The day the PC police set on me

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LOS ANGELES: Until yesterday, I was a big defender of political correctness. Sure, I knew that being PC was often synonymous with being a self-congratulatory git. Like when the entire University of Pennsylvania had a hissy-fit because some poor bastard called a group of rowdy black girls 'water buffalo'.

But I live in a land where the state of Colorado voted an anti-gay Bill into law, where the white citizens of Mississippi and Alabama sling the word 'nigger' around like hash, where the entire male population of Oklahoma calls the entire female population 'little lady'. So I thought it was good when everyone went holier-than-thou and decided blacks were now 'African Americans' (or is it 'people of colour'?) and that 'oriental' must be expunged from our vocabulary.

But then it happened to me. I was just minding my own business on one of those hideous Oprah-ish TV shows. You know the type, it's always 'Teenage mothers of transvestites, next on . . .'

Although I live in terror of being on television, because I know that one day I will accidentally vomit on everybody, I do these things to sell my books. This particular show was hosted by Mo Gaffney, a hilarious woman and the best of the sordid talk-show bunch. The topic that day was 'Straight women and gay men: A beautiful blendship?' Yes, blendship.

I was a 'panellist', along with two gay men and their straight women best friends. The audience, mainly gay, were the usual idiots. (Anyone who volunteers to be a member of a studio audience is automatically condemned.)

So I was sitting there during the commercial break, slathered with make-up and hairspray, set upon by women with powder puffs, when I realised that the other panellists were having a fierce, whispering tantrum. 'They keep defining me as a gay man,' said a guy with great socks. 'Don't they understand that I'm not just 'gay', I'm a person too, that my personhood is more important than my gayness?'

'I know,' said a woman. 'They don't understand that it's not about being gay or straight, it's about friendship and empowerment.'

'Yeah, totally,' I said, trying to be one of the gang. 'Hey, nice socks,' I said to the socks guy.

'Oh, but of course they would be, you're gay.'

The four panellists glared at me. 'Hey come on, it was just a joke] Ha, ha]' I said feebly.

'Don't you see it's wrong to stereotype like that?' asked the sock guy's best friend, a blonde in pink.

'But it's a positive stereotype and it's true,' I said. 'Gay men look good, straight men look like they've just emerged from a trash bin.'

I got four cold shoulders. I shrivelled into a little ball.

Then our host made a terrible blunder. 'Let's face it,' she said, 'most gay people would rather be straight.'

Huge uproar. Audience members and panellists began hurling epithets. Many hands reached for her microphone, itching to tell just what they thought of such bigotry.

'No, wait, wait] You don't understand]' yelled Mo. 'What I mean is that so many people think being gay is just some silly choice] But nobody chooses to be gay. Why would you choose to be oppressed, reviled and ridiculed?'

'So would you rather be a man?' shouted a male panellist.

'If I had just come out of the womb, and someone asked me if I'd rather be attacked, raped, abused and discriminated against or not, I'd choose not. I'd choose to be a man.'

The audience sat in confused silence. This was way too subtle. They saved their enormous applause for a woman who got up a minute later to proclaim, 'Come on, we're all just people, and we want to be loved for who we are]'

Things descended from that point into a who-can-be-more-PC- than-the-next-guy fest. How everyone just loved every single aspect of gayness, and wasn't it all just perfectly OK and wonderful? A panellist brought up the problem of self-loathing that both gay men and women experience, that this may be one of many things that bind them together, but he was shouted down for being too complex. And I made another faux pas.

A member of the audience stood up and said: 'I've noticed that women who are friends with gay men are intelligent, creative, straightforward and independent.'

'Of course,' I said, 'because straight men hate women like that.'

A man in the audience shot into the air. 'That's a gross generalisation,' he snarled.

'It may be a generalisation, but it's not gross,' said Mo.

And then it was over and I went home. 'Why is TV so stupid?' I whined to my kid.

'It had to be or it wouldn't be TV,' he said.

So now I'm rethinking my position on political correctness.

It may be good in the long run, since our children won't hear us say things like 'chink', 'spick', 'kike', 'chick' or 'speerchucker'.

But I remember a previous bout of political correctness, back at the dawn of feminism. Men said all the right things. They understood us completely. We had it made, we thought. But it turned out that the hatred just went underground, it just festered away in men's souls while they spouted soothing platitudes about how they really wanted us to have our careers.

You know what happened next. The big backlash. I think I prefer my hatred out there where I can see it.