Or, more accurately, they hate, as queer bashers hate - a drum roll, please - the poufs, the nancyboys, the flaming faggots, the sissies, the effeminate. For letting the side down, you know, just as Andrew Sullivan has called for homosexual marriage and virtual normality, Stonewall is campaigning for the right of lesbians and gays to join the military so they can, one fine day, kill Johnny Foreigner the way real people do, and the buzzword of the moment is assimilation.
Why are you interviewing the camp ones? It's late night in Belfast and we're filming a documentary outside one of the city's two (count 'em) gay bars and this boy - he's a civil servant - won't let it lie: "I saw you talking to that drag queen. Typical. Him and the camp ones all over TV. Attitudes will never change here if you keep peddling this stereotype."
Northern Ireland has declared peace, so I don't hit him. Instead, I explain that drag queens have opinions, too, and that no one else, despite invitation, entreaty and plain begging, felt moved to speak up for themselves. Except the "camp ones". Yes, it's theoretically easier for them; the camp ones don't have the choice to pass or not to pass. They're born "out". Victims of their own visibility (what the civil servant called "stereotype"), a sneering world knows what they are and they spend lifetimes dodging its slings and arrows.
Done to a Quentin Crisp, they develop an armoured style. Brash - "Is that your face or did your neck just throw up?" - and brassy ("Girls just want to have fun!"), this reflex action glories in the difference that is meant to be its shame: "You've been a bad boy. Go to my room."
So what have they got to lose from being ready for their close-up, Mr DeMille? Apart from their front teeth and maybe, if the violence is vicious enough, their lives?
Faded bruises, healed wounds, old news. Let's go on with the show.
The civil servant mentions "diversity" (meaning "me, me, me"). And I say that it's brave of him to volunteer the viewpoint on camera, because it is. He glares: "I'm not going in front of the camera." Sorry? "Someone might recognise me." Then why ... "Because I don't want them," he gestures to our interviewee, high of hair and low of humour - "representing me".
How could I forget? In the Nineties we're trying the we're-exactly-like- everyone-else tack: where did I put that wedding ring/copy of Great Land Battles of the 20th Century/ad in the Pink Paper that describes me as "straight acting"? Hell, there are so many ads in the Pink Paper that say "straight acting" and NS. No, it doesn't mean Non-Smokers. It means Non-Scene. Oh, found my ad, see: "Straight acting".
What does it mean? It means I know nothing about Ethel Merman .... Oh, you do .... How could I not know about Ethel Merman.... Look, just let me in or I'll have to write to the Times letter page again. I promise - you won't even know I'm there ...
The civil servant speaks: "What has any drag queen done to get my vote?"
Well, honey, let me tell you, drag queens were first on the barricades when New York's Stonewall riots took gay liberation to the streets on 28 June 1969. They got star billing in the backlash against perennial police raiding of the area's gay bars because the bars - much like the one our civil servant is standing outside, the ungrateful little shit - were the sissies' self-made paradise. In their wit and wisdom they helped to cut a sub-culture to suit the misfit, and even that small, but fertile, strip of territory was besieged. It was their impacted rage and, laugh if you want to, their brazen grief - St Judy Garland, goddess of the lavender twilight, had finally gone over the rainbow three days earlier - that ... that ...
Made some kind of open life possible for uncivil servants some 37 years later. Vote winners: creation of a world, the making of a politics, the beginning of a pride, a knowledge of Bette Davis movies. Get it?
No. The civil servant eyed me with superior regret: "You prefer that type, don't you? Safe, cuddly, funny."
I could retort that being a screamer means running risks every day, and that the opposite of safe, cuddly and funny is dangerous, sharp and dull, and so far he's only batting one out of three. And I could say there's a difference between being virtually normal and painstakingly ordinary, and maybe that's why he's choked by the all too hard-won extraordinary.
And I could point out that painstakingly ordinary is a stereotype, too, just one so tedious no one bothers to draw attention to it.
I could say these things. And possibly also mention that spitting on your brethren - and, in this instance, your betters - is too high a price to pay to join a club with such rigid rules of decorum that it can't accept, or perhaps even learn, from a little local colour. Ask not what heterosexuals can do for us but what we can do for heterosexuals ... But I'd be wasting my breath, right? Who needs local colour when they're glad to be grey?Reuse content