Sunday, June 1, 2008

Does Everyone Think You're Gay?

A nice article appears this month in Details magazine on the concept that For some guys, no amount of evidence to the contrary can kill a certain rumor.

The article was written by by Mike Albo.

Albo starts the story about a friend of his named Gary who is often mistaken for gay when he is 100% straight. He talks about celebrities such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise who have never been able to shake off the rumors even when their lives clearly point to a heterosexual orientation.

This is a good conversation as I have known many clients and men (and women) in my personal life who have this same issue.

The author writes:

Gary's what I like to call a "stray," a straight guy who sends out gay
signals like he's shaking a tambourine even as he proclaims himself—and in fact
is—100 percent heterosexual. The characteristics that define a stray as such
vary widely. Maybe it's a melodious laugh. Or a fastidious shirt-and-tie combo.
Or an effusive signature salutation ("Oh my god! I'm totally psyched to see
you!"). But more often the thing about a heterosexual guy that makes everyone
assume he's a homo is almost impossible to pinpoint. He may talk up his love of
ladies more than Bret Michaels does, he may have a wife and kids, but people
always react the same way: "Really? No, wait—really?"

This phenomenon shouldn't be confused with that of actual gay men who
masquerade as straight. And we're not talking about the metrosexual, that
embodiment of a played-out consumer megatrend that involved slim-cut pants and
moisturizer. Every guy in America knows how to clip his nose hairs and make his
outfit go from day to night. Those skills aren't what make a heterosexual man
read gay. So what does?

Science has tried to figure this out. Researchers have studied
behavioral traits like "hip sway" and "voice quality" and even physical traits
like hair-whorl patterns and finger-length ratios. Richard Lippa, a professor of
psychology at California State University, Fullerton, and the author of Gender,
Nature, and Nurture, says that no one trait can be used to determine someone's
sexuality. But, he says, "I think the one thing we can conclude from the
existing research is that both scientists and laypeople can judge people's
sexual orientation at better-than-chance levels based on behavioral

That's not what the perpetually mistaken-for-gay man wants to hear. He
wants the word spread that people are often wrong when they play Guess the
Orientation. He wants his having a girlfriend or being married with kids to be a
sufficient indicator that he doesn't like to sleep with men. But you can't stop
the gay rumor once it starts. Strays are often tagged and classified in the
workplace, where, out of curiosity and sheer boredom, colleagues pick each other
apart with forensic specificity, zooming in on the wedding-ring-wearing guy in
sales who likes his limbs tanning-booth bronzed, or the highlighted assistant
who claims to be hot for Scarlett Johansson.

Alex (not his real name), a
website editor in San Francisco, has watched one of his bosses groom himself
into stray territory. "He mixes protein shakes, has lost 150 pounds, wears
Kenneth Cole, and is a member of Equinox," Alex says. "He has lots of female
friends, and he talks about being attracted to them—but the women think of him
as a friend."

Some people, in my judgment, want to believe that these folks are gay and that they are in denial to confirm that their "gaydar" is correct. Others want to catch these individuals in a lie to "out" them and make the confess. Others still have ideas of what it means to be gay or straight and if rumors exist and even if evidence that these folks have has same sex behaviors than it must mean that they are truly gay and closeted.

This blog is about recognizing that it is much more complicated.

What do you think?

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