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OutRage! calls for tolerance over gay cruising in Manchester

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  1. When asked about whether cruising areas were more attractive to married men or those in the closet, Henry said: “There is definitely an element of that, but not as much as it used to be in the past.”

    How does David Henry know this? Is he down there taking a poll???

    All cruising serves to do is strengthen the belief that homosexuality is something dirty that goes on in the shadows.

  2. Outrage have simply got this wrong. Cruising in public areas shouldn’t need to happen, I think it’s fair if they are caught in public then the cops should be able to deal with them.

  3. Hi Gaz,

    The same could to said regarding ‘lovers lanes’ and dogging in public areas – I don’t see the police taking much interest in these locations.

    If you live lets say in Cornwall for some people cruising may be their only option. In London and other major cities we are spoiled for choice, in many parts of the UK there are no gay pubs/clubs.


  4. I agree with Lee. Its too easy for out gay men to judge and condemn this behaviour, but I think the reasons it happens are more complex. Some people might have no alternatives to engage in relations with people of their own sex because of geography, as Lee said, and some might do it becuase of some thrill, or to keep anonymity for their current gay/straight relationship? I’m sure there are more reasons. And another (unfortunate) point is that not everyone who is gay is out, and my never come out. While I don’t understand that personally, we were all in the closet once, maybe cruising is their only outlet.

    I don’t condone or condemn this behaviour, it not something I ever want to do, but really, how much harm are these people doing to others given they usually pick the most remote places? I would be enough of a challenge for them to escape hypothermia, I’m sure!

  5. “How does David Henry know this? Is he down there taking a poll???”

    In a word, Yes
    David Henry will know organizations that monitor prostitutes and organizations that hand out condoms in those area’s.

    I bet in London there is a gay bar round every corner, but in rural area’s there is “nothing!” Hopefully the new equality bill will force local councils/police to start supporting the gay community, but I can’t see any moment in that direction from them at this time, in fact they have been hostile towards the move blaming the BNP for there inactivity. They cite that support for us will only encourage further support for the BNP, so that’s why they are hostile about supporting the Gay community.

    I think they are hopping the Tory party is going to win the next election, but I now think they are not, they need a massive swing to win and at the moment I cant see that happening.

  6. – this may be something that is more ‘needed’ in rural areas, as people above have said. But this article is about Manchester! I live in Manchester and feel it is a very gay tolerant place, there are plenty of bars and clubs where people can meet people in an arguably more civilised way.

    I have cycled myself along the canals of manchester and it started feeling a bit dodgy late at night with some guys hanging around (now I know why!). But these canals could be nice if they were tidied up a bit or policed in general… Who’s to know that these guys are cruising, or waiting to mug someone, or dealing drugs? It’s not even safe for the people cruising themselves!

    I think policing the area might be a good idea. The canal could be a nice romantic place to take a stroll and then walk HOME together! Encouraging people to give somewhere an unsafe reputation is not the best thing, in my opinion.

  7. Sorry … Can’t agree with Outrage on this one. The Police should be able to treat everyone alike, with no exceptions. Isn’t that what we have been campaigning for, for all these years?

    As for Cornwall, a substantial amount of funding was made available last year for the setting up of gay social groups in the South West. As far as know, no one in Cornwall has taken this up. Please let me know if I’m wrong.

  8. Oh here we go again. Ultimately if you do this you know you are on the wrong side of the law straight or gay. I don’t care if people do it or not but you can’t complain if you are arrestefd or cautioned. I really find it distasteful the idea of coming across, as it were, people having sex of any persuastion.

    Parks, riversides, whatever should be safe and accessible places at any time of the night. Clearly there should be a constent policy at all locations.

  9. Well it seems I’m not alone on this one. See the previous article with my posts. Cruising is an outdated, antisocial and potentially dangerous occupation, with dubious legality.

  10. I really don’t care if people cruise or not, but lets stop making excuses for doing it. It’s the year 2009. In large populated areas there legitimate places for people to meet each other, so cruising isn’t necessary there. And in rural areas if there are enough people to have a cruising area then there are enough people to form some sort of on-line community. If people want to ignore all of the current options then by all means go cruise public places. Just be prepared for the legal consequences, gay or straight!

