Earlier this year, I found myself in a video shop uttering words no self-respecting man should ever have to say.
“Hello,” I said. “My name is Benjamin, and I am here to pick up a copy of the film Beaches—starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey—that my boyfriend reserved earlier today.”
It doesn’t get much gayer than that, I know. Situations like this make me anxious. Because I’m a double-barrelled minority (ethnic; homosexual), there’s often a ticking little voice in the back of my head repeating the mantra: Don’t be a cliché. Don’t be a cliché.
Despite my best efforts though, sometimes it can’t be helped. What can I say? I am an Asian man who loves theme parks and yum cha. I am a homosexual who loves televised awards ceremonies and Meryl Streep.
(Say anything derogatory though, and I’ll report for you a hate crime.)
Like many of my fellow gays, I suspect the anxiety I feel in these moments springs from all the frustrations I felt growing up, watching portrayals of gay men on screen with whom I didn’t identify. Gay men were always presented as mincers and queens, the butt of everyone’s jokes, and that made me uncomfortable. It’s hard to articulate, but I felt these men didn’t represent me properly, or something like that.
So I recently read with great interest as Andrew Bolt—a writer who has encouraged us all to “not insist on the differences between us but focus instead on what unites us as human beings”—blogged about Alan Joyce, Qantas’s now much-maligned CEO. Incidentally, Joyce happens to be gay. Under the headline “Alan Joyce breaks the mould”, Bolt wrote this about Joyce:
What a fine challenge to the notion of gays as effete, flighty and soft—a straitjacketing that limited the media careers of gay friends, keener to talk politics than showbiz. […] Stupid stereotypes. How they kill our possibilities. How they dull our reason.
For a small second, I’ll admit I was genuinely heartened. Thank you, Andrew Bolt! Thank you, Alan Joyce! It was good to know that the gay dream had broadened. How wonderful to know young gay boys all over Australia could now dream to one day become CEOs! Or aspire to be union-crushing millionaires, hated by the majority of the country’s population! Through Bolt’s piece, it was also wonderful to discover Alan Joyce is—quelle f**king surprise—a three dimensional human being, capable of being both a left-leaning homosexual and a ruthless businessman. Who knew gays could be both!
And finally, how excellent for Andrew Bolt that Alan Joyce is (1) openly gay; and—more importantly—(2) not that type of gay. Because to be that kind of gay would be hideous, obviously. Comments like Bolt’s always seem complimentary at first, until you realise they’re so backhanded he may as well have double jointed wrists. Or as @CarpeDylan so succinctly put it via Twitter: