Nothing typifies a homophobe more than an angry rant from a straight man about not wanting gay guys to hit on him. We’ve all heard it before, and our reactions range from the eye-roll sequence at their self-flattery, to earnest attempts to assure them that we don’t want to have sex with them. And if we did, we tell them, they certainly wouldn’t be the bottom in that fantasy. Their bums are safe.
Our taste doesn’t include straight guys, so the story goes. It’s a story that is easy to tell because of the fact that the guys who assume we all want to sleep with them, who prickle, pre-emptively and defensively at us, are usually the most bloated, bar-rashed and generally unattractive of men. Their belief that we want them is deluded and hilarious, and makes for easy mockery.
But there is a secret that we guard in our campaign for the hetero-normative world to feel safe around us. And that is this: while it is offensive and absurd to think that we are undiscerning enough to be attracted to all men, there is no miracle switch that turns off the attraction once we know the object of our attention is straight. The world is, in fact, full of gay men who have crushes on straight men.
It’s a little sad, of course. But no more so than any other kind of crush. Crushes are by definition unattainable, or they would simply be partners.
And it goes a little further than this. There are gay guys out there who are attracted almost exclusively to straight guys. I know; I used to be one. There is something mesmerising about the masculinity, the carelessness of straight guys. They are men. Their lack of grooming, their rugged looks are enough to make most gay guys melt. Often they are sporty, bulging with natural muscle and sun-kissed from running around with a rugby ball.
“Maybe we find them attractive because they show us what we would have been like if society weren’t so damaging and judgemental…”
And you see it all over dating sites: “looking for straight-acting guys, no femmes or queens”. I put up with being the fuck-buddy of a closeted guy for months. He wouldn’t see me in public, he wouldn’t spend the night. He could not deal with his gayness at all, and was as emotionally available to me as a robot. And yet I found him irresistible, simply because he was so straight. (He called me “bru”, for Christ sake, and even refused to kiss me on the mouth).
So I spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out the attraction, because it certainly isn’t a recipe for happiness. We are never going to be able to run off into the sunset with a straight guy. And yet the crushes and fantasies afflict so many of us. It’s warped and I began to believe that it was internalised homophobia.
Perhaps gay men who are attracted to straight guys have unresolved self-loathing issues – they are trying to purge themselves of gayness because they unknowingly despise it. Thinking that it was unhealthy to buy into the notion that masculinity only took one form, I coached myself out of it.
But at gym the other day, it came to me that maybe I hadn’t coached myself out of anything, and I had been overthinking the whole thing. I saw a beautiful man walk up to his friend and start chatting. I could tell from his walk, and his posture and his general demeanour, that he was probably straight. And that’s when I clicked that that is exactly what was so attractive about him. It’s the demeanour of confidence. He was casually, effortlessly, genuinely confident. And nothing is more attractive than that.
Perhaps we develop crushes on straight guys because often they have none of the same insecurities that we do. Appreciating that does not mean that we hate ourselves and the fact that we are gay, but simply that we carry the scars of a time when we did. Very few straight men have had to go through what we have – they never had to battle religion, and society, and the belief that they were not good enough.
They never went through the trauma of coming out or the loneliness of believing that their loved ones would give up on them if they really knew them. Maybe we find them attractive because they show us what we would have been like if society weren’t so damaging and judgemental for gay teens. They look happy, and secure, and those are beautiful traits to see in someone.
And then I realised why my taste had been diversifying of late. I have been letting go of a lot of my old insecurities. Maybe when we do eventually heal from the trauma of our teenage years, we become less dependent on the approval of straight culture for our confidence, and our attraction diversifies. We find slight guys hot, and don’t flinch at “femmes” or “queens” because we have nothing to prove.
And while we will probably never reach a point where the rugged masculinity of Dieux du Stade rugby players leaves us cold, we do also come to realise we deserve more. We deserve love, and romance, and emotional reciprocity, not just the side-line admiration of naÃ¯ve straight-boy confidence.
It’s probably best to keep all of this secret from the bigoted haters who think we all want to jump them. After all, they are as riddled with insecurity as gay teens and if my hypothesis is true it’s only the confident ones who enrapture us in their spell. They usually don’t mind that we feel that way. They’re more flattered than angered by it. I guess genuine confidence means being comfortable enough to take a compliment, even if it comes from outside of your target market.