Astoush is brewing in the suburbs over what some locals believe to be consistent homophobic content in a weekly paper’s letters page.

The 700 or so members of the Canterbury Bankstown District Gay and Lesbian Social Club are planning a possible advertisers’ boycott of the Bankstown Canterbury Torch.

It is not just the letters’ offensive content they are objecting to -“ the members claim their efforts to put alternative sides of the story across have been ignored.
We’re just basically asking for a fair go, CBD president Alex Day told the Star.

They’ve consistently had letters in, mainly from the Christian Democrats Party but also from others, and there has been almost no positive ones, Day said.

We’ve written four or five, basically saying -˜give us a bit of a break here’. I believe ACON wrote one and lots of our members have written but they haven’t been published.

But Bankstown Canterbury Torch editor Mark Kirkland told the Star he would have

published the letters if he had received them.
That’s what I’ve said to them. We received a letter a while ago, which we published. And we’ve published one this week, Kirkland said.

Day said the anti-gay letters had been more regular since the state government equalised the age of consent for gay men. Before then, they were published sporadically -“ some were printed when Bankstown Council approved a CBD grant application to hold anti-homophobia workshops, others when Mayor Helen West-wood announced she would march in the 2003 Mardi Gras parade with the CBD group.

The CBD sent a collection of the Torch letters to the Star. Some were bizarre, such as one by Unhappy Grandad of Panania, who wrote to complain about men having oral sex in the bushes of a local park. I have since been told, UG wrote, -¦ that to pick up any gay magazine in Sydney would reveal the area advertised as a -˜free, anonymous sex’ meeting place.

Others have been more straightforward. Regular letter writer Reverend Peter Barnes of the Bankstown Presbyterian Church wrote, For the sake of relationships and their own health, if for no other reasons, homosexuals need to look hard at their own lifestyles -“ or should I say death-styles. But alas, we are dealing with a pampered and deluded community.

Day said the CBD hoped to sit down with the Torch editor and discuss the issues.

The Christian Democrats are allowed to write a letter -“ they’re entitled to their opinions no matter how misinformed that opinion is. And the paper has an obligation to publish letters with different opinions. We’re just basically asking for a fair go.

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