Oh My God! They Look Just Like Us!

The New York Times, which recently tried to homo-fy two guys socializing by calling it a “man date,” continues on its vein of mild heterosexual panic with an article that frets that thanks to heterosexual men deciding it’d be okay not to be a slob every once in a while, and gay men occasionally not giving a crap if their stubble is exquisitely sculptured, it’s getting harder to tell the gays from the straights. The horror! The sheer, unadulterated, sexually-ambiguous horror! And if we can’t tell the gays from the straights, then the bisexuals are really up the creek, aren’t they? Simultaneously wearing a too-tight ribbed tank top and relaxed fit Wranglers won’t mean anything anymore.

These sort of articles make me want to smack the Times upside the head and yell at it to try its hand at actual news again, you know, for a refreshing change. I hear there’s a war on. Secondly: This is a bad thing? We live in an era in which an active quorum of religious bigots would quarantine gays into concentration camps if they could (“It’s just like Guantanamo — only fabulous!”), and the Times is snarkily concerned that we can’t simply visually identify the gay guys anymore? Hell. I’ll happily wear a leather armband if it’ll flummox a hateful Bible-wielder. And I’ll let a gay man borrow my Wal-Mart purchased t-shirt, just to really throw them off. He can’t be gay — that shirt is 40% polyester! Yes, the gay can blend. Just like polycotton.

You know, when I was younger, a lot of people, including members of my own family, vaguely suspected I was gay. Why? Well, all the cultural indicators were there. During high school, I had an overly-dramatic crush on a particular girl which kept me from dating other absolutely wonderful girls even when (on occasion) they were standing right in front of me, waving their hands about and saying “Hey, look over here.” Professing to have a long-standing crush on an unapproachable girl, is, of course, very teen gay. So is being verbally clever, slight of build, an active participant in singing and theater groups and enjoying Depeche Mode on a regular basis.

And I took dance. Modern and Jazz. Oh, yeah.

Add it all up and I was queer to the friggin’ core. The only thing that really pegged me as possibly being in the heterosexual camp was that I was a freakin’ slob and that in addition to enjoying Depeche Mode I was also a big fan of Journey. But as anyone can tell you, gay teens compensate for their queerness by doing things like, you know, picking a random corporate rock band to obsess over, hopefully one with a moderately cute lead singer. In my era it would be Journey. 10 years later: Creed (Today: Well, hell. All those new rock bands seem pretty sexually all over the map, don’t they? Have you gotten a gander at, say, Franz Ferdinand?).

So: On paper, as a teen, pretty darn gay. And yet, right through to the monogamous institution of marriage, heterosexual right down the line (it’s a short line, I’ll admit). Also, I’m not afraid to say it: As a general rule, I like me the women. In theory I accept the possibility that some guy out there could get me emotionally quivery and physically all winged-out, and I wouldn’t be all angsty about it if happened. But you know what? Hasn’t. Whereas women distract me all the damn time. I’m good with this; for one thing, simply as a practical matter, it’s caused me far fewer headaches than the alternative. I am appropriately thankful that I and my life partner have our relationship recognized by everyone as being a marriage, and that there are no exclusionary dickheads hiding their pissy fears behind a Bible and telling us we’re going to burn in eternal Hellfire for loving each other and defining ourselves, with our child, as a family. It’s one less thing for me to deal with personally. Would every couple were as fortunate as we.

(It doesn’t seem likely people would confuse me for being gay anymore, what with the wife and child and rural red-state lifestyle and the Wal-Mart clothes, but if they did, you know what I would think? Good. Here in the US, gay is the new British, which is to say that if people think you’re gay, they also think you are smarter, wittier, and more fun to be around than the average guy. Sure, you sodomize other men on occasion, but that’s your business, and we Americans always suspected British men had sodomy as a required subject at Eton. So it’s all the same, really. And in the meantime you always say the perfect thing at the perfect moment. You’re more entertaining than cable! And what could possibly be wrong with that? If people know you’re a straight guy, on the other hand, they automatically think you’re a beef-witted social dullard in a Linux shirt hoping to delude some poor woman into accepting a sperm packet or two. In a word: Eeeeeeew. I blame Queer Eye for the Straight Guy for propagating this “befuddled pathetic straight guy” meme, but since the New York Times tells us it’s getting harder to tell the queers and straights apart, at least it’s on its way way out.)

Point is: the gay/straight cultural checklist utterly failed to predict my overt and flagrant heterosexual proclivities. And I don’t doubt that even now, somewhere in my sleepy Midwestern burg, there’s a guy flying a NASCAR flag, wearing a John Deere cap and owning a pickup with a “W ’04” bumper sticker who is trying to decide if he should go see Mr. and Mrs. Smith yet again to enjoy his recommended daily allowance of Brad Pitt, or if he should just stick Troy into the DVD player, and catch Brad in his buff, half-naked, remote-control-pausable Achaean glory. In the real world the dividing line between gay and straight doesn’t exist anywhere but in the mind and in the bedroom. It’s vaguely appalling that the writers and editors of the New York Times don’t actually get this.

