04/10/2008 03:07 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?

According to the TimesOnline on April 2, 2008, arts organizations in Britain applying for grants from the Arts Council "are being asked to state how many board members are bisexual, homosexual, heterosexual, lesbian or whose inclinations are 'not known.'" The reason for this, according to one Audrey Roy (director of grants for the Arts Council and sexual orientation unknown) is that they "see diversity as broader than race, ethnicity, faith and disability." So, too is imbecility.

TimesOnline went on to report a fair number of reactions to this moronic requirement, perhaps the most colorful of which came from Maggi Hambling. "Maggi Hambling, the painter who describes herself as 'queer', said: 'It's insidious, insulting and quite outrageous for the Arts Council to consider anyone's sexual orientation of any kind to be their business. It appears to be somewhat Hitlerian in its suggestion that grants will be given, if among the applicants, there is a nice smattering of dykes and queers.'"

Predictably, many of the comments were of the "this is political correctness gone mad" variety. Sadly, no one quoted by TimesOnline thought to mention that the Arts Council neglected to include a category for "transsexual" or "neutered." Lost in all of the sputtering outrage is the simple fact that any arts organization possessed of so much as a modicum of dignity will aver that the sexual orientation of its board members is "not known." Although "we don't know and we don't give a damn" would be an even better response, the Arts Council appears not to have offered it as an option.

For a number of decades I have argued that three quarters of the idiocy let loose on the world can be summed up by one of two statements: "God wanted me to do it" and "It seemed like a good idea at the time." This falls under the latter heading. Someone in the vast bureaucracy of the Arts Council doubtless fancied it useful to know whether "other oriented" populations were being adequately represented on the boards of arts organizations and, as the night follows the day, the question was included on the grant applications. Forget for the moment that if you are looking for places where bisexuals, homosexuals, and lesbians are under-represented, arts organizations are the last place you would look. Likewise forget about the fact that in the United Kingdom the presence of non-heterosexuals on one's board is considered as a reason to send money, whereas in the United States it is a reason to demand increased Bible study until such deviants are cast out, tarring and feathering optional but recommended.

This has little if anything to do with political correctness, and everything to do with basic mindlessness. Instead of towering rage over the temerity of the Arts Council, it would be wiser to inquire why no one in the organization stopped to ask "What the hell do we need to know this for?" and on the spot squashed it like a bug. No doubt it seemed like a good idea at the time, but "at the time" is defined as "before we had a chance to think about it." The Arts Council has had adequate time to think about it. It ought to withdraw the question immediately and apologize for having asked it in the first place.