By the mid ’80-s even the most clueless of cartoonists had started to realise that most homosexuals were not quite the effeminate lipstick-wearing, flouncy sissies they had imagined. Gay cartoonists in gay magazines like “Christopher Street” and “Gay News” had been making jokes before 1980, but those were jokes for the gay audience familiar with the scene. Michael Heath’s “The Gays” strip had noticed fairly early on that there was a distinct new gay identity. Trend-spotter Peter York had an essay about this change in his in 1980 collection of journalism “Style Wars”. The prevalence and flagrancy of the clone, given a few additional touches by way of the leather cop from “The Village People”, would become an easy stereotype for cartoonists for almost the next two decades. Soon it was easy for even the laziest of cartoonists to suggest a homosexual through some combination of: a moustache, an earring, maybe a shaved head or a leather cap, a revealing shirt or string vest, and a bomber jacket. It allows the cartoonist to note that homosexuality is actually about sexuality, but the various elements can be figured to make it all seem a rather silly display (whether you feel that it’s a bit silly already is a whole other matter).
So, just a few, pretty much picked at random:
David Austin in “The Spectator”, 18 February 1984
Another “gay dog”, but now it’s the moustache that confirms homosexuality
“The Gays” by Michael Heath in “Private Eye” 27 July 1984
Is a gay man any more than the sum of his fetishes?
David Austin in “The Spectator”, 8 December 1984
A variant on the “we’re all individuals” line undercut by self-inflicted conformity.
David Austin in “The Spectator” 24 August 1985
Tom Johnston in “The Sun”, 7 March 1987
Pretty much all in one package. The tattoo “Harvey” is there to remind readers of Harvey Proctor, the Tory MP revealed to have had sex with a rent boy earlier in 1987. Kinnock and his two drinking companions are all Labour politicians. But a gay MP is a gay MP.
What would a scary homosexual be? Well just as silly, only larger.
“Are you trying to be funny? Yes we do take heterosexuals actually!”
Charles Griffin in “Daily Express” 6 April 1998
All the traditional effeminate stereotypes about what a gay army would mean. In the parody recruiting poster, all the clone clobber cannot hide inherent nelliness, as the pointing finger becomes a limp wrist. Which never happens in real life, no.
Bill McArthur in “The Glasgow Herald” 9 November 1998
Tom Johnston in “The Sun” 10 November 1998
Cliches about cruising gay men on Clapham Common, inspired by the “lapse of judgement” of Labour MP Ron Davies.
“Matt” in “The Daily Telegraph” 1998
If nothing else, this demonstrates what minimal effort is required to depict a gay cliché.
Dave Gaskill in “The Sun” 24 April 2000
Just your typical gay dad in a scene of congenial domesticity.