The phenomenon extends to the home, too. TV serves up endless gay-male home experts (crowding out the Bob Vila types). And consider the mythology of the Fabulous Gay Apartment. (Would a sitcom ever put a “Will” in a My Name Is Earl–style dump?) Gays are known the world over for being gentrifiers: They colonize “transitional” neighborhoods, such as the Marais in Paris, and make them hot. And those gays who get there first, before prices skyrocket, get more for their money than the Johnny- and Jane-come-latelies. “To watch it happen,” says New York real-estate lawyer Jerry M. Feeney, “it’s more than a myth. It’s real.” In Manhattan, gay men revived the West Village, then moved on to Chelsea, and are currently rehabbing Hell’s Kitchen.
Even within the bedrooms of their lesser homes, straight guys have to worry that they’re just not getting as much. Kenneth Hill, who co-writes the weekly “Straighten Out” column for AOL with his hetero counterpart, Jeff Simmermon, says that “gay men can get laid in 15 minutes—30 minutes tops—if we really want to. Even ugly guys. There’s no comparison. When you talk to straights about it, they practically sink down in utter despair at the inequity. Look at ‘men seeking men’ on Craigslist, any hour, any day. Then look at the straight section.” Dan Renzi, a journalist and blogger (and former MTV Real World gay guy), believes that straight guys “are jealous that gay sex includes blow jobs by default.” And Andrew Sullivan, the political and gay-issues commentator who blogs on Time.com, points out another reason straight guys think they’ve got it worse: “The most common gay envy I get from straight guys is simply that single gay guys can have sex and not expect to be called the next day.”
Poor straight guys! Conditioned for years to feel like they’re operating at a deficit in the arenas of taste and refinement—right on down to their very bodies and bedrooms. But let’s step back for a moment. Maybe the true antidote to heterophobia isn’t town-hall meetings in Provincetown but a closer look at all the gay hype. And who better to provide that than gays themselves?
For one thing, says Aaron Hicklin, the editor-in-chief of the gay monthly Out, “the sexual dynamic works both ways.” The idea that “being gay equals lots of no-strings-attached sex is, for a certain kind of gay guy, undoubtedly true, but the downside is that gay relationships seem more vulnerable to sexual whim and mischief. I think as gay men get older, the availability of sex is less critical than being in a committed relationship. All the other things that make being gay seem attractive to straight guys—designer clothes, an eye for drapes, the expensive restaurants and vacations—are a lot less attractive if you don’t have someone to share them with.”
And if you really examine all that supposedly superior, more refined gay consumerism, the tastemaker/early-adopter premise is just as likely to implode. For one thing, gay men are the primary consumers of all that insufferable thumpa-thump dance music. (Who is propping up Cher’s career, anyway?) As for fashion, a quick stroll through neighborhoods like West Hollywood, D.C.’s Dupont Circle, and Chicago’s Boystown shows that gay guys are following rather than leading these days: The jeans-tee-and-cap combination is the straightest “gay look” in years. If there’s anyone gay guys want to emulate in 2006, it’s a certain tattooed Detroit straight guy they were calling “homophobic” in 2000. At the same time, Eminem’s bleached-blond pretty-boy look and pumped-up physique draw from the early-nineties gay playbook.