I think it’s about time I posted something in this blog, for the first time in three weeks — and what better to start with, than my previously-promised post about why I could never be a homophobe, and find myself unable to tolerate such people, simply because so many of my all-time heroes are gay men?
However, the event which finally prompted me to write this wasn’t the vote on gay marriage currently taking place in Australia, but rather, a dream I had the other night, that a young John Barrowman was flirting with me — and while I’m not interested sexually in men, and politely declined, I remember feeling entirely calm and feeling no sense of outrage or nausea… unlike previous occasions, when I dreamed of ugly middle-aged fat blokes trying to pull me, and ran like hell.
(Okay, admittedly JB himself has just turned fifty — and is off the market anyway — but I’ll always remember him when he joined the Doctor Who cast at the age I am now!)
Not that there’s anything wrong with fat middle-aged blokes who happen to be gay, of course: I’ve enjoyed the work of Matt Lucas (partly for Little Britain, and partly for — again — Doctor Who), and reckon he’s a cool dude. Other fabulous individuals I admire today include Stephen Fry (he may not in reality be as intellectual as he is on QI, but he’s still charming, erudite and funny), Graham Norton (I couldn’t stand him at first, but he’s grown on me over the years), Paul O’Grady (not for his Lily Savage persona, but because he’s a huge dog-lover) and, of course, George “Oh Myyy!” Takei (not just for Star Trek, but also for his humorous activism on Facebook!).
Speaking of Paul O’Grady, I sometimes think of him as a latter-day version of the dearly-missed Kenneth Williams, a man of whose work I was aware even back when I was a child (lending his voice to Willo the Wisp and Galloping Galaxies!, as well as starring in the Carry On movies). I still remember the day my mother and I returned from Florida the first time, in April 1988, to be told that he’d been found dead in his flat, possibly from suicide (though it may well have been a genuinely accidental overdose). I read his diary (or rather, the published extracts) in the early 21st century, and wished he could have had a happy life, instead of feeling such self-loathing, even if it would have meant he never became famous. He hadn’t done anything wrong, and it saddens me that he could never come to terms with his homosexuality — but unfortunately, it seemed to be the way of the world at the time.
In this, he was similar to another of my childhood heroes, Frankie Howerd (pictured above), a man whose work I first experienced in early 1991, when the Beeb began repeating his classic sitcom, Up Pompeii! — the spectacle of him making innuendo came (ooh no!) into my life when I was a thirteen-year-old. I was sad when we lost him in 1992, just when he was on the verge of making another comedy comeback — but as with Williams, I find myself wishing he could have been happy instead of having to face depression and anxiety, even if his method of dealing with his shyness (affecting arrogance and insulting his live audiences) was a delight.
Others we’ve sadly lost from this world also include the hilarious Graham Chapman of the Pythons (I’ve been watching his shows since Christmas), and the delightfully camp American comedian Paul Lynde (who I once knew as the voice of the Hooded Claw), but of all the gay men who once lived and sadly died, my favourite would have to be Kenny Everett, whose TV series I was allowed to watch even as a young child, despite his dirty jokes and comedic violence, and whose radio shows got me listening to Capital Gold. I remember wishing I could have met him before he died from an AIDS-related illness in the mid-1990s, but as the Interthingy barely existed back then, I sadly had no chance. I just hope he’s happy now, whatever plane of existence he’s currently on, and that he’s found happiness — and, of course, reunited with the great musician Freddie Mercury, on whose behalf he played “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the radio many times!
(Perhaps one reason I like my old yoga teacher is that he reminds me of the dearly-departed “cuddly Ken”?)
And finally, I’ve had (no, not had, wash your minds out!) a number of male gay friends over the years — one friend at university who was a Doctor Who fan and supported me when I did a Dalek comic strip; another, who was highly camp but later came out as bisexual, is my Facebook friend to this day, and someone I’d stand up for. I’ve also had gay friends at work, one being the “music man” at Camden (despite initially arguing with him when I joined his team), and possibly another there, who I once had in hysterics with my Frankie Howerd impression. And even today, there’s at least one gay man at my workplace, our amiable receptionist; sadly he’s been off for a while, but he’s definitely someone I look forward to having back (no, not having in the back, stop tittering!).
So there you have it: all these friends of Dorothy that mean I could never consider homosexuality to be some kind of dangerous deviancy that warrants “curing”, or any punishment (well, leaving aside the consensual kind… ooh, Matron!), even if I myself am not of their persuasion (or bisexual). No, if anything it’s the homophobes I can’t tolerate — because I’ve never heard a single coherent reason for condemning the love that dare not speak its name, whether in terms of outright gay marriage or simply existence.
