Gay men aren't here as harmless pets for women

'Gay men help ladies to shop and lunch; they shouldn't argue or campaign for their rights'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It's always startling whenever anyone cheerfully admits to being something truly awful, like William Hague's dad, the other day, taking pride in being a "hanging and flogging" man, or the letter I got the other day which began: "Sir, I admit to being a homophobe." For all I know, there are people who stand around saying: "I don't care who knows it; I think Adam Sandler's films are really funny, and I think public castrations for rapists would be a very good idea." But occasionally you read something that makes you think, "Oh, come on - don't you have any kind of shame?"

It's always startling whenever anyone cheerfully admits to being something truly awful, like William Hague's dad, the other day, taking pride in being a "hanging and flogging" man, or the letter I got the other day which began: "Sir, I admit to being a homophobe." For all I know, there are people who stand around saying: "I don't care who knows it; I think Adam Sandler's films are really funny, and I think public castrations for rapists would be a very good idea." But occasionally you read something that makes you think, "Oh, come on - don't you have any kind of shame?"

I don't use the expression "fag hag"; I think it's demeaning and insulting to heterosexual women who have homosexual male friends. And besides, it seems to me that there are a lot more hag fags than fag hags in the world; a lot more absurd homosexuals who are keen to hunt down women to dress up and harmlessly flirt with. But, however politically correct one tries to be, it's sometimes hard to deny that there are women prepared to humiliate themselves in this way, and who betray a demeaning and contemptuous attitude towards the people they declare to be such harmless fun.

A startling article the other day set me thinking. Sarah Mower was singing the praises of gay men, and saying that every girl should have one on her arm this season. "A close gay friend who likes fashion is more qualified than anyone to tell you what you should look like... a gay friend will know exactly just what you should do, he doesn't fancy you so you can dispense with the desultory ping pong of flirtation... my two close gay friends have such high standards of taste, grooming and perfectionism it is almost terrifying."

What this reminds one of, of course, are those middle-class white people who go out of their way to advertise their friendships with black people because they have such a marvellous sense of rhythm, dance so well and always know where to find the best quality drugs. No one says that sort of thing any more - it's obviously racist. But somehow homosexuals are fair game for similar comments. They love to shop, don't they? They absolutely adore hanging round in women's clothes shops and discussing hemlines, they'll always be there on your sofa with a cosy G&T.

They won't mind spending hours advising on your interior decoration and agreeing that, yes, Andy from accounts was always a heartless brute, you deserve so much better, and have you seen the gorgeous new shade of nail polish MAC has just brought out? And besides, gay clubs are such fun - and the nice thing is that you never get bothered.

A slightly acid friend of mine always says that the sort of girl who says this about gay clubs is always the sort of girl who wouldn't get bothered anywhere. But, be that as it may, the unpleasant thing about this attitude, which is widespread even among quite intelligent women, is that it doesn't admit the possibility that a homosexual man might also be a perfectly serious human being. Black men have a wonderful sense of rhythm, people used to say, but it would be in slightly bad taste for them to train as a solicitor or write a novel. Gay men help ladies to shop and lunch; they shouldn't campaign for their rights, run businesses or argue. And, because one of their main purposes in life is to mop up the tears when Andy-from-accounts turns out to be a complete swine, they shouldn't have a happy love life either.

What underlies this is a consistent belief that homosexuals aren't really very worthwhile people. It's completely true that there is a mutual element of contempt in all this, and homosexuals who allow themselves to be treated as honorary women or harmless pets for an afternoon are also often the ones who don't really like women that much anyway. Pleasant as this kind of relationship can be, it isn't an adult one, and it isn't based on much in the way of mutual respect, but on an idea of how cosy it is to have a gay friend, or a fat girl who will come with you to Heaven and tactfully push off when you score. And any old gay would do, so long as they conform to the stereotype of being good at choosing exactly the right shade of mauve for the cushions.

There are plenty of homosexuals who strongly dislike straight girls hanging around in gay clubs, and think they should just go and get a bit more of a life. I don't quite go along with that; I think life would be greatly improved if we all spent a bit less time in the boxes that society has designed for us. But no kind of end is served by treating each other as harmless, unserious pets, and no kind of respect is evident in an attitude that seeks out a stranger to fulfil a particular use. If you want someone merely to carry your bags and tell you how fabulous you are, then you probably ought to think about paying him.

hensherp@dircon.co.uk

Comments