Friday, March 20, 2015

Are You Ever Mistaken for Gay?

East Village, Spring 2001

In the spring of 2001, I was finishing my Ph.D. with a concentration in Gender/Sexuality (read: Gay Studies) and a dissertation on gay community strength (but my committee insisted that I excise the word "gay" from the title).  And I set out looking for an academic job in Gay Studies.

Problem: There weren't any.

Well, there was one, but it went to a Lesbian of Color who was doing research on Transnational Feminisms.

What about Gender?

Lots of those.  I sent out about 30 application portfolios --  but the jobs all went to women, preferably Women of Color who were doing research on Transnational Feminisms.  I toyed with the idea of changing my name to "Denise Davis" and going to interviews in drag. 
 By the end of January, when Gender jobs are usually filled, I hadn't had a single interview.

What about my minor field, Deviance?

Lots of  jobs there, too.  I sent out my portfolio to about 30 colleges and got 10 interviews.

But deviance scholars tend to dislike gay people.  Even at prestigious, liberal colleges.

Academic interviews usually last for two days, giving them many opportunities to find out if I was, in fact, gay.  Or else they made the heterosexist assumption that I must be heterosexual, which I found even more aggravating:

"Will your wife be moving with you?"
"How many kids do you have?"
"This area has lots of beautiful women, doesn't it?"
"Our department secretary is single.  Another perk if you come here, right?"
"Aren't you worried that, spending so much time around gays, it might rub off on you?"
"Researching gay topics, are you ever mistaken for gay?"

March, April, and May passed, with no offers.  Finally in desperation I applied for a deviance job at a college in a horrible town in Montana.  The nearest gay neighborhood was in Calgary, a 6-hour drive.

I got the offer, but I really, really didn't want to move to a horrible town six hours from the nearest gay neighborhood.

Then my friend Yuri, who helped me look for the World's Biggest Penis two summers ago, said.  "Why do you want to be a college professor, anyway?  It's dumb!"

This from a guy who finished his dissertation in 2000 and fell right into a cushy tenure-track position in Climate Science at Florida Atlantic University.

"Come down to Florida and live with me!" he offered.  "I live right next door to a lot of gay bars, and near to the beach.  More hot guys than you know what to do with!  And have you heard of Spring Break? Wow!"

"What about a job?"

"There are lots of jobs here.  Maybe you will teach as an adjunct when you're not on the beach, looking at hot guys."

So I turned down the Montana job, sent 20 boxes of books via UPS, packed up a rental car with everything else, and drove south on I-95 for three days.  It felt very much like my move to West Hollywood in 1985.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We Teach My Nephew the Gay Facts of Life

I always wonder if I have any gay relatives, or if I am alone on my family tree.

One doesn't discuss such things among conservative fundamentalists, and God forbid you ask!  But by checking carefully for hints and signals, or by catching them "in the act," I have determined that among my 8 pairs of uncles and aunts and 18 cousins, one is gay, and another straight but "open to suggestions."

And I've been watching my nieces and nephews throughout their lives, looking for signs of gayness.

But Josh took me by surprise.

Rock Island, December 2000

Yuri and I flew out to Rock Island to spend a week with my brother Ken.  On Christmas Eve we would all drive out to my parents' house in Indiana, and stay there until January 3rd.

Ken lived in a huge, rambling house downtown Rock Island, really two houses crammed together, with two living rooms, two kitchens, four bathrooms, and eight bedrooms.  Which he needed: he had seven kids, ranging in age from 18 to 2, plus a seemingly endless array of dogs, cats, parakeets, and hamsters.

While visiting, Yuri and I played it cool -- that is, we stayed closeted.  Ken knew, but he was a conservative fundamentalist, and didn't like talking about it.

And since neither of us was dating anyone special at the time, there really wasn't much to talk about.

At bedtime, we got a small bedroom in an isolated corridor on the second floor, with two twin beds.  Of course, we only used one of them.