Actually, I’m sure they do. But they have newshole to fill. Well, like I said: Rumor is, there’s a war on.

48 Comments on “Oh My God! They Look Just Like Us!”

  1. All right. I admit it. I like girls. I’ve always liked girls. Somehow I knew when I was a kid I liked girls despite being in drama club and often being the only guy in high school to go out on the dance floor by the second song.

  2. John, didn’t you know it is SO GAY to:
    (1) keep reminding the media that there’s a war going on
    (2) to do your daily exercise to Dance Dance Revolution
    Or it least it was the last time I checked the wikigaydia (come to think of it, wikis are SO GAY.)

  3. I’m certainly willing to accept that exercising to Dance Dance Revolution isn’t exactly straight. Especially when you occassionally let your arms go above your shoulders, as I do.

  4. Gay is the new British

    John Scalzi has a hilarious post calling the NYT to task for its, as he puts it, “mild heterosexual panic.” It doesn’t seem likely people would confuse me for being gay anymore, what with the wife and child and rural red-state lifesty…

  5. What’s the world coming to?

    I guess it won’t be long before they start handing out pink triangles (and yellow Stars of David) to spot them from a distance…

  6. “He can’t be gay — that shirt is 40% polyester! Yes, the gay can blend. Just like polycotton.”

    Yet another excuse for the Leviticans to hate/fear/persecute homosexuals: they mix fabrics too…

  7. You should write the Times and tell them your thoughts. You are more coherent than most and so are more likely to be able to get your opinion through their thick skulls.

    The first 2 paragraphs are great for an actual letter to the editor. The rest, while entertaining and accurate, less useful to the editor. Think about it. Tell them what you think about their ‘content’.

  8. I just sent the comment about gay being the new British to my English husband, demanding why he never TOLD me about that particular subject at Eton. I swear, twelve years of marriage and I have to read about this on a blog. . .

  9. To my parents… my gay-warning signs were even worse than John’s…

    “deviant” nightclubs
    long-hair yet not a hippie
    occasional fingernail polish
    eye makeup when “going out”
    occasional skirt-wearing
    invisible dating life

    But, in ways that are similar to John’s… I don’t doubt my heterosexuality, because there’s a difference between a logical acceptance that Brad Pitt is like… so totally hot, and the re-adjustment of blood-flow that attends the better dancers at a strip-clib.

  10. And Alice Eisenberg, who works the door at several New York gay bars, said her supersensitive gaydar remains infallible. Last weekend she surprised onlookers when she stopped a gay-vague guy, complete with a fedora, in line at the Boys Room, an East Village bar, asking him, “You know this is a gay bar, right?”

    -Having finally read the article in question… this is the part that offended me.

    Because… some woman decided it’s not right for a straight guy to come to a gay (men) bar. Who’s more out of place here? The well dressed guy, or the fag hag?

  11. You know, I was in that showtunes-listening, not-quite-dating, verbally clever, long-haired everybody-thinks-I’m-gay demographic in high school, and now I’m married (to a woman) six years, with a child and all, and maybe it’s just that I never met the right man…

  12. Is it fair to say that society punishes any sexual aberration that tries to mainstream itself? (Sexual aberration defined as: anything that deviates from the man/woman monogamous model)

    You once wrote a Whatever column that took a jab at people are “polyamorous”. (“I hate your politics.”) I thought it was funny, but what if you had substituted in the word “gay”? Then you would have been labeled a bigot. But making fun of swingers is ok–just don’t, for heavens sake, call someone a “fag.”

    And what about heterosexual men who patronize call girls and escort services? Both they (and the women who provide such services) are legally discriminated against. Why can’t they have equal rights, too? (As long as only consenting adults are involved)

    While we’re at it, there are some people who think that marriage between three consenting adults should be allowed. Why not, if marriage between two men is now permissible?

    My point is: why are gays–and only gays–such sacred cows? Polygamists, prostitutes, and swingers all face similar discrimination, whether by law or by social ostracism.

  13. Sounds like the NY Times has adopted Homer Simpson’s motto:

    “I like my beer cold, my TV loud and my homosexuals flaming.”

  14. Todd J:

    “Polygamists, prostitutes, and swingers all face similar discrimination, whether by law or by social ostracism.”

    I would make a distinction between people who are gay/poly, and folks who are prostitutes/johns and swingers. Gay/poly is about more than sex, it’s also about relationships, whereas prostitution/swinging is mostly about the sex, and the economic/entertainment aspects thereof (presuming, as you suggest, everyone’s a consenting adult).

