I recently entered into a discussion about the appropriateness ofhumor about homosexuality in popular media. First, humor is subjective; I have on more than one occassion strongly disagreed with how gay organizations (GLAAD most notably) have reacted to gay depicitions. Still, I understand where the sentiment originates and why people are very sensitive about it.
I think that sensitivity comes from years of unbalanced representation. Most of the earliest American popular media depictions of homosexuals made us into predators or silly nancy-boys, worse than even women, perhaps even negroes. And, of course, very real societal /religious persecution doesn't help exposed nerves and raw sensitivities much.
I do sometimes think that over-reactions or getting up in arms about what I perceive as the wrong things hurt "the cause", as it were; after all, we don't want to show ourselves as the sissies they think we are, do we? There's nothing worse than being a sissy; nothing worse than not being able to take that "playful" punch on the shoulder; nothing worse than crying when the bully beats you up. Real men don't cry.
There is a concern among some of the brethren that we gays are pushing for legislated acceptance. While some may be trying to accomplish that, I don't personally need to legislate acceptance of my gaiety. I do think that a gurantee of my rights needs to be legislated; otherwise, hey, this is America and you are free to hate me as long as you like as long as you grant me my rights.
But really, in this quest for civil rights, do we have to be so uptight that we can't take a joke? We gays are pretty funny, right? The straights will like us better if they can make those hairdresser and interior decorator jokes about us, won't they? (See "not being a sissy" above.) For me, sure, we can joke all around all day if I know that you're in my corner or that you're at least an equal opportunity abuser (and also that I can joke about your secret desire for the lawn boy to blow you).
Recently I was watching a documentary on Don Rickles, a man who has been insulting everybody for the past 40 years or more. Many comedians noted that Rickles can "get away with it" because he applies the insults equally. I'm pretty okay with the fag jokes from him, because, hey, he's throwing it about every other minority (and majority) group. Does Kathy Griffin or Margaret Cho want to crack some gay jokes? Go ahead, they've shown their friend. Dave Chapelle? He takes a crack at just about everyone and does it intelligently (which often is another qualifying element about whether it is funny or tasteful, for me at least), so okay. South Park? Well, that show has offended me on a lot of stuff, so why not add homosexuality to the list.
Speaking of Chapelle, he once commented on the Actor's Studio that he received a lot of flack from his relatives about a lot of his skits and particularly his use of the "N" word. Although it didn't/doesn't stop him, he essentially said he understood their concerns, since sometimes he wants to punch out white guys using the word because they think it's okay since they saw it on TV (and they found it funny). I have a similar reaction; I'll be the first one to make a joke about us gays but damn it, straight boy, you better not say a word.
I've heard the accusation frequently: why can't we take a joke? Why are us gays drowning in a gloomy and unfriendly quagmire of PCiety? But we seem to be one of the few populations that the accusation sticks to (well, us, and women. Broads can be so uptight you know.) Don Imus was thrown off the air for (a very poor) "joke" about black women, and that's one example. Yes, some people thought it was an overreaction, but overall it didn't stick. These kind of "jokes" are not tolerated by society, and generally it is accepted that this is not a being overly sensitive, unless you're talking about the gays, who are, for some reason, perhaps because they're so feminine.
I think the questioning of gays' sensitivity by other gays is actually rooted in the need for acceptance. We may say we don't care if we are accepted, but if so, then why care if somebody lodges a complain we find baseless or unnecessary? Why label it with "whining" or as hyper-sensitive or PC? We do so because we're afraid we'll be seen as different, as a sissy, as not mainstream, as not being able to play well with others, and all of that leads to non-acceptance. If we truly didn't care about what people thought, we'd just ignore what we thought were baseless complaints instead of labeling it as "humorless" or "whining." We so badly don't want to be seen as a sissy.