Men in Love With Each Other

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a reading at Elliott Bay Book Co. (no relation). It was for a book called Queers in History, by Keith Stern.

The talk was interesting, especially because instead of doing a traditional reading, he performed his "one man show," which was "rough," in his words, but pretty funny and interesting. Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was probably gay? Did you know (from
  • Abraham Lincoln slept with his bodyguard in the White House when Mrs. Lincoln was away?
  • Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe had a one-night-stand?
  • Leonardo da Vinci was imprisoned twice for same-sex affairs?
  • Sir Francis Bacon's mother complained about him sleeping with the male servants?
  • The founder of Shinto Buddhism also founded a tradition of male-male love in Japan?
  • Angelina Jolie wanted to marry her "Firefox" co-star Jenny Shimizu?
  • Two ancient Egyptian men shared a tomb as husband and wife?
  • Lawrence of Arabia dedicated his life's work to a young male lover?
  • The wife of one US president moved her girlfriend into the White House, and another US President shared his White House bed with the male chief of his security detail?
  • An heroic soldier in the US Revolution was actually a woman in disguise, who "married" another woman after her service in the Continental Army?
  • One of the greatest male American athletes of all time was arrested twice for same-sex indiscretions?
  • In 1886, when US officials asked an Indian tribe to send "their best woman" to visit Washington, DC, the tribe chose to send a man in a dress?
"Facts" is a somewhat onerous title for that page, because most of these "facts" are conjecture based on circumstantial evidence (very few of the "queers in history" actually "came out"). But the circumstantial evidence is quite compelling, I must say. I haven't read the book yet but I want to after going to the reading.

The interesting thing for me was, though, after the reading, as I was getting back on my bike to go home, I was approached by a dude who had also been in attendance. He chatted me up for an awkward few moments - awkward because I was pretty sure immediately that he was hitting on me.

Afterward I wondered why it was so awkward. Being perceived as gay is nothing new for me. Rumors have floated around me about it for years, sometimes explicit, sometimes less so. I'm a firm opponent of the idea of heterosexuality - I think that every human exists, sexually, on a continuum from 100% heterosexual or homosexual (minority) to 50% either way (bisexual). Here's Kinsey's graph:

I fall on the side of the spectrum where I'm mostly heterosexual (i.e. I'm in, and have only been in, heterosexual relationships, and prefer them) but am not 100% against a homosexual relationship (would I ever pursue one? Given different circumstances, possibly, but I am in love with and plan to marry my current female partner). So according to Kinsey, I would be most likely a 1, maybe a 2. I think most people fall into the 1-3 range. I saw a bell curve once, but I couldn't find it in a quick Google search.

So I hope that the awkwardness was because it's always awkward being hit on when you're already in a relationship (and 100% not attracted to the hitter-on-er). I don't have anything against being hit on by a guy, intellectually. I suppose it's just some work I still have to do to extricate myself from the lasting effects of the heterosexism I've been fed socially since birth.

It got me thinking, though, about how difficult dating must be for those seeking same-sex relationships, especially when at present the issue is so politically charged. Most people can generally assume that when they approach a member of the opposite sex that they are "straight." Unless you're at a "gay bar" or other similarly-themed event or gathering place, gay people don't really have this luxury. And "gaydar" is a sham! Or, well, maybe it's not but I'm proof that someone you may think is gay likely isn't. The androgynization (is that a word?) of male fashion hasn't helped, I assume. It's always a guessing game.

Remember when Prop 8 was terrorizing us all, and Colbert did a great few shows about all of the fearmongering. I remember this great Colbert Report clip where Colbert mistakenly assumes an audience member is gay. Whoops, he's just a hipster! I wonder if it's harder to use gaydar at the present time (when mainstream fashion is moving further and further toward androgyny).

