The important thing is love

since starting this film i have been inspired by the simplicty of delivery in the film the important thing is love screened in 1971 on itv – and i just found an article about it and thought i would share….

The Important Thing is Love

Film showing – winter 2000

Flick through the TV listings this week, and chances are that lesbians will feature somewhere. If it isn’t Rhona on BBC 2, it’s Bad Girls on ITV, or a lesbian wedding on Heart of the Matter. In the 1960s, it was very different, as women recalled at a Brighton Ourstory Project event recently, a rare screening of one of the earliest British TV documentaries on lesbians: The Important Thing is Love. The film showing was introduced by Maureen, who was interviewed in the original one-hour programme. She was joined by Pat, who recalled how her life was transformed when she saw The Important Thing is Love on ITV late one night in 1971:

“I knew that I was gay when I was 14, but there was nobody that I could talk to. I wrote to a women’s magazine and had a reply that said it was just a phase. I was extremely lonely, I didn’t know what to do. Eventually I got involved with a guy. And I had a daughter. It didn’t work out so I left him, and I had nowhere to go with her but back to mum’s. That night, I was reading the paper, and I saw that this programme was advertised, and I thought, “Oh please mum, go to bed!”

Mannish stereotype

Fortunately for Pat, her mother left her alone, and she watched the programme, “riveted”. These lesbians did not fit the mannish stereotype she was expecting. Suits and ties were out: diversity was in, from eyeshadow and skirts to donkey jackets and tank tops.

“They just looked so ordinary and that was fabulous. It was an incredible relief, because I heard people talking about the way I felt, and suddenly I wasn’t an alien, suddenly there were people like me.”

This, only the third documentary broadcast about lesbians on British television, was the first where all the contributors faced the camera. They included an actress (still to be spotted on TV commercials today); a woman thrown out of the forces; a mother; the psychiatrist, Dr Charlotte Woolff; and Esme Langley, founder of Arena 3, Britain’s earliest lesbian magazine. This was a remarkable change since the first ITV documentary on gay women in 1965, in which all but two lesbians were filmed in shadow. Brigid Segrave, producer of The Important Thing is Love, was determined to do things differently, as Maureen explains:

“Brigid was in the Gateways Club, three nights running, trying to find a selection of different types of women. My girlfriend was a model, and I was a trendy Kings Road dolly-girl with a beehive hairdo. Brigid said, would we mind taking part in the programme?”

At first Maureen, then a secretary in her early twenties, refused; but she changed her mind. “It was anger that did it. I didn’t see why we should be hounded, bothered and harassed like we were.” Her family had put continual pressure on her to get married and once had her confined to a mental hospital where she was given aversion therapy to put her off women. Ironically, this failed spectacularly as this was where Maureen met her first female lover, who was being subjected to similar treatment. Her parents’ opposition to this relationship, which continued once the couple had left hospital, drove Maureen to run away to London. “I thought there must be thousands of girls out there who came from little towns like me and who perhaps hadn’t got the daring nature that I had. How did you ever meet anyone? There was no Gay Switchboard, no Gay News, no Pink Paper, no nothing.”

Taxi drivers

In The Important Thing is Love, eight gay women filled this gap, saying freely how natural it was for them to love women, and that the problems they faced came from society and not from their choice of partner. To show what they were up against, a group of male taxi drivers was invited to hold forth on lesbians: but there was also a party scene of smoochy dancing and kissing, with ‘Where would I be without my woman?’ blaring from the record player. Maureen boldly told the world how good women were in bed together, and was scathing about the notion that all lesbians strode around in tweeds and brogues like Sister George. She and her girlfriend, perched together on an armchair, with their panda-rimmed Dusty eyes and groovy gear, made the point eloquently.

When the programme went out, retribution followed. Maureen remembers “I was sacked from my job the next day. I had a letter from my landlord telling me that he didn’t want people like me living there. I’d got married to a gay boy, to keep our parents happy, and his mother saw the programme and she was down that motorway like a bat out of hell.” But women on the gay scene were all over her. ‘I got lots of dates. They’d slip me their phone numbers, and tread on my feet to get attention. All of us on the programme became mini-celebrities.”

