He became a Hot Gay Male and remains a Hot Gay Male, no matter what anyone else says. And everyone has an opinion.
I am the victim here. As a child, a fat, unpopular kid with no friends other than my Ken Doll and those “Playgirl” centerfold photos I stashed under my bed, I knew I was different. Better than those who shunned me, those popular boys who were good at sports and had silk shirts and bell-bottom jeans and feathered hair. I despised their arrogance yet envied their beauty. God had somehow misplaced me in a body that lacked agility but craved Ding Dongs. I blamed HIM first, because, from what I’d seen on TV, God looked an awful lot like Charlton Heston but did not create me in his own image.
One day, wearing Mom’s pumps and lip-synching to Barbra Streisand’s “I’m the Greatest Star,” I asked her if I was different from the other boys. “You’re not different, honey,” she said, as we perused the Husky section of JC Penny. “You’re special, and that means you need to be around people who share your interests. Now take your tap shoes off so we can go look at sneakers.”
Two things hit me after she said those words: One, I needed to escape this world where I grew up, and, two, unattractive people are not the luckiest people in the world. I blame Streisand for poisoning me with the belief that imperfect-looking faces can be considered beautiful, and for that perm, something I tried a few years later in a desperate attempt to look like one of the cool teens at school. I do not blame her for giving me that magnificent voice, which, I’m proud to say, I still possess.
As soon as I turned 16, after a summer of highlighting my (now tamed) hair with Sun-In and lemon, bench-pressing the Sears catalog, and trimming down by eating nothing but Bubble Yum and Pop Rocks, I started taking acting classes in San Francisco, where I knew from the print ads I’d seen for “International Male” that I’d find the men I wanted to emulate. I grabbed my Members Only jacket and was on my way.
Mom didn’t just encourage my behavior; she embraced it, thrilled that I was receiving an education away from our suburban town. She started acting herself, in Community Theater, inviting cultured, older, exciting men over to our house for after-parties, all of whom were charming, handsome, and as gay as Endora’s Eveningwear.
Within months I had immersed myself in Hot Gay Male Culture, with the men in San Francisco taking me along to Castro Street bars and regaling me with stories of exotic locales for Our People, like the islands of Greece and the Fire Island meat rack.
At home, I spent my time in the company of men who were burly construction workers by day, master thespians at night, many of them closeted husbands and fathers,. They told me of Tennessee Williams and Cole Porter and how much I resembled a young Marlon Brando or Monty Clift, especially when wearing jeans and a tank top, which became my signature look, along with a blank expression, an early trait of the Hot Gay Male I have since perfected.
I shed my few school friends and spent weekends at local pool parties and Show Your Speedo sleepovers. On that rare occasion I visited that distant, hateful place called “The Mall,” it was only to find apropos outfits from Chess King and mood-lighting Lava Lamps from Spencer’s Gifts.
I’d become my own dream, a mature Hot Gay Male, and went off to college full of new hope and new biceps. UCLA was abundant with an Adonis-like student faculty, so I marched right into the prettiest spot I could find, the Sigma Chi Fraternity, and announced to several board-shorted and blond surfer dudes that I would accept their invitation to pledge. You can imagine my surprise, then, when after asking each and every one of them to sleep with me, they not only refused the invitation, but also kicked me out of the frat house and called campus security. I sued Sigma Chi for Defamation of Character and UCLA for Superior Physicality Discrimination. Much uglier guys than myself had no trouble getting into the fraternities of their choice.
I blame my mom for filling me up with false hopes about higher education, and I blame my college acting teacher for telling me that playing Stanley Kowalski and Blanche DuBois as a split-personality West Hollywood hustler was not a correct interpretation. Tell that to Mr. Williams. It was my seminal moment as an actor and director (the other cast members were relegated to Greek Chorus and performed by gorgeous Greek men), but the homely faculty despised my gay male beauty so much they actually stopped the performance midway–right when Stanley gets so turned on by Blanche’s sexual prowess he molests her/himself.
