Stop presenting gays as whiter than white
The editor of a gay website says that, beneath her prejudice and inaccuracy, Jan Moir kind of had a point.
In her instantly notorious article about the death of Stephen Gately in last week’s Daily Mail, Jan Moir careened way off the mark when she suggested, despite toxicology reports to the contrary, that the ex-Boyzone singer had died as a result of drugs, or even some sort of black magic gay sex act.
But buried in the article is evidence that she has a point, and one that is shared by many – only Moir was unable to articulate it beyond some stentorian moralising that has earned her the immediate wrath of gay tweeters, bloggers and activists who have countered her simplifications and generalisations with their own.
Moir’s guileless disbelief that anyone could die of spontaneous natural causes before they reach their dotage is the first thing that drastically undermines her article, since people die from all kinds of accidents and congenital or random health conditions at all ages. When Moir writes that ‘healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again’, she is wrong. In fact they do, and it happens scarily often. A week before Gately died in Mallorca, the guitarist from British thrash metal band Evile, Mike Alexander, died suddenly of a brain clot while on tour in Sweden, aged 32.
However, she is right and also with the majority in constructing a character autopsy based on the skeins of rumour and information that we all feel we know about celebrities who hardly any of us ever met or knew anything, really, about. Natasha Richardson was constructed as a darling wife and mother after her unpredictable death earlier this year, and she may or may not have been either. Though toxicology reports consistently refuted speculation that Heath Ledger had died of massive and multiple drug intoxications, the story that the actor had been consumed by his recently completed performance as a disturbed insomniac in the film The Dark Knight, and died in squalor surrounded by pills scattered all over the grungy floor, is the Ledger myth that most people still believe.
It isn’t too strange, then, when Moir does the same, steadfastly refusing to ignore the collateral and bits and pieces of iconography that surround Gately and his death. As she writes, the circumstances surrounding his death were ‘a little sleazy’, just like the hotel-room antics of many Brits who decamp for a week or two to Spain. Gately and his partner brought a Bulgarian tourist back to their room, and the two latter guys (most probably) got into some man-ramming in the lounge area while Gately went to sleep. Sounds like a fun and really quite typical young people’s night out while on holiday in a foreign country.
So Moir is in hyperbole overdrive when she writes that the circumstances of Gately’s death ‘strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’, but again, she isn’t entirely misguided. Plenty of straight married couples and even more straight singletons like to swing and have threesomes and so on while on hot-weather holidays (which is partly why easyJet does such a roaring trade), and so gay couples should be able to do the same thing without specific gay-judgement.
The problem is not with Gately’s and his partner’s behaviour per se but with the deliberate crafting of the gay public image which runs so directly against the relatively normal and fairly harmless but nowadays desperately concealed sex and party lives of many typical gay men – and which Gately had a role in, when he came out very publicly in the 1990s. Moir has no new point to make here, but she is giving air to what many people feel: the rhetoric around gay marriage is way too simplistic, and the shadowing, and in some cases outright denial, of what we all do and what we all know gay men often do too casts a sense of suspicion over the whole thing.
For every time an upstanding young gay in a shirt and tie, with clean hair and skin, makes a public statement about how upstanding he and his domestic partner are, a grainy photograph of George Michael getting happily busted in the bushes of Hampstead Heath at 4 o’clock in the morning is never too far away. When Hollywood screenwriter Dustin Lance Black won an Oscar for penning Milk, he stood on the Kodak Theatre stage and spoke about his parents, his Mormon upbringing, and his nostalgia and hope for the regular American family life. He spoke sentimentally and passionately about the need for gay marriage legislation to be passed into American law. Weeks later, when XXX-rated sex pics taken by one of his ex-lovers were plastered all over the internet, his representatives countered with an indignant legal storm, but it was too late – Black’s Mr Hyde had slipped irrevocably into the public view, and while few begrudged his right to do what he wants with his body in private, many wondered why he seemed at pains to create such a wildly divergent public image around himself as a conservative gay rights activist.
If memory serves, the heir to the British throne was surreptitiously recorded telling his consort that he wanted to come back to earth reincarnated as her tampon while his ex-sister-in-law was photographed having her toes sucked while she sunbathed topless with a Texan playboy. No one – straight or gay – is exempt from having the sleazy details of what they thought were their private lives and discussions hijacked into public view via the tabloid press.
Moir circles close to what she was trying to say when she writes that ‘gay activists are always calling for tolerance and understanding about same-sex relationships, arguing that they are just the same as heterosexual marriages. Not everyone, they say, is like George Michael.’ True, they aren’t – but not everyone is like Prince Charles or Fergie, either. The issue is that a great many are and that trying to make a case that your particular demographic is exempt from such carry-on – and becoming inflamed and indignant whenever anyone dares suggest you and yours are – is precisely what keeps the gay marriage engine stalled on the starting blocks, trapped in futile teenybopper Twitter and Facebook wars about who wrote what in what paper and what a conservative dumb bitch she must have been to do such a thing, and how much we all totes H8 her 4 it.
Mark Adnum is a writer on film based in Australia and editor of Outrate.
Previously on spiked
Wendy Kaminer argued that we need to support academic freedom, even for the intolerant, looked at the gay marriage debate in America and defended the ‘right to hate’. Mark Adnum criticised attempts to add a pro-tolerance message to Brüno. Josie Appleton argued that public debate would be much improved if people stopped playing the ‘offence card’. Emily Hill looked at the way that EU leaders used tolerance laws to bash Russians and Poles Or read more at spiked issue Free speech.
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