  11. So Caroline, just to be clear… No men should be allowed to meet and chat around the canal, it should be entirely cleared of them so that you can cycle through on your bike without feeling paranoid? Would you like a curfew on all gay men? We could be restricted to being just in our own homes, in an authorised gay bar or in a sauna? Everyone knows that city centres are only meant to be for heterosexuals to enjoy with their kids during daylight hours and of course binge drinkers causing havoc.

    What about gay men who have no money or who don’t like youth-orientated bars and clubs? Where do they meet? What is there for them?

  12. Difficult to comment on this without knowing the specific cruising ground but…

    If the area is overlooked by residential buildings or has regular thoroughfare by non cruisers at night without any cover then it could be that its an inappropriate space for cruising. If the complaints are about sex litter then surely the council should be cleaning it, sexual health organisations should encourage guys to take it home, or if Manchester cruisers want to keep using it, organise litter picking sessions among themselves. There are also lots of clever things you can do with planting and lights.

    Unhappy about Manchester Police saying they would use public decency legislation where pubic order would do. If the complaints are genuine there should be some work to engage with the guys down there to persuade them about shagging out of public view. Not sure if that’s happened or not. To give them credit though at least the police have talked about it rather than just stepping up patrols and arresting people.

    If this is really about violence towards cruisers then I’m uncomfortable with warning guys off about their behaviour rather than just telling them its an unsafe space and putting things in place to protect them.

    Ive recently come across a lurch to the right in the way LGBT people think about cruising. Something along the lines of ‘those gays who go out hanging round parks at night deserve whatever they get if their beaten up’. When we see reports of hate crime in the street we all rally round and say how awful it is. Don’t these guys deserve the same?

  13. Gary #11,

    Caroline is not saying that gay men cannot meet and chat around the canal. ‘Meeting and chatting’ is not the issue here as we all know.

    As for David Henry saying that only a small minority of residents has complained, therefore the Police should ignore the requests, that’s a bit rich. If I was being homophobically abused and complained then I would be in a ‘small minority’ of 1, but I would certainly want the Police to do something about it. I expect OutRage would expect them to also.

    The real issue in this location (as opposed to rural settings)is that there are some men who don’t like to/want to go to gay run bars or groups. Then there are others who just enjoy the thrill of al fresco sex, possibly getting off on the anonymity and risk factor associated with cruising. Part of that risk is that it is illegal and may annoy local residents. Those cruising don’t need big brains to work out what this means and they have the choice whether to continue or not. No discrimination here, just the right of everyone to use this area safely.

  14. A couple of points: in recent years Manchester City Council has floodlight the area and fenced off many of the dark bits. That doesn’t help people be ‘discreet’. I’m sure most of us would agree that men doing anything in full view of others is not acceptable.

    However, some people think this comes down to plain homophobia. Residents look out of their windows, see men meeting and talking and they don’t like it. Caroline above did hint at this by suggesting that seeing men hanging around is ‘dodgy’. The area has many seats and gay men are perfectly entitled to hang around and chat if they wish at any time of the day or night just like anyone else. One of the things that is under attack here is their right to do that. This is NOT all about sex in public places.

  15. Here’s a video we made over the weekend, featuring David who is quoted in the article. If you don’t know the area this will give you some idea of it:

  16. Robert, ex pat Brit 9 Nov 2009, 6:19pm

    Lee, I totally agree. Police don’t go out deliberately and selectively raiding lovers’ lanes where straights engage in sexual activity in a public place, nor do they arrest straight men who harass women on the street, particularly the type of male who works on a construction site for example. Their wolf whistling and vulgar exchanges often leave a lot to be desired, but I don’t call the police on it. This is nothing more than a double standard, as if the police have nothing else better to do than cruise gay cruising areas. People complaining about this kind of thing should just find something else to do. Its like t.v. programs that some find offensive. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, switch channels. If gay men are cruising in full view of your home, pull the curtains or blinds. Straight couples engaged in some pretty heavy deep throat kissing on the street aren’t arrested no matter how many people are offended by it. Either way, live and let live I say. Nobody is being physically attacked or abused, let alone killed unless there are gay bashers cruising such places for kicks. Gay cruising is the least of the problems police should be concerned about, given the serious crime statistics we’re witnessing.