I had to escape, not just from the asylum, but away from California and off to New York City, where I’d heard of a place called Chelsea, a land where Hot Gay Males were allowed to roam, free from prosecution and individual thinking. When I arrived at the lights of 14th Street and Eighth Avenue, I knew, not unlike Doli Levi, that I’d never go away again. Men just like me–beautiful, sculpted, vapid–strolled the neighborhood as one, a fairly easy task as they all looked and acted exactly alike.
Once settled into an appropriate and too-expensive gym, I immersed myself in even more Hot Gay Male culture. I took steroids, bought supplements, ate nothing but protein bars and nose candy, and purchased the best Fire Island Pines Share three maxed-out credit cards could rent for a weekend.
I found my true calling as a fitness instructor and, for years, taught potential men how, with a little motivation and a lot of hard cosmetic work, they could be just like me.
It was the greatest time of my life, and my accomplishments have been applauded by every local Hot Gay Male Chapter in the United States. If I erred, it was in my naïve belief that unattractive people would not resent me for succeeding where they had failed. Sometimes I forget how narcissistic people can be.
About six months ago the fallout began, and, unlike myself, it was not pretty. Browsing past the trolls and sadly average guys on Grindr, someone named HotMuscleDude sent me a text saying I should not, and I quote, “describe yourself as ‘Amazingly Sexy in the Top 1 Percentile of Hot Gay Men’ on your Profile.” No, I’m not kidding. After years of work and development and growth hormones, this is the way I’m treated? I wrote to the site staff, demanding an apology, along with a few X-rated selfies to prove how delusional this man was, and they blocked me. After that it was a Glinda the good witch hunt.
The Facebook group “The Most Unbearably Beautiful Men in the Universe” sent me a note saying I did not have the qualifications to be the administrator, especially as I only allowed photos of myself to be posted. Men on OKCupid canceled dates or left restaurants after our initial meeting (usually in faux shock), saying that I had “misrepresented myself” in my profile description and photos. Yes, I’ll admit, some pictures I use are 20 years old, but it’s a moot point. Every time I look in the mirror, I still see the Hot Gay Male I’ve known for decades, and others need to respect my heritage.
Now that I’ve been shunned–by my own people, I might add–I engage in less sexual activity than I once did. Yet no one has once suggested that I am somehow “less gay” as a result. If I were a woman, would getting older make me somehow “less female”? If those examples don’t prove my point then I have no idea what will. The unattractive gay population that insists on condemning me for what they cannot achieve themselves, are, quite frankly, in pathological denial.
The last straw, as is now public knowledge, is when “Muscle & Self Glorification” magazine removed my cover issue from the newsstands on the grounds that I had misrepresented myself in the submitted photos. True, the centerfold in question was “enhanced”–the biceps have a couple of inches added, along with fake veins, the six-pack stomach is Michael Phelps’s, and the legs belong to Serena Williams. But the face, at least the section above Joe Manganiello’s eyebrows and below Jake Gyllenhall’s hairline, is all mine.
Since the brouhaha, I have been ostracized by a media that refuses to look beyond surface values, a fact made even more ironic as this is an issue entirely about surface values. My mother has shunned me, claiming she does not recognize the boy she raised. I am hurt beyond comprehension because, underneath the implants and the collagen and the rhinoplasty and the facelifts and the hair transplants, I’m still here. I have the facial peels to prove it.
I am not apologizing. I knew from a very young age that I was a Hot Gay Male, and I adapted accordingly. I have lived in this skin for at least a month, and I have lived in previous skins for much longer periods of time. I have only done good deeds with my Hot Gay Male beauty, and will continue to embrace, at a distance, the people in this community, the men who have air-kissed me and loved me for who I look like, and who have treated me with nothing but kindness and respect, unless I skip the gym for a week or buy an over-the-counter eye cream.
To the rest of you, the shallow and petty ones, the ones who believe I do not have the right to live my life the way the gods intended, to you I say it’s time for serious soul-searching. Before you judge someone else for their self-centered pride, take a good look in the full-length mirror. I do it several times a day.
Photo: Elvert Barnes/Flickr