 At 6:00 am on the morning of our third day in Rock Island, I was awakened by an elated voice. "Aha, I knew you were gay!"

I opened my eyes.  It was Ken's son Joel, age 14!

"Don't you knock before coming in someone's room?"

"It's my house -- I can go where I want."  He grinned. "Don't worry, I won't tell my Dad."

"He's known since before you were born.  Now do you mind if we get dressed?"  I was painfully aware that we were both naked under the covers.

"Why do you care if we are gay?" Yuri asked.

"I don't -- not much, anyway.  I mean, it's pretty weird, but as long as I don't have to watch, it's ok."  He sat on the foot of the bed.  "Did you bring any porn?"

"No!  And anyway, it would be gay porn, right?"

"I guess."

Wait -- he wasn't letting us get dressed, and he wanted to see gay porn?

I'd been keeping close tabs on Ken's kids, looking for evidence of gayness, but I hadn't figured on Joel.  He was always talking to girls on the telephone, and rushing off to dates with girls.  Or was that a screen?

"Joel," I said, "Are you gay?"

"Me?  No way!" he exclaimed, offended.  "I like girls!"  He paused.  "So...have you had gay sex?"

"Yes, sure, why?" Yuri asked.

"Well, see..."  He paused again.  "My friend Max..he's not gay, either.  But we were wondering what it's like.  Could know, let us watch?"

I thought for a moment.  "Tell you what -- meet us for lunch today, and we'll show you how gay guys lose their virginity."

While Joel happily ran off to tell his friend about their upcoming orgy, Yuri punched me on the arm.  "Ti choknutiy!  You are crazy! We can't do sex with kids!"

"Don't worry, we won't.  I said how gay guys lose their virginity.  Remember what I told you about that?"

He grinned.  "You are a genius!"

That afternoon we met for lunch at Mulkey's, up the street from Augustana College.  Max was a cute football jock, wide-eyed at meeting two gay guys, one of them from Russia!  We talked about growing up in a world where same-sex desire was never mentioned, where "what girl do you like" was a constant mantra.  We told our coming out stories.

Max was more interested in gay culture.  "So you were both dating Jaan?"  he asked. "Didn't it make you jealous?"

"Not really. Straight guys want exclusive relationships, because they want to make sure that if the woman gets pregnant, the baby is theirs.  But gay guys don't have that concern."

But Joel was anxious to get started.  "When will we get to see know, do it?

We went to Lincoln Park and walked along the snow-covered trails.  I asked: "What are the steps you straight guys have to go through before going all the way?"

Reddening with embarrassment, Max listed the same steps that I heard as a kid, from #1 (Kissing) to #6 (Putting your penis into her).

"Do you know why Step #6 is last for straight guys?"

They shook their heads.

"Because the girl might get pregnant, so she has to be very careful, and reserve it for only very special relationships.  But gay guys don't get pregnant, so they don't care."

"It's not special at all," Yuri added.  "We don't even say that it is sex.  It's playing around."

"Then what is special?" Joel asked, perplexed.

"This is Step #6 for us."  I looked around to see if anyone was nearby, then drew Yuri into my arms and kissed him.

It took a few moments to disentangle myself and face them again.  They were both staring.

"Kissing?" Max asked.

"Right.  That's how gay guys lose their virginity.  It's the most intimate thing you can do.  Everything else is just foreplay."

" can kiss anybody.  You can kiss your grandmother."

"Not like this.  Try it and see."

Joel and Max faced each other, leaned in -- and started to giggle.  They leaned in again -- and Josh pushed Max away.  Max kissed him on the cheek.

"I guess you're not ready for the advanced step yet," Yuri said.  "Give it time."

We never talked about "gay sex" again, though sometimes when I visited at Christmastime, Joel would ask, with a knowing grin, "Are you...kissing anyone special?"

Joel is 28 years old now, a punk rocker with several ex-girlfriends and an eight-year old son.  I'm not sure if he's bisexual, straight "but open to suggestions," or just plain straight, but I found Max among his Facebook friends.  Max is gay.