    Also, re: swingers, I’m not entirely sure there’s much legal ostracism there, at least in its casual form, since swinging is about sex, and by and large as a matter of law anyone of consenting age can have consensual sex with anyone else of consenting age and no one can say “boo.” It’s possible that recreational sex enthusiasts are socially ostracized, but in its informal form, I’m not entirely convinced about that.

    As to why gays are sacred cows and the others not: Well, probably because there are several million of them in the US, they’re reasonably well-organized and powerful, and they’re integrated into the social fabric (i.e., everyone knows someone who is gay). Whereas in my opinion poly relationships, prostitution and organized swinging are far more culturally fringe and fewer of their participants are willing to “come out” about it. You can’t be a sacred cow unless you’re willing to put yourself on the altar.

    Personally I don’t care who marries whom or who pays whom for sex, but as a practical matter I think that the issues of gays and lesbians are more urgent at the moment, not the least because there’s currently a concerted push to legalize discrimination against them and deprive them of rights they already legally have.

  15. Thanks for your response, John. My wife and I have been involved in swingers organizations here in Ohio for a while. The police have raided our facilities on several locations. I am not sure where we stand in terms of numbers, but our members include individuals from all walks of life–just like homosexuals.

    As for call girls and their clients: I was involved in an organization out in San Jose that was working on legalization. Once again–I can tell you that the people involved in this “lifestyle” are far more diverse than you would imagine. Why don’t more of them “come out”? In terms of legal oppression–they now face the same degree of legal discrimination that gays did in the 1950s. It is at least legal to admit to being gay. If you admit to being a call girl, they police will ruin your life–I have seen it happen myself on more than one occasion.

    How does this relate to gays? I think that the same people who want to persecute me also want to persecute homosexuals. The issue is sexual/lifestyle freedom vs. right-wing oppression. When people speak against “racism” they generally define the argument in broad terms. They don’t say that racism against blacks is bad, but racism against Asians is OK, because of a.), b.) and c.). If only alternative lifestyles advocates could have the same degree of unity.

  16. John — excellent, excellent post. I truly enjoy coming to your site every day, hoping there’s something new (and there usually is!).

    I too have heard there is a war on.

    Would deeply enjoy seeing you write a post on that topic.

  17. Just to point out — gay marriage has to be legalized before polyamorous marriage (that’d just be polygamy, then, huh?) could be legalized, unless there’s a third gender none of us know about yet.

    Where was this column (since I’m too lazy to look) coming out against polygamous/polyamorous folks?

  18. Emily:

    “Where was this column (since I’m too lazy to look) coming out against polygamous/polyamorous folks?”

    There isn’t one; it was just an offhand comment in my “I hate your politics” column which commented that many libertarians are poly and hope you are too, but they also tend to be out of shape, which takes some of the fun out of it.

    Other than to note that it seems highly unlikely I will ever find myself in one, I have no strong opinion, positive or negative, on poly relationships. They work for some people, and good for them.

  19. So is it wrong for me to jokingly refer to going to the movies with my friends as my “man-date?” I didn’t even read it in the article! I just coined it a few months ago and thought it was funny.

  20. As long as you’re doing it with ironic intent, go for it. If you use the term seriously, we’ll have to beat you.

  21. Whoever wrote that Times article should come to Japan for a visit and walk downtown in ANY mid- to large-sized city…men in pink shirts, men in flowered shirts, men in pink flowered shirts….lots of hair styling etc. as well. As a whole, I’d have to say Japanese guys are way better dressed than most North American men I’ve met (except for my gay male and/or artist friends).

  22. Swingers are the Wal-Mart version of polyamory. I don’t mean that as a putdown.

    I’m bummin’ that lesbian chic was such a flash in the pan.

  23. Despite the fact that you bashed Gene Loves Jezebel a few years ago, I think you just might be my hero.

    As an extremely out gay man that lives in Manhattan, I was stunned to learn that, according to the Times, I am apparently completely heterosexual. This, from our “paper of record.”

    I would like to second the idea of you sending some form of this in as a letter to the editor.

    Thank you for being an intelligent person. In my point, what you say is very obvious, but unfortunately most people just don’t “get it.”

  24. The only problem with your original post is that you assume all religious people want to cart off the gays to Gitmo.

    We are too late! Atheistic nuts (Castro and the boys) have already locked up all the gays in Cuba in Gitmo like circumstances. Except they are real gulags, and not swank pads like Gitmo.

  25. ZMW:

    “The only problem with your original post is that you assume all religious people want to cart off the gays to Gitmo.”

    The only problem with this comment is that you somehow assume the phrase “an active quorum of religious bigots” equates to “all religious people,” which it certainly does not. If I wanted to refer to all religious people, I would have used the words “all religious people.” See, being a writer by profession, I’m pretty good at writing what I mean to write.

