Is homosexuality a condition, like an illness with a raft of unpleasant symptoms? Surely in 2017 we don't entertain such ideas. Except, it turns out, we do.
I grew up bombarded by negative gay stereotypes. They came at me from every angle - the press (particularly the right-wing press), the church, my teachers and elders and my peer groups. No one said a single positive or even neutral thing about gay people, reserving their most pestilential venom for gay men in particular. Let me think back to those stereotypes - there was the limp-wristed-ineffectual-weakling one, the gay-man-equals-paedophile one, the sexually-incontinent-serial-molester one, the friendless-bachelor-uncle one, the determined-to-convert-straight-men one and many more. It was like a gallery of grotesques. The press loved the baseless idea that gay men were poised to convert the next generation of children, lurking outside school gates, waiting eagerly to create new gays (hence Section 28). Heterosexual men were frequently described as 'red-blooded', as if to suggest gay men were afflicted by some sort of frailty at a visceral level. Looking back, the homophobia disgusts me. At the time, as I gradually realised that I was one of these despised people, it warped the way I saw myself. I made rash, consequence-freighted decisions out of sheer fright and sought freedom through dangerous means.
I could have listed another twenty gay stereotypes that were put about with unseemly enthusiasm, but let's focus on just one, because it's making a most unwelcome comeback. It's been exhumed, dusted down and reanimated. And this time, to my surprise, the left-wing media are joining in with unabashed relish. Have you guessed yet? Yes, it's the 'creepy, woman-hating homosexual'. He's back! I struggled with writing this piece, because I knew it would mean dredging up these articles and reading them again. With every paragraph, I'd cringe as old memories were awakened. So I put it off and then put it off again. No longer. Here goes.
First, the sheer number of these articles is overwhelming. Make no mistake - this is a movement. Parts of the press have mobilised over the last two years, with the aim of pushing the 'gay misogynist' stereotype as much as possible. There was '15 Signs You're A Gay Misogynist' from Advocate magazine. One of these 'signs' is the assumption that there should be spaces primarily for gay men. That alone is regarded as hatred of women. Never mind the history of gay men needing to sequester themselves in their own spaces for reasons of safety. The gist here is that we "act disgusted at the mention of vaginas", call women "bitches" and stop them coming to gay venues. All the evidence presented is anecdotal.
There was 'Gay Men Like Me Need To Start Acknowledging Our Misogyny Problem' from the Independent. The author makes it clear that he's reached peak awareness and is now ready to usher the unenlightened mob of gay men along the same path. What's worse is that he pushes the fantasy that gay men never had it hard. He is sniffily dismissive of the fact that the UK 1967 decriminalisation was of male homosexuality, female homosexuality already being legal.
Next up is 'Sorry, Gay Guys, I'm Not Here For Your Casual Misogyny' from NewNowNext.com. Like the others, this went viral and was all over social media for months. Gay men, it explains, are "grossed out" by vaginas, and view femininity as "weak" and "lesser". It's in our "programming". To support this propaganda, there's a hideously unflattering cartoon drawing of a gay man retching as words like "periods" and "cunnilingus" loom before him. Get the picture? It's saying, 'look at him! He's not sexually attracted to women! He's unnatural!" But it's not women and their bodies that make me feel ill - it's poisonously homophobic articles like this.
We come now to 'The Gay Community Needs To Deal With Its Misogyny Problem' in the Telegraph. As with the previous two examples, everything is anecdotal. The author heard someone say something nasty in a bar. A friend of a friend said this, a cousin of a cousin said that. Stephen Fry is held up as a figurehead of misogyny on paltry evidence.
I could go on. There's certainly no shortage of material. There's 'Gay Men And Their Not So Cute Misogyny Problem' in Vice. There's 'Yes, There Is Misogyny Among Gay Men' in the Guardian. There's 'Ten Misogynistic Things Queer Men Need To Give Up' at pride.com and 'There Is Misogyny Among Gay Men' in Pink News. Lest this article turn into a list, I'll give you just two more of the multiple-dozens I came across. 'The Unspoken Epidemic of Misogyny In The Gay Community' in Instinct and 'The Misogyny of Gay Men' in Feminist Current. Notice the word 'epidemic', subtly suggesting that gay men are diseased.
Now, I'm not for a moment peddling the idea that there are no gay men who are misogynistic. But if a gay man is misogynistic, why is it automatically assumed to be a consequence of his sexuality? A heterosexual misogynist is just a misogynist. We, however, are GAY misogynists. See what these articles are doing? They're knowingly making a link between our sexuality and our alleged misogyny. Misogyny, they are saying, is the inevitable result of being a man who fancies other men. In doing this, they're pushing the idea that male homosexuality is a 'condition' of which misogyny is a 'symptom'. Gay men are ill. Their illness is homosexuality. This is dangerous stuff that doesn't belong in 2017. If someone weren't homophobic prior to reading these pieces, they might very well be after.
One of the nastiest threads running through these pieces is the suggestion that there is a wrong type of gay man - the camp or effeminate man, especially drag queens. Just by being the way they are, they are guilty of female appropriation. From Quentin Crisp onwards, this is the type of gay man it's always been the easiest to bully - the brave, unapologetic, non-assimilating type. To be the right kind of gay man, you should mould yourself on Tom Ford, apparently.
There's a good article to be written about misogyny among gay men. It will jettison anecdotal evidence and use proper research to tell us whether there really is an 'epidemic' or not. In the meantime, the authors of these ill-researched, flimsy, anecdotal hate pieces should be hanging their heads in shameSuggest a correction