The Queer Issue: You're Doing It Wrong
Queers Who Sleep with Straight People
It's Not a Recipe for Happiness
The Queer Issue: You're Doing It Wrong
Straight guys? I've had a few. The first was in high school. The kitchen at his house was stocked with Kudos and Hot Pockets and Tombstones and Lucky Charms, and the TV room had a wall unit with a giant pullout drawer of blankets that I used to fantasize about crawling into with him. When he showered, I stood on the other side of the door wishing I could see through it. We didn't have Kudos or Hot Pockets or Tombstones or Lucky Charms or cable TV at my house, but we did have my older brother's porn collection, two Playboys and a Penthouse, and somehow in a blur of shorthand and a feat of acting (I pretended it would be no big thing, just two straight guys getting off), we agreed to beat off next to each other, no touching. We did it a dozen times. He would look at whatever magazine he was holding, and I would pretend to be looking at whatever one I was holding, when, in fact, I was looking at him.
Then his mother got custody of him and he was whisked out of my world. His removal had a romantic sadness that I couldn't explain to anyone, that obviously he didn't know about, either. Or maybe he did—maybe he could sense my attraction and was relieved at the excuse to disappear. I was thrown into a torrent of second-guessing: Was he on to me or wasn't he? Had he wanted me to go further or had he wanted me to stop looking at him? Would he embrace me if he knew the truth or would he kick my ass? Because I grew up in suburban Los Angeles, I basically grew up in a car, and every love song on the radio became somehow about us. Hours and hours of traffic would go by while I thought about what I'd done wrong and what I could do to win him back, while Mom, newly divorced and openly devastated in the driver's seat, thought about what she'd done wrong with Dad and what she could do to get him back.
In my 20s, after my first long-term relationship fell apart, I started dating another straight guy. It lasted for years, although I think if you asked him, he'd say it lasted two and a half weeks, since that was the length of time we were officially getting naked together. We met through a mutual friend, his college girlfriend, and hit the sheets right away—she encouraged it, she wanted him to explore this side of himself. Two and a half weeks later, he decided to sleep at her house instead of mine, and he's been dating girls ever since. It would be nice to say that I moved on, but I was hooked on him. We took trips together, we shared music together, we experimented with psychedelics together, we cuddled now and again, and occasionally he would confess to wanting to have sex but then would get very anxious and drunk and pass out first. Sometimes he indicated that his reluctance was religious, sometimes he indicated that his reluctance was circumstantial (he would totally be up for it except for this or that), but mostly he didn't want to talk about it.
How could I be so stupid? Why would I invert and conceal my own desires like that? I guess I could blame my parents—negating your true desires comes pretty easy when you were raised to do so—but that seems too convenient, especially considering all the shallow thrills involved with being with a straight guy: Straight guys are adorably nervous, you get to be in on a big secret, you get to brag to gay friends that you slept with a straight guy. Abstractly, you feel like you're conquering that which you were most frightened of in high school (the straight guy), but the truth is, you're just setting yourself up to be conquered by him in a whole new way, defeated by his inevitable disinterest. Sexuality being a spectrum, almost every guy is a little bit interested in guys, and making too much of that—assuming a little experimentation is more than just a little experimentation—puts you in the path of embarrassment and rejection.
That straight guy eventually embarrassed and rejected me. I made up for it with legitimate boyfriends, most of whom could be described as "straight-acting," in the popular repressive lexicon. I began to convince myself that "straight-acting" gay guys were the only gay guys I could be attracted to—which led to lots of dates with gay jocks (zzzzzzz). And I continued to mess around with straight guys, some of whom were secretly bisexual. (If this is you, read this.) One of my annoying habits of speech is to say "gaylord" a lot—it was interchangeable with "faggot" when I was growing up—as an ironic appropriation of the language that used to torment me. Like I'll say, "Don't be such a gaylord" or "Nice hat, gaylord." Doing it around straight guys often provoked an eerie response, almost like it turned them on. Or maybe it's simply that seeing a gay guy not being uptight about his gayness can encourage a straight guy to not be uptight about his straightness.
Telling a straight guy I'm attracted to guys, not gay dudes, sometimes provokes them into saying they're occasionally attracted to guys, too, just not the stereotypical gay ones, and sometimes they'll go on to say that they trust me and would mess around with me—and then I'm back on that path to unhappiness again. There was this one musician who loved to lean over and make out at the Cha Cha, so long as his girlfriend wasn't looking. There was a bi guy who worked as a window washer on downtown skyscrapers and was always trying to convince me to go down on a girl with him sometime. There was a BMX racer who once hinted he wasn't 100 percent straight, when we were out drinking after he'd broken up with a girlfriend; he invited himself over, invited himself into bed, and said the whole time, "This might be my only gay experience ever, I can't believe I'm doing this." Once out of the blue a handsome straight guy I barely knew asked me if I wanted to hear something he'd never told anyone, and then confessed in detail about experimenting with another guy.
I used to be proud of all these experiences, used to think I was special or something, that the normal rules didn't apply to me, but rules always have their way in the end: Straight guys want to be with girls. Bisexual guys who seem straight usually want to continue to seem straight. I've always fought the accusation that being into "straight-acting" guys means I'm self-hating, means I'm slightly homophobic, but desiring something you will never have (and in many ways, desiring something you will never have is easier than desiring what's possible) is definitely self-hating. It's not worth it. Resist the urge to self-mythologize, to decide in advance that you have a "type." I recently met a gay guy who's smaller than me, more effeminate than me, really into fashion and shopping—the very picture of the sort of guy I always thought I wouldn't go for—and now we live together. I've never been happier.