  17. Perhaps Robert might like to elighten us of the current regulations on public sex in which ever country he is now living?

  18. If the definition of “cruising” is public sex, then it should be discontinued. If it merely pertains to individuals attempting to interact for subsequent sex preferably in a private location, or for some other public behavior, then those interactions should be allowed. Simple. If police abuse their powers, then steps should be taken to complain and stop them. If individuals disobey the intent of the non-homophobic law, then they should be arrested. OutRage! complaining that our “right” to be explicitly sexual in public is being encroached upon is disingenuous.

  19. Lets face it folks-crusing for sex-whether heterosexual or homosexual has been going on since time began. Its like prostitution-any attempts to stop it will prove futile as long as men have a sex drive. We are all wasting our time on here- men will always cruise-whther they are arrested or not.Whether they lose their family,job or life- Get real-it wll NEVER stop!

  20. OutRage! is wrong on this one. Families and children can be about and should not be exposed to sex acts.

  21. police and councils using intimdating tatics to make us feel uncomfortable that results in us no going to areas in this FREE counrty, and a gay basher. IN my eyes they are both the same.

  22. Jean-Paul Bentham 9 Nov 2009, 9:18pm

    John (19) has it spot on. Public gay cruising has been going on since the days of the Nearnderthals and beyond. What harm is done?

    The police have more important things to do, not the least of which is the investighation of countless crimes committed by the heterosexual community.

  23. Not helpful John & Jean-Paul. If we wnat laws that we like we have to go with the ones we don’t. everybody doing what they want is called anarchy. Even in the 60’s cruising and cottaging was tacky and it’s not neccessary in this day and age. If people get caught they shouldn’t bitch about the consequences

  24. Yawn Yawn Yawn . . . while ever we continue to focus on “Gay Crusing” – we fail to address the out of control Heterosexual dogging scene. . . I wonder why?

  25. Alan (23)-So you think what happened to Alan Turing in 1954 was right? He didn`t bitch about the consequences of cottaging-he just killed himself.

  26. “Gay men meeting for sex in public places in Manchester should be tolerated, not arrested, gay rights group OutRage! has said.”

    And since when did outrage start rallying for gays to be more than equal to straight people and actually above the law?
    If dogging is illegal – it’s illegal for everyone

  27. For the record i agree with post 23

  28. JohnK: The difference between Gay cruising, and straight dogging is historical. Gay men had a reason for discreet pickups in public places years ago because of the legality and public opinion on homosexuality at the time. Dogging is a relatively recent trend, which when people first told me about it I laughed and said “Gay men have been doing this for YEARS!! – so what’s new about it?”

    The point is that times move on, and public sex is basically unacceptable in this day and age, both gay or straight. There simply isn’t an excuse for it, as there are many alternatives.
    Sex in public is ILLEGAL. The problem lies in the fact that if you are having it away in the bushes, in apparent privacy, then to all intents and purposes, it IS a private place, even though it may be in an open area. This is where the legal ambiguity lies. Should a copper crash through half a mile of dense undergrowth to find two copulating bodies, he couldn’t technically arrest them for public indecency, because they weren’t actually in public.

    Nevertheless, the way I see it is: If you want a shag, get a bloody room!

  29. @ Matt D (20): ‘OutRage! is wrong on this one. Families and children can be about and should not be exposed to sex acts.’

    Families aren’t only exposed to sex acts, they perpetrate sex acts. That’s where the children come from… Why do ‘families and children’ need to be protected from knowledge of sex?

  30. @ RobN (28): ‘If you want a shag, get a bloody room!’

