10 Reasons Gays Chase Straights
We've all done it, and some of us do it over and over again. What leads lesbian and gay grown-ups to abandon reason and pursue the sexually unobtainable?
1 EVERYONE IS STRAIGHT To paraphrase Harvey Fierstein in Torch Song Trilogy, we live in a world where every movie, every TV show, and every billboard tells us we're straight. Heck, even the flagrantly homoerotic Abercrombie & Fitch ads toss in a bikini-clad woman for every 10 buff shiftless dudes, lest we think the fellas aren't hankering for female companionship. With such a thick coat of heterosexual whitewash splashed over every sexual image, it takes a powerfully queer imagination--and sometimes many nights at Crazy Nanny's or the Spike, or years in therapy--to construct an object of desire that's truly our own, fully hetero-free.
Every time some gossip rag talks about how "no man can resist" J. Lo's derriere or how "women everywhere" are swooning over Ashton Kutcher, it's a reminder that for a shocking number of people in this culture, gay people just don't exist. Who else are we supposed to find attractive when we're living in a gay-free zone?
2 EVERYONE CAN BE HAD Straight people are just like Tootsie Pops, and it's just a matter of time before you get to their chewy gay center. Right?
Some gay people take the slow, wear-down-the-straight-object-of-your-affection approach: flirting, teasing, touching, and telephoning until--they hope--the other person gives in. Others, like the Tootsie Pop-crunching Mr. Owl, go right in for the kill: After all, who has the patience to wait around?
The myth of the "do-able" hetero--or its twin fable, the deep closet case just waiting for the right same-sex key to unlock them--is everywhere in gay culture. Whispers of Marlene Dietrich's seduction of straight women and outright boasting from the likes of Truman Capote and Joe Orton morph into soft-focus gay romances like Desert Hearts or Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss, in which heterosexuality is tossed aside in the third act and "You know you want it" is revealed as the ultimate truth.
Of course, some people who say they're straight really do want it (because they're not really straight), and some hets are willing to be led for a walk on the wild side if the invitation comes from the right person at the right moment. So some straight-chasers win, some lose, and some end up with black eyes. But the next time you set your sight on some hetero eye candy, ask yourself something first: What kind of opposite-sex invitation would you need to make you switch teams?
3 WE SAW THEM FIRST What stirs in us our first same-sex attractions, our first crushes? For most budding gay and lesbian kids becoming aware of their sexuality, it's the straight schoolmates who surround them. As the wise devil Hannibal Lecter said in The Silence of the Lambs, we begin by coveting what we see every day. A quick glance at the person next to you in the locker room or a late-night conversation about sex during a sleepover with a best friend--those experiences confirmed for us what we wanted and whom we would become.
But for many of us, those moments also confirmed the fear that we were the only ones like ourselves, since as far as we knew, every object of our burning desire was straight. As adults we learn that's not the case, but the allure of that initial magnetism is difficult to shake, and it's bound to haunt our dreams and fantasies for the rest of our lives.
4 THEY LOVE THE ATTENTION Straight people, like all of us, enjoy being lifted onto an ardent admirer's pedestal. With that in mind, some of them know that there's a wealth of wooing to be had if they flirt-even if only ever so slightly--with their gay friends. A straight lipstick-lesbian look-alike will lean in and coo, "What's it really like to be with a lady?" Or your married racquetball partner at the gym will declare between serves, "You look pretty good in those shorts."
Purr back "Divine" if you want. Compliment him back if you care to. But keep in mind that you always hold the power in these plays for attention. As soon as you misread fishing for compliments as fishing for a fling, that power shifts to the straight person, and you may find yourself hooked on your own line.
5 THEY'RE THE "REAL THING" Call it gender stereo-typing or internalized homophobia or whatever you like, but the socially accepted definitions of man and woman have been heterosexualized for millennia, with the occasional Greek vase or Michelangelo statue as the exceptions that prove the role. What does "straight-acting" mean if not that heterosexuals own the patent on men who are masculine and women who are feminine? As for the fags and dykes, well, they're gay-acting: swishy men and gals with power tools--people who just aren't living up to their sex. And don't let anyone try to tell you "But of course, there's nothing wrong with that," because if they have to say it, it's too late. The damage is done.
So if you're a self-respecting 'mo looking to hook up, it shouldn't surprise anyone that your sexual ideal is colored by the endless Kulturkampf over gender roles. If you want a real man or a real woman--and what gay person wouldn't?--they have to be straight, by definition.
