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If you’re gay in the subway, does it make you a subgay?

September 14, 2008

Due to a fortunate confluence of friends in town Saturday night, I took the train up to New York City. After a night of Doctor Who and Torchwood-related adventures with old college friends, my freshman-year roommate and I took the subway back to his parents’ place to spend the night. On the journey back, our conversation turned to his attempts to meet someone online, as public chats so often do.

As we chatted on the downtown C train, a guy across from us chimed up after my friend, Shep, mentioned one guy he saw on match.com who seemed like a good fit. At least, the man in question did until Shep got to the part about him being “very Christian” and wanting “a spiritual relationship,” which for people like us (I’m a godless, heartless atheist) is basically like hanging a “no trespassing” sign on yourself. Not because there’s anything wrong with religion, but if it’s a big part of your life, there’s nothing for you in me, and not much in him, either.

The guy on the train (we’ll call him Zugkerl, or “train guy,” in honor of my five semesters of German) chimed in with the perfectly legitimate question, “Why are you looking for guys on match.com?!” I myself had voiced similar reservations earlier, particularly since the site will allow you to be a man seeking men or a man seeking women, but not a man seeking both. For bi guys like Shep, that means you have to switch your profile back and forth to honestly represent yourself, which I find both ridiculous and demeaning.

But what Zugkerl really objected to, it seemed, was meeting people online at all. First, a bit of self-disclosure: For those not the in know, my boyfriend and I met through Yahoo! personals. (Looking for a catch like me? Hint: Nothing is sexier than complete sentences with correct capitalization, punctuation, and grammar.) Now, I don’t have any illusions about the internet being particular romantic, but I think it can still be a lot better than meeting people in a bar. Online, at least there’s a chance the other party isn’t drunk.

Zugkerl had a familiar way about him, which I think was probably just because he was the kind of gay guy we spent four years with at Vassar, one of the gayest schools around. When he found out we went there, he marveled at the fact that neither of us found anyone there (my guy was a townie). I explained that a lot of the guys at our school seemed kind of damaged, as if they were living out the extended adolescence that so recently plagued much older gay men. At least that’s making progress, but it was definitely a turn-off. (A lot of guys at Vassar also looked like me, which I don’t particularly like. I think it’s kind of creepy to date someone who looks just like you.)

At first I was mildly worried that Zugkerl would be a “hater,” as the anti-LGBT/women/polar bear GOP veep nominee Sarah Palin likes to say about her political opponents, but that worry vanished when he said he had friends who looked for guys on sites like “manhunt,” which I don’t care to link to. He understood what I meant by the extended adolescence, and said it seems like some guys just want to hook up and others want to tell you their life story the moment they meet you. That’s not a new observation, but it’s probably a pretty accurate one. Given that I’m not and never have been one for hook-ups, I can only imagine and hear stories from others, but it rings true to me.

It irritates me when gay men go for one-night stands because it reinforces such awful stereotypes. Now, I think people have the right to whatever kind of romantic life they want (so long as it’s between consenting adults). But frankly, I’m grossed out by the idea of sleeping with someone I’ve just met, and I’m certainly not one to give the anti-gay movement any ammo.

This sort of thing is on my mind a lot given our proximity to the election, in which a disturbing number of people will vote based on issues like this. For those of you on the fence, social conservatism will create far more closeted figures in the GOP than it will Maurice Sendaks.

"Where the Wild Things Are" by now-out author Maurice Sendak

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