See also: Is My Nephew Gay?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I Break Every Rule of Gay Cruising

New York, Fall 2000

In the fall of 2000, I was depressed.    I was writing my doctoral dissertation, and my committee was making lots of unwelcome "suggestions":

Take out that section about gay people not being able to get married, and concentrate on the important issues.

Put in a section about the guilt and pain that all gay people feel.

But I followed each of the suggestions, worried that they would say "Sorry, your dissertation is on gay people, switch to something else," like my committee at USC did, the first time I tried getting a Ph.D.

Plus Yuri had moved to Florida, and my boyfriend Ari had just broken up with me.

So I wasn't thinking, and I didn't follow most of the rules of gay cruising.  Neither did my partner.

1. Select your cruising venue properly.  Check.  I met Jorge at the Eagle, the leather bar in Chelsea. He was shorter than me, in his mid-20s, dark-skinned, and very muscular.  Exactly my type.  Or so it would seem.

2. Cruise early.  No. It was nearly 2:00 am, and at last call people get desperate and weird.

3. Cruise with a buddy. No. I was by myself.

4. Do not drink while cruising. Check.

5. Gather information.  No. we only exchanged first names.

6. Don't discuss sizes or sexual acts.  No. We discussed in detail the sexual acts that we were interested in.

7. Word the invitation carefully.  No.  He just said "Let's go," and we went.

 8. Invite him to your place.  No. I followed him out into the cold New York autumn.

9. Take your own cars.  No. He drove us to New Jersey.  We had to drive around for about an hour to find a parking space on the street, and then walk about ten blocks through a desolate, scary neighborhood.  I was completely lost.  How would I ever find my way home again?

10. Make sure someone knows where you are. No.  I didn't even know where I was.

We walked into a row house, through the living room, and up the stairs.  "Be quiet, my mama and brother are asleep," Jorge said.

He lived with his parents!

11. Clean your apartment in advance.  No. His bedroom was a mess, unmade bed, dishes from a snack on his desk, the floor littered with bodybuilding magazines and gay porn.

12. Hide your valuables. No.

13. Bring condoms. Check.  But they weren't necessary.  We undressed and squeezed into his narrow single bed.  And Jorge promptly fell asleep.

I like cuddling with musclemen as much as the next guy.  But I couldn't sleep in such a cramped space, and Jorge did not respond to my attempts to wake him.

14. Don't kick him out afterwards.

We awoke to bright daylight that made his room look even messier, and a yell from downstairs, "Jorge, quieres desayuno?"  (Breakfast is ready!).

Jorge pushed me away and leapt to his feet.  "Dios mio, it's late!" he exclaimed.  "My girlfriend and her padres will be here soon, to go to Mass!"

He had a girlfriend!

"Quick, get dressed!"  He pulled on his briefs and started fumbling with his jeans.  "I'll sneak you out the back door."

"But...I don't know where I am."

"Go up to Clmumble-mumble and turn right, then turn left by the Dairy Queen, and go down West Side to the church, and you can catch the HBmumble-mumble.  It's only a couple of miles."

He led me downstairs, through a little foyer and into a laundry room.  I could hear a conversation in Spanish and clattering plates from a room nearby.

15. Don't pretend that you want a relationship.

He ushered me through to the back porch, and made the "call me" gesture before shutting the door.

Call him?  I never got his last name, email address, or telephone number.

Edward the Art Appraiser Tries to "Make" my Boyfriend

East Village, November 2000

I thought apartments in the Castro were difficult to come by, but when I moved to New York in 1997, Manhattan turned out to be a hundred times worse.

Not just the gay neighborhoods.  Anywhere in Manhattan.

300 square foot studios with cockroaches and no hot water started at $2000 per month.

There was an infinite variety of apartment sharing arrangements: during the week but not on weekends; from 6 am to 6 pm every other day; alternate Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; the couch in the living room; a walk-in closet in the bedroom.

