Margaret Wente’s take on gay pride proves that one kind of prejudice is still OK
On a day when North Korea more or less gave up her nukes and the axis of evil was reduced to the axle of evil (and what with the surge going as well as it is, soon Iran will stand apart: a lone beacon of general depravity), there is much to celebrate. And yet somehow the Globe’s Margaret Wente tortures me still. Her subject yesterday: gay pride. Her lead, written in a “mocking” style, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that sarcasm really is the lowest form of humour: “Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. Time to get out the feathers and the leathers and the nipple rings, and celebrate the wonderful diversity that is Pride Day.” Isn’t that clever? By suggesting that gay people—men and women alike—only wear leathers and nipple rings on Pride Day, “folks” like us can safely ridicule them and their “wonderful diversity.” Why? Because deep down inside, they know themselves how silly they all are? Why else would they only dress like that once a year? One thing you can safely say about Wente is that she is clearly unafraid of being either ignorant or stupid. Hell, she embraces it.
She goes on to say that in “an age of limitless individualism, nothing is out of bounds any more. Everybody feels that he or she has an equal right to self-expression, no matter how bizarre. Nothing wrong with that, I guess. But what’s wrong with restraint? Does everyone have to go on Oprah?”
What’s so fabulously lower-middlebrow about Wente is that “I guess.” It suggests that whatever craziness “some people” get up to, at least we all share equally in the right of self-expression. The idea that gays are entitled to that right as a Croix de Guerre born of hard-fought victories over ignorance and stupidity is, for Wente, a little much. In her words, radical expression of any kind is “faintly vulgar.” It doesn’t fit with the common sense of “folks” like her.
Fifteen years ago, I wrote a profile of the overtly gay Kid in the Hall Scott Thompson. I found Thompson got on my nerves, since he was mostly pissed off and, I thought, a little less funny than he might otherwise have been. I was wrong. This was at a time when it was common currency among the American Christian right to refer to AIDS as the “gay plague.” Thompson wasn’t “angry”; he was resolute in the face of abject prejudice. Fast-forward to today and Frau Wente:
Many (actually, most) of my gay friends think it’s all become a bit nuts. They’re not transgressive—they’re bourgeois. They’re weary of the Pride Parade’s tired clichés—the campy drag queens, the naughty costumes, the celebration of sex, sex, sex.
Amazing! If only everyone were as smug and superior as me, then all this lisping madness would just fade away. Oh, and by the way, don’t get me wrong—some of my best friends are gay!
Replace the word “gay” with “black” or “Jewish” and see how you feel about Wente’s common sense then.
• Pride’s just busting out all over [Globe and Mail]