I've never infiltrated another culture before. I don't speak any other languages, I look surprisingly bad in drag, and I can get only about a third of the way through biscuits and gravy with a side of grits before saying something stupid about liking Mexicans. So on a recent trip to New York, I jumped at the chance to stay at the Out NYC, Manhattan's new gay hotel, since I realized it might be my only opportunity to try out being homosexual without trying the only part of the lifestyle I'm not into, which is the sex part. I love the catty banter, the brunches, the gym workouts, the modern aesthetic, the not having to deal with women. What I did in the privacy of my hotel room the other men would never have to know about.
But as I rolled my luggage toward the hotel, I started to get nervous. Maybe they'd all notice my unwaxed chest and paunch and tell me to leave. Or maybe without straight people holding them back, they would act in some kind of supergay way so incredibly gay, I couldn't even imagine it. I suddenly longed for a USA Today, a shower cap and an Express Start breakfast bar.
The glass doors parted, and I walked up to the front desk, handed over my driver's license and Visa card and said in a voice I'm pretty sure was two octaves lower than my own, "Just checking in." The guy behind the desk touched my arm and told me I looked cute in my photo. I was passing. I looked at the ad on the desk for the gay club attached to the hotel and asked exactly what it was that model Janice Dickinson would be "performing" that night. He said, "You know, she's a gay man in a woman's body!" We laughed the comfortable laugh that exists only between a gay man and a man suddenly pretending he is gay and has no idea why he's doing it.
I got in the elevator with three guys and a woman. It was the first time in my many years of elevator experience that all the elevatees introduced themselves and shook my hand. When we got out, they invited me to their room. I turned down their invitation mostly because I was late for a meeting and partly because I didn't want to have sex with 75% of them. As I walked away, I heard the woman encouragingly say to her friends, "He was cute!" I had gotten two "cutes" in 15 minutes. Which is two more "cutes" than I'd gotten in 40 years in the straight community.
I rocked at being fake gay. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could have a fabulous gay life. All I'd have to do is what closeted guys in college did with girls: suddenly act like a jerk on my second date to escape making out. Then I'd go right back to being called cute and using rosemary cedarwood peppermint shampoo that didn't smell at all girly.
There are gay boutique hotels in gay places such as Key West, Fla., Provincetown, Mass., and Greece, but there's also one being built in superstraight Louisville, Ky. Ian Reisner, a co-owner of the Out NYC, is building a second location in Washington, where he's hoping to attach a gay-history museum. I can see why these hotels would be popular. Without the aggressive posturing of straight guys, gay men were able to be outgoing and friendly. Straight men are jerks to one another because there's no incentive to be nice: we're not going to have sex.