Some guys lived in an ingenious jigsaw of two-day-a-week or three-nights-a-week rentals in horrible apartments with crazy roommates.

I was interviewed by a dozen or so bizzarre and insane guys in horrible apartments before I landed the dream roommate: Edward, an art appraiser who spent most of his time in Europe: in his 60s, tall, husky, white-haired,  slightly feminine.

 He had a beautiful three-bedroom, two bath apartment on East 13th Street, on the border between the East and West Villages, at the heart of the gay community.

It was rent-controlled, and cheap by New York standards: my share was only $700 per month, less than half of my take-home salary at the time.

Besides, the living room was almost entirely occupied by floor-to-ceiling bookcases, filled with everything from the complete works of Plato to Mommy Dearest.

Of course, Edward had a few crazy rules:

1. All guests must be introduced to the other roommates, even if it was late at night and they had to be woken up.
2. There was to be no nudity in the common areas of the house.  Always wear a bathrobe.
3. No food or beverages could be consumed in the living room.

4. No porn movies could be viewed in the living room.
5. It was rude to have one's own food in the refrigerator. Everything anyone brought home, including doggy-bags from restaurants, was up for grabs.
6. The first roommate up in the morning must make a pot of coffee, even if he didn't intend to drink any.
7. The toilet seat must be left up when not in use.

It was worth it.  I stayed for three years.

Edward was not very active romantically. He rarely dated, never hooked up.  We only "shared" once: his Boyfriend for Pay, Andrew Marvel.

"That custom is for you young, randy hipsters!" Edward would say.  "In my day we were faithful to one person for life!"

You mean the 1970s, the heyday of the St. Mark's Baths?

In the fall of 2000,  I started dating Avi, a 25-year old Israeli studying biology at NYU.  He was newly out -- in fact, I was the first guy he had actually dated.

 He lived in a university dorm, so when it was time to spend the night together, we went to my place, and of course I had to wake up Edward for the introduction.  He grunted an annoyed "pleased to meet you."

But the next morning Edward was all smiles, making breakfast (a rarity) and peppering Avi with questions: "Where did you and Boomer meet? How do you like America?  Are you out to your parents?"

When I returned alone that night, Edward was gushing: "Your new boyfriend is magnificent!  Like one of those beautiful boys in a Wilhelm van Gloeden photo, or Caravaggio's Cupid in Amor Vincent Omnia.  Wherever did you find him?  How long have you been dating?"

"Last night was our third date."

"Then you're officially a couple!  We should celebrate!  Bring Avi around Friday after dinner, and we'll have champagne and cake!"

When Avi and I arrived, Edward was sitting on the couch in his underwear, a violation of Rule #2.

"Radiator malfunction, I'm afraid," he explained. "I called the superintendent. But until he gets around to fixing it, underwear will be de rigueur.   Or commando-style, if you like."

I didn't notice that it was particularly warm in the living room, but I gamely stripped down to my underwear.  Avi just took his shirt off.

"Now you lovebirds just get comfy on the couch, and I'll take care of everything."  He vanished into the kitchen and reappeared with a bottle of champagne, a soda for me, and three glasses.  Then he brought out slices of lemon cake with white frosting, a violation of Rule #3. 

"Today I picked up a quaint little video on Bleecker Street," Edward said.  "It's a bit on the risque side, but we're all adults here.  I'm sure we can handle it."

He slid A Carnival in Venice into the VCR. Porn!  A classic, but still, a violation of Rule #4!  Then he squeezed into the left side of the couch, so we were all clumped together, with Avi in the middle.

What was going on?  It was too early in the relationship for "sharing"!  Besides, you always talked about it first -- you didn't just squeeze in!

But that wasn't what Edward had in mind.  It was becoming increasingly obvious that he wanted to "make" (seduce) Avi, whether or not I participated!

But you had to wait for an offer to "share."

Besides, older never approached younger.  You always waited for the Cute Young Thing to approach you, lest you be labeled a Creepy Old Guy.

