Wanaka, New Zealand: People Think I’m Gay. And There’s Something Very Wrong With That.

It started in college. My friend and neighbour Jesse was throwing a party with her flatmates: two other chicks and a gay guy. In her own words, it was “a gay party.” Being broke college students, my friends and I went next door anyway, because there was a keg of beer involved. Of course, my friends hugged that keg like a piece of driftwood on the open seas and avoided contact with anyone else at the party. On the other hand, I mingled. My friends later fled back to the sanctuary of our own townhouse, but I ended up talking to Jesse, her flatmates and a couple other friends well after most other people went home. I got into a rather passionate conversation with one guy about scotch, and we started rattling off our favorite brands, preferred drinking methods, etc. When he invited me back to his place to try a particular single malt, I got a rather rude wake-up call, and quickly excused myself. It was, after all, an open invitation.

Even worse was during my three weeks in San Francisco with my brother, after which several of my brothers friends asked him what it was like to have a gay brother. And then they would actually argue the point with him (more on heated arguments regarding my sexuality later). I’m pretty sure many of them still think I’m a homosexual. And I think they may have actually convinced him too.

After one particular weekend when I was mistaken for a gay man on three separate instances, I consulted with my friends back home about this gay vibe I seemed to be emitting. The only real response (not counting Peter, who said “I’d do you”) was from Rebecca, who told me “you can dress, BG. And the burden of a man who can dress is that some folks will think that he is a homosexual. You register with my heterosexual friends as being straight, so don’t sweat it!.” Can’t argue with that!

Before I left on this journey of discovery, I met these two Yorkshire girls at a pub in Houston. I told them of my plans to travel to Australia, and one piece of advice they gave me was to avoid wearing my brown Kangol hat. Combined with my earrings, they didn’t think it would be received … heterosexually. And I did actually leave it behind when I left the country.

Now, you all know of my experience at World Bar in Sydney, when a girl from Philadelphia just HAD to introduce me to her friend, because I’d be perfect for him.

But things just got worse in New Zealand.

One night at the bar, a rather shy girl came up to me, leaned in across the bar and asked, “Um … Can I ask you something?” I leaned in close so I could hear her and asked her what she needed. “So … do you know where I can find some girl-on-girl action?”

I chuckled, “I’m sorry?!” “Do you know where there’s some girl-on-girl action around town?” “Umm …. you know, I actually don’t know.” “Really? Come on, I’m sure you know of some!” “OK, I’ll tell you what, I’ll ask around and see what I can find. But if you find some, PLEASE do let me know.” She sighed and walked away from the bar.

She was so sure that I could find her some secret lesbian love society that I started believing it myself. There has to be some somewhere …

She came back a little while later. “So …? Any news on what we were talking about before?” “… you mean the girl-on-girl action?” “Yeah” “No, sorry, I just don’t know where you can find any.” Then I used a line that left even Garth asking me if I really said it: “But I’ll make a deal with you. You see what you can do, I’ll see what I can do, and we’ll meet back at my place at the end of the night.” She actually smiled and said, “Deal.” Ohhh, people write dirty magazine articles about these nights.

The night finally calmed down enough for me to quietly and slowly approach Garth. I had a mental flashback to that pub in Ouse, when I turned to Jake and told him I had just been asked to father a love-child (also lesbian-inspired … strange). “Hey, see that girl over there,” I said to Garth and pointed down the length of the bar, “she just asked me if I knew of any girl-on-girl action around town.” When I told him what I said in reply, he doubled over with laughter.

I thought she had left and was pleasantly surprised to see her sitting by the outside fireplace towards the end of the night. “Hey! I thought you had left,” I said while collecting empty glasses and bottles. “No, I’m still here. Hey, do you remember what we were talking about inside?” She was sitting with a guy who looked either fantastically plastered or completely uninterested. “The girl-on-girl action, of course, how could I forget.” “So? Any progress?”

OK, now I was just confused. Did I look like some sexual deviant who kept tabs on all hedonistic activities in this small town? Are bartenders supposed to know this type of thing? Am I not getting certain key memos?

I finally broke it down for her. “Listen, I’m sorry, but I just don’t know where you can find that in Wanaka.” “Come on, of course you know!” “NO, really, I have no idea.” Then she said something that took the whole conversation, and the night, down a unfortunately familiar path.

“Yeah you do! Come on, you’re gay, of course you know where I can get some.”

