He was standing in my doorway, his face flushed. He wouldn’t make eye contact. “I’ve got something I need to tell you,” he said, his voice shaky. I assumed he was going to tell me he couldn’t make rent. Or maybe that he’d taken money from me.
“I’m gay,” he said.
I just stared at him. I could tell he wanted me to say something; he looked like he was about to burst into flames. “I understand if you want me to move out,” he continued. I felt bad for him. I wanted to let him know that I wasn’t disgusted, or angry, or whatever else he might think my silence implied.
“But what about all those girls you said you banged?” I asked. The look on his face told me he wasn’t expecting that question.
“All guys.” He sounded cautious. I rolled his answer around in my mouth for a minute. The implications were staggering.
“And the married chick?”
“He was a married guy.” I conjured an image of him, hunched over some guy whose poor wife was out of town. Then I laughed. And then so did he. It was understood that I was not upset, that he would not have to pack, and that the details could work themselves out later. And they did. We gradually slipped back into our routine. In the few weeks immediately following his coming out, though, my other two roommates and I clucked like hens.
“I said ‘fag,’ like, a hundred times around him. Do you think he’s pissed?”
“Me too! I said he looked gay when he was wearing those white pants.”
“Well, you were right.”
“Wait! He said he fucked that one girl on the couch when we were at the beach. Yo, man—two guys fucked each other on our couch!”
Conversations between three men in their late twenties about their gay friend are eerily similar to conversations between boys in their early teens about girls. You’re not like us, you have cooties, and we gossip. For this article, I gossiped with every straight man I know about gay guys. I sat friends down in my living room, ambushed buddies on a snowboarding trip, recruited wives to corner their husbands in their kitchens. But truthfully, you come up in our conversations anyway. In the car one afternoon, entirely unprovoked, my friend Eric, who does tech support, offered this about a bar we frequent: “There were a bunch of gay couples at the Taproom. Downingtown is starting to come up.”
I think that’s a good place to begin. You are status symbols to us. Without thinking too much of it, we gauge the affluence of whatever place we’re sucking down beers in by the number of gay men we can pick out in the crowd. The food must be good; the place must be trendy, progressive, “coming up.” My brother Jon works in luxury retail, and contends that his gay clients have more expendable income and take better care of themselves. All the straight guys I spoke to agreed. Not a bad stereotype to live up to. And one of the benefits is that you attract women.
We have a few bugaboos, though. I’m not friends with anybody from the Westboro Baptist Church, so none of my buddies have anything outright malicious to say. But they agreed, almost unanimously, that overly flamboyant gay men are, to put it gently, hard to take. I’m not talking about crossing your legs at the knee or speaking like … well, like a gay guy. I’m talking about the fishnet tank-tops and cutoffs with pockets hanging out of the bottom. It has nothing to do with the fact that these guys are gay. It’s because—and I’m going to quote a friend here—“They’re acting like douchebags.” There were comparisons to the cast of Jersey Shore. It’s fine if your clothes say something about you, but your t-shirt shouldn’t literally say “I fuck dudes.” (That’s a real shirt. I’ve seen it.) The fact is, nobody likes anything rubbed in their face: not your religion, not your politics, not your vegan whatever, and most definitely not your bulging hot pants.Some of us are lucky enough to reap those rewards. My buddy Mike’s best friend growing up recently came out of the closet. Once the awkward “Are you in love with me?” question was put to bed (figuratively, of course), Mike put his buddy to work. “Girls love having gay guys around because they’re into fashion and they don’t feel threatened,” Mike says. “I actually ended up having sex with two chicks one night because he was my wingman. Whereas if he wasn’t gay, one of them would have been for him. So it was awesome.”
Speaking of bulges, we know (at least we think we know) that you’re looking at ours. Straight guys want to see every pair of breasts on Earth, so we naturally assume you want to see every penis. The difference is, we are not in the locker room with girls. You are in the men’s room, the locker room, and the gym showers with us. The general consensus is that it’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s part of life and there isn’t much to be done. “You should be covering up your dick anyway,” as my one buddy put it. We assume you’re going to look. All we ask is that you’re a gentleman about it. Don’t stare. Remember Mike? He’s a personal trainer at my gym, and there’s a guy there we call “The Shower Shark.” He’s large, old, and spends about 75 percent of his time trolling the locker room. Mike has a problem with this. “The guy wears a shirt that says ‘lube’ on it! Like, come on. He’s over the line because he’s creepy.”
I know there are plenty of you guys who fantasize about seducing a straight man. I’m not saying it’s impossible; I question the sexuality of my buddies every day. I have suspicions about anybody who’s a touch too vocal about their heterosexuality. (Overcompensate much?) Then there are those awkward drunken confessions. I can’t tell you how many guys have admitted to me, enthusiastically, to asking their girlfriend to throw a finger up their ass: “I never came so hard in my life, man!” Who knows what else is going up there after that level of initial success? Their reasoning, however skewed it may be, is that it’s not gay if a girl is doing it, and under no circumstances would they consider actually running a few plays for your team. At least not out loud.
You might think these fellas are already straddling that third rail of sexuality (I certainly do), but there are still comfort issues when it comes to gay guys flirting with us. If you absolutely cannot resist the challenge, just know that the line where straight guys start getting upset is butt-grabbing. You might think it’s a cute joke, you might think he gave you the signal, but take it from somebody who’s had a few girls wipe a shit-eating grin off his face with a fast-moving palm: You’re rolling the dice. Ray, who owns a contracting company, is a little on the conservative side. “If a guy was gay and he came over and grabbed my ass, I don’t know what I would do. I wouldn’t want to be in that situation. I would go crazy.” In fairness, he also said he would go crazy if a straight guy grabbed his wife’s ass.
Gay men play by an entirely different set of rules with our wives and girlfriends. You may not be allowed to feel up Ray, but he isn’t too worried about you touching his wife. “If her gay friend touched her breasts for some reason, I wouldn’t feel threatened by that,” he says. (That’s assuming she doesn’t mind.) Overwhelmingly, the guys I spoke with don’t mind their girls getting overly chummy with gay men. Talk about boys, hang out in the changing room, have a slumber party, go nuts. We’re just thankful that she’s not hanging around somebody like us. Bonus: You’re as sexually threatening as her girlfriends, but with the upper body strength to fend off drunk assholes who come near her.
I can’t speak for every straight guy; we’re all different. I used to be different. I was a little more conservative than I like to admit. The first time I mowed the lawn after our friend told us he was gay, I made sure I wore a shirt—and I might have locked the bathroom door once or twice when I took a shower. I know, I know: what a loser.
I was in unfamiliar territory and I was treading lightly. In the end, it just took a little warming up. He didn’t bring his boyfriend over that first night. He didn’t give us all the dirty details, until we started asking. He eased us into it like a hot bath. When you teach a kid about the birds and the bees, you don’t start with anal beads. You say, “When a man and a man love each other very much … ” And eventually, after he taught us all that he could, he flew away to Key West, our big gay Mary Poppins.
We mulled how to advertise for a new roommate. Our dream ad went something like this: ROOM FOR RENT. $500/MO. FULLY FURNISHED HOME IN PHILLY ’BURBS. GAY MALE PREFERRED.Sign up to get a free subscription to G Philly’s quarterly glossy.