July 29, 2003

by Joe Sobran

     These are hard times for gay men. I speak with the 
authority of personal experience.

     You see, I am gay. It's just my nature. I've been 
this way as long as I remember. Even as a boy, when I 
watched the dapper, suave comedy of Cary Grant or Fred 
Astaire, I felt I was looking into a mirror of my soul. 
Life should be taken lightly -- that's my philosophy. My 
favorite writer is P.G. Wodehouse. When I hear a Rossini 
overture on the radio, I can't bear to turn it off. These 
are my gay brethren. I've learned to spot them across a 
crowded room.

     I never thought Bob Hope was all that funny, but he 
was infectiously gay. He and Bing Crosby made some of the 
most popular movies ever to star a pair of gay men. More 
recently the fashion has favored black comedy, which can 
be hilarious too; but comedy is best when light and gay, 
without malice and aggression, but that tone is much 
harder to achieve and sustain than most people realize.

     The reason the present age is difficult for gay 
people is that the word "gay" has been appropriated by 
homosexual activists. So real gay men have been driven 
into the closet, afraid to admit they're gay for fear of 
being misunderstood.

     Our unbiased liberal news media have adopted the 
word "gay" in this sense. A headline in USA TODAY 
announces, "Americans less tolerant on gay issues." This 
turns out to mean that a new USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll 
finds that fewer Americans share the attitudes of the 
unbiased liberal media toward sodomy. Why, many of them 
don't think a sexual union should count as a marriage 
unless the partners are of opposite sexes! How intolerant 
can you get?

     We gay people just laugh at this stuff. It's only 
the latest twist in the human comedy: the solemn attempt 
to treat amatory deviance with respect. This is an 
instance of what G.K Chesterton aptly called "the modern 
and morbid habit of always sacrificing the normal to the 
abnormal" -- liberalism defined in a single phrase.

     The regular two sexes are silly enough. But narrow 
it down to one sex, and you've got something only the 
Episcopal clergy could possibly take seriously. And they 
do, of course. The question now before the house is 
whether sodomy should be a sacrament.

     In the golden age of gaiety, the truly gay man was 
easily identified by his straw hat, cane, bow tie, and 
spats. He wouldn't even go to a baseball game without 
them. Even the better sort of homosexual -- a Noel Coward 
or Cole Porter -- was gay. He was at home in urbane 
society, even a witty ornament to it. Bitter alienation 
and "militancy" hadn't come into vogue.

     Gaiety is civilized fun. It may have peaked in 
Gilbert and Sullivan, but American pop culture also kept 
it alive for much of the twentieth century, notably in 
Hollywood comedy and the Broadway musical. It was well 
aware of high culture, but played off it for comic 
effect. It found odd expression in such little gems as 
don marquis's 'archy and mehitabel,' whose episode "pete 
the parrot and shakespeare" Hilaire Belloc called one of 
the greatest comic poems in the English language. (It 
first appeared as a newspaper column, where marquis 
waggishly explained his refusal to capitalize or 

     Gay people have no relish for persecuting 
homosexuals. That's not their style. They have a strong 
sense of the normal, which drives their humor, but by the 
same token they aren't easily bluffed. When the abnormal 
claims to be normal, their instinct is to respond not 
with arguments but with jokes. ("Did you hear the one 
about the straight Episcopal bishop?")

     In an age abounding in official "enlightened" 
nonsense, humor is the revenge of the normal on the 
official. The rude and raucous joke -- political, ethnic, 
sexual, or "sexist" -- has a matchless power to deflate. 
This is why liberals and feminists wag disapproving 
fingers at so many jokes. I often suspect that Communism 
collapsed in large part because of the richly sardonic 
underground humor it bred. "Do the Soviet people eat 
caviar?" "Yes, through their elected representatives."

     So even Stalin couldn't stamp out gay people. 
Neither will liberals, feminists, and homosexuals. More 
powerful than armies is a wisecrack whose moment has 


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