33,000 letters

The response from isolated women was phenomenal. “I alone had 33,000 letters, and that was after they’d taken out the ones from taxi drivers telling me what I needed. There were some very sad letters, from girls who were suicidal because they were in situations that they couldn’t cope with: a lot were married. But the letters were generally from girls who looked quite ordinary, who were just so relieved to think there were other girls around that looked like them.”

Many other women took the advice broadcast just after the programme, and phoned the Albany Trust. Among them was Pat. Through an interview there with a counsellor, she got a letter of introduction to the Gateways, the main lesbian club in London. “I was absolutely terrified, because I had to walk down the stairs and everyone was looking up at me.” Several visits later, she recognised Maureen. “I said that I’d seen her on the TV and how amused I was.” One thing led to another, and Maureen and Pat found romance together for a time. They are still firm friends today. Maureen went on to appear on other TV programmes and also helped set up Gay Switchboard. She now runs a hotel. Pat’s life was transformed by discovering the Gateways, where she served behind the bar in the evenings, working as a PA during the day. In a complete change of career direction, she is now a counsellor.

Enthusiastic audience

Maureen’s message, that lesbians should do whatever they can to make life easier for younger women coming on the scene after them, did not fall on deaf ears in Brighton. Her enthusiastic audience included Barbara Bell, featured in BBC 2’s It’s not unusual, whose autobiography Just Take Your Frock Off was published by Ourstory Books last year; and Millie and Ginette, who will be appearing in a BBC docu-soap on gay life in Brighton, to be broadcast this spring (Brighton Out The Closet. While being a lesbian in 21st century Britain is still far from easy, it’s thanks to Maureen and to women like her that lesbians today are able to be more open than anyone would have thought possible when The Important Thing is Love was broadcast thirty years ago. For anyone who missed the film showing, there will be another chance to catch it at the National Film Theatre in July, when Maureen will be speaking at a showing organised by Stephen Bourne in the Out of the Archives season.

A version of this article originally appeared in Diva magazine.

Jill Gardiner’s book From the Closet to the Screen: Women at the Gateways Club 1945-85 will be published by Pandora in 2002.

Taken from


from observer: New surrogacy law eases the way for gay men to become legal parents

Gay male couples will be able to use a fast-track route to become the legal parents of surrogate children from next week. On 6 April, changes to the law will permit two men to be named as parents on a child’s birth certificate for the first time in British history.

The transition will take effect following the implementation of the final piece of the 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. This last section is aimed at helping same-sex and unmarried couples who seek to have surrogate children and will allow them to secure legal parenthood in a new, simplified manner. At present, only married, heterosexual couples can use this route.

“These changes bring the law up to date with the realities of modern 21st-century life and recognise that increasing numbers of same-sex and unmarried couples are having children together,” said Natalie Gamble, of the fertility law firm Gamble and Ghevaert.

Surrogacy has become increasingly common and offers couples an alternative route to parenthood if all other methods, including IVF treatments, fail. Current legislation allows heterosexual, married couples to get a parental order to give them a birth certificate for a child born to a mother with whom they have entered into a surrogacy agreement. But gay, lesbian and unmarried couples cannot do this. The surrogate mother has to be named on the birth certificate. If she is married, her husband is legally considered to be the father.

An example is provided by the story of Steven Ponder and his partner, Ivan Sigston. Both are police officers. Last year, they became one of the first gay couples to father a baby in Britain when Ponder’s married sister, Lorna Bradley, gave birth to a boy, William.

Crucially, however, Lorna Bradley’s name appeared on the birth certificate, which made her a legal guardian of the child. Ponder and Sigston could have applied to adopt the baby. If successful, they would have been given an adoption certificate to replace his original birth certificate. But adoption is complex and involves the intervention of social workers and other professional groups.

The new system is far more streamlined. Provided that a court is satisfied that two men are in a stable relationship; that no fees, other than expenses, are paid to the surrogate mother; and that it is in the child’s best interest, then it will award a parental order for a birth certificate to be drawn up with both men named as parents, and therefore legal guardians. “Lesbian couples and unmarried couples usually have other routes available to them if they want to have children, but surrogacy is particularly important to gay men, so they will get most out of this change in legislation,” said Gamble.In effect, the law has now opened the doors in order to make it easy for a gay man and his partner to have children.

This point was backed by Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group: “We are delighted that the reality of people’s family lives is being recognised at last, that both lesbian and gay couples no longer have to go through the unpleasantness of an adoption procedure.”

