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 A Gay Man’s Manifesto 

July 29, 2003

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.

[Breaker quote: Yes, that's me.]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 punctuate.)

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 come.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2003 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
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