Trevor is a fireman with big fireman hands. Rugged and brawny, he’s the epitome of effortlessly confident masculinity. He’s a dreamboat.
Trevor lives outside the city, with his wife and kids. He’s proud of his various roles – fireman, family man, man’s man – and he basks in the glow of the affirmation he receives from people around him. It boosts his already abundant confidence. I think it makes his hands even bigger.
Trevor cruises Toronto’s parks and bathhouses. (Trevor, by the way, is not Trevor’s real name.) He’ll tell you he’s looking for a blowjob. But Trevor likes to get fucked. Loves to get fucked. It is perhaps his greatest passion in life.
His colleagues know nothing. Like other firemen have confided to me, he has secret crushes on his bunkmates – and like all the others, he’s convinced he’s alone in his lust. Our fire stations must be homosexual tinderboxes.
The wife knows nothing. Trevor says they have a great relationship, which includes great sex. But she wouldn’t understand, he says – no more than she understands his interest in sports, or his goofy sparring with his drinking buddies. And so he rationalizes his deceit, insisting it takes no toll on their relationship. He says it with such confidence that you might believe him.
Are men and women really so different that women would freak out if they knew their mates’ true desires – which invariably involve sex with countless other women or men? Or is it a myth men choose to believe to justify their failure to communicate honestly with their female partners?
Straight women’s fears of bisexual men were recently the focus of two popular US TV shows, Ally McBeal and Sex And The City. In an episode of each show, the liberal straight chick lead character dates a bi man. Each protagonist grapples really, really hard with her hang-ups, but in each instance, she ultimately rejects the bi guy.
Now, these shows are supposed to represent a hip, new frankness in discussing sexual matters on television. But the truth is that, in real life, the iceberg theory of bisexuality applies: the part you can see is only the tip. Oh, the delicious irony of an episode in which Ally or Carrie dumps one of those earnest bi guys – “I need you to know I dated a boy back in college” – for, say, Frank: the “straight” guy who’s at the tubs twice a week for a hot beef injection. Alas, truth is always stranger than fiction.
One thing is true of all the family men I’ve come across. The deceit which is wedded to their homosexual life is not merely benign – they think it’s honourable. They’ve chosen to value family responsibility above all else. Protecting the family means protecting them from any fallout from their own indiscretions. Secrecy is an imperative. Discretion, in the form of dishonesty and sneaking around, becomes a virtue.
It’s the flip side of the values of most out gay men. We pride ourselves on living open, honest lives, of having our private lives jive with our public ones.
As a community, we’ve discussed the implications of the swelling of our ranks. More and more people are coming out, and they have less and less in common. We have gay people of all political persuasions, spiritual affiliations and personal values configurations.
But we also have more and more people who are not coming out, but who enjoy the fruits of our success as a movement. These are people who use our institutions and with whom we connect intimately.
Of course, there have always been plenty of closeted men on the scene. When we study what we call gay history, we are mostly studying the lives of closeted men – but we consider them our own, perhaps assuming they’d be out if they lived in more enlightened times.
These days, we have men who find it relatively easy to fulfill their homosexual desires while upholding the values of traditional, heterosexual families. Are their values at odds with ours? Or is there room in the hot tub for everybody?
If a gay identity is no longer the test for who belongs in our community, then what do make of these men? They’re here. They’re not queer. Nor are they going away.
David Walberg is Editor-in-chief for Xtra.