Gamble warned, however, that while the new legislation would make it easier for gay couples to have children, the rules governing surrogacy in the UK remained badly out of date.

“There are particular pitfalls for single parents and those going abroad. In the latter case, a couple returning to England with a surrogate child find that the law does not recognise their right to parenthood. It can cause immense distress. There are a lot of aspects of surrogacy that now need to be addressed urgently.”

Interview with Spare Rib Co-founder taken from Observer Review

Is this a terrible time to be a feminist?

Our debaters: Rosie Boycott, journalist and co-founder of Spare Rib, and Zoe Margolis, author of blog and books detailing her sex life

Forty years ago saw Britain’s first national conference on women’s issues and the start of the modern feminist movement. Many women feel that we haven’t come very far in the intervening years and that there is still much need for a campaigning feminist movement today; that equality still doesn’t exist, that sexism is still rife. Natasha Walter’s recent book, Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism, suggested that modern feminism is in crisis, while a three-part BBC4 series Women, which starts tomorrow, charts the rise of feminism and examines its impact on contemporary women’s lives. So has life actually got worse for women since 1970? And do we now need a feminist movement more than ever?

Rosie Boycott This is a very testing time to be a feminist. Things really haven’t worked out how we imagined when we started Spare Rib in the 70s. One of the great failures has been the inability of the government and women to address childcare sufficiently when other countries such as Denmark have solved that problem. Then there’s the lookism issue. Now there’s pressure on women of every age to be perfect, even girls as young as 11. The rise of lads’ mags is also terrifying; women these days are actually sending in images of themselves topless.

Zoe Margolis My generation has grown up blessed that we had the liberation movement. I’m 37 and feel so lucky to be a strong woman, to have the opportunities previous generations fought for. My mum was told the only work available to her was secretarial. I’m able to decide what job I want and won’t be turned away just for being female. I’m able to have an equal relationship with a man. Things may not have changed swiftly enough but we’ve come a long way.

RB I recently read a book called Half the Sky, which explained that the balance of power for women around the world has deteriorated. Despite the achievements, on the whole, certainly in the developing world, it seems women’s lives have got worse in the past 40 years.

ZM But you can’t change the human psyche overnight, it’s a slow process. We could have a feminist and a socialist revolution tomorrow, and you’d still have people in society that have grown up with racist, sexist or classist conditioning.

RB One of the tenets of women’s liberation was choice so I feel pleased when I read about women today making their own decisions and feeling confident about them. If you look at university grades, you’d think women would be the dominant force in the workplace. That they aren’t is certainly partly because the childcare system doesn’t work. But the psychologist Susan Pinker believes that men and women are actually coded in a different way, biologically different. She looks at many cases of women who bust a lot of different glass ceilings who then voluntarily said: “No, I don’t want this.” We’re not yet happy talking about that because we’re not sure if it’s a huge failure or a huge success for women.

ZM I’m very suspicious of the biological determinism route – it doesn’t help the feminist cause. I think there are more similarities than differences between the sexes. Natasha Walter’s new book, Living Dolls, shows that time and time again the science is just headlines, that you can’t actually prove these differences.

RB So why are there still so few women running FTSE 100 companies? That’s not a childcare problem because at that level you’ve shedloads of money for nannies.

ZM Maybe those women don’t want to have to deal with sexism on a daily basis. I used to work in the film industry and, as the only woman in a team or on a set, it was like 1950s sexism every day: everything from being felt up to verbal abuse to hearing “you’ll never make it”. The only way to deal with that was to say “Fuck everyone, I’m going to be tougher than all of you.” That’s exhausting, you have to be very confident. But it can be done. If women like me aren’t proving we can do it then there are fewer role models.

RB I can’t believe we are still having to fight that battle, though. On Spare Rib I remember writing that liberation is for both sexes – it was just as much of a gender trap to be a bloke at 18 looking at the prospect of working until 65, responsible for a wife and kids. We imagined that men would leap towards a less restricted role, but that hasn’t really happened. Most men still don’t want their power usurped.

ZM I’m more hopeful that there are men that want change, too. That’s partly why I started my blog. I loathe lads’ mags and women’s mags; they sexualise and objectify women and suggest you’re either a prude or you’ve got your tits out. I wanted my blog to brainwash guys in a different way and I’ve been surprised by the amount of men who come seeking titillation and then write saying, “You’ve made me question how I view women and sexual interaction.”

