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Take Your Best Shot

June 18, 1995

Thank God for Robert Plunket. His incisive comments about the "gay sensibility" and the "opera queen" as gay archetype, in his April 30 review of Wayne Koestenbaum's "Jackie Under My Skin," serve to remind that gay stereotypes are alive and well in the mainstream press. I don't mean to be a killjoy, but I wonder if Plunket's comments about the "annoying speech patterns" of gay men--regardless of the reviewer's attempted irony--would be acceptable if applied in print to other groups. Why not go ahead and stereotype urban African Americans, the hearing-impaired or newly arrived immigrants?

We seem to understand that people have become a bit churlish when they are offensively characterized. But the prevailing sensibility also seems to allow that when gay men are the target, well, take your best shot. After all, everyone knows that in addition to our innate, God-given ability to accessorize, our wonderfully campy sense of humor allows us to enjoy a good, limp-wristed laugh, especially when it's at our own expense.

CHRISTOPHER EMERSON, LOS ANGELES

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Thank God for straight white males. True, those macho utterances that pass for speech can be a little annoying, but who else would have the time and inclination to write a review of a book and instead launch a diatribe about the author's homosexuality?

I am, of course, being facetious. Robert Plunket, however, was not in his April 30 review of "Jackie Under My Skin" by Wayne Koestenbaum. Plunket provides a textbook example of why so many gay and lesbian writers, artists, actors and other people of accomplishment chose to live their lives in the closet rather than to live openly and have their work reduced to their sexuality.

Plunket is remarkably focused on Koestenbaum's sexuality and seems to take glee in reinforcing stereotypes about gay men, even though "there isn't a chapter about homosexuals in Koestenbaum's book--although perhaps there should have been." Indeed, for perhaps then Plunket would have been surprised to learn that gay men are not all lisping, catty, earring-wearing opera queens.

Regardless of Plunket's weak attempts to demonstrate otherwise, the fact that Koestenbaum may be gay has nothing to do with his book. Readers are not well served when a reviewer uses this platform to air ignorant notions about an author's lifestyle.

Koestenbaum deserves to have his work reviewed by someone who will actually review it , not his sexuality.

JAMES GILDEN, VENTURA

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