Some of my best friends are gay — but now I can go one better than that: one of them is HIV positive.
Some of my best friends are gay — but now I can go one better than that: one of them is HIV positive. ‘But that’s brilliant news!’ I told my friend when he spilled the beans the other day. ‘Now I can go round claiming victim cred by association. And if anyone makes an Aids joke I can be, like, seriously offended and put on a solemn voice and say: “Actually, you know, if you had an HIV positive friend like I do…”.’ My friend agreed that being HIV positive was a very handy thing to be, in this respect. But on further consideration, we decided it would have carried more victim cred weight in the days before anti-retroviral drugs when a) it was a death sentence; and b) being gay won you many more oppressed-minority brownie points.
Personally I blame Ken Livingstone. Remember in his 1980s GLC days how shamelessly he courted the pink vote with his taxpayer-funded gay parades and lavish grants to any organisation run by crop-headed women with dungarees and CND badges? Well that all ended when he worked out there was more electoral mileage in shamelessly playing up to the prejudices of his Islamist constituents instead. And clearly, much as Ken might have liked it, you can’t court both minorities at the same time: not when one of them thinks the only suitable fate for the other one is to be thrown off a high rock, hanged from a crane or buried under a wall.
Maybe there’s some connection between these socio-political shifting tides and the fact that the majority of my most deeply sound right-wing friends (though not, I don’t think, my new mate Lord Tebbit) are gay. Probably not: as far as I know they were all born right-wing, not made. Then again, when I put my ‘Are gays turning more right-wing?’ hypothesis to one of them, he thought there was definitely something in it. ‘Because we have one less layer of skin, we’re more sensitive to the way the wind’s blowing,’ he said.
Not all the gay men I know are quite with the programme, yet. My old mucker Stephen Fry has yet to send me any emails saying: ‘Stap me vittals, Jimbo, you are so right about everything — and don’t I half feel a silly billy for having doubted your politics all these years.’ And obviously, there’s no hope whatsoever for the impossible Johann Hari who, even as the wall is pushed on top of him, will be squealing with his last breath that it’s all the fault of Western imperialism and white heterosexist Islamophobia. Generally, though, I think even the most obtuse homosexual male has realised that the Oppressed Victimhood party is, like, so totally over.
But how can this be when — anecdotally, at least, there are no official figures — gay bashing is on the up? This is what Nicholas De Jongh disingenuously asked in the Evening Standard the other week, ignoring the quite enormously vast elephant sitting in the middle of his dressing room. Hmmm, now let’s see. Is this surge in homophobia the result of a glut of English literature graduates reacting badly to Maurice? Or maybe, part of the great Elton John backlash? An increase in testosterone in the drinking water supply? The shrinking of the Royal Navy? Nicholas Boles?
No wait. Just a theory, this. I don’t want to be the second Speccie writer this year to be hauled up before the PCC kangaroo court but I wonder — might it be that there are certain ‘communities’ in Britain that believe the only good ‘batty boy’ is a dead ‘batty boy’? And certain other ‘communities’ where at their, ahem, places of worship, preachers project images of homosexual men onto screens in an amusing game they call ‘Spot the Fag’, while others, more forthright, urge their flocks simply to execute them. Could it be that an unfortunate side effect of New Labour’s otherwise wondrously enlightened policies on immigration and multiculturalism is that one of its hitherto most loyal constituencies has had to be thrown to the wolves? Yes, even that nice Michael Cashman who used to be on EastEnders.
If I were gay, I think I’d feel a bit miffed about this. It would be a bit like having your Uniqlo 20 per cent press discount card withdrawn or being told that now your favourite club’s under new management you can no longer jump to the front of the queue. But I’m afraid homosexuals are going to have to get over it in much the same way Jews have had to get over it. It’s weird to think, now that the default intellectual position is to believe that Israel is a criminal state with no right to exist, that there was a time, really not so long ago, when society felt that Jews were a minority worthy of sympathy and protection. Anti-Semitism was generally frowned upon; Jews could get very touchy about any perceived slight, and when they did, their complaints were taken seriously. Not any more.
In an odd way, though, I think this process has done both Jews and homosexuals the power of good. Obviously, I deplore the way they are persecuted, but you only have to look at how the cult of victimhood has sapped the strength of so many ‘ethnic communities’ in guilt-ridden Western cultures to realise that, actually, playing the oppressed minority card is ultimately self-destructive.
As you know, I’m quite massively philo-Semitic. The only time I’ve felt the opposite is when I’ve heard Jews — incredibly rich, successful, Hollywood-producer types, say — talking about how tough they’ve had it as a result of society’s inbuilt anti-Semitism. In much the same way, if there’s one thing that ever makes me want to vote BNP, it’s when I hear a black person playing the race card or a Muslim talking about Islamophobia.
Of course, I understand why these people do it. It’s a tough, competitive world and if pleading victimhood can give you that extra edge, well, why not? Also, let’s be honest, it can be tremendously good fun working oneself up into a lather of indignation over some perceived slight — and what is more satisfying than doing so on behalf not merely of yourself, but of the entire black/gay/Jewish/disabled/female/Muslim ‘community’?
The problem is that when you play this game, you are not only undermining your own cause — think, for example, of how much funnier black comedians are when they don’t project guilt-trip vibes about their skin colour: Chris Rock, say, or Reginald D. Hunter — but you are also contributing to the moral and intellectual degeneracy of the broader culture. You are endorsing a bizarre, sick value system which rewards people not for their strengths but for how useless and feeble and needy and bitter they can prove themselves to be.
This is why my HIV-positive gay friend, despite our little joke at the beginning, would never dream of playing the victim card, even if that option were still available to him. He enjoys the hugely successful career he has today not because of his sexuality nor because his HIV status makes him probably unsackable, but simply because he’s hard-working, clever, talented and funny. You’d never know he was gay if you met him. Why should what he fondly calls his ‘perversion’ be any business of yours?
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated April 17, 2010