AlthoughI started buying Inches and Torso downtown when I was about 15 (oh, those pre-Internet days), I didn’t come out until I was 19. But when I did, I blew that closet door open. I came out in July and by that December, my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers and friends knew. I came out to everyone I met.
It was an exciting and heady time. I even told one friend over dinner at the Olive Garden. In my defence, I hadn’t yet been issued the Homosexual Agenda and I was still enamoured with the never-ending salad and bread sticks. It would still take some time to get a better haircut, new clothes and a general air of fabulousness.
That was 12 years ago and coming out quickly got tired. Since that fateful summer, I have gone from college to jobs ranging from magazine layout to bartending. Whether it’s my Barbra Streisand screensaver or my girly shriek when I accidentally drop a glass, I usually don’t have to come out anymore. Everyone knows.
It’s not that I’m flamboyant, but with the plethora of ‘mos in the media these days, it seems that everyone has a little gaydar in them. Because no matter how mature we want to be about it, when we start working with someone new, if they’re not obviously one way or the other, we all want to know: Is he or isn’t he?
This past year I started working at a new restaurant. Upon speaking with the kitchen staff, I knew immediately they were all straight. Not in an offensive way; it was just unquestionable. Over time I got to know them and I spoke with a couple of them about Pride. One of them said he had a friend who lived above a store on Yonge St and every year they watched from the windows. Another said he had gone to the parade with his girlfriend two years in a row. I figured it was their awkward way of acknowledging: “Like, we know and it’s cool.”
That is, until one day when I walked in wearing a red shirt with an electric purple tie. (I’m not defending that decision, I know it was wrong.) The sous chef took one look at me and said, “We need a gay man on the floor to avoid this sort of mistake.” My straight coworker Daniel and I both looked at him strangely for a moment. Daniel pointed at me, looked at the sous chef, and said, “We do.” There were looks of amazement all around.
“Well, fuck me,” said the sous chef, a wacky Welshman. “I worked at Fly for two years – you’d think I could pick them out.” I then told the kitchen that half the floor staff was of the homosexual persuasion. From the looks on their faces, you could have knocked them over with a feather boa.
Another colleague has a different problem. I met him on my first day. He has short-cropped hair and wire-rimmed glasses. He is in teachers’ college and is writing an opera. When we talked, he said he was living with his partner, Lee.
It was a few weeks later that Daniel mentioned my colleague and Lee had set a wedding date. Then he used the pronoun “she.”
“Is Lee a drag queen?”
“No, Leigh is a woman.”
There was a chorus of “No way!” Everyone thought he was gay. Someone suggested that he was just closeted, but longtime friend Daniel says there’s no question he’s straight.
My powers of observation were questioned again later that summer when one of the busboys came in and shrieked, “Did you hear that the Madonna concert sold out in seven minutes?” I had never given him a second thought. He was from a notoriously homophobic country in Latin America and his English wasn’t 100 percent. Well, after that comment, his secret was out.
But at least it’s not just me who’s having trouble these days. The manager’s wife knew that I had gotten the job at the restaurant through Daniel. She asked how we knew each other. I told her that Daniel and I had met at a writer’s workshop five years earlier.
Then I smiled, put my arm around Daniel.
“And the rest is history.”
She still thinks we’re a couple.