from the diary: “Sunday 9/25/88, day 18
“I went to Speaker’s Corner at Hyde Park. I expected a little thing, so when I saw a big crowd I thought at first, ‘No. I just need to look a little further.’ But when I got nearer the crowd I noticed it was in clumps with one major head jutting out in the middle [of each] shouting. Ah! This is the business. I’d read that there was a gay & lesbian group (calling themselves Gays & Sapphics) that met every Sunday at Speaker’s Corner.
“I browsed along the walk, listening to whomever sounded interesting. The gay group seemed to be setting up just as I arrived. A lovely young man, looked t’be about my age, quite blond, was starting with this gay rights nonsense – ‘I am a homosexual! … We want equal rights.’ One man challenged him for awhile saying he meant privileges. ‘No, no,’ protested blond. For quite a long time this tall young fellow, whose hobby apparently was heckling, told jokes & basically took the floor. Blond dint know how to deflect him. Matthew was the tall one. He’s a regular of Speaker’s Corner. I mostly just listened or grumbled or made small comments only those a foot or so away could hear. The circle was large, say spacious, when I got there, waxed & waned.
“At one point this older man came along who was one of those curmudgeons … who just loves to argue. Thinks he’s smart … reasonable, you know. I-base-my-frivolous-notions-on-the-facts. Yeah sure. He maintained that homosexuality was a lifestyle choice & that if you tried hard enough (sometimes with help!) – he likened gays to heroin addicts – you could change. Become heterosexual, of course. Blond tried the we’re-born-this-way tack. [Curmudgeon] jerk – he was from California ironically enough – came back with the grand unnatural and lifestyle choice (saying the studies he’d read showed that homosexuality was learned behavior, the dominant mother crap). Hm. The old boy was on my ground now. I’m good at this rational debate stuff because I analogize like crazy. And whenever he said, ‘I’ll give you an extreme example –‘ I came back with the mundane. So with lifestyle choice I countered religion. With you-can-change-if-you-want-to I countered with plastic surgery (Can I tell you to change the shape of your nose because I don’t like the bump in it? I fire you because you could eliminate that unsightly bump with a little corrective surgery.) Basically my approach was – You don’t like difference? Difference is wonderful! And you are unreasonable and irrational. Yes, I joined the fray. Two Californians having at each other in merry London.
“He said, ‘Don’t I have the right to fire a transvestite?’ I countered with, ‘Is he doing a good job? If he’s doing what you pay him for why fire him?’ ‘A pedophile!’ he said. ‘Are you a policeman?’ I said.
“I had supporters. The ‘poor’ fellow was outnumbered & though I dint think the arguments from my helpers were all flawless yet I know I wouldn’t have stood up well under a similar barrage.
“Introduced myself to blond afterward. Dye? Have no idea how it’s spelled but I believe that’s what he said. He dint seem in the mood to chat. I talked to some other folks hanging out, then went on my way. Still all keyed-up, arguing the case to myself just about all the way home.”
I guess the arguments haven’t changed much in twenty years.
According to this article from 2006 Speaker’s Corner is still populated. And the Hyde Park Gays & Sapphics may still show up to climb the soapbox.