    Rooms cost money; public space is free. If sex becomes entirely privatised then some of us won’t be able to afford a shag.

  31. Society can’t be run for the exclusive benefit of children. Why would families and kids be on the canal tow-path in the middle of the night?

    ‘Protect the children’ is an old chestnut that has been trotted out down the years whenever the authorities wanted to crackdown on anything that gay men did. ‘He likes little boys’ used to be a euphemism for ‘he’s gay’ and it was still being used quite openly until the 1990’s. We certainly don’t need people in our own community demonising gay and bi men who hang around cruising areas and implying that that makes them some kind of threat to families and children.

    ‘Stranger danger’ is a bit of myth and most of the evil done against children is perpetrated by relatives or close friends of the family.

  32. David Griff 10 Nov 2009, 9:13am

    Public sex really doesn’t harm anybody, especially when it goes on, inevitably, in the small hours of the morning. Besides that, sex in public isn’t actually illegal, the law these men are arrested under ia weak law, they’re effectively arrested for hypothetical, potential offences, the public decency laws should be abolished and cruising tolerated because trying to stop it causes more problems than allowing it.

  33. I don’t agree with cruising because it can be very dangerous. A man might meet someone, a stranger, and the encounter might go without a hitch, but it also could go wrong as we all know. Also, there is the increased chance of sexual health risk. Obviously, sex with strangers means you have no idea if they are carrying an sti or not. The chance of such encounters not using condoms is increased in many cases.

    Having said all that, I neither agree that arrest of those involved in this activity is helpful or useful. As others have said here, its easy to be judgemental for those of us who are out and are more than happy to go to a gay bar or some similar venue to meet, properly chat & get to know someone before deciding whether or not to sleep with them. But there are still a great many closeted gay men around for whom coming out is not easy. The reasons may be cultural/religious (conservative family for example) or maybe they married years ago before fully coming out to themselves. There are separate arguments of course for such people coming out or not, but in any case they clearly feel unable to do so and hence are not comfortable attending “proper” gay venues in case of discovery. So, they sometimes cruise. Hence I don’t think arrest is the answer.

  34. I was walking to my car which was parked round the back of Preston Park this year during the Brighton Pride festivities. It was at 4 in the afternoon. A group of men were having sex in between the cars. They were so near to the people walking by (including families) that I could see that one of them hadn’t been circumcised. It was during the day, pouring down with rain and there were thousands of people walking by. How pathetic, there is no excuse for this type of behaviour!

  35. Can’t help wondering how cruising towpaths is “an important part of the gay community”? Outrage can sometimes talk a load of crap!

  36. George that’s another myth and piece of propaganda about cruising being particularly dangerous. Just take a look at the stats for people who have been assaulted, maimed, fallen to their death in the canal or even been murdered right in the middle of Manchester’s gay village. It’s a highly dangerous place due to all the alcohol and drug taking and because it is so enclosed.

    Think about how many serial killers met their victims in gay bars and then murdered them after going home together. Nilsen killed 15 who he’d met in bars and taken home. Colin Ireland killed five, most if not all of whom he met in the Coleherne pub in Earls Court and took home. Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 most of whom he met in gay bars…

    People are lulled into a false sense of security in a bar, sauna or at home and, when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they are easy prey and more likely to make mistakes (see the link between alcohol and HIV infections). In a cruising area, not only are other people around but you can run away or shout for help.

  37. By the way, even Moors Murderer Ian Brady was a regular at The Rembrandt pub in Manchester and some people say he met his final victim Edwards Evans there. Former Granada TV presenter Ray Gosling is one of the people who says this. Brady used to buy him drinks in ‘the Rem’ in the early 1960’s.

  38. Jean-Paul Bentham 10 Nov 2009, 11:02am

    blah, blah, blah…you talk as if you have never “connected” with anybody in your life.

    And if it’s public scandal you’re worried about, have a closer look at what is happening under sharia law…or is that none of your business?

