Toronto
3 min

Christie don’t know hairdressers

And she don't know how good we've got it

Credit: Xtra files

Of all the weird shit to come out of the Svend Robinson “ring a ding ding” affair, the weirdest has to be Christie Blatchford’s column in the Apr 17 Globe And Mail.



Svend has a mini breakdown, steals expensive ring, confesses, breaks down on camera. Big deal. In case you haven’t been to a gay bar or out on a date lately, let me remind you: People are strange and they do all kinds of strange things. And no, this isn’t limited to people in high places or people who happen to be gay. It’s just a people thing. Talk to my mother, ask her about the in-laws, she’ll tell you.



But it was a slow news week, I guess, and so every pundit in the country had to weigh in, even if they didn’t have much to say. An interviewer on CBC Radio’s As It Happens asked three long-time pros about the political impact of the Svend affair and to a person, they pretty much said: not much. But hey, it filled a few minutes of air time.



The Globe And Mail’s resident dominatrix Margaret Wente weighed in with a predictable mixture of snappy sympathy, and “Hey bud, get a grip.”



But it was Blatchford who floored me. I’m not a big admirer of Queen Christie. Her prose is as sparky smooth as syrup on a griddle, but her cop-loving, heart-on-her-sleeve, just-plain-folks shtick sticks in my craw. It’s just way too conveniently mainstream.



But if nothing else, I usually figure she’s plugged into the zeitgeist. The woman is nothing if not in tune with the times. And then I read her Apr 17 column and she’s talking about flamers and fabulousness and hairdressers – in the same breath as Svend Robinson. Are we talking about the same person? More to the point, are we living in the same era?



After dismissing the only thing about Robinson that really matters – his intense, passionate, committed, idealistic politics – she goes on to say that she likes him because he was gay and not just gay, but “a certain kind of gay man – melodramatic, theatrical and let’s be blunt here, even a bit of a flamer…. It was rather like having your favourite hairdresser in the House Of Commons: You could be sure that even in the closed, cruel bubble of official Ottawa, there was a guaranteed quotient of fabulousness.”



Whew! Now there’s a blast from the past. Paul Martin is more emotional, Jean Chrétien more of a drama queen, Deborah Grey more of a diva. But Blatchford thinks Svend Robinson – the man in the grey flannel suit, the epitome of the work ethic, the rectitude-ridden idealist, the almost puritanical perfectionist of Canadian politics – is a flamer.



Blatchford is trying to be sympathetic – really – but her view of gay life harkens back to the 1950s, a time when the only visible gay men were properly deferential (read “hairdressers”) and queer was a synonym for suicide, self-destruction and despair.



By the end of the article, she’s even repeated, at length and ad nauseam, the most pernicious and persistent lie of modern gay life – that tired old shtick about how hard it is to be gay and how any sensible soul, given the choice, would obviously choose to be straight. Oh, please, sweetheart give me a break.



Established fags will see through this condescending crap in a flash. What really bugs me is that young kids just coming out might read this dated blather and take it for some version of the truth.



Being gay difficult? Maybe in the southern states, Catholic Latin America, Afghanistan, China or any number of fundamentalist/ fascist regimes. But in Canada? C’mon, straights could only wish they had it this good. Plenty of sex, great friends, a social life that cuts across class and ethnicity, and your choice of lifestyles – everything from skanky slut to domesticated unto dullness. No one’s even ragging you to get married – yet.



True, the transition is difficult. But that’s because coming out is part and parcel of one of the trickiest parts of life. It’s called adolescence and it’s difficult for straights and gay people alike. You have to figure out who you are and who you want to be with, and no matter what you decide, lots of people including your parents are going to disagree with some of your choices. It won’t have much to do with the sex of your partner(s). No matter who you date, marry or fuck – boy or girl, gay or straight – your parents aren’t going to like it. Because, frankly, as my mother never tires of saying, no one is ever good enough for your kids.



But once you make it through that troublesome rite of passage, gay life is no better and no worse than straight life. Okay, let’s not be disingenuous. Gay life is better. In fact, being gay is one of the biggest gifts I’ve ever been given. Without it, I’d probably have wound up as an accountant in Markham.



I wonder if Robinson feels any differently. Surviving 25 years of dedicated public service is difficult. Being gay isn’t.