I’ve been gigging almost every night for the last few weeks, and while it was fun, I’m now exhausted. I did a stand-up gig in Hartlepool last Saturday, and I had a great time. It was in one of the coolest bars I’ve seen, and the audience were really receptive, if a bit of a handful at times. The other acts were all brilliant, and I feel like I held my own if nothing else.
During my set, I was heckled by a woman who kept telling me to stop talking about being gay, because she didn’t have a problem with it. Hopefully most people reading this will agree with me when I say that if you don’t have a problem with someone being gay, telling them not to mention it is a funny way of showing it. Regardless of the fact she’d been talking throughout everyone’s sets, I was incredibly annoyed by the fact that she took issue with my material, as I’d been in the middle of a joke about sex, which almost all of the other acts had talked about in one way or another, but she’d taken issue with my joke because it was about sex between two men.
I was thrown initially by the heckle, as it was redolent of a recent review I received, which amongst a lot of criticism, asked the question “Callum may well be gay, so what I ask you. So what?” Comedians talk about what they know. I am 21 years old, so I have very little life to look back on, but coming out and facing prejudice are two things I know. I tried to explain that if I didn’t talk about being gay, I’d just be talking about something else, so a specific objection to material about homosexuality can only come across as homophobic.
I think this is symptomatic of a wider trend of covert homophobia, which is best summed up by the phrase “As long as they don’t shove it down my throat”. As well as being integral to countless lazy homophobic jokes, this viewpoint is essentially the gay equivalent of “I’m not racist, but…” Because homophobia is increasingly more socially unacceptable, people need to find different ways to dress their bigotry up so they can still take it to parties. Gays, it seems, should be seen and not heard. As long as people don’t have to be reminded that homosexuality exists, then we’ll all get along just fine.
The fact is that while discrimination, prejudice and stereotypes still exist around gay people, we have every right to make some noise over it. There was a similar outcry over Stonewall’s “Some people are gay, get over it!” advertising campaign. Whilst I have my criticisms of Stonewall and the campaign, the opinion from various right-wing columnists seemed to be that gay people are a powerful minority who are forcing their agenda on the majority. Now we’re getting comfortably into the realms of traditional homophobia. Essentially, this becomes acceptance of LGBT people unless they want rights or a voice, which doesn’t really sound like acceptance to me.
I cordially invite you to join me in continuing to force it down people’s throats, because talking about life, love and sex in the same way that heterosexual people do isn’t forcing a minority agenda on the majority, it’s equality.