Reading all the huffing and puffing about U of T instructor David Gilmour’s recent comments on Hazlitt (‘When I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women.’) I am struck by the amazing hypocrisy of it all.
Gilmour’s remarks are just typical of the racism, sexism and homophobia out there in our culture. What’s the big surprise? Unless of course, you’d like to pretend that David Gilmour is the only person who thinks this way. Why do you think the Toronto Sun put him on their front page? We can try and shut Gilmour down -- but his bespectacled little old lady face wears the ‘what me worry?’ expression found on every proud member of Rob Ford’s loyal constituency. As much as we all profess political correctness in public, many in our society (even professional people of all stripes) still believe that marriage is for straights only, that the East Indians are taking over, and that women who talk too much are just good old fashioned bitches.
But most hypocritical of all are the academics who say things like -- ‘David Gilmour is not a true scholar because he insists on teaching only writers that inspire him.’
Bullshit. If that was true, why would universities spend months looking for an actual Asian person to teach Asian studies, using the argument that only a real Asian person should and can teach it? Why did we all go to graduate school and concentrate on our specialties, writing doctoral theses on subjects like “The Aural Practices of the Tseste Fly’?
I’m not defending David Gilmour. But he’s certainly expressing what most people think about gay writers. I can’t talk about what it’s like to be a female writer or a Chinese writer. But I can tell you what it’s like to be a gay one. You see, David Gilmour prefers ‘serious heterosexual guys.’ Big news flash: most serious literary pundits prefer them too. Women writers may be selling a lot of books these days, but who do we really take seriously?
Take a trip to Key West. You will find Ernest Hemingway’s house lovingly restored, and advertised in Key West tourist brochures. Do you know who else lived and worked in Key West? Tennessee Williams (he wrote a little play called Streetcar Named Desire there). Is his house an historic site? Sorry, no. Can you even find it? (It took me a couple of days on my bicycle to ferret out the place.)
Also in Key West you will find hundreds of bars called ‘Hemingway’s’ or ‘Ernest’s Joint’ in honour of Ernest Hemingway’s fabulous and much admired manly hobby of drinking way too much. You will not, however, find a single bar called “Tennessee’s.’ Furthermore, part of the myth of Hemingway’s much admired masculinity is all bound up with his hard drinkin’ reputation. And how do we remember Tennessee Williams? As a sad, dissipated alcoholic. And what’s the real difference between these two famous addicts?
You tell me.
Gilmour says that he has put two stories by Truman Capote on his course. But all he can say about Proust is he’s ‘very, very funny about human vanity. Particularly gay vanity.’ If that’s the primary thing David Gilmour has to say about Proust then he should never teach the guy. Proust is one of the greatest and most profound writers ever. He deals with all the big issues -- including time, mortality, and the ephemeral nature of love. But let’s face it -- to Gilmour -- and I’m sure to a lot of other people -- Proust was just another homo who sure knew a lot about vanity (we homos are very vain, did you know that?).
Gay writers will never be taken seriously in our homophobic culture. The best they can hope for, is that like -- David Sedaris --they might be praised as master humourists (as long as they don’t mention their homosexuality too much).
Thanks, David Gilmour, for saying out loud what everybody really thinks about gay writers. Thanks for saying that since we don’t procreate we can never do anything other than be ‘amusing ’ -- like Proust, and his fellow funnyman, David Sedaris. I always remember Ian Brown’s comment on Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno in The Globe and Mail, 2009. He and Gilmour are obviously (if you’ll pardon the expression) in bed together, when it comes to the whole gay thing:
“I was on the floor with laughter. If you held a gun to my head and forced me to justify myself, I would say there’s something inherently edgy in the ideal of male on male sex – the primacy of desire, it’s genetic futility – and anything that defrays that tension can be funny.”
It’s true, I’ve always found gay sex pretty amusing, too.
So go ahead. Call us gay writers amusing, flighty, vain, whatever – and by the way, please put two of our short stories on your course, will you? I mean, I guess it’s better than no attention at all.