In retrospect, I could have deterred Edward.  I could have moved between him and Ari on the couch, or I could have suggested that we move to the love seat "to see the movie better."

But I didn't want to offend Edward, and maybe get kicked out of a dream apartment in the heart of the Village.

So I put my arm around Avi's shoulders and kept my eyes glued to the tv screen, ignoring Edward as he touched Ari's knee, rubbed his hand against his chest, squeezed his nipple, and finally kissed him on the neck.

I didn't think of how Avi would feel, newly out, dating for the first time, cuddling with his boyfriend and being "made" by a Creepy Old Guy at the same time.

Until it was too late.

Suddenly Avi bolted to his feet.  " have to get up early tomorrow," he stammered.  He grabbed his shirt and practically ran for the door.

"Wait -- let me take you home!"  I called.

"No thanks, I know the way.  Thanks for the cake."  The door slammed behind him.  

When I emailed Avi the next day, he explained that he would be very busy every night for the rest of his life.

See also: Edward's Boyfriend for Pay

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

6000 Ways to Say "Penis"

As an undergrad Modern Languages major, I studied Spanish, French, German, and Greek.  In grad school in Comparative Literature, I studied Italian, Russian, and Turkish.  Since then, I've studied several other languages.  Of course, I didn't get far in most, and they fade away over time; today, about all I can get by in are the original Spanish, French, and German.

But I'm still interested in languages, particularly isolates, the remnants of ancient language families that have somehow managed to avoid the encroachment of economically-superior English, Spanish, Urdu, Chinese, or Arabic.

Actually, I don't really want to learn these languages; I just want to meet men who speak a language unlike any other in the world, and maybe learn a few new words for penis or My hotel is nearby.

1. Burushaski: 87,000 speakers in mountains of far northern Pakistan, near the borders of China and Tajikstan.

Their valley, Hunza, was the source of the Shangri-La legend.  Travelers said that they had no wars or disputes, and eternal youth.  So this Burushaski gym rat could be over 100.  He's had a shipen since he was about 20; before that, it was a sushun.

Tash chom means pull, sex appeal, and to find someone to spend the night with.

2. Tarascan (Purepecha), the remnants of an empire that threatened the Aztecs in precolonial Mexico, now has 240,000 speakers in Michioacan.

Kuini in Purepecha means penis, bird, and prison term.  I'm wondering about the prison term.

3. Mapuche: 250,000 speakers in southern Ecuador.  Their leader Capulican is memoralized in a Beefcake statue.

The slogan of the Mapuche civil rights movement is Newen penis, "Power to Mapuche Brothers."

The Mapuche word for penis is punun, which, by the way, is the same as the Quechua word for bed. 

They specialize in a novelty carving called an Indio Picaro, a smiling Mapuche Indian who, when you raise him up, displays an erect penis.

4. Basque, with 720,000 speakers in the Pyrenees of northern Spain. Yuri and I visited Basque country in 1999 in search of the world's largest penis.

Which, in Basque, is zakil.

5. But the biggest of the language isolates is Korean, with 78 million speakers.

The average Korean penis length is 3.8", the smallest in the world (the 5.0").

There's a blog that attempts to answer this unjust accusation, offering proof that the Korean eumgyeong is just as big as anybody else's.

See also: 18 Yiddish Words for Penis; In Search of the Lapp Penis.

I Meet the Hottest Guy in the World

Durban, South Africa, July 2000

I am attracted to the following traits:

1. Clergy.  Preachers, priests, monks, rabbis, imams, seminary students, Mormon missionaries.

2. Dark skinned.  Black, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Hispanic.  Among Europeans, Spanish, Italian, Greek. 

