It shouldn't really be that complicated, but there's a mini-uproar over Graham Norton (a gay, British comedian) being reprimanded by the BBC for making a derogatory comment about lesbians. He said, while pointing a picture of a large woman in a jumpsuit, that she was a "strange lesbian" and implied that lesbians have bad haircuts and are fat. You really have to see it to understand what happened, so the video's after the jump.
Anyway, I've already read half a dozen articles about a "gay man being accused of homophobia." To me it seems more like a case of a gay man being accused of sexism or lesbophobia, since the stereotypes he repeats aren't really so much about sexual behavior but about what defines a proper woman and how women who look different should be treated. As Will & Grace showed, gay men can be plenty sexist.
I also think that part of the problem has to do with certain comedians thinking they're "controversial" and "edgy" no matter what they're saying, in the same way Bill Maher does even when he's just making fun of fat people, one of the least-controversial groups to make fun of. Just look at the way this article on the topic (from the BBC, of course) describes Graham Norton:
There are few subjects off-limits for risque comedians like Norton[...]
Way to pat themselves on the back. Saying unfeminine women are lesbians, and that all lesbians are ugly is so controversial it has to be true.
Anyway, the article does go on to provide some interesting discussion from gays and lesbians in the UK:
But Lucy Masoud, a journalist on Love Girls, which describes itself as a fun website for gay girls, says, in robust terms, that Norton's remarks reflect a wider stereotype perpetuated by some gay men.
"On the gay scene, you do hear men - usually younger gay blokes or older queens - saying they can't stand lesbians, they are all this or that. They're butch, they're chicks with dicks, they're men with fannies.
"But spend five minutes in Soho [an area in London popular among gay people] and you'll see that the stereotype of a typical lesbian is nonsense."
It's an inexcusable attitude but it's human nature to want to feel superior, she says.
"If you're seen as being at the bottom of the pile, you want someone to be further below you. In theory, all minority groups should be fighting together. People experiencing racism should be fighting with gay people and disabled people for equality together."
Within the gay community, there is some antipathy both ways, she says, because some lesbians joke about gay men as promiscuous. She has overheard lesbians who have walked into a gay bar and said 'Watch out you don't get AIDS'.
"How do you respond to something as ignorant as that? It's hugely damaging. All this in-fighting means we are not fighting together for things that are important. People are so apathetic now.
And another insightful comment:
This kind of humour is sometimes expressed by gay men but it's not a serious problem, says Peter Lloyd, news editor of Gay Times and Pink Paper. He thinks it's partly to do with ownership.
"When you have people that are part of a sub-group, there's a certain freedom of expression within that so it's much easier to make comedic references about other people within that community because it's much safer.
"So there's an element of this within the community but ultimately there's a shared level of understanding about our aims and objectives."
But it does have repercussions in perpetuating a lack of visibility of gay women in mainstream society and gay culture, he says.
"It's surprising that there can be sometimes a sense of polarity within the community."
Indeed, there is a sense among gay men that lesbians are gay women, so we can make gay jokes about them and get away with it. On some level, it's true that we will probably get away with it, but does it really help when one of the most visible gay men in the UK is making fun of lesbians for being ugly?
Personally, though, I stay away from the sorts of gays who make these jokes because they're usually insufferable.