Arthur and others in Liverpool’s gay community used to take bit parts in the Liverpool Playhouse Theatre performances. In the same square was the Clock Inn, a gay hangout. In the same square , too, was an underground toilet where Sadie, a well-known gay prostitute, hung out. I was so sad that Sadie was the butt of the local Police, hounded and ridiculed. So sad, also, that the dark and stinking toilets of the era were the places where gay men met up.
I suppose that it is because I am so accepting of what-is, completely non-judgmental, that I have been privy to what is hidden from many others in gay society and other ‘alien’ societies.
But what of Arthur’s love affair with Ritchie? Ritchie was a fit young man and bicycle mad. He used to cycle the 12 miles to work in the morning; cycle from one store to the other in the South West Lancashire area and then cycle home in the evening often to take part in his cycle club’s evening competitions - as much as a hundred miles a day. Ritchie was going on a long cycling holiday and Arthur had to go too. Arthur bought a bike. Unfortunately, Arthur was not so fit and the effort must have knackered him (I use the word advisedly). His unrequited love remained unrequited. Arthur sold his bike to my younger brother at a knock-down price. A romance died before it could flourish.
Ritchie went on to marry and father four children without ever having learnt that there was an alternative form of love!
I am forever thankful to Arthur for the insight he gave me into the gay world – a world of so much sparkling talent. If now I am fighting for gay rights in Malawi, Arthur is part of the reason.


  1. I had no idea there was was a long-term foreign resident fighting for human rights in Malawi. I just posted your blog to my Facebook profile in the hope of attracting more attention.
    Keep up the good work.

  2. Congratulations on being the first to post a comment to the blog. I hope it encourages others. I have been here fifty years and am now a citizen having won the right by taking part in the process of political change from the one-party dictatorship to the present and I am determined that we will not give up our hard won rights. If you don't exercise muscle it will waste away.