They Don’t Seem All That Gay

There are certain topics about which I write that inevitably trigger predictable responses. If I write, say, a defense of Israel, I know I will be called one of three or four obscenities by anti-Semites. If I write a piece bemoaning the fact that 80% of Jewish Americans invariably vote for left-wingers, I can expect to be vilified, not as a conservative, but as a self-hating Jew. If I write disparagingly about Obama, a certain number of readers, taking their lead from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, will condemn me as a racist, and if I write anything in opposition to same-sex marriages, I’m pilloried as a homophobe.

So, naturally, when I wrote and posted “Gays and Grays,” it stood to reason that I’d receive some angry email. What I hadn’t anticipated was that I’d receive a piece of snail mail that would contain a couple of pro-gay propaganda pieces and a third article downloaded from a gay website called Good As You, written by someone named Jeremy Hooper, taking me to task.

The envelope had no return name or address on it, so I couldn’t respond to the anonymous sender. And as the website didn’t entertain comments, I will have to take this opportunity to address Mr. Hooper.

In the article, portions of my original piece were re-printed so that Hooper’s gay readership would understand that I was a bad guy, even though in my article I had written, “I don’t happen to think that homosexuals are bad people.”

Apparently the part that most upset Mr. Hooper was the sentence that read: “What I do find annoying about a great many homosexuals is their insistence on identifying themselves solely on the basis of their sexual activities,” even though the paragraph continued, “To be fair, I have an equal intolerance with heterosexual men whose identity seems to be totally wrapped up in their sexual activities and whose conversation consists of bragging about their conquests. It just strikes me as adolescent.”

My critic also quoted the following three sentences: “As for Gay Pride parades, I can hardly imagine anything goofier. What is it that they’re so proud of? Is it that their sexual activity will never lead to the birth of a baby, but only, tragically, on occasion, to a dreadful disease?”

To tell you the truth, I thought my article was temperate and even sympathetic. But inasmuch as Mr. Hooper and his secret admirer wish to take me on, so be it.

If I am to be taken to task for suggesting that what unites gays is solely their sex lives, they will have to come up with a logical alternative. What else are we to make of their silly parades? In what else are they displaying their pride? It’s certainly not their nation, their religion, not even their personal accomplishments. It’s not like the Irish showing the green on St. Patrick’s Day or a VFW company offering a tribute to their fallen comrades on Memorial Day. The only unifying aspect of a Gay Pride parade is based on the sexual acts they perform together.

Finally, how is it that they ever came up with that childish insult, “homophobe”? It’s bad enough that they are so arrogant that they can seriously insist that anyone who opposes same-sex marriages is suffering from an irrational fear, which is the definition of a phobia, but what are we to make of the first part of the word? After all, for years we have been lectured that the “H” word is an obscenity, every bit as offensive as the “N” word, and yet here they are tossing it around like a beach ball at Dodger Stadium.

Frankly, I’m a little surprised they didn’t go all the way and come up with “queerophobe” or “fagophobe.”

That way, even in denouncing the label as a lie, they could claim we were using vile language to insult them.

I guess the nice thing about being a member of a minority in America is that you can assume the moral high ground even when you’re wading in a swamp.

©2011 Burt Prelutsky. Comments? Write Burt!
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Author Bio:

Burt Prelutsky, a very nice person once you get to know him, has been a humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine. As a freelancer, he has written for the New York Times, Washington Times, TV Guide, Modern Maturity, Emmy, Holiday, American Film, and Sports Illustrated. For television, he has written for Dragnet, McMillan & Wife, MASH, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Bob Newhart, Family Ties, Dr. Quinn and Diagnosis Murder. In addition, he has written a batch of terrific TV movies. View Burt’s IMDB profile. Talk about being well-rounded, he plays tennis and poker... and rarely cheats at either. He lives in the San Fernando Valley, where he takes his marching orders from a wife named Yvonne and a dog named Angel.
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  • Ron Kean

    I understood that it was the communists who put first put people in mental institutions if they disagreed with communism.

    After that it was common that if you disagreed with an ideology you were deemed mentally ill to that group or stigmatized by being called ‘…phobic’.

  • Sherry Nye

    As always, I agree with everything you say in this column! You are right on the mark. What are they marching about? I certainly don’t go around advertising my sexual preferences. Who cares?! Thanks for speaking up for a vast majority of us.