    Re: Cuba — I’m not entirely sure how the actions of Castro excuses or mitigates attempts by religious bigots in this country to turn gays and lesbians into second class citizens. Also, if you honestly believe Gitmo to be “swank,” you’re clearly a damned fool.

  26. John, do you have any normal hetereo guy buddies? Because I got from your post that you seem convinced that all hetereo guys are knuckle-dragging unevolved dumb slobs in comparison to gay guys who are more intelligent, polished, fun, etc.

    Or maybe you were layering on the irony so thick I’ve taken you too literally. I hope that’s the case.

  27. You’ve taken me too literally, Lycan. I know plenty of perfectly charming and smart straight guys. Heck, some of my best friends are charming, smart straight guys.

  28. Reviewing the time I posted the comment 1:09am, I must have been brainslow. I shouldn’t blog past midnight anymore.

  29. i think the main legal difference between gay and poly or other lifestyles is that the equal rights issue is easier to define for a monogamous couple. since “heterosexual” polygamy is illegal too, it’s harder to make the legal argument of descrimination against a particular type of person, because allowing polyamorous marriages would involve granting rights that don’t already exist for couples or for heterosexuals.

    prostitution is a different issue, similar to the question of drug legalization. will governmental acceptance make it safer by regulation or less safe by easy availability? that’s an answer i don’t profess to know.


    Oh, this is brilliant. Thank you for this.

    I’ve seen it happen in the gay community here in Malaysia though – people who think that to be a certain sexuality, you have to pretty much act according to a certain label. And then there’s people like me who can’t be bothered with labels and we confuse them all.

    I’m passing this around, this is HILARIOUS.

  31. Emily:
    “unless there’s a third gender that none of us know about yet…”
    Um, there is a reason there’s a T in LGBT.

    Gay Marriage is just the tip of the iceberg as it comes to modern society understanding the interactions of folks along the grey areas of Gender Identity and/or Gender Role spectrums.

    You think “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” was odd? Let’s try “Transgirl Eye for the Straight Girl” next- I bet I could provide some pretty damn good confidence, posture, wardrobe & makeup tips.

    This is a fantastic article, by the way. thanks so much John! Great writing, biting wit.

  32. “So is it wrong for me to jokingly refer to going to the movies with my friends as my ‘man-date?’ ”

    No, going to the movies with your buddy is NOT a “man date.” Going to the shooting range with your buddy IS a “man date.”


    My mother was scared sh*tless that I was a lesbian when I was in high school. Warning signs:

    Buzz cut
    Baggy jeans
    Oversized T-shirts and a favorite flannel shirt
    LARP (Live Action RolePlay)
    Star Wars collection to rival the one in Guiness.

    But, alas… I loves the mens. XD Even though I am an incurable fag hag. And I dress like a girl now! *shock!!* Loved your article(?), and I will be quoting you for weeks.

  34. That was simply brilliant.

    I’m sure I totally don’t count as lesbian, since I shave my pits and wear makeup sometimes. :P Even though my main squeeze is very female.

  35. “As for call girls and their clients: I was involved in an organization out in San Jose that was working on legalization. Once again–I can tell you that the people involved in this “lifestyle” are far more diverse than you would imagine. Why don’t more of them “come out”? In terms of legal oppression–they now face the same degree of legal discrimination that gays did in the 1950s. It is at least legal to admit to being gay. If you admit to being a call girl, they police will ruin your life–I have seen it happen myself on more than one occasion.”

    The difference between being gay and being a call-girl or prostitute is that no one is born being a prostitute. No one who is a prostitute now struggled through a harsh puberty or middle age when she/he realized that there was no fighting the urges, he/she was meant to sell her body for the pleasure of others at low low prices. Sorry i dont buy it. Show me the little girl who says “Mommy I wanna grow up to sell my sex to men I am unattracted to for an amount of money that barely is worth it” and Ill join the lobby to legalize prostitution right now. Prostitution is a bad choice made by desperate people who often have no where else to go. Or its a lifestyle forced upon them by people more powerful and evil than them who get off on controlling others for profit. We should be focused on developing social programs and funding welfare and drug treatment to get these people of the streets and back in to society, not worrying about them as a special subset that needs protecting. And PS….being a call girl or escort is perfectly legal as long as you dont provide the happy ending….thats when you become a whore.

  36. i hate the new york times. they do the same thing with hip hop, which is apparently the new “white.”

    (great writing, btw)

  37. Keven, you’re totaly right and there’s nothing to it! Hip-hop is not “white”! Dude, my favorite music is heavy metal and rap, and I’m “white” Geez, it’s not we’re going around saying “Rap is for ‘black’ people.”

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