Straight to Gay
My straight friend, Spencer, called me very excited to tell me he had started casually seeing a man. He had a drunken night with a colleague at some Hollywood bar where they both mutually decided to grab each other's junk and make sweet, tender, dirty love in the bathroom. Now, they both mutually decided to start kind of seeing each other. Movies. An occasional margarita. As Spencer lovingly put it, he's “Just about that ‘D.’” Spencer has been interested in men for a solid twenty minutes and already has a burgeoning romance. Honestly, I'm happy for Spencer. I am. He's opening himself up to a world of possibilities and has found a nice man whose ‘D’ he can enjoy. But I also feel like, bitch, get in line.
I'm single. I have been single, have always been single, and worry constantly about the fact that I might be single forever, because although I know English, German, and a very little bit of Spanish, the language of love is something I don't understand and Rosetta Stone is being fickle and not calling me back. Spencer traipses in with his straight, untailored Wrangler jeans that don't really fit and gets a man without even trying.
What really adds fuel to this annoying fire is that I have been casually and completely in love with Spencer since my freshman year of high school. He isn't the only straight person I have been very casually and completely in love with. I think if I looked back at all the people I’ve been in love with the majority of them would be straight.
My interest in straight men isn't my fault. It's Brokeback Mountain's fault. That movie is arguably one of the biggest queer movies of all time and the characters are played by dashingly handsome, sexually awakened straight men. They had a contentious camping trip where they mutually decided to grab each other's junk and make sweet, tender, unlubricated love in their tent in the American West. Spencer is living the modern, urban, millennial Brokeback Mountain life. He even looks reminiscent of Jake Gyllenhaal if you squint and mention it off-handedly. Don't get me wrong. I loved watching Jake Gyllenhaal make out with a man. I'm waiting for him to do it again or with me, but he keeps having sex with Anne Hathaway instead.
Gay men are conditioned to desire the straight man. I think most people are taught to want the straight man, the straight white man. Movies and television tell us they're desirable, handsome, worthy of yearning, understanding, and helpful. A real necessity for true deep happiness. But that's just a crock of shit. I have yearned and let me tell you I'm one bitter Betty.
Even pornography isn't safe from the messaging that straight men are favorable to gay men. A huge population of porn actors in the gay porn industry are gay-for-pay porn stars. These men are straight-identifying, but do buttstuff with guys for money. Gay-for-pay porn stars are some of the most popular. They are everywhere. They're impossible to avoid and it's their apparent straightness that's desirable. It isn't like everyone loves Cody Cummings, an honest-to-god porn star, because he has a dazzling personality and can juggle his work and philanthropy. No. We like him because he's straight and gets naked with dudes. There's a whole category of gay porn called straight to gay, where the plots involve a gay man convincing a straight man that what he wants is that real good ‘D’ he has been missing out on.
Look, I too am a sucker for a cute, straight man.
A guy named Duke once made very excessive eye contact with me at a party for a prolonged period of time. I was pretty positive that this meant something. Something like love, or bi-curiosity, maybe. He also stood so close to me that I could feel the faint warmth of his breath on my lips as he peered into my soul and spoke to me and told me about the world.
George was a good friend of mine in college. He helped me dogsit a puppy one night and we ended up getting drunk. We were petting this tiny dog and eventually ended up holding hands briefly. It felt like a significant moment. Like a moment of love, or again—bi-curiosity. Then, as if out of the cinema, my obtuse, lesbian roommate comes stomping in with her heavy-ass Doc Martins, like a lesbian “Fee fei fo fum, I smell the blood of Noah's dreams never coming true.” George let go of my hand and never touched me again.
Brandon, another college friend, wore these stupid, sexy, beige suits all the time with his hair slicked back. He looked like he would swindle you out of money in the 1940s. He also had a huge butt, a bubble butt. Whenever he had relationship problems he would tell me that he wished he was gay so he could date me, which felt like something. Something like love, or like bi-curiosity! But then, like Jake Gyllenhaal, he would go make out with another girl. I would be left alone thinking, “You know, if you just tried harder you could fall in love with me.”
Honestly, I don't think it's too wild of an assumption to think straight men might be interested in me romantically and sexually. I often get mistaken for a woman on the phone. I like to think I have the smooth, sultry voice of a twenty-three-year-old Scarlett Johansson.
