It’s a pretty common joke, in my experience, to insinuate that anyone violently anti-gay is just deeply, deeply closeted. But the thing is, I think it’s probably the truth.
It just so obvious. One of the ways that I personally determine where people score on the “gay aptitude test” is their level of knowledge about/interest in anything gay (regardless of whether this expresses as a positive or negative attitude).
Example: A friend (I call her “Sherry”) was quizzing me about being a lesbian. I had always thought of her as one of the most heterosexual people I had ever met, but until this day, I wasn’t exactly sure why I thought that. She asked me, “So, when you make love with your girlfriend, don’t you miss the closeness?”
I was completely baffled. “What do you mean?”
“Well, you know . . . . the closeness.”
“I really don’t know what you mean, Sherry. Do you think we have sex, like, from separate rooms, or something?”
I then realized that she simply could not imagine having sex without having a penis in a vagina. She literally could not imagine it. That’s why I think of her as unremittingly straight.
See, people who don’t want to have a certain kind of sex don’t seem to spend a lot of time imagining what it might be like. They also, in my experience, don’t spend a lot of time insisting that other people not have that kind of sex — it just doesn’t occupy much (or frequently any) space in their minds.
So, to me, arguing vehemently about the dirtiness of gay sex means admitting that you spend a lot of time thinking about gay sex, often in very explicit terms. Which, you know, I don’t think straight people do. I mean, I know that I, as a gay person, never think about het sex. Well, sometimes I do, but only when my heteronormative culture forces it on me, and even then my brain censors everything below the waist. I tend to be pretty oblivious to phallic symbols for this reason, I guess; I just don’t think about penises.
But how, one might ask, can a man spend all his time thinking about gay sex in explicit detail and not consider that maybe he’s gay? And for this I bring you Supporting Evidence Two: I had no idea I was gay until I was fifteen, despite the fact that I knew I was attracted to women. Bear with me here.
So, here’s the thing. I’ve got a best (female) friend, and a boyfriend. I love having sleepovers with the best friend, and cuddling and talking and if we go swimming maybe we’ll shower together and oh my god that’ll be so exciting. The boyfriend’s a cool fellow, we talk on the phone a lot, every now and then we see a movie and he buys me candy, and I really love hanging out with him.
But of course, I was straight.
That feeling of getting all hot and bothered, and really wanting to look good for the other person, and wanting to know everything about them and never stop touching them? That was admiring a close friend. That feeling of respect and affection, and a vague interest in the other person’s opinion? That was love.
This probably sounds ridiculous, but I honestly had no idea that for actual straight people, it was reversed. I just applied the name “friendship” to the bonds I formed with women, and the name “love” to the bonds I formed with men, and assumed that’s what friendship and love felt like for everyone. Since obviously I was straight, this must be what “straight” is like.
It’s because I’m a product of a heteronormative society. As soon as I met a gay person, and someone actually explained to me what gay was, I knew that was me and I came out. (The moment in question was really sweet, actually: my to-be girlfriend explained how she knew she was gay. I said, “Well, I know I’m straight because…” and then couldn’t think of a single thing. I spent a few days processing the information, then let the good times roll.) But I made it to 15 before I ever discovered that straight people don’t masturbate to members of the same sex.
I was raised with total ignorance of “gay.” But what if I grew up knowing, knowing that homosexuality was wrong and sinful and evil, just like adultery and murder? Well, then there’d be an incentive to resist the idea that “maybe I’m gay.” A strong incentive.
So now you’re in a pickle. Here’s your train of thought: People of the same sex make you hot and bothered. People of the opposite sex are kind of uninteresting. This might be how gay people feel. But gay people are evil, and you are not evil. So obviously, you must be straight. Except that you, as a straight person, have a really hard time resisting gay acts! This must be because the evil of the gay is so seductive; all straight people have to fight homosexual desires. Oh no! What about straight people who aren’t strong enough to resist the delicious gay? We’d better keep down all those unrepentant gays, lest they seduce more straight people into their sexy, sexy evil!
And I can see how easy it would be to fall into that thinking, because I was so close. I lucked out; all I knew about gay people was that this super-cute girl was gay. If things had been different? I probably wouldn’t even have noticed that I was deluding myself.
Which is why I always have a tiny bit of sympathy for the vicious homophobes, because even though their views are abhorrent…I can see where they’re coming from, and it’s not a pretty place.