I then proceeded to actually argue with her about not being gay. “Yeah you are, you’re totally gay!” “No I’m not!!” To begin with, I couldn’t even believe, again, that I had to argue the point, more than simply saying “I’m not gay”, full stop, end of conversation. It even got quite heated at one point. “Look, I will take you into that bathroom and prove I’m not gay right now, if necessary.” “Wait, you mean you’re really not gay?”

Finally, she was getting it. “Yes, I mean it. I’m really not gay.” “Oh my god, I told you all that stuff because I thought you were gay!” “Well, … ” “I totally opened up to you cause I thought you were gay! That’s so embarrassing!!” Convinced I was definitely not going to get the opportunity to prove my manhood that night, I walked away after one last, parting shot.

“Yeah, that is pretty embarassing.”

The general consensus is that my earrings aren’t doing it, since I have both pierced and that look is cool again. It could be the hat, but I wasn’t wearing my hat that night (when I went home in March I shoved the hat in my backpack. I don’t care what people say about it, I love that thing). I was in my standard bartending digs — dark trousers, black shirt — which in the darkness of the bar wouldn’t look too impressive, so Rebecca’s theory was controlled. So I’m still baffled as to why I’m showing up as a blip on that girl’s — and so many others’ — gay-dar.

When my brother learned of the most recent attack on my heterosexuality, he gave me two options: 1) Spend some time the next time it happens to find out exactly what it is that makes them think you’re gay; Or 2) just be gay, dude.

Thanks. Let’s call the latter ‘Plan Z’.

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8 comments

  1. you need to start using this to your advantage – girls are way more receptive when they don’t feel threatened. and there is nothing less threatening to them than a gay dude. you can play your gayness up (you already seem to have a natural talent for this) and use it to get in through the back door (pun entirely intended).

  2. Now, let me introduce you to this nice girl we know from India. She comes from a good family, your horoscopes will match, …….

  3. young man,

    has no one explained this to you?

    from wikipedia’s entry on earrings:

    “In the latter part of the 20th century, some Americans and Europeans adopted the convention that when a man pierced just one of his ears, it symbolized his being gay. In some circles, it was the left ear, while in others, the right. Men with bilateral ear piercings were relatively rare, and were sometimes interpreted as effeminate or bisexual. ”

    this seems to be the equivalent of letting a kid wear the ‘kick me’ sign pasted onto their back. except the word is not ‘kick’!

    good luck with your heterosexual life!

  4. you write good.

    Plan Z. hmmm. Not B. thats great sentence to end the blog!

    “you say i am gay. i say i am not. there is a disagreement. send in your gf. she will Deeeecide”

  5. I gotta tell you, I get this crap all the time. I too have ear piercings. I too rock hats from time to time. But I’ve got semi-effeminate features and a high pitched voice just in case my aesthetic tastes weren’t enough. I’m okay with this. And I’m okay with being asked if I’m gay. What irritates me is when people assume I’m gay, and sometimes even argue with me when I politely correct them–like in your story.

  6. i could really relate to this story… although i had a very different experience regarding this matter… i never had this kind of encounters with girls that thought im gay or gave me the impression they think im one… it was always boys… very ignorant unsensitive ones… and it started only during my military service(it’s an obligation where i live)…never before…
    now i gotta say that in my case i can be pretty certain about the reason people thought im gay…it had nothing to do with the way i used to talk/walk/dress etc… nothing effeminate about that…(im very good at noticing a guy’s feminine behavior etc)but i do know that i have a “semi-effeminate features” like the guy said about himself in the previous comment…
    the ‘tragedy’ in my case was that unfortunately,during my military service, i had to spend periods of time with all kinds of people…some of them weren’t that good-hearted… so then…my looks…combined with the depression i suffered from(that made be kind of distant and quiet around the other soldiers around me)…caused some of them(the really ignorant unsenitive ones like i mentioned) to verbally harass me without me doing anything wrong or hurting anyone… only because they assumed i was gay… and they don’t like gay people…
    now im thankful these days are gone and thankful for being able to choose the people around me for a change…
    so yes…now and then i get the impression that someone thinks im gay because of my looks but im not bothered by it too much anymore… i really don’t care what people think anymore as a matter of fact… especially the ignorant ones…I went through a mental process that made me a much srtonger person and also very self confident about my straight orientation etc… now im also very sympathetic about the gay community because i know what some of them might need to go through during their lifetime… i even admire them at some point… there’s so much hatred and ignorance out there… i wish it would stop.

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