In other words, I call up images of straight men at their most obnoxious, most marketable, and most homosexualized — and I leave out the infinite shades, shapes, ages, and attitudes that make up the bulk of straight men in the world (or even just in New York). Via Facebook chat, I asked a few dozen gay male friends of mine, varying by race and age, what first came up for them when I said the words “straight men,” and, almost uniformly, the results weren’t pretty. (the one whose first word for straight men was smelly), “so there’s a baseline difference.

My brother is super nice and sweet, but he’s never had to define himself in society over something as radical as sexuality. They can choose to delay it, but unless they reject it outright and are then queer in their own way, they’ll always remain a littleaware of our straight counterparts. what came to mind when I said “straight men,” he answered, “A group of guys talking, me watching them. I love parsing your elevator or lunchtime conversations, listening for those cryptic notes of vulnerability, anxiety, or empathy as you discuss last night’s game or workplace politics, pricking up my ears to see if you ever, in your straight-male way, “mirror and affirm” one another’s comments the way, at least according to some sociologists, women talk among themselves.

Do you continue to sprawl the loins thoughtlessly, in an unwitting emblem of your still-unexamined privilege, or has it now become a sort of consciously defiant backlashthing?

All of this is not to say that we gay men are, under most social circumstances, models of vulnerability and empathy.

Almost simultaneously, I feel fear, anger, boredom, contempt, fascination, lust, affection, and a deeper social yearning I can’t quite put my finger on. (You only have to look at how well urban gay white men fare against their counterparts on the socieconomic grid to know that we’re an overclass within an underclass.) But like women, we often find ourselves standing on the outside of heterosexual male privilege, looking in at all of that unself-conscious, carelessly earned assuredness of one’s place in the world, particularly if we’re talking about white men.

All at once, I see a braying pack of Long Island bros in midtown in blue-check shirts and Dockers; a too-cool-for-school pack of skaters in Brooklyn in knit caps, Carhartt jackets, and skinny jeans; and a grunting, groaning pack of naked muscle frat jocks (whom I hardly think are really straight but instead a gay pornographer’s packaging of “straightness”) having sex together on Sean At all of that Gay men have already had to confront one thing about themselves and deal with it,” says my friend A.

I’d grown up in a middle-class Massachusetts town, which was largely Irish and Italian, and, frankly, prior to that summer, I’d not known much in the way of tenderness or warmth from straight men.

Consequently, I’d built up a thick, defensive wall of big words around me.

(And even as I write this, I know, gratefully, that this gulf between us is breaking down, as you have your privilege flung back in your face by an ever more diversely vocal society, as you shed some of your traditionally male trappings, and as gay men increasingly adopt some of the structures — marriage, child-raising, community stature — that have long mapped your lives out for But I also think that my friends and I have to start daring to give up our defensive, contemptuous posture toward you and realize that it’s increasingly likely that you’ll judge us as just another guy, not a sexuality, sooner than we’ll do the same for you. had to say: “Since this is anonymous, I’ll tell you something weird,” he wrote me.

Letting down that guard can be hard, especially for us older gay guys who remember the often brutally casual everyday homophobia of 20, 30, or 40 yearsago. “I love sitting in a steam room or a sauna listening to straight guys talk.

Dare to make eye contact with someone you don’t already know well, even in a spirit of friendliness, and they’ll cut their gaze away as though to meet yours would be to affirm you as their sexual My friend M., the one who stands aside and watches straight men talk, agrees: “I briefly switched to a mostly gay gym and hated it,” he says. I mean, I mostly keep to myself so maybe I felt unfriendly too.