Working on a computer all day, I spend, embarrassingly, a significant amount of time eagerly scanning Facebook. I'd like to say that I'm earnestly interested in friends' babies or wedding photos, but in truth, I'm mostly just looking at cute boys. Because of the somewhat public nature of my job, I have many Facebook friends I don't actually know, which has provided many an entertaining -- if occasionally depressing (some people are just so skinny ) -- hour of discovering whole new people, clicking 'next picture' over and over and over again. And lately, I've begun to notice something: The gay men of New York and likely anywhere really are becoming so much more...diverse.
Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, once famously said of his new nation, 'When Israel has prostitutes and thieves, we'll be a state just like any other.' And I think that quote applies here, to this somewhat superficial issue.'I'm not saying the men on my Facebook page or those I see wandering Hell's Kitchen or swishier corners of Brooklyn are thieves or prostitutes (well, not most of them, at least). What I mean is that archetypes or ideals of gaydom seem to be broadening well beyond the simple muscled Chelsea gym god who has served as something of the universally recognized Gay Idol for years now. Instead, current gay crush objects and dream dates seem to be trending pretty, well, nerdy.
Beyond my friends list, we can see this developing in popular culture.'Look at Facebook cofounder turned key Obama strategist turned floppy-haired sex symbol Chris Hughes.'Or Rachel Zoe's hench-stylist Brad Goreski (who is, to be fair, not lacking in rippling physique), who works quietly almost cerebrally at the business of fashion, and wears nerd glasses and staid tweeds to accent that approach. Or gaze lovingly at the political (and otherwise) statistics genius Nate Silver, who sets many gay (and straight, probably) hearts aflutter with his eerie prescience and rumpled-yet-sharp geeky aesthetic.'These are not the Jeff Strykers of yesteryear! They're not even the Rupert Everetts. Sure, muscle-rippling porn gods are still held in regard, but increasingly they don't seem to be the only objects of lust for our ever more eclectic and decentralized group.
Back on Facebook, I see this in some fairly shallow ways. It's cool and almost de rigueur now to sport chunky glasses and dorky, unrevealing cardigans, even for the fittest Broadway dancer in town. But these guys also seem to have decided that it's cool, that it's sexy, to be loudly political, to post coy status messages about books rather than anything involving penis puns or circuit parties, to be as obsessed with media and gadget gossip as celebrity news. Of course, there's nothing wrong with phallic wordplay or shirtless raves or anything else traditionally deemed gay, but it is certainly interesting to see new patterns, whole different tropes, sprouting up everywhere.
Obviously, gay nerds and jocks and goths and artists and whoever else have existed forever; we were never all the same person. But as gayness has become more public, with more people living out than ever before, the breadth of the spectrum of personalities and interests and, yes, lust objects has become strikingly more apparent. And that phenomenon -- the less gay is able to conjure up one single, specific persona -- can only do well by universal acceptance and all that important, positive stuff.
Those who might cringe at the bawdiness of a particularly clothes-free gay pride parade might now turn and see themselves in the ambitious gay tech entrepreneur. Some Marie's Crisis cabaret performer may not stoke your average straight college radio dude's musical worship, but said dude probably sees a lot to idolize in Rostam Batmanglij, the gay member of hipster dream band Vampire Weekend. While we will always love and embrace our admittedly (and somewhat deliberately, if we're honest with ourselves) alienating parades and cabaret acts and triangle-torsoed titans of sex, that a more nuanced'and in today's case tweedier and more subdued'ideal is also becoming a prominent part of the culture is exciting. Because, duh, we were always a state like any other (well, mostly), but as gay ideals increasingly broaden and deepen, maybe the rest of the world will see that state like any other too. When they think gay, they won't just see Carl Paladino's Speedo-clad float dancers, but the rest of us too. The nerds, the dweebs, the prostitutes, and thieves. Everyone. n