3. Short, small, compact.  Under 5'8" is good, under 5'" better.  

4. Muscular, the bigger and harder the better, or else husky, chubby, fat. As long as there's some mass.   

5. Baseball bat.

There are exceptions --my Celebrity Boyfriend had none of the above.  But the guys I date generally have two, usually three::
Fred the Ministerial Student: 1, 4, 5
The Greek Orthodox Priest with the Pushy Mom: 1, 4, 5
Jimmy, the Bodybuilder on Crutches: 3, 4, 5
Alan, the Ex-Porn Star: 1, 4, 5
Raul in West Hollywood: 2, 3
Blake in Manhattan: 2, 4, 5
Joe, my Boyfriend's Roommate: 2, 3, 4, 5

There aren't many guys around with four of the traits, and only once in my life have I met someone with all five.

In the summer of 2000, I wrote a paper on the evangelical Christian response to to gay men with AIDS, and presented it at the 13th International AIDS Conference, held in Durban, South Africa.

There were 12,000 people attending and 5,000 presentations, including an endless number on religious responses to gay men with AIDS.

One of the presenters in my session was Sibusiso, or Sibu for short, a student at the Lutheran seminary in Pretoria.

He was short, very dark, handsome, and a member of the clergy!  I don't remember what his presentation was about, but he mentioned being gay.

After the session I approached him, suggested we collaborate on a paper about gay Christian men with AIDS, and invited him for coffee.

He accepted.

Conference Center, Durban

He was 24 years old, Zulu, raised in an African Pentecostal Church, but converted to the Lutheran Church at age 15.  He came out at age 18, while studying Biblical Languages at the University of Pretoria.

We had such similar backgrounds!  We must be destined to be soul mates!

I reached over and casually touched his arm, and met hard muscle.  Four out of five traits!  Incredible!

That night Sibu and two of his friends went dancing at the Lounge, one of Durham's gay clubs.  I was 39, too old for dance clubs, but I invited myself along anyway.

When he headed for the dark room, I followed. 

Baseball bat.

All five of the traits!

 It was settled: Sibu was, by definition, the Hottest Guy in the World.

The Lounge, Durban
The Lounge was dirty, dank, packed, and too noisy to talk.  And everyone else was under 30, making me feel decidedly out of place.  

And Sibu and his friends kept dancing.  My shirt was soaked with sweat; my hair reeked of cigarette smoke; I was exhausted. I wanted to go home to bed.

But I also wanted to spend the night with the Hottest Guy in the World.

It was 3:00 am when we finally headed back to his hotel.  I tried to put my arm around him in the back seat of the taxi, but he brushed me away.  Closeted, I figured.

He said goodbye to his friends, and we got in the elevator.  "What floor are you?" he asked.

What did he mean by that?  "The same floor as you."

We walked down the hall to his room.  He opened the door.  "Well, goodnight."
 "Aren't you going to invite me in?"  I asked in desperation.

"It's late..."

"Well...can I see you for breakfast tomorrow?"

He frowned.  "Look...I like you, you're a nice guy and all that, but you're not my type."

"Not your type?  But...I starred in a porn film...."

"I like guys my own age.  Sorry."  The door slammed in my face.

Just my luck.  I meet the Hottest Guy in the World, and it's ten years too late.

See also: The Quest for the Bushman Penis.; In Search of Sex and Languages in South Africa

Monday, March 16, 2015

My Sunday School Teacher's Stripper Sons

Rock Island, December 1999

When I was a kid in the 1970s, my favorite Sunday school teacher was named Brother Dino (not his real name).  He was young, in his mid-20s, with black hair and a thick black moustache -- rare for Nazarenes.

He had only been saved for a couple of years -- before that, he was a Catholic! -- and he knew all about movies, dancing, drinking, card-playing, carnivals, circuses, and Catholic Masses. He framed them as destructive and evil: "Look how horrible my life was before I got Saved!" -- but the stories were brash, colorful, and seductive.

Brother Dino was our cabin counselor at Nazarene summer camp during the summer of 1974, just after eighth grade. One day I saw him naked in the shower.  He looked like this guy: muscular body, hairy chest and belly, very impressive beneath the belt.