But, of course, I write from a male perspective. I wonder if it's similar for women. I wonder if straight male allies overplay the fact that, socially, lesbianism/female bisexuality is more acceptable than male homosexuality. Is it just as hard for girls? I am friends with a few gay guys but I don't think any gay women. Hmm... maybe I do know them but just don't know it?

What if, one day, homosexual relationships were so accepted culturally that you could just wear a nice little nametag or t-shirt saying "I'm gay!" and it would help take the guesswork out for your potential romantic partners, but it wouldn't have the negative societal consequences? Kinda like this shirt:

Or there was no such thing as being "in the closet" because being gay was OK? Well, maybe let's work on the marriage thing first, right?

I was also thinking about how, when marriage isn't an option for you, how does that color your relationships? Are you more or less likely to engage in "casual" dating behavior since "legally" you can't have a "legitimate" long-term relationship? What does this post look like when you read it through the lens of homosexual relationships? Or are we all conditioned to see long-term monogamous relationships as the ideal? No idea, folks. Gay readers, I need your help to understand you and your struggle better so that I can better work in solidarity with you.

Did you know Abe Lincoln was gay? Are you upset/inspired?
Do u think sexuality is a spectrum? Or is everyone 100% gay or straight and those not are kidding themselves?
Or is everyone 100% straight but some "choose" a gay "lifestyle"?
Have u (straight folks) been hit on by someone of the same sex? Was it awkward? Why?
Have u (gay folks) had trouble dating? Is it not that bad? Or is it worse?
Is it harder/easier for gay women to date?
Would having all gay folks be "obviously out" (like with a nametag) make things better or worse?
What about in a different cultural environment?
Do gay folks still think about marriage / monogamy like straight folks do?


  1. I am a big believer in the spectrum. And more recently, in the idea that we are just humans, who love other humans. And regardless of gender, sometimes it's romantic and sometimes it is not.
    I have recently been hit on by someone of the same sex, but as you said, it was more awkward because I'm in a relationship, and not attracted to that specific person. I was also recently hit on by a person of the opposite sex (at mcdonalds!) and it was also awkward.
    I would like to live in a world where we wouldn't need nametags, because we would all just be attracted to people, rather than be gay/straight/somewhere in the middle. The labels wouldn't matter, we would all be open to loving whoever we love. That is the reality that I am personally moving towards.
    I think that a lot of times, more monogamous straight people forget about the more polygamous straight people when talking about non-monogamous gay people (not you). This goes back to your earlier post re: monogamy. Again, I don't think it's about the labels, I think it's about the people. I am tempted to say maturity level, but as a young person, I think it's presumptuous to assume that everyone thinks being monogamous is mature. I am just more prone to monogamy.
    I do think it's possible that a lack of validation from the US government has prompted a more polygamous gay culture, but that might just be the way the gay culture is portrayed (by whom?).

  2. "I would like to live in a world where we wouldn't need nametags, because we would all just be attracted to people, rather than be gay/straight/somewhere in the middle."

    Do you mean, like, humankind could evolve past the spectrum of sexuality to where there is no such thing as preference? Like, everyone is 100% bisexual basically? That sounds pretty sweet.

    Re: monogamy, that's the question I was asking with that last post and with this one. The dominant cultural norm is monogamy, but does that actually speak to the majority of people or is that just the tradition or whatever? And since the tradition is pretty conservative, does that give gays more freedom since they aren't as constrained by it? Or is that the tradition/etc. because it's a part of human nature and gays are just as interested in monogamy as straights, but then how does it play out when, like you said, gays in the US don't have their monogamy validated by mainstream culture?

    I was aware of the stereotype of gays being promiscuous and i didn't really bring it up but yeah, I wonder how that plays into all of this and whether that is "true" and if it is how that relates to the fact that the gay "lifestyle" is not acceptable to mainstream culture.

