We need to talk about #Pride Sunday. As I previously mentioned, this little ditty’s been ringing in my ears for weeks now, seeping all the way into my dreams. Sadly, I’ve missed my self-imposed deadline. It was my wish to release this before the end of Pride month, the time when we (supposedly) reflect on our struggles and celebrate our triumphs as gay people. But much like that Tiffany Pollard meme, the gays™️ too are, um, versatile. Yes, much was accomplished in recent years, which calls for celebration, but in reality the vast majority just wanted to shake our scantily-clad asses. I’m sure guilty of it. The thing is, gays, if we keep neglecting our own toxic by-products, they will run rampant – my Pride Sunday was prime example.
If you recall, I’d said this entry was basically drafted in its entirety within 24 hours of it happening. I have scratched most of it now. Turns out I’d bitten more than I could chew. I tried to cover too much ground and the results were clunky. I’m cooling my ambitions and keeping it simple. I’ve been having the same discussion in some shape or form over and over again through the years. I’ve often let it slide or dismissed it or plain forgotten. But in light of recent events, I feel compelled to address my thoughts on the matter. If I can’t reach a satisfactory conclusion, at least I want to make more sense of it. And you know me – I gotta see it in print.
My lesbian friends and I had been poking fun around “gay culture” at an impromptu Pride brunch we cooked up over a hurried phone call. The centerpiece of that discussion was this straight-by-default girl I’d met the night before, who had said she wanted to hook up with girls but thought her advances were not being taken seriously. “They think I’m being friendly ‘cause girls compliment each other all the time and it’s no big deal”, she’d told us. To this Lauren, my friend’s girlfriend, replied with the utmost confidence “oh, girls hate the idea of being that predatory lesbian”.
I am well aware of what she meant by “predatory lesbian”. Although, from what I gathered, it appears to be more of a staple in lesbian culture than I had known. My friend Mariana shadily pointed out I actually used to be friends with one. Maybe you know one, too! She’d be that pushy lesbian friend of yours who slides into your other lesbian friends’ DMs, even though you’ve never introduced them and she’s never met them. The kind who, if seen in the wild, is reluctant to take no for an answer and hovers over girls longer than necessary – sometimes awkwardly, sometimes confidently, always unwelcome.
That last bit sounds very familiar, though, doesn’t it? Sounds like… well, a man. Men obnoxiously hanging around women, puffing their chest and fumbling at gallantry is a tale as old as time. So you probably think this annoying predator is definitely a straight man. Could maybe, possibly also be a woman, a gay one! But never a gay man, right? Because gay men have either both been signaled as predators or somehow managed to avoid the label altogether under the assumption that two men hitting on each other are operating under equal conditions. Let me tell you about Pride Sunday, and you can tell me whether that is in fact correct.
After brunch, we proceeded to further celebrate our homosexuality. Went to the parade, had some drinks in the West Village, crashed a block party with bodega-procured beers, talked to strangers and had a gay ol’ time. I left the Village in high spirits and made my way home to Brooklyn, where I was to see Years & Years. I got there after doors, so if there had been a line I missed it. It wasn’t crazy packed by then, though. I wormed my way to the front, looking for friends (more lesbians!) who later informed me via text they were actually in the back. I wasn’t about to give up a good spot to see my baby Olly, so I stayed by myself. Shortly after, a gay couple, who were chatting up another gay guy and some girls, welcomed me into the fold. It was a very standard, Pride-infused neighborly situation and I was very much there for it.
The guys were buff, scruffy and loud, had a pubescent sense of humor and kind of resembled each other. You know, a gay couple. The other gay guy was skinny and had a quiet, slightly awkward vibe. However, he seemed very friendly or at least eager to make friends for the night. So when the guys kept rubbing his arms, stroking his hair or requesting he’d take his tank top off, he’d just smile and shake his head and try to change the subject. “Boys will be boys” and whatnot.
When I arrived, their attention shifted to me and what I was wearing: a black lace romper. Hey, I already fessed up to wanting to show ass. It was Pride and I wanted to unapologetically feel my oats! They made me spin to “appreciate” my outfit and did the (gay? male?) lewd joke thing. “Why are you wearing underwear, you should run to the bathroom and take them off”. I laughed it off and declined, they let it go. Pretty standard. I thought nothing of it and took it all in stride. It actually didn’t bother me at all, I took it as intended. And perhaps emboldened by my reaction (and slightly see-through lewks), they decided to return to skinny gay guy and push, hard. Before they’d even finished saying “take your shirt off, it’s Pride”, they had already taken half his top off. Way past tipsy from my day-drinking, I egged Skinny Gay on. He lifted the one remaining arm and was soon shirtless.
