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Posted by eleanor

What? You mean just say it? Out loud? Well, I never...

Ah, euphemisms and snark. There was a time when reporters were happy to be snide. Nowadays, it seems it's just irrelevant to mention someone's homo private life.

And so we have film writer Brian D. Johnson of Maclean's mag mentioning CBC radio host Sook-Yin Lee's ex boyfriend in a piece (not yet online) on Lee's new flick and Cannes appearance.

(Movie gossip first: the CBC threatened to fire Lee in '03 if she took the acting job, given that Lee "performs graphic, non-simulated sex on screen." Er -- "non- simulated." Gotta love bad writing. The CBC backed down after the likes of Yoko Ono and Francis Ford Coppola stuck their noses in. Interestingly, the enviro-god and host of the MotherCorp TV show "The Nature Of Things", David Suzuki, in a Montreal speech that I attended last week, said the CBC threatened to can him a few years ago if he got arrested in a Haida blockade to save a chunk of B.C. forest. So a worried Suzuki skipped the demo; his aged dad went instead, hoping the family name would garner attention. Gotta love the national public broadcaster.)

Back to Sook-Yin Lee. Johnson writes: "What Lee found most 'nerve-wracking' about it all is that she had a boyfriend at the time, a cinematographer. But she was more anxious about it than he was. 'He said, "go make some good art." I'm not with him anymore. I was dumped the same week my cat died.'"

And later in the screed, the cutesy but meaningless phrases: "Lee had declined to attend the "Marie Antoinette" bash. She wanted to hang with her Shortbus crew at the 'Queer Lounge' party just down the beach, an informal crush with a cash bar." Just hanging with the hipster pervs, eh?

More like, checking in with her peeps. Lee was on the cover of Xtra a few years ago as an out and proud bisexual (though that cover story's not online, sadly).

Ya know, this stuff matters. It should be upfront, just like the opposite-sex dating.

Grrrrrr-rump. At least we got some discussion of female sexuality.

In the olden days (meaning for anyone older than me - heh heh), if you knew the lingo, you got the info you needed. "Lifelong bachelor," eh! That was a fave in the dailies. We don't see that kind of code anymore. Now it's less than nuthin'. In the mainstream, anyway. Coverage is all very proper (unless it's about attacking Prime Minister Stephen Harper over media access, in which case the reporters' ego-driven bitterness goes into overdrive. Not that the rest of us care.)

At least there are alternatives to the proper media. The recently resuscitated (and scurrilous) Ottawa-based Frank Magazine was and is the queen of euphemisms. Like "avid pianist." The "coruscating" Frank publisher Michael Bate (he says he likes to send readers to the dictionary -- only to then have them discover they can't sue for being called "brilliant") is unable to recall how "avid pianist" came about in his pages. It's onomatopoeic, he says, "and a good alternative to 'gay.'" Help the lezzie out: there's a penis gag in there somewhere....?

"Avid pianist" first appeared in Frank some 15 years ago, to describe newly ascended Globe and Mail editor William Thorsell, amid suggestions that his new publisher boss didn't know.

Says Bate: "At the time people were outraged that we were outing him. But Thorsell himself wasn't hiding the fact." If so, no one in the mainstream seems to have asked Thorsell, cuz it wasn't in the papers. Did everyone assume silence was best?

Mind you, Thorsell didn't make it into the anti-outing Xtra newspaper in those days, either. I don't recall specifics, but I expect he never returned my call, though he was well-known in the community. Sort of like Canadian cabinet minister John Baird these days -- seen in gay bars dancing the night away, but never to be publicly identified as queer in the papers. Hey, silence is best! Gives people complete freedom to do whatever, in public, without consequences.

Of course, Frank is all about the consequences of getting the gossip out. But once all the insiders know, it's no fun anymore. "We used to have a [regular] Who's Gay cover. Now we should have a Who Isn't Gay cover," sez Bate. Nowadays, Frank's phrases of choice are "confirmed --" or "avid heterosexualist." So I guess Frank's days of queer gossip are over, too. It's the heteros who make the news.

But at least in Frank the queer shout-out happened. In the mainstream, first came snideness, then came earnest acceptance, then came sssshhhhhhhhh! Weird, eh?

