Unfortunately, there are plenty of men who are always perceived as gay, even though they're straight. I say "unfortunately" because these are guys who would like to attract women, but don't, or can't, thanks to their apparent gayness. Some of these dudes are, of course, suspect. I know a male ballet dancer who has a voice like Katharine Hepburn. He keeps insisting he's straight, even going as far as to recount the previous evening's vagina-centered activity to me in great detail. "Thou doth protest too much," I always think.
But this shit can go the other way, with straight women being perceived as lesbians. I know this firsthand. Everyone thinks I'm gay.
"You have lesbian style," said my friend Sam, a big, butch gay woman who lives across the street. As soon as my brows began to furrow and lips started to sputter, she got all bent out of shape as well. "And what's wrong with that?" she yelled.
What's wrong with that? Other than the fact that I don't want to attract chicks? Other than the fact that, ulp, it means maybe I am not ... well ... pretty. I have longish curly hair and wear a lot of dresses. "Oh," Sam said. "So lesbians can't be pretty?"
From there, it just got worse, and ultimately I dropped the subject. But fuck, man, I don't want people to think I'm gay for one simple fact: I like dudes. I want guys to ask me out on dates. I want to replay penis-centered activity in great detail to possibly dubious ears the next day.
This might explain why it has taken me this long to go to the Lexington in the Mission, a primarily lesbian establishment. I just don't want that much lady mojo all over my fine self.
"Shut. The. Fuck. Up," Sam said. ('Tis a pity I'm not gay, actually, because she and I have a great time together.)
We sat at the far end of the bar and surveyed the sitch. My initial reaction to the joint was negative, on a purely aesthetic level. It's a rather small, square space, with drab maroon walls. Sam told me that there's usually artwork, and on this night you could see the dings and cracks all over the surfaces where pictures had been displayed. There was a pool table in the middle of the room, and tiny replicas of old-fashioned two-seater airplanes dangled from the ceiling. The place had a certain, I dunno, sadness to it.
"So," Sam said. "What do you think?"
"I think the only reason to come here is to meet other lesbians," I said. Sam, bless her heart, agreed. We couldn't quite figure it out, though.
The bartender was a really friendly and hardworking sort. The rest of the clientele all seemed nice and laid-back, but there was something missing. The Lexington was like a three-dimensional representation of the San Francisco lesbian scene: taking a backseat to what is really a gay man's town. It feels like an afterthought.
I know this is going to piss off a lot of people, especially coming from someone who went to the Lexington once, isn't gay (despite rumors to the contrary), and generally doesn't know shit about shit. But I gotta calls 'em like I sees 'em.
Sam went on to recount other areas of the city that are actually pretty fun to go to, but she pointed out that most of the real lesbo action takes place in the East Bay.
We stayed on the subject of gayness for a while. I told her that I grew up in a liberal household, but that there just weren't that many out gay people in my hometown. It took me moving here to actually have gay friends. "I can imagine what a lot of the anti-gay-marriage people are thinking," I told her. "They haven't had any experience with gay people, and without empirical data, your perceptions can be really screwy."
I recounted a story from my early days at Mills College, after moving here from Illinois. There are, of course, a lot of lesbians at Mills, and I became friends with many of them. Yet still I was ignorant about a lot of things.
First, some background. I drove to California from the Midwest with my boyfriend, and we broke up somewhere in Colorado. That first semester at school was the most painful time in my life. I had my first breakup, which is always the shittiest. I couldn't eat or study. All I did was cry. One day I was at the library, and I saw a classmate talking with a friend. She was a wreck of tears, and had that same zombie despair that I knew so well. She had broken up with her girlfriend. Wow, I thought, she loved her girlfriend as much as I loved my boyfriend. I finally got it, and being gay wasn't so much of a mystery. It wasn't that different from being straight. This sounds completely lame, I know, but trust me — other people are as ignorant as I was.
"I get what you're saying," said Sam, who always sees where I'm coming from. "And you're right. Most of the straight population really doesn't get it. We have a long way to go."
The bartender came over and introduced Sam to a shandy, which is a light beer with 7-Up in it, sort of a beer cooler. The woman was wearing a Stryper T-shirt, which was pretty rad. Then a loud group of fortysomething ladies came and sat next to us, which was our cue to leave.
Oh, and by the way, absolutely no one paid any attention to me. So, like, I'm thinking that maybe I don't look gay. I said so to Sam.
"Okay," she concurred. "But if you're so concerned with looking straight, maybe you should leave the mechanic's jacket at home."
I looked down, and indeed I was wearing my tow-truck-operator coat. To be fair, it is a tour jacket from the Paladins, and was worn by some hipster gearhead before I got my hands on it. I pointed this out. Sam just looked at me and shook her head.