  39. “an important part of the gay community” is this quote not taking us back pre 1967? Importance to the Gay community in this day and age is fighting against the bigots, both political and religious to keep our well earned human rights, not getting your jollies down onthe canal! We have greater and more important things to concentrate on. This type of comment reinforces those who think we are all at it like rabbits(!)and condemn us for it. As to arresting, I think if anything the police won’t want to have to go through all the paperwork; its just not worth it. As a former police officer I know you can use your discretion and just say “hop it you two!” with a stern look; no need for anything else!

  40. I think some people on here fail to see the wider picture regarding cruising, or as I like to call it meeting in public. Because that is what it is. Sexual activity in public is a seperate issue and is dealt with accordingly within the law. We as gay people should have the right to meet any where, just like our hetrosexual conterparts. I was at a meeting area yesterday and it was the hot topic their. Thankfully for us, guys are now beginging to answer back . Asking for police persons numbers and reporting them for harrassment. Because that what it is. I was there for two hours walking and chatting away and not a penis was exposed nor seen. Please report any officers that do not know the law that gay people meeting in public is not anti social, it is LEGAL, and our right!!!! I aint going back in that closet for no one. I have tasted freedom and use my rights within the law to protect them .

  41. I agree with dave. It’s not a crime to walk along a canal. It’s not a crime to dress provocatively.

    If the police are going to make a habit of harrassing gay people, I suggest lots of gay people go down there, and waste the police’s time as much as possible.

    So long as people do what they have to do out of sight and behind a bush, fine. Prosecute those who leave litter or dangerous substances behind, which others could pick up. I see no reason for any other prosecution.

  42. Jean-Paul Bentham 10 Nov 2009, 5:29pm


    Now you’re talking!!! Ageed.

  43. George (#33) You state that you don’t agree with cruising because it can be very dangerous. Under the same thinking, do you agree with driving, for that can be fatal.

    The largest source of complaints about my local cruising grounds isn’t so much the people that use them as the mess that they leave behind. Is there anybody that really relishes the sight of used condoms, or other ‘evidence’ of what has gone on there.

    If you’re going for a picnic you, hopefully, don’t leave plates, wrappers and who knows whatever else around for somebody else to clear up after you. If you’re going to go cruising, and have sex in a public place, take your rubbish away with you.

  44. John(Derbyshire) 10 Nov 2009, 8:18pm

    Dave-(40)What would YOu do if you got a letter sent to your home address from the police that said “Your vehicle has been seen several times at ………… and ……….. which are areas where anti-social behaviour involving drugs and sexual activity has been reported. Should your vehicle be seen at either of these locations in the furure-this matter will be taken further”

    I know people who have had to attend police stations and also been given ASBOs for doing exactly what you said in your posting- namely just being present in these areas. The presence there is sufficient for the police to issue either an ASBO (for persistently frequenting an area) or a Section Notice to stop you being there.

  45. Ridiculous. Anyone who meets to do sexual acts in a public place SHOULD face the consequences of public indecency. Not often I take a stance against LGBTQ groups but this is simply ridiculous.

  46. One of the main questions here is whether men who are merely meeting are being persecuted and harrassed (regardless of whether or not they have sex) by residents and police and whether different standards are being applied to heterosexuals who meet each other in a public place (because that’s ‘normal’).

    It isn’t long ago that gay men were liable to be harrassed and arrested for ‘importuning’ and soliciting just for talking to each other. Is the same attitude continuing even though laws have changed?

    Some of you need to look beyond the sex I would say the vast majority of people who go down there don’t end up having sex in a public place – they don’t meet anyone or maybe they go home with someone. In which case no crime whatsoever has been committed.

    It’s about our freedom to go, meet and chat and not be herded into ‘authorised’ commercial gay places.

  47. Well my take on it is that if it’s simply meeting in public that’s fine. A kiss and a cuddle also fine.
    If you want to run the gauntlet of a knee trembler in the bushes then it all comes down to whether you’re caught at it or not, but don’t expect preferential treatment to a straight encounter caught under the same circumstances. Bigots thrive on the idea that there’s one law for them and one law for us and it’s been a lightning rod for homophobes around Bristol over the last few months complaining about seeing indescreet gay sex on Clifton down. If our public image is tarnished by pointless public exhibitionism, expect to see our hard won civil rights to be eroded one by one.
    It counts as indecent exposure in the same way that flashing in public or jerking off on public transport does. As others have said, it doesn’t bother me either way but if it’s a law don’t expect the police to turn a blind eye just because we’re gay, or the public backlash will be inevitable.

