Columnist Brandon Baker analyzes the sometimes-awkward situation of discovering the sexuality of the other person.
It isn’t very often that I stumble upon someone in public that catches my eye, but I recently encountered quite the exception during my daily subway ride.
I can only imagine how many GLBT people I walk past through the course of a day, between walking down the salacious streets of Old City, the hipster-gay filled neighborhoods of South Philly and the gay-palooza that is Liacouras Walk. I see gays, they see me, but we always keep on walking.
Yet strangely enough, as I awkwardly stood on the subway platform, fumbling with my phone and struggling to keep my backpack on my shoulder, a tall and put-together young man (sporting attire that was snazzy but not necessarily “gay”) not-so-subtly made it a point to stand next to me, initiating the ever-obvious “gay cruising” technique.
But this was not the eye-rolling experience I expected it to be. I was actually intrigued by the situation. It had me pondering an age-old question: How do you really know for certain if someone is gay?
Unfortunately, being the clumsy, star-struck type of person I am, I tripped over myself on my way out of the subway train car and killed any chance I had of confidently making an approach to the above-mentioned person.
It is fairly common to look back on these sorts of experiences in retrospect and realize what you “should” have done, but in this scenario, I still could not produce any fantastical vision where I came out on top. Pun intended.
Asking someone if they are gay can be a nerve-wracking experience–it sends mixed messages in the sense that there are a variety of loaded implications sent along with the simple question. To some, it may even be offensive to ask. These are assumptions we tend to make using the logic and foundations of the gay stereotype, after all.
But if you find yourself approaching someone without prefacing with such a question, you’re posed with the same set of problems and potential conflicts. If they are not gay, and your “cruising” is nothing but a wishful-thinking, mind-made scene enacted in your head, you not only face an embarrassing situation, but an awkward remainder of your subway ride. Short of frequenting sex-driven bar and club scenes, how is a Temple gay supposed to find like-minded company?
Sure, if you would like to participate in a forum where it is very apparent that everyone is GLBT, you have the wonderful and accessible opportunity to attend Queer Student Union and Purple Circle meetings. All the same, however, the reality is that Temple’s GLBT community reaches beyond the 40 or so people that attend these weekly gatherings.
In that case, where are all of my Temple gays hiding, and is there an ideal way of asking someone if they’re gay?
The world of the GLBT community is constantly bombarded with questions that are atypical to other communities, and this happens to be one of the more difficult ones to muster.
Consider this my public call to the gays of Temple’s community: show your faces. The GLBT community is shaped in the archetypical way it is because many are embarrassed to be associated with it, and as a result leave the gay community underrepresented. For the sake of curious singles like myself, as well as the activist members of today and tomorrow, grow the ‘kahoonas’ to put yourself out there and ask the lingering question in the air–after all, asking is the first step to answering.
Brandon Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.