Many of my friends seem to think my perpetual singledom is due to the fact that I have lived in places with such small populations of gay men. I grew up in a small town in Southern California where I knew only one other gay person. I went to college in central Arkansas where the population of gay men was understandably small. Nearly every crush I've had has been futile and I’ve rarely kissed other men. Though, in high school, I was smitten for my friend, Shane. We made out once, much to his dismay. He was the first person I had ever made out with besides Tessa Thomas in the fourth grade. Shane told me I used too much tongue, a helpful tip when I was experimenting with women in college and made out with my lesbian, giant of a roommate before she became the world's worst cock-bloctopus.
There was one guy who I was truly crazy-crazy about: Sam. He was my friend's little brother. A freshman when I was a senior in college. He was very handsome and outdoorsy, but in a way that made me feel like I was outdoors without actually having to be outdoors. The kind of outdoorsy where he would call mountain ranges “she.” As in, “Ah. Ain't she a beaut?” gesturing toward the mountain. I found it very attractive that he studied neuroscience. He was smarter than me in areas where I knew very little, like cars and trees and stuff. I was smarter than him in areas where he knew very little, like Desperate Housewives trivia and who Renée Zellweger has been married to. He thought I was funny and laughed loudly at my jokes. He was also cryptic and vague and emotionally unavailable, but in a really sexy way. In a way that screamed, “I can fix him.”
And he's gay.
However, I did think he was straight when I first met him. In an effort to please and entertain the straight man, I decided to share poop stories with him. Not jokes, but anecdotes. One of which involved me pooping my pants in my house because I think it's the best place to poop your pants because you're in your house. But it's also the worst place to poop your pants because, well, you're in your house. Of course, I found out two hours after I shared the story about my uncontrollable bowel movement that he's gay. I don't need him to know that I can't control my bowel movements. As a gay man, it's not the sexiest of qualities. It's not as though it's some exciting adventure or surprise that men want to be a part of. “Hey. Let's have sex in my butt because who knows what will happen.”
Sam might be the only gay man I have ever truly pined for. I’d had little crushes on other gay men before that didn't amount to much, but I was devastatingly into Sam. It hit me out of nowhere, like a big gay train hitting me full force and then reversing before going back and forth over my body over and over again for months. This thing I had been yearning for seemed so tangible in a way it never had before. With so many crushes on straight men, I had gotten used to the idea of unrequited love, of non-reciprocal sexual attraction, of wanting something that I realistically couldn't have, not really. This felt like the first time I had something within reach, that I could genuinely pursue.
Though, it wasn't perfect. Straight men are not responsible for all the problems in my love life. I didn't know how to talk to Sam without seeming like a neurotic, sweaty mess. I would reschedule my winter break plans in my head around Sam because I assumed he would want me to meet his parents after he got to know me, like a serial killer. One time, I cried into the huge lap of my cock-bloctopus, lesbian roommate when I found out that someone else who was cuter and had a better butt than me liked Sam too. Not even that Sam liked someone else. Sam was so handsome and so non-committal and I'm pretty sure had chronic fatigue syndrome because he took a lot of naps and I liked it all so much.
But nothing ever happened.
He started dating a guy who I thought was kind of plain. Sam broke up with him because they weren't having sex. He also essentially abandoned a two-month-old puppy that I didn't want but grew to love at my house for a week and then got mad at me for wanting him to take care of it. In the end, he turned out to be kind of a douche bag and a bullet thankfully dodged.
I'm not entirely surprised that the first gay man I ever had a crush on I mistakenly thought was straight at first. I'm feeling the symptoms of the Brokeback Mountain/porn problem. It's a problem that I reinforce all the time in tiny, subtle ways, like feeling embarrassed or ashamed about the way I talk, or how I use my hands, or the way I dress, and even by having crushes on straight men. I love gay people. I love gay men, but I haven't yet completely fallen in love with gay men. Not really. I want to so bad and I hate myself for it.
Because in reality, I don't want unlubricated tent love with a straight man. I mean, it's hot in a painful kind of way. I don't want to pine after straight men anymore. I'm tired of it. There’s something so satisfying about having a true, full-blown crush on someone who I knew was gay. Who I knew I wouldn't have to compromise my gender for. Who was emotionally stunted, but in a gay way. Who wasn't right for me because of our personalities, not our bodies. Having a crush on him still fucking sucked. It was horrible. But it felt fuller. It fit better. I'm ready to do it all over again.
Noah Lashly is a writer/performer from Ojai, CA and his pieces have been published in The Aonian, Cagibi, Arrray Photo Journal. He has been featured in The Townies Podcast, Speaking of Stories at Center Stage Theater, and at the Ojai Storytelling Festival.