RB But women themselves have increased that objectivity because of this culture of lookism – whether it’s plastic surgery or masses of makeup. That feels like a real problem for feminists today.

ZM Yes, women are still growing up with the idea that the aim is to be desired, rather than to desire. I pitched an article to a woman’s magazine recently about masturbation and they refused it saying, “Couldn’t you just write a piece about blow job tips?” I was horrified at the idea that sex is still about men’s pleasure.

RB I’m really not convinced by the argument “wo men, have as much sex as you can because that’s proof of liberation”. Tons of sex doesn’t necessarily make you feel great.

ZM I’ve written a lot about having a very active sex life and I do think feminists have better sex because they are more in touch with their bodies.

RB The other thing that’s been lost is the idea of sisterhood – it now seems like an old-fashioned word. The original women’s groups were very supportive. There’s a feeling now that you ought to know how to be a woman, despite there still being tons of confusion about how to do it. I think that’s partly why you have these binge-drinking groups of girls; it’s a slight inversion of the sisterhood, it’s about trying to feel powerful.

ZM I grew up feeling very isolated in terms of my politics and I think that’s one of the reasons I set up my blog. The internet offers a space for women to express themselves. We might not meet up in person, but we now have a huge support network. A lot of women wrote to me saying they wanted to talk about sex and challenge society’s sexism and now there’s a forum and that’s a great feeling.

RB In the 70s, there was this real sense of excitement about the movement, about meeting up. I remember marching in Westminster and it was such fun. You also had a sense of trying to help all pockets of society. We worked for battered women, for instance, and it chills me that still, today, two women a week are killed through domestic violence in the UK – exactly the same figure as back then. That’s a political and social failure; that generally women have gone off into little groups of friends to look after their own ends. It’s too individualist.

ZM But there are lots of people doing great work. There may be a lot of women today who say they’re not feminists but if you ask them, “Do you want equal pay? Freedom from violence? Abortion rights?”, they say yes, and that’s what being a feminist is. We may be fragmented but we just need to find a way to unify us all.

Zoe Margolis’s new book, Girl With a One Track Mind: Exposed, is out now

coming out to kids

advice from the guardian: discuss

How do I tell my children that I am gay?
I am a middle-aged woman who ­divorced several years ago and have two children, aged 14 and 11. One reason for the split with their father, other than issues with his behaviour, was that I had to come to terms with the fact that I am gay. But discussing this with the kids has become a sticking point. In spite of good intentions, of inclusion policies and acceptance of minorities, the word “gay” is still hurled as an insult at school. To move forward with my kids, and perhaps find a partner and at last do something true to myself, I need to tackle this head on. Most gay women either have young children born into a gay family, or none at all. I have drawn a blank looking for advice. Susan, via email

Unless you have brought them up to be incredibly intolerant and closed-minded, your children may surprise you. It’s natural that you feel ­nervous, but I also think you are projecting a lot on to them. Maybe you were brought up in a household where being ­homosexual wouldn’t have been tolerated? But they are a new generation and while I’m not pretending it’s easy to come out, whatever your age, it’s important to remember that it’s your children, not your parents, you’ll be talking to.

I had a good chat with someone from the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (, 0845 3303030 – do look on the website, where there are real-life stories about coming out that you may want to read. A quarter of the calls the LGF receives are about coming out). Please think about ringing the helpline – there are skilled people who can talk you through your worries and can even help with role play – taking the role of your ­children – so you can practise what you might want to say. I think this would be a ­really good idea for you, as you’ve probably never vocalised what you want to say and the language you use is important. You don’t want to say “I think I’m gay”, for instance; this will just confuse your children. The helpline can also help you with that ­all-important opener.

It’s with advice from the LGF that I make these suggestions for when the time comes to tell your children.

First: tell them in a quiet, confidential place, such as your home. Make sure you have plenty of time to talk – don’t do it when you know you or they have to be somewhere else, or if there’s a time constraint. Be prepared to listen to their worries. Decide exactly what you want to tell them, and how much. They may ask, for example, if you’ve had sex with another woman yet; ­decide in advance how much you want to divulge, so that you are prepared. Also, be prepared to accept that they may want to discuss it with other ­people. Make it clear to them that they can ask questions at any time in the future. Be aware that this will be an ongoing ­conversation. They may also ask if this has anything to do with their father, so it’s important to stress that your sexuality is yours, ie it wasn’t caused by him or by being married. Tell them that if they want to talk to anyone neutral they can ring ChildLine (, 0800 1111).