Nazarenes typically didn't have many kids -- why bring kids into the world, when the Rapture would come at any moment -- but Brother Dino and his wife had lots, four girls (born 1968, 1970, 1973, 1975)  --and, just when they were giving up, two boys, Mickey and Dom (1977, 1978).   I didn't pay them much attention -- I left the Nazarene church when the oldest was only about 10 -- but my mother told me about the them their talent show and jump quiz triumphs, their dates with the new preacher's kid, their participation in International Institute, their colleges and marriages and children.

She never mentioned the stripping. But my brother Ken did.

At Christmastime 1999, I was back in Rock Island home for the holidays, and as my brother drove me away from the airport, we passed a low gray building.  "That's a new strip club," Ken announced.  "Where girls take off their clothes," he added, as clarification.

"Any male performers?"  I asked.

"As a matter of fact, Tuesday is lady's night, with guys taking their clothes off."

I didn't ask how he acquired that information.  "Hmm...lady's night, only women allowed, I guess."

"And you know who the top dancers are?  Brother Dino's kids, Mickey and Dom!  Brother Dino can barely hold his head up in church anymore!  What did he expect, when he gave them Catholic names?"

Mickey and Dom were now in college -- one at Augustana, the other at St. Ambrose, the Catholic college in Davenport.  And on Tuesday night they made extra money by performing at the strip club.

Men were allowed in "if accompanied by a lady," so I called an old college friend, and we went to the 10:00 show. I was the only man in a crowd of twenty or so women.

Having not seen the boys since Mickey was a toddler and Dom a babe-in-arms, I didn't know what to expect.  They came on stage dressed as college jocks in sweatpants and Augustana and St. Ambrose sweatshirts.  They pretended to argue about college rivalries, and in "anger" stripped each other out of everything but their jockstraps.

 They had smooth, muscular bodies -- rather surprising, given their dad's hairiness, and not as sculpted as the male models of West Hollywood, but certainly impressive.

They danced together on a little stage, then separated and worked the crowd.  I think it was the oldest, Mickey, who gyrated toward my side of the room.  I held up a dollar.

He approached, grinning, his smooth chest shining with sweat, and thrust his crotch suggestively toward me. "I'm an ex-Nazarene, too," I told him, shouting to make myself heard above the music.  "Your dad was my Sunday school teacher."

He looked surprised, but kept grinning.  "Small world!" he said.  "You gay or is she your girlfriend?"

"Just a friend."  He straddled my lap.  I shoved the dollar inside his jock strap and felt around to see if he was as big as his dad.  He was.

"Cool!  You guys the best tippers!  Wanna kiss?"


He bent over and kissed me briefly on the lips, as I shoved another dollar into his jock strap.  The crowd squealed in shock or delight.  Then he rose and backed away and gyrated toward a woman who was holding up a dollar.

My mother tells me that both Mickey and Dom are married with children now, working in human resources and telecommunications, respectively.  Their stripping days are far behind them.  But I'm sure that they're gay allies.

Rock Island has changed.

See also: A Nude Party with the Golden Boy

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Exorcising the Homophobic Demon

Sayville, New York, Fall 1999

This is my weirdest paranormal experience:

I spent the summer of 1999 in Paris, ostensibly researching French social thought, but really just...well, being in Paris.  I had a small but cozy apartment on the Rue de Plâtre, in the heart of Le Marais, the gay neighborhood, about a 10 minute walk from Notre Dame.  Every day I took the metro to the National Library to do research for a few hours.  In the afternoon I went to the Luxembourg Gardens or the Musée d'Orsay or the Louvre; and in the evenings, Gay Paris.

There was only one problem: My apartment looked down on a store called Edemonium, which sold Goth- and -demon themed clothing, jewelry, human skulls, and statues of Satan.  I'm interested in the paranormal, but this was too much.  It freaked me out.  I kept the blinds closed at night, but the lurid red light still filtered into my bedroom.

My friend Andre didn't like it, either (not the same Andre as in The Worst Date in Florida History).  He was a Long Island grad student in history,originally from Belgium, in his 30s, short, husky, sort of muscular.