It may take some effort for gays and lesbians to embrace our inner sissy boy and bull dagger, but that's the best first step in shedding our fantasy life of culturally imposed restrictions. After all, much of the time "straight-acting" is also just plain straight. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
6 IT'S SAFE That assertion seems counterintuitive, but it's often true: Chasing after the straight ones gives us all the pleasures of fixation without the danger of consummation, the risks of a relationship. As long as we can avoid getting creamed for making unwanted passes, idolizing the unavailable is the gay and lesbian equivalent of Lisa Simpson's Non-Threatening Boys magazine. It's lasciviousness without follow-through. It's the safest sex possible: impossible sex. And for anyone in the fear-of-commitment camp, what better dodge from "I do" is there than "I'm attracted only to straights"?
7 ATTRACTION KNOWS NO BOUNDS If you see a hot number across the room or down the street, it's probably not the person's sexual orientation that first got your attention. Given enough time and psychic bruises, we may train ourselves to follow the Wow! of sex appeal with the sobering But wait: Straight or gay? If straight, never mind. But even then, our eyes linger and the longing remains.
Sexual allure knows no logic. If a person sets off your particular, inexplicable sexual radar, you're likely to lean over to your pal with little hesitation and say, "Check out that one: Yum!"--or your own more moderated equivalent ("Babe at 3 o'clock ..."). Only after our engines are revved up do we take the time to consider the other person's sexual orientation.
Thankfully, this works both ways. Certainly, there are countless straight men and women out there ogling the bodies of gay men and lesbians without giving any thought to their sexual orientation--and straights are just beginning to know the instant letdown of the appearance of a significant other of the wrong sex. (Think of that karaoke scene in Chasing Amy when Ben Affleck thinks that Joey Lauren Adams is singing to him, only to have sexy Carmen Lee join her onstage for a hot kiss.) The upside is that even if we can't all hit the sack together, we can still enjoy all the sights.
8 WE'RE LOOKING FOR NORMAL In a world where there's Halle Berry, your dad might say, it just doesn't seem normal for a guy to be hung up on Adrien Brody. And why would a girl want to trade blood vials with Angelina Jolie when she can exchange rings with her own personal Matt Damon? It's one of the most frustrating things about being queer--when folks like clergy or family try to make you explain it, you can't. Love is a mystery. So when some well-meaning person assures you, "You just haven't met the right guy/girl yet," part of you feels like they might actually be telling the truth. That's how the trouble starts. The land of everyone else's normal may not be the home at the end of your world, but they do such a sales job for it from the moment we're born that we may start to buy in.
You meet somebody of the opposite sex; they're charming and funny and attractive; you hit it off. There's even a bit of sexual sizzle in the air. Now you start to wonder, Could this be the one? The man or woman they kept telling me would came along? Before you know it, you're deep in a daydream in which you get married, have children, move to a small town, and join the Kiwanis Club. Everybody likes you. You fit in. You're normal.
Hey. Snap out of it. This daydream might be normal--if you're straight. Otherwise, Far From Heaven, here we come. Stop wondering whether you want to join a club that would have somebody like you as a member. You've paid your dues already.
9 IT'S THE LURE OF THE FORBIDDEN There's a reason that you're more likely to find adult videos with the phrases frat house and cop than drama club and hairdresser, or that Gina Gershon chases after the femmiest of the femme in her dyke screen roles. The idea that we have enough sex appeal to "turn" a straight person for some same-sex nasty may be one of life's greatest ego boosts.
We're not talking closet cases and "everyone's bisexual" here--we're talking hard-core heteros, Kinsey zeroes whose last gay thought was sandwiched between Marcia and Harden. Because true conquest is not about tapping the inner queer, it's about knocking 'em dead with your wizard-level sexual magic. After all, gay sex remains one of straight people's biggest taboos, so you must be All That if you snag a breeder.
Anyway, cruising other gays and lesbians is just too easy, right? Landing that elusive heterosexual remains our Everest, our great white whale, our forbidden nonfruit. It's that double whammy of pursuing something we're told is out of our reach and the sweet gratification of closing the deal.
10 THERE'S MORE OF THEM THAN OF US Statistically speaking, there's no way around it: Gay romance is a long shot. Even the best odds have straight people outnumbering us by 10 to 1. Subtract the millions of us who are out of circulation thanks to the closet or to long-term relationships, and the odds get even worse. So what are we supposed to do when those hormones hit? Save ourselves for gay marriage?
Don't sweat it. Consider yourself lucky if even three or four of your last 10 crushes have been fellow travelers--and don't fret too much about your eyes' occasional detour into the straight and narrow. It's a big world, people, and it's full of scenery. Even if a gay Prince Charming is headed your way, how will you find him if you're wearing blinders?
next: Gays Scared of Sex