That's So Gay

That’s So Gay

         First of all, by “gay” I mean homosexual. Older folks are always going on about how “those people” took perfectly good words like gay and spoiled them. Grandma says something at Thanksgiving like “We had such a gay summer that year” and suddenly all the kids are blowing mashed potatoes out their nose.

         Later, it’s, “Gramma, come over here a minute.”

         “What is it dear?”

         “You know, these days the word gay means… (Limp wrist gesture)”

         “Oh my… Well isn’t that queer.”

         When I was a kid we used the word gay all the time, but it had little to do with sexuality, or even people. It was “What a gay car” and “This sandwich is so gay.” The liberals among us might say at recess, “The Vietnamese are just like us. Racial prejudice is so gay.” We were totally clueless. I don’t think I knew what gay meant, in the current sense, until I became an altar boy. Same old story.

         Here’s a gay quiz: 

         1) Are you married?

         2) Do you have children?

         3) Is your house messy?

         4) Can you name more sports teams than plays and musicals?

         5) Do gay people give you the willies?

         If you answered no to all 5, you might be… me! Holy rainbow, Batman! Could I be gay?

         They say that few people are 100% straight or 100% gay. Most of us fall somewhere in between. To find out where I stood, I turned to an on-line quiz that promised to determine just how straight I was.

         Even though it didn’t seem very sophisticated (“#14: Do you prefer A: baths, or B: showers?”), I got a little nervous. I didn’t want to be gay. Just considering the possibility of thinking about it gave me an overwhelming urge to go out and buy a really big truck and switch to Budweiser.

         Wait, what’s the problem here, I thought. I had gay friends and coworkers, and it seemed to me that if I was willing to respect and accept them as gay, I should be able to accept myself as gay too (assuming I scored seventy or higher). I’d make the most of it. I’d come out in a letter to Bush. “It happened on your watch, George! Watch for me at the ‘Gay bachelors for Bush’ march!”

         A lot of people understand that somebody can be gay from birth, but many more still insist that gayness comes as a result of something going terribly, terribly wrong. Family members sit around over coffee and speculate:

         “Remember that time you dropped her on her head, uncle Earl?”

         “Of course she never found a man, driving that UPS truck. Those pants are so unflattering.”

         “I told Mom that giving her a blue baby blanket was a mistake.”

         “Liberal arts college. Ho-mo-seckshuls. ‘Nuff said. And as far as I’m concerned, gay marriage is okay as long as a gay man marries a lesbian.”

         “Oh, shut up Earl.”

         Turning gay can reflect badly on your ex, as if you had such a bad experience that it made you break up with an entire gender.

         “That man would have made me gay, too.”

         If a person were to fall near enough to the middle mark of the straight-gay spectrum, they could in theory switch back and forth between genders. I do know several women who have reversed polarity several times. They’re in a unique position to answer that age old question of who’s easier to date, men or women. And the votes are in; the winner is: Neither. Both are a pain.

         The on-line quiz said I scored too hetero to find out for myself whether it’s true. Whatever. That test was so gay. I’ve already moved on; now what I’d like to see is a test that measures just how comfortable a person is with homosexuality. That would be a hard test to create. How would you score somebody who loves Queer Eye and Will and Grace but won’t use the locker room at the gym because a gay person might peek? Or somebody who invites their gay friends over to their house for dinner because they don’t want to be seen with them in public?

         Growing up, my peers and I spewed a lot of anti-homosexual rhetoric, and I think that kind of early brainwashing never totally leaves you. We thought gays were all leather-bound pedophiles who strutted the Castro; the idea that there could be one on our block mowing his lawn in a golf shirt was inconceivable. Once I got to college I managed to meet a lot of really cool people who happened to be queer, and now I can honestly say that homos are among my best friends. So am I all better now? Getting there. The idea of guy-on guy sex still freaks me out more than it should. Is that homophobic? I don’t worry too much about it. Many gay men find the idea of sex with women pretty icky. Nobody calls them heterophobic. To each his own, I say, if he plays his cards right.