    *sighs* wish i had more gay friends to ponder these issues with

  3. It would be better if all the heterosexuals could wear a t-shirt on which it would be written “straight.”

    I did not know for Lincoln but a lot of great people/celebrities were homosexuals (or at least bisexual). Wittgenstein, Alexander the Great, Hadrian, Henri III, Cambaceres, Keynes, Da Vinci, Jacques-Louis David, Michelangelo, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Rimbaud, Marcel Proust, Yves Saint-Laurent, Paul Verlaine, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Eugène Delacroix, Simone de Beauvoir … The list is very long and there are all the people for who we will never know.

    Anyways, are you busy or can you host a poor couchsurfer this week (remember: love, poor, loving the poor)?

  4. Dangit I wrote a long comment and the internet ate it.

    I replied to you on CS! Hopefully that's you on CS as well as here?

  5. OK Well, maybe the long comment should have come out because apparently "Anonymous," you aren't the same person that did message me on CS. Well, go to and ask me to host you, or facebook or something? or e-mail? I can't host "anonymous!" :)

  6. Coming from a gay reader:

    Did you know Abe Lincoln was gay? Are you upset/inspired? Yep. I knew he was queer. Doesn't change my view of him at all. He wasn’t out during his Presidency, so there’s not much for me to be inspired about. The LGBT community is capable of doing incredible things (Presidency is just one of them) and what would have been nice is if we could have more gay leaders who “made it” while already being out of the closet rather than coming out after they had reached a level of stardom.

    Do u think sexuality is a spectrum? Or is everyone 100% gay or straight and those not are kidding themselves? I do believe sexuality is a spectrum. You can’t help who you are attracted to and I know some guys who are predominantly attracted to men but every now and then they find themselves attracted to woman. I know some women who are like this as well. If you have a good 2 hours, watch the Kinsey movie. Or read the book. Good times…

    Or is everyone 100% straight but some "choose" a gay "lifestyle"? No one chooses a gay lifestyle anymore than someone chooses a straight lifestyle. And I really hate that term “gay lifestyle”. I believe that “gay lifestyle” is a loose term that people want to use when they want to bring up all the things they feel are negative or not in agreement to their cookie cutter community. However, they neglect to mention straight people doing the same thing as a lot of the gay community.

    Have u (gay folks) had trouble dating? Is it not that bad? Or is it worse? I had trouble dating guys when I was at Pepperdine but ever since I graduated it’s been much easier. I have no complaints. Pepperdine however is not the best place for gays to be out…

    Would having all gay folks be "obviously out" (like with a nametag) make things better or worse? I think it would be better if every one could accept those who were out without freaking out. At this point in history, I don’t think we are there yet. Most people stay in the closet because they fear for their well being or social backlash. But in the same breath, I think that if every one who was gay was out, many people would be surprised and they would realize that there are many gay people out there that don’t fit the usual stereotypes.

    Do gay folks still think about marriage / monogamy like straight folks do? I do. Even if my being married to another male isn’t recognized by the government, I can still be faithful to my partner. I don’t care much for the government telling me how to behave in my relationships. I don’t need their approval. Although it would be nice for tax / medical related purposes. Other than that, I carry on with my boyfriends like I would if I dating a woman in a monogamous relationship.

  7. haha- that whole CS debacle is hilarious.

    I guess I am talking about moving beyond the spectrum. Although I think the spectrum would still exist in some sense, but the labels wouldn't? It would be more of an individual thing. Like maybe I happen to only be with men, but it's because it was those were the people I had connections with, not because I am only attracted to men.
    I think it would be sweet.

    One of my absolute best friends is gay, but we don't talk about being gay very much. I sent him my comments to your post, so I'll let you know if he responds.

  8. @ Animaal I do wanna watch the Kinsey movie. I feel ya.

    I put "gay lifestyle" in quotes for a reason! Yeah it's the lamest term.

    Not-at-Pepperdine dating - do you have to go to gay bars/clubs or have you met dudes out and about? is gaydar a sham or has it worked for you? can you "tell"?

    Thanks for the comments, J!