4 min

Chubbies in the showers

When a public space turns queer

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT? Open showers offer scenery, but not intimacy. Credit: Tony Fong

My gym, the downtown YMCA, had a makeover. They say they needed more locker space, but the queers all know it was to stop us having sex there.

Designed in the early 1980s, the locker and showers were unwittingly sex friendly. One of the shower areas was a large room for 20, but the other side had curtained stalls for shy or straight guys who didn’t want their parts in-spected by the homos. Another three-person shower area and the sauna, with just a little window in the door, could get cruisy, especially during off-peak hours.

I’ve always gotten hard in the showers. Of course this caused much anguish and danger growing up, but later in life it has on occasion worked to my advantage. I see someone I like and my dick perks up. He looks back. I get hard. He soaps his balls, lets his hand linger and I’m off to the races.

There was the odd group scene. But most of the time it’s just one other guy, and of course rarely consummated, always continually interrupted by someone walking in or past, a straight guy or a troll or the cleaning staff. I guess that’s part of the thrill, but you could waste hours there trying to make it happen.

You’d see some guys who did, consumed by this hunting ground, the same hungry-eyed souls day after day. Most (but not all) looked like they didn’t work out very much, just spent a lot of time waiting around for one golden moment.

During the renovations, they relocated us regular members to the elite clubhouse area with lockers, lounge and showers. The sluts and pigs quickly got used to the enhanced sexual possibilities of the steam room and whirlpool. For some, the return to the newly sex-proofed change rooms proved a rude awakening.

They took away the stalls so there’s just one big shower and the sauna’s been reconfigured with a fishbowl window along one whole wall. I know gay men are endlessly inventive, but you’d be hard pressed to find a corner to pop a woody. It reminded me of when the showers at the City Of Toronto’s Harrison Baths were converted from two long rows of single cubicles facing each other – you could see up to three guys across from you but not the ones on either side – to one giant shower room. The fags stopped going and it went back to being frequently primarily by the homeless.

There were obviously some protests about this new lack of privacy at my gym because soon afterwards signs went up announcing that private showers would shortly be installed. I couldn’t imagine where they would put them. A couple of weeks later they installed three single cubicles with curtains inside the big shower room.

I figured I’d go with the flow. Maybe it was time to renovate my attitude. I hadn’t been spending a lot of time cruising there – only if something came up I would go for it. But while I do find the prospect of sex at the gym motivational on winter mornings, I’ve started thinking a few of these guys might actually be dateable, and turning it into a sex trick right away seems to limit it to that zone permanently. You skip the opportunity of getting to know them.

With less dawdling, I could also get in and out more quickly. So ironically, I was on my best behaviour on one of the first days after the reno, when I came back from my workout to find a short, wiry guy with a long black beard undressing at the locker next to mine. I guess I must have gazed at his swarthy beauty a second too long because he glanced up and caught me staring. His eyes flashed a look of anger and his mouth spit harsh foreign words.

I’m not great in these situations. I go passive. It’s like I’m back in high school caught ogling the hockey captain. I deny, I apologize. I’m soooo sorry! How could you possibly think I’m looking at you in that way?

I exited quickly to the showers where he had to follow and where there was no privacy, since the single cubicles hadn’t yet been installed. I showered while he continued to curse me. He kept his bathing suit on and I tried to avoid looking at him. The one other guy in the shower pretended nothing was happening.

In my own mind I began to invent a profile for him that would justify my wimp-out. Recently immigrated from a country where fundamentalism is the norm and being a fag is punishable by death. Newly arrived in Canada where everyone thinks he’s a terrorist. In a public space he comes to for relaxation, he finds men hedonistically cavorting and offering to use him for sexual pleasure.

He continues to babble at me. Can I tolerate his intolerance? Have we gone too far imposing queer sexual space in a public zone? It’s his space, too. Can’t diversity exist peacefully, worlds within worlds, as long we respect each other?

“Shut the fuck up already,” I think. “I didn’t even cruise you. I was simply admiring your dark eyes and the tight knit of your muscles, but obviously you are only comfortable expressing hatred and aggression and not love among men.”

I didn’t say that. I went to my locker, dressed quickly and got the hell out of there.

I’ve seen him on subsequent visits. He still seemed angry, but then I noticed he curses whether I’m around or not. Just crazy, I guess. Now that they’ve installed the private cubicles, he escapes into there.

The other day I noticed a cute guy in the showers. He looked at me and we both got chubbies. But with the new arrangement, there was nothing we could do about it. When we got to the lockers, I asked him out for a coffee.