Bate isn't sure why the mainstream doesn't seem to report so much on the "who's gay" thing -- Bate says it's not like anyone can sue for that sort of accusation anymore, though he adds that Tory political strategist Guy Giorno once threatened him with legal action over a suggestion of same-sex skin-flute tooting.

Bate's probably right on the legal aspect. A 1994 issue of Fuse magazine recalls a old English decision from 1942, from whence our own jurisprudence comes: "It is easy enough to dredge up historical cases where allegations of lesbianism have been held to be defamatory. For instance," in something called Kerr vs. Kennedy, the judge "asserted that an accusation of 'unnatural relations with other women' was even more abhorrent than an imputation of adultery or fornication. But, as the antiquated language of this case suggests, our courts are always alive to changes in community standards and have insisted that we must consider 'the temper of the times' in determining whether the statement is likely to be taken as defamatory by 'right-thinking people.'" One "leading Canadian text on the law of defamation [notes that] with the dramatic changes in attitudes regarding homosexuality during the past decade, it is difficult to envision any proliferation of decisions in favour of [that judge's 1942] view."

Which brings me to Frank's lesbo insinuations. They're dull dull dull. Boys get piano talk. We get tuna, fish, sushi, munching carpets. Booooooooring. Surely we deserve some better euphemisms, you bastards!

Uhm, there's more than just the gay stuff, of course. Like Frank's "over-refreshed" and "moist and garrulous." The dailies used to be full of "florid" politicians, and the "tired and emotional." Even Wikipedia has an entry on that one: "'Tired and emotional' is a euphemism for 'drunk.' It was coined by the British satirical magazine Private Eye in 1967 in reference to Labour Cabinet minister George Brown, but is now used as a stock phrase; the law of libel makes it unwise ever to directly refer to someone as drunk. Its use has extended well beyond the magazine."

Bate says one description that he's quite pleased about is the Frank-generated nickname for Lord Black of Crossharbour: "Tubby." "That one," says Bate, "really stuck." I've even seen it used tongue-in-cheek in the mainstream media. If only... if only queer sexual orientation stuck, too.


# re: What? You mean just say it? Out loud? Well, I never...
June 2, 2006 4:47 PM
in Britain: Not gay! Not gay! Not gay!

This week has seen a flood of denials from celebrities who’ve ‘suffered’ accusations of homosexuality. The media has reveled in yet another opportunity to suggest that allegations same-sex love are tantamount to mental torture.

Arsenal defender, Sol Campbell has endured five years of homophobic taunts from Tottenham Hotspurs fans, unable to forgive the footballer for switching clubs in 2001.

His former lover, Kelly Hoppen has attempted to end speculation about Campbell's sexuality in an interview with Tatler magazine.
“All that gay rubbish came from Tottenham- he’s the most un-gay person I know,” she told the magazine. [...] Joining the ‘not gay’ trio this week is Prince Albert of Monaco, who’s been the subject of rumours for decades. The fact that he’s a billionaire bachelor at the age of 48 has obviously fuelled the conjecture.

Since the revelation that the Prince fathered two children with separate women, it seems his heterosexuality is now confirmed. This may come as a surprise to thousands of gay men who’ve fathered children [...]

Last, and quite possibly least deserving of sympathy from anyone, is Brit actor, Danny Dyer. The wide-boy sex symbol has denied being gay but admits to flirting with gay men and taking drugs with fans. [...] "It's sweet if you like a bit of cock. You know, I've had me moments. I've had me fucking moments." [...] The actor admits to encouraging Boy George, but fled an awards ceremony after going too far.

"I was flirting with him a bit. I was playing with him. I was kissing him on the lips. But he wouldn't accept the fact I wasn't gay."

*** Oh, for a decent gutter press in Canada!

# re: What? You mean just say it? Out loud? Well, I never...
June 2, 2006 3:00 PM
Oples lady turns a few pages of Maclean's, and find two pages on Rufus Wainwright. He's identified as gay in the first paragraph. But that's okay, you see, because Rufus is *professionally* gay.

# re: What? You mean just say it? Out loud? Well, I never...
June 2, 2006 1:57 PM
And Oples thanks members of the Canadian Association of Journalists listserv for passing on some suggested euphemisms... gracias.