  • Jay

    In homosexual love the passion is homosexuality itself. What a homosexual loves, as if it were his lover, his country, his art, his land, is his homosexuality. -Marguerite Duras

  • Burt Prelutsky

    Robin in Florida–I never met Raymond Burr, but I was on the writing staff of “Diagnosis Murder” with Joel Steiger, who was a writer-producer on the “Perry Mason” TV movies, and I was a friend of the late Don Galloway, who co-starred on “Ironsides,” and both men, who were each heterosexual, raved about the kindness and professionalism of Mr. Burr.


  • robin in fl

    I think i agree with almost everything in this colum.
    I am tired of having to ‘label’ everything with a word as in homophobe or racist just because a person has an opinion.
    why the need to over emphasize ones sexuality??/i don’t care who’s gay or who’s not.BUT i don’t need nor want a persons sexuality thrown in my face as if I should care.Your gay or what.?? either way shouldn’t that be a private matter who you have sex with (unless of course it’s with a child or an animal, in which case it’s just plain SICK IMO)

    I remember when reading about the actor from long ago, Raymond Burr AKA Perry Mason after his death ,his long time companion ,yes a man,was speaking about him and their long time relationship. I had no idea Mr Burr was a gay man..He was a class act that kept his private life private and that was that.I didn’t like him any less when I found out he was gay.
    If i dislike or disagree with someone who happens to be black or gay or whatever(and in some cases just average white guys or women) I really don’t need labeled as any kind of ‘hater’ just because I have my own opinion of something they say or do…

  • Terry Walbert

    The title “Gays and Grays” is misleading. At first I thought it was about homosexuals in the South during the Civil War. This is the 150th anniversary after all.

    Seriously, you are right in calling attention to the moronic identification of a diverse group of men and women as “gays.” Can you imagine anything more ridiculous than a Straight Pride Parade or a Coffee Drinkers Pride Week?

  • drdanfee

    Well, just to get empirical for a moment, about six decades of research demonstrates that a dimension or domain of human personal and behavior is called, for want of a better term right now: sexual orientation. This domain or dimension is not a category but a continuum, so far as the data suggests. This means that straight folks, queer folks, and all relatively differentiated bisexual folks in between are all noting something very similar in their inner psychological lives, their outer social and relationship lives, and their varied engagements with enduring institutions, public policy, and law. The problems with human sexuality as a part of our shared yet highly individualized persons stem from our widespread sex-negative society … negative enough to even use sex an an advertising hook while still being shameful enough that a good many people cannot talk about real sex, either with their most beloved partner, or with a health care provider. Queer folks do not necessarily based their entire lives around a narrow and confining understanding of sexuality, any more than most straight folks do. People who talk about nothing but sex acts, scoring, conquests, and sexual anatomy sound boring after a while, because the sexual-sensual-erotic point gets lost quickly. It seems all humans are oriented towards relationships, even so far as sex is concerned. UC Santa Cruz social psychologist titled his well known text, The Social Animal. What wider grounding is commonly assumed for human sexuality? Easily, and by what seems to be a very large margin of cultural and human global opinion? I suggest the familiar lexicon of love, affiliation, care, self-giving, and pair-bonding. Only a homophobic and sex negative milieu automatically translates all mentions of sex or sexuality by and among queer folks (or bisexual folks, for that matter) as nothing but the narrowest, most boring, and need I say, obsessive focus on genitals as beauty pageants and sex acts as arm wrestling competitions (which prove manhood?).

    Story goes: An Asian American professor at Boston University was once asked why he so often spoke of the goods and the struggles of being Chinese American? Because, he answered, nobody ever lets me forget that I am Chinese American.

    We live in a transition time, thankfully, yet so far it is indeed difficult to completely forget that one is queer or bisexual, as it may happen to be. In any moment when you suddenly find yourself facing some barrier to an opportunity or human resource that your straight siblings just take for granted as their own, you have to pause, recall that you are not straight after all, so these barriers exist and still have to be resolved in some fashion.

    The modern understandings of queer folks or bisexual folks have never quite existed before in any known human civilization of record in exactly the ways we mean, now, so far as we can tell. That is, folks are inventing themselves in certain ways.

