banging the effeminate drum

Independent on Sunday Pink List identifies the “101 most influential gay and lesbian” (NB: not bisexual, not transgender, not queer) “people in Britain today.” Stephen Lovely Fry comes in third on the list.

One can’t deny Mr Fry makes gay people look good. Hell, he makes people look good. Aliens from another planet, witnessing Mr Fry as an example of our species, would get a vastly better impression of us than we deserve.

The list also includes a “Rogues Gallery” of people the Independent doesn’t like. Mr Fry blogs about the list and the Gallery, particularly the Roguifying of Louie Spence:

(I’d like to take this opportunity to note that Mr Spence appears to be a spirited adult, high energy, high intensity, high persistence, high sensitivity. He’s also an extrovert. The classic entertainer temperament.)

So what’s the problem? He “perpetuates a stereotype.” Here is not Mr Fry but rather Mr Fry quoting his friend Mr Kim Harris:

[H]ow quickly these cowardly, self-oppressed, social-climbing McCarthyites forget where they come from. If I remember rightly, the whole Gay Lib thing wasn’t engineered by “real” men at all. It wasn’t sponsored by marines or scaffolders or rugby players. It was ignited by…ah, yes: drag queens[…] They should remember Diversity. They should remember Tolerance. They should remember that in evincing a distaste for effeminacy they’re simply making an exhibition of their own misogyny.

Mr Fry himself says:

By singling out Louie Spence for lofty disapproval, by sneering at his “mincing” they are turning their back on, dissociating themselves from, insulting and demeaning a fine man and whole way of being. An authentic, strong, charming and loveable person, every bit as “courageous” as the others on the list, certainly more courageous than me, Louie deserves respect and support, not insult and derision. Do they want people like him not to count, do they see him as being guilty of a choice in his manner and his demeanour, just as homophobes everywhere accuse all gay people of choosing their sexuality and preferences? How dare they of all people dismiss a gay man in a few contemptuous, bigoted phrases because he doesn’t fit the “type” that they think a gay man should exemplify?

And (my favorite part):

The IoS panel who chose to scorn Louie owe him an apology, and they owe an apology to all like him. There was a time when polari and Julian and Sandy and limp-wristed mincing and winking innuendo were all that came between a certain kind of gay man and his pride, his self-respect and his ability to hold his head high in a hostile world. Read Quentin Crisp’s The Naked Civil Servant or watch John Hurt’s glorious portrayal. It is not the only way for a gay man to be, no one is saying it should be, but it is a wholly proper and acceptable manner (not to mention an often loveable and witty one) and to see it traduced with superiority by the very people who should be supporting and endorsing it sickens me.

Did I mention that Mr Fry makes us all look good?

Finally, for your edificiation, a scene from “Naked Civil Servant” that moves me to tears every time. “I learnt many years ago the golden rule of my life…”

(Keep watching after the courtroom scene to see an instance of the very same queen-bashing perpetrated by the IoS.)

There is no right or wrong way to be gay or straight or bi or fluid or queer. There is no right or wrong way to live in your sexual self. I share Mr Fry and Mr Harris’s sentiments: until our celebration of sexual “diversity” genuinely celebrates diversity, rather than perpetuating patriarchal limits of social acceptability, we haven’t really accepted sexual minorities into the mainstream. Equal rights are not fully realized without equal respect.