I’m sure you can infer what my stance on public shirtlessness is given what I was wearing. I didn’t think anything of it. That’s literally how you go to the beach or how some dudes go jogging or ride their bikes. I certainly didn’t think the least risqué thing in the world would make this guy uncomfortable. Mostly because, in my head, if something really bothers you, you simply don’t do it. And there he was, without a shirt.
When those guys asked me to go commando under my romper, I wasn’t uncomfortable because I didn’t take them seriously. I felt safe in my conviction that there was zero chance I’d ever do it. I wasn’t about to be bare-assed, junk a-swinging at a fucking concert! I could never be coerced into something so ridiculous and I knew they knew that too, which is why in my head they couldn’t have been for real. That’s just “how things are” with the gays, I thought, and they dropped it as quickly as they’d suggested it.
I would’ve been pissed if they had actually pushed for it, of course. That would’ve been straight up harassment, but they didn’t. And I think maybe that is how things are with gay men. A sort of unspoken agreement to push very far, but only so far. To introduce the sleaziness and see how the other party responds; to, let’s say, gauge interest. But it would’ve been certainly a lot easier to coerce Skinny Gay into taking off his shirt than it would’ve been to pressure me to take my briefs off. And it was. That is exactly what they did. They pushed beyond the checkpoint. Hell, they pretty much did it for him.
Regardless of how firmly on the ground my feet were on the subject, it was physically impossible for them to force me the way they did him. And yet I brushed it off because, in my drunk head, what they asked of him was nowhere near as crazy or overtly sexual as what I had been asked to do. It was tame, it was nothing, and he accepted! Pause, rewind. Did he? It all came down on him fast and from every angle. He was visibly hesitant, yet we all interpreted it as shyness. And you know what they say: “shyness is nice, and shyness can’t stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to”.
But he wasn’t shy, he was reluctant. And neither one of us could see it. Sure I was liquored up, but I still encouraged him. I had a hand in it, even if not as literally as the guy whose hands actually undressed him. And I did so based on the same mistake I often make when it comes to other gay people: I assume their experiences and outlook must be somewhat similar to mine. I thought he’d be game because in my state, I probably would have. But he was indeed uncomfortable, he just didn’t want to alienate us. He wanted to hang out and be friendly and, without warning, found himself in a grievous situation he couldn’t back out from. Until somebody very familiar with such circumstances pulled him out.
“Can you please stop? He’s uncomfortable, just stop”. A woman standing next to us sternly addressed the more obnoxious gay guy, the one who had undressed him, and it felt like curtains falling heavy to the ground. Suddenly the ugliness was crystal clear. It was a music venue right before a show, it was loud as fuck, but you could not hear a thing other than her words bouncing off the walls. She killed the problem dead, shot it right in the head. Actually, she shot it in the balls.
Upon being called out, the guy was impossibly hurt. He was mortally wounded. He loudly argued with his boyfriend, who was begging him to let it go, for the entire time he was there, which wasn’t long. I couldn’t pick much of it up, but I could tell from his wide gestures and the very few things I overheard that his argument was, unsurprisingly, “she doesn’t know how it is (with gay men)”. I can imagine him saying things like “he was just messing around”, “he was being friendly”, “it’s just a shirt”, “it’s not like he grabbed him by the pussy” (you know, like presidents do). At one point he did yell at his boyfriend to “tell her!”, which made me safely assume I was right – and that the guy probably agreed with his beau.
The idea that men are more sexual than women has always been accepted matter-of-factly because science! Supposedly, the average Joe thinks about sex nearly twice as many times a day as regular Jane does. I know, as a man, that applies to me one hundred percent. I think about it a lot. However, not being a woman or any other man but myself, I can’t corroborate the data. I do know quite a few women, both gay and straight, who are very sexual and lead rich, sex-positive lives. Conversely, I know quite a few guys who are not as sexually-driven or as carefree with their bodies and hearts as we sluttier gays are.
And maybe that’s the disconnect. Perhaps it’s not about being sexual, but about our sexuality being… well, kinda sleazy. I’m probably not venturing too far from facts in saying that the average gay man is sleazier than any woman. All people (or most of us) have the joy of consensual sex in common, but the gays engage in some rather “questionable” activities. And we high key like it. That’s perhaps where the whole “women don’t understand us” thing comes in. We know that, more often than not, it’s gonna be a whole lot of sex with a bunch of people, and while you’re bound to stumble across a prop or ten, a single feeling will likely not be found.
