Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Summer 1997

Anti-Gay, edited by Mark Simpson

reviewed by Terry Sanderson

The anti-gay movement, for those who don’t know, is a collection of people who are homosexual (or who at least have homosexual sex), and claim to be sickened by the way the “gay community” has evolved. They think that we have contrived to create a lifestyle for ourselves that is devoid of spontaneity, and that in order to be considered “gay” you have to conform not only in dress and hairstyle, but in thinking too. Any criticism of the gay “lifestyle”, however justified, say the leaders of this movement, is now immediately, and unthinkingly, branded homophobic.

According to the anti-gay thinkers, not only is gay not good, it is positively rotten, and they don’t want anything to do with it. In fact they want to go back into the closet.

Fair enough so far. We’re all beginning to feel a bit uneasy about what the gay movement has become (the new slogan seems to be “no pecs, no sex”). It’s all about spending power, drug-taking, youth, over-indulgence and hideous “music”. The gay community is now little more than a niche market, where older people have no place, and the ugly are debarred. (But this also sounds remarkably like the experiences of straight young people who are equally in the thrall of the advertising industry, as well as sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll – not to mention alcopops, expensive trainers and designer T-shirts.)

And anyway, the people who write so disparagingly about the shallow world of the gay community seem to spend all their time wallowing in it, rushing from one den of iniquity to another in order to say how terrible it all is. In fact one prominent whinger of the “anti-gay” persuasion is Paul Burston, who actually makes a living from listing the very hostelries he purports to despise in the gay section of Time Out. Another is John Lyttle, who writes a column in The Independent a column about his personal life which bears a remarkable resemblance to the hated “gay lifestyle”.

The overwhelming (and I have to say repulsive) cynicism of the editor of this volume, Mark Simpson, is quite frightening coming from one so young. If he’s this dyspeptic now, I hate to think what he’ll be like when he’s fifty.

Not that I disagree with everything that is put forward here; there is a lot of common sense. But there is also a lot of cant and self-righteous moaning. If the writers of these diatribes don’t like what they see in Old Compton Street and other centres of gaydom around the country, why don’t they just go off and find a more congenial way to spend their time, like the rest of us do. I wouldn’t go on a “gay holiday” if they paid me. I walk miles to avoid gay pubs, and I read the gay press with a very critical eye. I don’t think drugs would suit me and I’m not young enough or gorgeous enough to attract numerous sex partners, even if I wanted them. But I’m still gay. And the idea of being gay (in the sense of having a homosexual orientation) is not yet old enough, or strong enough or secure enough to stand a battering from its own troops.

One day maybe the world will be as envisaged by Peter Tatchell in his contribution to the book, a world where sexuality isn’t categorised and where everybody just makes love to the person they happen to fancy, whatever their gender. But there is still a lot of battling to do before we’re anywhere near that Utopian state. In the meantime, gay is the best we can do for those who do not wish to commit themselves to a member of the opposite sex.

This is another failing of the book: at one point it propounds the old idea that everyone is bisexual and that it is damaging to define ourselves as homosexual and heterosexual. There’s no such thing as gay, according to the great minds that have contributed to this volume, it’s all just a delusion. Well, pardon me for dissenting, but I am definitely gay. Or homosexual. Or six on the Kinsey scale. I don’t have a heterosexual or bisexual cell in my body, and I’m not just saying that. Believe me, I know. I’ve tried. The new orthodoxy seems to be that if you never find the opposite sex attractive in a physical sense, then you are less than human. It turns out that the anti-gay movement has the same sickening potential for oppression that the gay movement does. I have nothing against people being bisexual, but don’t try to force it on me, because I’m not buying. And I would come to the defence of others who might have a guilt trip laid upon them because they aren’t – and can’t be – bisexual.

However, there is one redeeming feature in this book, and that is the final dialogue between two drag queens, one of whom is called Glennda Orgasm. They have passed beyond the anti-gay phase and have now formed the “anti-anti-anti-anti-gay movement” (which they term the mouvement du jour). Their attempts to persuade an organisation which specialises in “curing” homosexuals to take them in as patients is hilarious, and actually elicited tears of laughter. The book is worth the cost for this alone. Or perhaps only for this.

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