I Can See Queerly Now

When the Bravo cable channel announced its two new gay-themed shows — “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Boy Meets Boy” — network president Jeff Gaspin said, “Does this mean that Bravo is becoming a gay network? Absolutely not.”

Technically, he is correct. You could just as accurately say, “California is not becoming a state,” or “Robin Williams is not becoming hairy.” These things are already facts; the “becoming” ship sailed long ago.

Take a look at what airs regularly on Bravo: “Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within,” “Antiques Roadshow,” “Fame,” “Gay Weddings,” “Cher: The Farewell Tour” and frequent showings of “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” If that’s not a gay network, then I have been seriously misinformed as to the qualifications necessary to be a gay network.

I’m sure Bravo will eventually come out of the closet. It will take a deep breath and say, “I’m gay.” And the other cable channels will be like, “Yeah, we know.” Comedy Central will crack some jokes and eventually be cool with it, but ESPN will stop talking to Bravo altogether. ESPN2, with its figure skating and women’s tennis, will start spending more time with Bravo, though it will have to hide that fact from ESPN, which would be very upset to realize its sister network’s orientation. A&E will remain quiet and schedule additional airings of some really manly program in a further attempt to convince people it’s not gay anymore. Maybe it will even propose marriage to Oxygen. Country Music Television will get a bunch of its buddies together and murder Bravo, subsequently telling police that Bravo had been flirting with it. This will later be the subject of a Lifetime movie.

TV has had openly gay characters regularly since the 1970s, and secretly gay characters since the very beginning. (Wally Cleaver, for example, and Lassie.) But entire gay-themed shows are still fairly new, and now Bravo has upped the ante. It recently premiered the first gay dating show, “Boy Meets Boy,” along with the makeover show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” in which five homosexuals help a heterosexual man get his act together in terms of fashion, grooming and mincing. This is invariably to help the guy make his girlfriend or wife like him better, the message being that women like gay men better than straight men, which should not surprise anyone.

“Queer Eye” didn’t bother anyone too much, because it’s about gay things other than gay relationships. “Boy Meets Boy,” on the other hand, raised quite a few unplucked eyebrows. Like “The Bachelor,” it has a man winnowing a pool of suitors down to one final choice. The difference, of course, is that all the suitors are men, too. (Since this is reality TV, there has to be a perverse twist: Unbeknownst to the bachelor or their fellow suitors, an unspecified number of the guys are actually straight, pretending to be gay and competing for a cash prize. In some circles, this is known as “gay for pay.”)

The announcement of this show prompted Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, to remark, “Clearly, they’ve hit a new low. What’s next after ‘Boy Meets Boy’? ‘Boy Meets Sheep’?”

Yes, Andrea. After “Boy Meets Boy” comes “Boy Meets Sheep.” It will be about a man choosing the right sheep to marry, and some of the sheep are secretly wolves, and if he chooses a wolf, it will jump out of its sheep costume and eat the man. That’s exactly right, Andrea. That show is mere months from being developed. You can tell it’s in the works because so many people have been lobbying Washington to repeal anti-animal-marrying laws, and because animal-marrying has become such a major part of our popular culture.

Andrea Lafferty strikes me as the sort of person who needs to be insulted more often. The Traditional Values Coalition Web site, www.traditionalvalues.org, is a treasure trove of unfair generalizations and one-sided arguments — which is their right, I suppose; no one ever said special-interest groups had to report all aspects of an issue. But it seems to me that if you want to rid the world of something, you ought to at least try to understand it first. How else will you know what tactics to use in eradicating it? If I wanted to eliminate all Germans, my first step would be to learn to speak German, and then to figure out what makes Germans tick. I wouldn’t BECOME German, mind you, or even dabble in German behavior. I would not eat strange spiced meats or attempt world domination. But I could at least get a sense of what they’re all about, and that would help me get rid of them. (This is merely hypothetical, of course. The Germans are free to remain living, with my blessing.)

The TVC site shows that the TVC has no intention of understanding homosexuals, or even of treating them like human beings. One article talks about a fetishist orgy being planned in California, and it is clear the writer believes the rather distasteful events planned are typical of ALL homosexuals (and that straight people never, ever have fetishes or get kinky). Another article discusses a sex toys seminar held at University of California Davis. The word “homosexual” never appears in the article, nor is there any indication that gays were the majority in attendance, yet the article appears under the heading “Homosexual Agenda.” Again, there’s TVC’s idea that if something is unusual, sexually speaking, it must be related to the gays.

They complain about the lies told by those behind the “gay agenda,” with one article’s headline saying the “homosexual propaganda campaign” is “based on Hitler’s ‘Big Lie’ technique.” But then the very next article has this headline: “Homosexual sex = death from HIV infection.” Shall we talk about propaganda, sweeping generalizations and untenable conclusions?

To be sure, there are homosexual individuals and factions who give the everyday gays a bad name. I think that somehow, the TVC has taken those to be the norm, rather than admitting that the dangerous and/or aberrant ones are the minority within the minority.

I don’t understand the concept of using hate as a tool. If you want to fight something, fight it rationally and logically, not by flinging invective all over the place. You’re more likely to win that way. But, fight fire with fire, I suppose: Andrea Lafferty, you are a hateful, narrow-minded harpie. Like you, I have a personal list of things I find morally repugnant and offensive. My list and your list actually have a lot of the same items. But the proper way to combat those things is not to manipulate facts, sling slander or belittle the opponents. I’m all for being opinionated, and for making jokes about people who disagree with you. But jokes aren’t the same thing as spiteful misrepresentations.

Andrea Lafferty, take note: They’re here, they’re queer, and you’re a jerk. Just my opinion, of course.

A few little changes had to be made in this column before publication. "Fetishist orgy" was changed in print to say "gay 'party.'" The word "orgy" was out of the question, so we used "party" with the quotation marks around it, and then someone decided "fetishist" was a no-no, too, so it got changed to "gay." I'm not sure what a newspaper would do if fetishism figured prominently in an actual news story, if they can't say that word. Just not cover it, I guess.

Also, "sex toys" got changed to "adult novelties." I had no particular problem with making this change, as I think the two terms convey pretty much the same idea. There's no way "gay 'party'" means the same thing as "fetishist orgy," though. I'm just sayin'.

Finally, this line -- "In some circles, this is known as 'gay for pay'" -- did not make the final cut, nor did I really think it would.