The odd thing about it is, of course, #notallgays. The level of immodesty varies from gay to gay and straight people are not your best tool when navigating such situations. No tea, no shade, but straights are huge fans of the binary. They may talk about “gray areas” but that’s because they still see things in black and white. “He cheated on you? Call off your gay wedding!” Uh… how about we define what cheating is within this specific relationship, Brenda? Surely nobody’s into being lied to, but some people are into welcoming others to their marital bed. This is a discussion to be had, like any other. You gotta make sure you see eye to eye on fundamental shit like this. Just like you would ask your man if he wants to be a daddy before getting engaged, Susan!
I recently talked to a dear friend about his impending divorce. He was still rattled by the reality of it, and kept going back to the very first time things went sour. He suspected his fiancé, now soon-to-be ex-husband, had a threesome with another married couple before their wedding, after being explicitly told not to. His fiancé denied it (and does to this day). Right on cue, his straight female friends advised him not to go through with it. I didn’t know any of this, but had I known, I probably would’ve just asked if an open marriage was something he’d be willing to consider. ‘Cause what the hell do I know, he might be! You can’t ever be too quick to judge gay relationships because you
In my friend’s case, he tried and discovered to his own surprise that he couldn’t make it work. It turned out to be a bigger issue than he’d wanted it to be. Meanwhile, his partner was merrily involved in physical and emotional affairs. Shit got very ugly. “Is it me? Am I uncool for not being able to be as open as he is?”, he asked me. I assured him that, at the very least, that wasn’t his fault. People want different things. You need to find the one (or two or three, whatever) whose needs match your own. And while I think it’s commendable to try to make things work, when you know it’s not working, you need to get the fuck out. They plowed through at the expense of their mental and physical health. They suffered greatly for it and the ending remained the same. Although, as far as I’m concerned, if you keep under wraps for years what a big whore you truly are, you rip what you sow. Por mosca muerta.
My point is I couldn’t have told him what to do, no one could. Arrangements are made and you have to assume everyone is happy with their choices. If they’re not, only they know and they will deal with it in their own time, on their own terms. For instance, I had another friend who was in a relationship where they could only sext with other people, but never actually sleep with anyone else. Their relationship gradually opened up to allow others in in sensible numbers. And later they discovered that while they loved each other dearly, it wasn’t working and amicably parted ways. All this I knew. What I didn’t know was that, before they opened the relationship, my friend wasn’t actually having sex. His boyfriend was kind of asexual. This is why you can’t chime in willy-nilly, you just never know what truly goes on in someone else’s love life. He had made his choice to be with just him, regardless. Then changed it to let others in, then changed it again and let himself out.
If women don’t “know how it is between gays” it’s because not even the gays know what the fuck is going on. We have been influenced by both heteronormative culture and queer counterculture. We’ve been told to model our relationships after mommy and daddy and, within the same breath, been scolded for letting the punk within the gay die. “Yay, gay marriage! Ugh, gay marriage?” It’s fucked up… and low key hilarious. However, whether women understand the gays or not, they most certainly know a thing or two about harassment! And this heroic bitch spotted Skinny Gay’s distress like a fucking hawk. Only a woman could possibly recognize what that particular brand of mortification looks like and, on that Pride Sunday concert, one did.
Later, the injured party did something that puzzled me, though. He thanked the girl for stepping in, thus confirming what only she knew and we all ignored. But then, without skipping a beat, apologized to the gay couple “for making things awkward”. The one guy said something along the lines of “it wasn’t you” and left almost immediately after. I didn’t get it. Was Skinny Gay not all that uncomfortable then? I decided against unfairly questioning the validity of his comfort-level and instead asked myself why anyone would so earnestly apologize to their tormentors for being tormented.
The best I can come up with, after this long ass entry, is this: two men interacting with each other are not always operating under equal conditions. There are predatory gays and it appears they have written the playbook. Gay male culture might be gay, but it’s still very much male. It’s wired around this “boys club” mentality in such a way that Skinny Gay actually felt he had to apologize. Because he “understood the code”; he knew they didn’t mean any harm nor were they an actual threat, but it didn’t make him feel any less uncomfortable. When he allowed this woman to label them as predators, he “broke the code” and he knew it. And it doesn’t seem to matter – to them or even to him – that he wasn’t okay with the code to begin with, that the code doesn’t speak to him, it doesn’t include him. Not only did he fall victim to it, but saw his own status as victim immediately invalidated by it, all in one swift swoop. In hindsight, what impresses me the most is how unremarkable it all seemed as events first unfolded. In reality, it was all very, very dark. Until a girl saved the day.