agreed that you're the gayest person in the
department," my best friend from work said to
me as we strolled through SoHo. Sara was recapping a
conversation from a happy hour I missed because I had been
at a book reading by Paula Deen, the eccentric
Southern woman on the Food Network.
that mean?" I asked.
gave any reasons. Someone asked who was the biggest
homosexual, people looked around, and Matt said your
name. Everybody agreed."
I was immediately
irritated and annoyed. Out of the 50 individuals who
work in my division at NYU, 11 of us are gay men. How could
I so quickly and unanimously be considered the
fruitiest of the bunch?
Sara changed the
topic to her upcoming wedding. As she talked about
whether or not to keep her hair straight or curly, I
recalled a friend's birthday party a year ago.
We were at a straight bar near Union Square, and an
attractive woman, probably in her late 20s, repeatedly
glanced my way the entire night. Eventually, she
approached me and asked, "Are you here for
am," I said, as I watched her eyes get big and the
color drain from
you're gay," she interjected.
I had said three
words. Three very little words. Each with one syllable.
That was all it took for her to know my sexual orientation.
am," I said with an awkward laugh, realizing that she
had wanted to hit on me.
thought. I mean, I'm sorry," she mumbled, and
then ran off, looking embarrassed.
I turned around
and told my friends what happened, and they burst out
laughing. I wasn't amused. I left the party soon
after that and walked home, feeling sorry for myself.
about her wedding, Sara decided she should keep her hair
curly since she was having an outdoor ceremony in July.
"After all," she said. "It could
never be completely straight anyway."
a voice like mine, neither could I.
That week I
couldn't stop fixating on the idea of me as the
biggest queen at work. I tried thinking of stereotypes
I fit, but things still didn't make sense. Of
all the gay men in my department, I was the only one in a
long-term relationship. My boyfriend and I lived together,
had joint finances, and shared holidays with each
other's families. We were boringly monogamous.
Our nights usually concluded with Seinfeld, not sex.
So it couldn't be that I embodied the
stereotype of the promiscuous gay man with a wild night
life. I hadn't set foot in a gay club in three years.
Of all the queer men I worked with, my homelife seemed
the most heterosexual.
Ok, my hobbies
and interests were never particularly manly. I'd much
rather be at a Broadway show than at a Yankees game. Given a
choice, I always picked a day at the spa over a day of
camping. I've typically been more comfortable
at brunches with women chatting about sample sales than
out having beers with the guys talking about cars or the
Not long ago I
was walking down Third Avenue with my friend Lauren. It
was raining and we shared an umbrella. We passed a homeless
man sprawled out on the sidewalk who yelled to Lauren,
"Hey, gorgeous, want to get married?"
I'm taken," Lauren said, looking up at me.
The homeless man
screamed back, "Yeah, to a homo."
singing "It's Raining Men" under the
umbrella. I was just walking. Even the homeless man
had enough gaydar to know I wasn't
I assumed that I
was decreed the gayest at my job because I was the least
likely to pass as straight. I wore form-
polos, openly raved about Kelly Clarkson, and bought
expensive Kiehl's skin care products even though I
was only 28. If I were put in a lineup, it probably
wouldn't take someone with Nancy Drew's
investigative skills to finger me as the boy who likes boys.
Nevertheless, I was still perplexed by people's need
to ask, "Who among us is the biggest
fairy?" I doubt straight guys ever sat around saying:
"Bob, you're definitely the straightest one
here." "No way, Harry. You're
When I moved to
Manhattan four years ago I thought I was relocating to
the gay mecca, as if the mother ship were calling me home.
On my first outing to the bars of Chelsea and
subsequent walks along Eighth Avenue I quickly
observed that I didn't look like other gay men in the
area. Standing six feet tall and weighing 140 pounds,
I was a skinny Jewish bookworm who had no interest in
going to the gym to become one of the musclemen who
ruled the New York City gayborhoods. They paid little
attention to me, so at that point in my life I felt like I
wasn't gay enough.
I never believed
my sexuality was a choice, but how I presented myself to
the world was. Until I came out of the closet my senior year
at Emory University, I wore oversized T-shirts and
pretended to have a crush on Jennifer Aniston, like
many of the straight, beer-drinking guys my age, never
letting on that my lust was actually for Brad Pitt.
I've since learned that I wasn't fooling
anyone--my family members and friends have said
they always assumed I was gay.
Growing up in
Indiana, the boys in my school constantly asked why I
talked like a girl. I didn't understand what they
meant until I was in third grade, when I heard myself
on an answering machine. I sounded just like my friend
Liz, so each night I prayed for my voice to deepen and be
like my dad's. After puberty, when I thought my
prayers had been answered, the same boys asked why I
talked like Michael Jackson. I always felt my voice
was a reminder that I was different, a freak, and less than
a real man.
When I came out
at 22, my shrink said it could take several years to
fully accept my sexuality. Six years have passed, and
I'm now sharing my life with an incredible
partner, but I still struggle, because I think of
myself as a liberal Jewish pseudo-intellectual, not an
uberhomosexual. I know it isn't a bad
thing to be the gayest one. I'm just not sure how to
accept the title or if I'm ready to wear the tiara