  48. Jean-Paul Bentham 11 Nov 2009, 1:22pm

    John (44):

    I would get a lawyer, go to the police station and insist that I can park my car wherever I want, and as often as I want. Period.

    Why are you guys so sheepish, anyway?

  49. But also people need to realise that there have always been spiteful individuals who say they have seen something happening when they haven’t and the motiation for that is homophobia. Sometimes combined with the ‘threat to children’ angle eg. a man has been seen talking to a young boy supposedly etc. Cue police crackdown. This is as old as the hills.

    I’m glad this discussion is going on because from the feedback in public comments and private messages it’s becoming clear to me that police ARE harrassing men in various places around the country just for being in areas that are known for cruising.

    The worrying thing is that so many gay men and even some of our community organisations are so desperate to be seen police (and establishment) friendly that they are happy to ignore the discrimination behind this.

  50. Jean-Paul Bentham 11 Nov 2009, 2:36pm

    Speaking of public scandals, today is a good day to remember the greatest public scandal in the history of the world: the Atomic bombs dropped on Japan.

    Let’s keep things in perspective, eh. The woirld ain’t perfect, and “it” has no right to expect us to be perfect.

  51. I don’t care that some people like sex in public
    as long as it’s consensual who cares?
    if you don’t like seeing it then don’t look

  52. JP: Forgive me for being a little unforgiving, but what scandal about the Japanese bombs? I don’t deny they were a terrible thing, but they also stopped the war dead in it’s tracks. Sometimes one has to do the wrong thing for the right reasons.

  53. Chester: “If you don’t like seeing it then don’t look”

    You arrogant, selfish little w_nker. There are times and places for everything. Sex in public places is totally inappropriate.

    Or maybe I should just moon through your front window.
    If you don’t like my arse, don’t watch.

  54. Brian Burton 11 Nov 2009, 9:51pm

    I was asked, “do you smoke after sex?” I said, “I don’t know I never Look!”

  55. Jean-Paul Bentham 12 Nov 2009, 2:47am

    Right. Let’s call off Remembrance Day and cover the “legs” of our pianos like in Victorian times.

    War is a scandal, and by repressing a human need or desire, it is re-enforced, e.g. prohibition in the States, Jack the Ripper.

  56. The Halcyon 13 Nov 2009, 3:36pm

    I understand that some people have very strong views on cruising/cottaging, irrespective of whether they are pro or con. However, places like Hampstead Heath, Manchester Canal, Colwick Racecourse (and other infamous areas) are always going to attract people who want no-strings fun for whatever reason. So long as it’s out of the way and not likely to cause offence to the general population (i.e. you can constantly see it out of your window and all litter/trash is properly disposed of) then there isn’t generally a problem beyond the arguments put forward by the so-called moral-majority. And cruisers are entitled to police protection, not police harassment; if they are flushed out of the canal area, it won’t end the issue of cruising, it’ll just move it somewhere else.

  57. perhaps if Manchester had cruise bars allowed like we have in London…..

  58. Steve that wouldn’t solve a large part of this because many men who socialise and meet in this way do it because they reject the commercial gay scene for whatever reason. Maybe if, as a community (supposedly), we had some meeting spaces that were free, not about alcohol, and which welcomed everyone of all ages that might help? As I said before, this isn’t all about sex. It is about meeting people.

  59. Daniel Pitt 23 Feb 2010, 7:26pm

    Where I live in a small South Wales town,m we have nothing for gay & lesbian people, so often we do end up meeting up with strangers on the internet or through other means for cruising. As long as the sex is safe & out of public view what’s the harm?It’s actually technically not illegal until someone catches you doing it!

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