Saturday, 24 July 2010

It's Okay To Be Homophobic If You're Gay!! (says Daily Mail)

One of my favourite Bill Bailey stand up shows was "Part Troll". In that, he made this memorable remark:

There’s this one celebrity, Rosie O’Donnell, a talk show host, and she said this: “I don’t know anything about Afghanistan, but I know it’s full of terrorists, speaking as a mother.” So what is this "speaking as a mother" then? Is that a euphemism for "talking out of my arse"? "Suspending rational thought for a moment"? As a rational human being, Al-Qaeda are a loose association of psychopathic zealots who could be rounded up with a sustained police investigation. But speaking as a parent, they’re all eight foot tall, they’ve got lasers under their moustaches, a huge eye in their foreheads and the only way to kill them is to NUKE every country that hasn’t sent us a Christmas card in the the last 20 years!! Speaking as a mother.

My mind drifted back to this joke when I first saw the title of Andrew Pierce's piece for the Daily Mail yesterday; "Why I, as a gay man, abhor these TV queens"

Instantly I knew where this was going. It's a common issue.

When I was young, at school, I was blessed with the fact I am naturally "straight acting". I hate that phrase, as I'm not acting. It's just me! It meant I was able to choose the time and place where I came out. But there was a boy in the year below me, who was not so "lucky". He was as camp as Christmas. From swaying hips to a rucksack that resembled a handbag, he was a walking stereotype. And at our all boys school, he suffered for it. I never stood up for him against the whispered comments behind his back or worse. I never engaged in it myself of course but I was a cowardly 14 year old. Now that I am a man, I am not prepared to allow that sort of bullying to be perpetuated around me without comment any more. Andrew Pierce's piece is just that sort of bullying and someone has to call him out on it.

If Andrew Pierce had written a sober article about prejudice within the selection process for new presenters that favour camp gay presenters over others, or perhaps over the prejudice that allows people to see one gay man acting one way and then assume that is how all gay men act, I'd have some respect for him.

But no if you read it, the crux of the article is basically "I don't like camp gay men because they reflect badly upon me".

"Carr and his queeny TV cohorts merely reinforce outdated prejudices of gay men as simpering, soppy, superficial cissies."

Here's a shock for you Mr Pierce. There really are naturally camp people out there. Those outdated prejudices are just that. Prejudices. They are not to be pandered to, or encouraged. They are to be defeated through education.

What Mr Pierce fails to mention are all the bland, run of the mill, just darn ordinary gay men on the television. Alistair Appleton. Scott Mills. the late Kristian Digby, Anthony Crank and Simon Amstell. That's just presenters there for you.

We will not defeat homophobia by throwing camp men back into the closet, removing them from the television or pretending they don't exist. I don't judge straight people based on football hooligans, the guys down the pub who swear every other word or tell a vulgar misogynist, racist or homophobic joke for fun. So why is acceptable to judge homosexuality on the actions of a few, that aren't actually that bad in the first place?

Who is it that suffers the homophobic abuse? Is it the straight acting, beer drinking men like me? No. It's the camp guys. They are on the front line. And rather than abandoning them there, and hiding behind your own self image whilst screaming "I'm not like them", a real man would stand beside them in solidarity and defend their right to be the individuals they wish to be.

My first boyfriend's nickname in his hometown was Queenie. I remember being terribly embarrassed when he turned up outside my school one day leaning theatrically on a rainbow umbrella (there were definitely some questions to be answered the next day on that one!). I almost died. As we walked into town that day a group of people started throwing stones at him and calling him a "dirty queer". And that's when I realised that I shouldn't be embarrassed by him. I should be proud that he had the balls to be who he felt he was in a world that still hated him. I learnt a lesson there, and so did the people throwing the stones (their lesson was attacking a giant's boyfriend is probably one of the silliest things someone can do with their free time).

Andrew Pierce ends the article with:

"It’s time to put the girly, shrill, absurdly camp and frequently crude caricatures back in the closet. It’s time to let the spirit of John Inman and Larry Grayson rest in peace."

Well I end mine saying that complaining about camp guys is even more stereotypical and shrill than they could ever be. And it's cowardly and self-hating too. It's time we got past worrying about "acting" and just started being ourselves, be that camp or butch and accepting others for who they are. Wouldn't that make for a far more interesting world?

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist


Plum said...

I don't have time for a proper considered comment right now but will hopefully manage one later in the week when I see your follow up.

That said, to a very large degree, I disagree with some of the elements of your rationale. In my experience having grown up a generation earlier, the camper more "obviously" gay guys generally had an easier time than the butcher more masculine ones (and yeah, I hate the phrase "straight acting" too) - certainly when it came to coming out, everyone assumed it about the thatrical guys anyway and gave them a relatively easy time.

Being a more masculine gay was, and remains, perceived as an oddity - "you can't POSSIBLY be that way - you're not obsessed with clothes and moisturising or show tunes".

Of course this was the Daily Mail so the article was going to be ranty and negative but I still think it had a very valid point of view to present.

Most people EXPECT gay guys to behave a certain way and wider social acceptance will only really happen when a significant number of gays don't have to mince up their true personalities simply becuase it's what's expected (viz the comments about/from Gok Wan).

Jae Kay said...

I don't disagree with that. As I said, if this had been a sober article about combating that prejudice that leads people to think all gay men act one way, I'd be supportive.

But this article was a selfish "They don't represent me" one. And thus I stand by my reasoning.