He claimed to be straight but celibate: he lived in a "Traditional Catholic" spiritual community with some other "straight but celibate" guys who disapproved of Pope John Paul and thought that only Latin Masses were valid. But he supported female priests, birth control, and gay rights.

A few days after I got back from Paris, Andre and I had lunch on campus.  I told him about Edemonium, and he said "That figures.  I was wondering why you were being oppressed by a demon."


"Not possessed.  He's oppressing you, sort of piggy-backing.  It's no big deal -- happens to a lot of people.  Have you felt tired and depressed lately?"

"Well, yeah, but I just had to leave Paris.  Who wouldn't be depressed?"

"Spells of bad luck?"

"Well, now that you mention it."

"Demon oppression. Come out to the Cloisters tonight, and we'll take care of it for you."

I frowned.  "This isn't some sort of ex-gay thing, is it?"

"Oh, no, not at all.  Demons are equal-opportunity oppressors."

So that evening after class Andre drove me, plus Yuri and Jaan for gay support, to "The Cloisters," which turned out to be a three-bedroom house in Sayville.  Andre introduced us as his "gay friends" to his four "straight but celibate" housemates, plus a potential member named Barry, a short, blondish guy in his 20s with a round Eastern European face.

The ceremony wasn't what I expected from The Exorcist.  Andre read some Bible passages in Latin, then drew a cross on my forehead with sacred oil, and we all recited the Lord's Prayer.  I actually felt better, more energetic.  Time to break for soda and cookies.

But then Barry started laughing, a weird maniacal laugh like the Joker on Batman.  "West Hollywood!  West Hollywood!  West Hollywood!" he grunted.  "Corner of Santa Monica and San Vicente."

"Looks like the demon jumped into a weak host!" Andre exclaimed.

"Smells bad in here!" Barry  -- or the demon -- complained.  "Too many homos!  Lots and lots of homos! Eu, mulieres times?  Infantes, timere loqui ad mulieres!" Afraid of women?  Babies, afraid to talk to women? (Latin; we translated from the tape recording later.)

Andre yelled "Depart from him!"

Barry -- or the demon -- switched to Flemish: " Ik denk dat allemaal zijn homos! Ben je een man, of een meisje?" I think you're all homos.  Are you a boy or a girl?"

"The power of Christ compels you..."

"Put down that Bible, homo!" Barry began to sashay around the room like a drag queen.  "Ma tahan olla naine" he sang, to the tune of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina." "Mul on väike vorst!"  I want to be a woman, I have a tiny sausage (Estonian).

"You have no power here!"

Barry dropped his pants and shoved his butt in the air.  "Ce n'est pas un vagin, idiot!" This is not a vagina! (French)

"In Christ there is neither male nor female, Greek nor Jew, gay nor straight."

What version of the Bible was Andre reading from?"

"Bog chochet , stoby ubit vas vesekh," Barry said, this time in a mournful plaint.  God wants to kill you (Russian).

"Do not call something unclean that God has made clean!"

Now in a slow, soft voice, almost a whisper. "Tes mère est pleurer!  Tes grand-mère est pleurer!" Your mother is crying...your grandmother is crying (French).

Barry's head slumped against his chest, as if he was asleep.  A moment later, he looked up.  "What happened?"

"Are you gay?"  Andre asked, coming right to the point.

Barry blanched.  "Um...well, yeah, I guess.  I should have told you before, but I thought you wouldn't let me  into the community"

Andre put his hand on his shoulder.  "That's why you were open to possession -- your fear.  But it's ok now. We don't care about trivial things like sexual orientation here."

I still don't know what happened that night.  Was there really a demon?  If not, how could Barry speak Latin, French, Flemish, Russian, Estonian, and German?  They were all languages that someone in the room could understand.

But it's kind of nice to know that demons -- emissaries of Satan -- are homophobic.

And I got a date with Barry.

See also: My Hookup with Barry and the Poz Boy; The Colonial Boy's First Time.


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