In this age of political-correctness, many of my generation have been made to feel ashamed that they have not always found it easy to sympathize with elements within our society who call themselves 'gay' - and, speaking for myself, that has definitely been the case - if for no other reason than I deplore the manner in which they hijacked an innocent and unsuspecting word.
More seriously, however, it wasn't until I was well into my twenties that I began to understand that not all homosexual men posed the threat I had imagined. In the 1950s, by the way, it wasn't unusual for young men who completed their national service to experience unwelcome advances from usually older and often higher-ranked colleagues. So - and this might come as something of a surprise to some of today's generation - it wasn't just alter-boys or children who went to boarding schools who suffered abuse in those days.
Going on from that, without much doubt, a mixture of fear and misunderstanding (and the law as it stood, at that time) played a part in promoting a genuine sense of unease when the subject was raised - and this might go some way towards explaining why homophobia is more common in the older generation.
From a purely personal point of view, as the years have passed, for a variety of reasons - not least an occasional association with the entertainment industry - I have met more gay people than most and, as a consequence, become more tolerant in my outlook. That said, I won't deny being uncomfortable with the concept that homosexuality should be a 'lifestyle' choice rather than a congenital issue. Those I've met who fall into the second category are amongst the kindest and most genuine human beings anyone could hope to meet. The same, however, cannot be said of many of the former.
Now, it may have taken me some time to get here, but what has prompted this blog is the current controversy concerning Clare Balding, the well-respected and popular BBC Sports presenter.
Following a a somewhat crude remark about her sexuality by one of his editorial staff, she complained to the editor of The Sunday Times - whose response has been equally controversial.
No reasonable person would disagree that much of what has been written was complete nonsense and I have no intention of adding gravitas to the article or the letter by elaborating about them - except to draw attention to the opening two paragraphs of the editor's letter - where he says ...
"In my view some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status and behave like any other sensible group that is accepted by society.
"Not having a privileged status means, of course, one must accept occasionally being the butt of jokes. A person's sexuality should not give them a protected status."
Quite frankly, I really do fear that some of the gay community may be shooting themselves in the foot with their reaction to his letter. In many ways, their response seems to confirm the point the man is making. Their cause would be far better served, in my opinion, by a dignified silence and, more importantly, persuading their sympathizers to boycott his newspaper.