The other thing to remember is that while you may have had some years to get used to the fact that you are gay, it could come as a great shock to them (or it may not, and they may have guessed – either way your confirmation may be shocking for them). So what they say immediately may not be how they feel when the news has been digested.

Remember, too, that children can take things literally. Remind them that nothing else has changed, that no ­matter what happens they will ­continue to live with you and that you love them.

They will take the lead from you – if you start crying when you tell them, and are too emotional, they will think that is the response required. Be calm and ­confident and don’t be apologetic. This isn’t something to be sorry for. You’re telling them you’re gay, not a mass murderer. That said, you can say “I’m sorry if this is a shock” or “I’m sorry you feel that way” if they react badly – but don’t be tempted to just say “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” in a ­random fashion. Be strong – they’ll need to know that you can handle it.

Queeroes contd.

When I first started researching this film I literally devoured Abigail Garner’s book Familes lIke Mine and have continued to refer back to it constantly, I had the pleasure of speaking to her at length on the phone and she gave me great advice and support – I just googled her and found this amazing picture of her and Alison Bechdel hanging, Jealous much?!?!

this is what dreams are made of *gush* you have to check her blog now

Cynthia Nixon: We are Family

Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon: Florida’s gay adoption ban hurts state’s foster children

Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon will join U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, state Sen. Nan Rich and state Rep. Mary Brandenburg to help the ACLU of Florida launch its new campaign to end Florida’s gay adoption ban.

Florida is the only state with an outright ban against gays and lesbians adopting children. That law passed in 1978, the year after singer and Florida orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant led her campaign to repeal Dade County’s gay-rights ordinance.

read the full story here

Guardian Article

Really great article from the Guardian here or read below, the comments under the original are good though

Getting used to gay parents

Now that it’s clear it doesn’t damage a child’s development, we should ask more interesting questions about gay parenting

By Celia Hannon

November 27 2009

It’s safe to say that when you find yourself in Jeremy Clarkson’s line of fire, you’re probably on the right side of the debate. Clarkson might be pleased that his “dad wasn’t a lesbian“, but not enough is known about the people for whom this really is the case.

The minor storm around a recent comment from Professor Stephen Scott that lesbians can make better parents illustrates that positive accounts of gay parenting are still liable to provoke outrage. But this is not all negative, because it means there is now an appetite to confront the political, social and legal questions raised by the growth of these families. It’s about time too. While gay parents have always existed, it’s only now that their families are increasing in number and visibility.

Civil partnerships, the Discrimination in Goods and Services Act and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (which granted lesbian couples equal legal rights as parents) have all paved the way in law. Now the wider availability of adoption, IVF and surrogacy means that many more gay people are able to turn their aspirations to become parents into a reality. Academic research points towards a wide diversity in family composition; some gay parents may have children from previous heterosexual partnerships, some may adopt and others may be embarking on co-parenting relationships with friends to ensure that their children have role models of both sexes. We should be just as wary of generalising about gay families as we would all British families.

Meanwhile, the idea that growing up as the child of gay parents is inevitably bad for you has been largely been discredited. A 2005 review of the research on lesbian mothers and gay fathers found there were no significant developmental differences between their children and those from heterosexual families. It’s time to move beyond that stale debate and ask some more searching questions. At the moment, far too little is known about how many gay families exist, and what their experience of parenting is like. Researchers have struggled to find large enough samples to represent a true cross-section of society. How many of these families are there? What do they want? How can public services support them equally as well as other types of family?

The past 50 years have seen us remodel the family as step-families and single parenthood have become commonplace, and women have chosen to have children later and remain in the labour market after doing so. This has been accompanied by profound shifts in our views on what good parenting looks like. The rise of gay families is a part of the next chapter of this change, and it should not be provocative to suggest that there might be things to learn from alternative approaches to parenting and kinship.

Clarkson is right on one count though. There is nothing about someone’s sexuality that predetermines their skill as a parent. What matters is how you parent, not who you sleep with. Stonewall famously introduced the slogan: “Some people are gay. Get over it.” Some parents are gay and we should get used to it so we can get on with the job of helping all parents raise their children as well as possible.