San Francisco, September 1996
A t-room is a public restroom where you meet guys for dating and hookups.
Sometimes guys do it right there. There's a "glory holes" holes between stalls where you can insert things, or you can go under the barrier, or just use the same stall.
Why not just take them home? T-rooms are gross and uncomfortable, people could interrupt you at any moment, you could be arrested for "lewd behavior."
Besides, you can't do this in a t-room.
I've only known one gay guy who ever admitted to hooking up in a t-room: my friend David, 43 years old, newly out, and cruising constantly.
He told me "Look, you came out 18 years ago. If you've had five guys per week, that's almost 5,000 guys. I came out 3 years ago. I'm going to have to have five guys per day to to catch up."
"I haven't had five guys per week!" I protested. "Not nearly that many! And besides, this isn't a contest."
"Just trying to make up for lost time," he said with a gleam in his eye.
He started by cruising in the conventional venues, in bars, at bear parties, at church, at the Gay Fathers Club, on Castro Street. But hooking up that way takes several hours. If you have a job, go to the gym, and want a non-sexual social life, you may have time for meeting one or two guys per week, certainly not five every day.
Besides, even in San Francisco, the number of gay guys into hookups, into you, and available at that moment is limited. He had to seek out unconventional partners, closeted straight guys.
First the park.
Then the beaches.
Finally the t-rooms.
"It's great" David told me. "Not just a bunch of gym bunnies and leather daddies." He enumerated the incredible variety of guys he had: a middle-aged businessman carrying a briefcase, a college fratboy, a janitor, a construction worker, a teenage boy in a Domino's pizza uniform.
"No names, no coming-out stories, no discussions of art and literature -- sometimes we don't even make eye contact -- just the raw act itself, pure erotic pleasure. Isn't that what being gay is all about?"
"Right, right, Mr. Activist. Why don't you give it a try before getting all judgmental?"
"I have --when I was stuck at the airport in St. Louis for 36 hours, back in college."
"Believe me, the restroom at Macy's is a lot more comfortable than an airport. Come with me today, when all the cute little floorwalkers go to lunch. We'll share."
So we went to Macy's,browsed through men's wear, and David latched onto a cute guy passing out cologne samples: in his 20s, with wavy brown hair, a gym-toned body, and a basket. Obviously gay.
It wasn't like regular cruising -- we approached, took a sample, made significant eye contact, but didn't speak. Then we stood nearby and leered.
Cute Guy got an evil smile on his face and, after a long moment, headed for the restroom. After another long moment, we followed.
He was standing at the urinal, unzipped but not urinating, fondling himself. Small but very nice, ruddy, with a "mushroom head." We took the urinals on either side of him and unzipped. He glanced at each of our penises. Then David went into one of the stalls.
"That cologne sample was great," I said. "But you must get sick of it after awhile."
"That's for sure." He had a mild Southern accent. "I can't wait to get home and shower for about an hour."
"Sounds like fun. My name is Boomer."
"Clay." He zipped up and headed for the sink to wash his hands. I followed.
David walked out of the bathroom stall and left, his mission a failure.
"Um...I was wondering if you'd like to get together after work. Maybe get dinner, or go to the Eagle."
Clay smiled. "Sure. I get off at 5:00 -- meet me in the front lobby." He grabbed a paper towel from the dispenser. "By the way, don't bring your crazy friend. Can you believe he wanted me to do it right here? Hello -- it's not 1955!"
In case you were wondering: into kissing, average beneath the belt gifts, up for it three times in one evening.