Yes, that’s right, here’s my challenge: why is homosexuality wrong and in need of eradicating, or at least treating negatively? No answers based on religion (“the Bible says so”) or personal taste (“I think it’s icky”) are of any importance, and yes, I mean that — if you don’t like people of the same sex as you, don’t worry, just leave the actual gay people alone and unmolested. And speaking of molestation: gay men (and this also applies to trans women) are not a bunch of kiddy-fiddlers preying on your children, any more than all straight men are rapists — rape is wrong no matter who perpetrates it, so stop implying that some kinds of rape are somehow more tolerable than others.
(And yes, female-on-male rape exists and needs to be equally condemned, rather than laughed at or considered “payback” — but that’s outside the scope of this post!)
I think part of the problem is straightforward ignorance and paranoia: some people think that tolerating homosexuality — or, similarly, transsexuality, gender fluidity etc. — would mean they are obligated to “join in” (that it’s the new “normal”), and that by not doing so willingly, they’re being accused of holding the human race back in the dark ages. Don’t be ridiculous, get on with your own lives and let them get on with theirs — I’m a cisgender heterosexual adult male, and even though I’m still unsuccessfully trying to start my actual love life, I’m happy and content with the way I am… even if being 100% heterosexual puts me in the 1%!
Similarly, allowing gay marriage doesn’t somehow mean marriage itself is being ridiculed, and that next we’ll be marrying animals or inanimate objects: they’re not consenting adult humans, are they? Marriage isn’t purely about having children, otherwise childless couples (especially those who choose not to bring children into the world) would have their marriages annulled, surely? I actually had a discussion on Facebook over three years ago on this subject (as I hinted here), with “female best friend’s” husband and his group of likeminded gentlemen, which I seemed to stop dead by pointing one thing out: if you think gay people can have the same rights as straight married couples, but can’t call it “marriage”, that’s like telling black people they can have something “like” the vote but can’t call it “voting” because that cheapens the word for white people — dividing “us and them” with petty semantics!
Some really bigoted people (especially the sort who post on George Takei’s Facebook wall, apparently meaning what they say instead of “trolling”) use their own homophobia as an excuse to bash Islam. Yes, I know it’s stuck in its “angry teenager” phase (as I said several years ago) and needs to grow up, lessen its hold over people’s lives and become an opinion rather than a “fact”, like the other faiths, but the few Muslims I encounter in my day-to-day life are peaceful and non-abusive — they’re certainly not “throwing gay people off rooftops”, which the Trump supporters claim at every opportunity. Even if that’s happening in oppressive theocratic countries, why would it excuse the Trump administration trying to give shopkeepers (and doctors) the right to refuse service to gay people, and treat them like second-class citizens — like some kind of Jim Crow 2.0? Would Christianity be kinder if it was in absolute control of people’s lives, rather than just something they do for an hour on Sundays and at Christmas?
Almost all religions seem to be homophobic (even Gandhi tried to “sexually cleanse” homosexuality from the Indian faiths), presumably because they were created when the sole goal of life was to procreate, due to communities living on a knife-edge in the desert, and anyone seen to be acting against the greater good was treated as a liability. However, I’d say our festering mudball planet is definitely overpopulated now, and I’d rather we kept our numbers down by (amongst other things) tolerating homosexuality, which can’t produce more offspring (and with gay couples becoming parents through adoption), rather than purging or “curing” it, and going back to the days of “go forth and multiply”.
All this considered, South Park once made an interesting point: rather than forcing private organisations like the Boy Scouts to accept homosexuals by law, perhaps the better way is to persuade people that homophobia is no longer relevant — to convince them of the error of their ways gradually, by good example, rather than beat them over the head with facts in the hope of a quick fix (some claim it was rebellion against precisely this which gained Trump so much support). The trouble is, in this increasingly-anti-intellectual age, when even Flat Earthers seem to be making a comeback, would it be enough to just hope people can change for the better…?
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If any of you are wondering why the hell I’m an admirer of John Barrowman (aside from him guest starring in Doctor Who and headlining in the spinoff series Torchwood) if I don’t fancy him: well, he earned my respect when he was on Never Mind the Buzzcocks in 2006 (back when it was presented by Simon Amstell — phew, nearly forgot him!), and was a damn good sport…