    Indeed a whole larger cultural domain is quickly coming into existence, with more and more feedback loops operating across the whole spectrum of sexual orientation and daily life. Not least, we have increasing access to empirical information about sexuality that was never known before in the contemporary way. A New Biology is now dramatically shifting our whole understanding of what it means to be persons, embodied. That New Biology will only more strongly dramatize the shifts and changes in what the human body is, how our bodies really function (not least, our brains?), and thus … what sexuality, sensuality, and lots else that pertains to us as humans who are indeed social animals, really means.

    The underground trend setting that LGBTQ people sometimes exercised in the bad old days of the Really Big Closet are more openly on display, for better and for worse.

    Hooters no more completely exhausts the meaning of exclusively straight sexuality, than some of the sex displays most often cited as representative of any and all non-straight folks by commenters on the traditional or conservatives ends of the blogosphere spectrums. (Another continuum, not a set of categories?)

    Meanwhile, it can be a delayed game to stay caught up on how fast things are changing, even in the sensibly familiar yet changing areas of all the human sexual and sensual lives being lived, all around our planet. If none of the research were ongoing, just the global phenomenon of HIV and AIDS would have dramatically shifted our attention to sexuality?

    If the human mammalian bodily processes of, say, the fundamental sexuality cycles (desire, arousal, orgasm, resolution) have not probably changed all that much for very long centuries in human and planetary evolution, it is also quite clear that the meanings via which we humans almost compulsively need to understand and construe and experience sex … have changed, and are changing.

    Dare we hope, for the better, generally speaking?

  • Clarence De Barrows

    What aggravates me most about those of the peculiar bent is that they appropriated and skewed up the meaning of a perfectly good word.

  • John Sullivan

    Most every “rights” activism relies on outrage and anger. The only way to keep their push alive is to present most of those who are not entirely on board or outwardly (verbally?) sympathetic as hatemongers or angry people to keep the ‘faithful’ stirred up. For me it explains why black activism is so aggressively anti-conservative (attacking conservativesn of color), for if they accept the message from many of those, they will have to also accept the real progress they so desperately want to deny.

    So, like so many ‘activists’, I assume Mr. Hopper spends most of his time searching for, if not concocting to a degree, items to incite action. Little time is spent on the positive messages associated with progress.

    You are either ‘with us or against us’ seems to be the totalitarian mantra of most of those efforts. Partial empathy or concurrence is as bad as none at all in achieving their view of the goal.

  • Steve

    Everything about which you write in this column is about tolerance, or, more accurately, the lack thereof. You and I are perhaps two of the few remaining people on this planet who believe that tolerance is a two-way street. The people who reduce themselves to name calling (racist, terrorist, homophobe, etc.) to “debate” their cause are simply demanding that which they refuse to give . . . tolerance. Therefore, I long ago decided that I will only tolerate the views of those persons who also tolerate my view. They don’t have to agree with me, but they must show as much respect for my view as they demand I show to their viewpoint. Otherwise, I will have no tolerance for their demands for tolerance. The name calling they automatically resort to only underscores and amplifies the fact that they’ve run out of viable and substantial debating points and you and I have won the debate. Hmmm, I guess that makes them losers, too.

    • ray snowden

      Great comment. I had never thought of it that way. I do understand that the arguer who resorts to name calling automatically loses at that moment. Of course trying to explain that point to that person is a waste of time. In the end though, our best hope is to help reasonable people see things form a better perspective. You have done that. Great job.

  • Neal Angel

    As accusations of racism, islamophobia, homophobia, etc., etc., explode on today’s political landscape, their attempts to gain the moral high ground are actually having the opposite effect. Average Americans simply roll their eyes in disgust as invectives are hurled by the likes of Sheila Jackson Lee, Maxine Waters, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, et. al. These people have become nothing more than cartoon caracitures of civil rights heroes like Martin Luther King. They champion their own pet causes in order to extort personal bounty, while reducing real civil rights abuses to the realm of personal slights. The next time I am called a racist for opposing them, my response will be “Do you need me to be your racist, Jesse? OK, I’ll be your racist. So what’s your point?” When these people realize that crying wolf no longer has its intended effect, they’ll be reduced to arguing their case on the merits, and not on personal threats. That moment will be the tipping point in political debate.