Let’s face it: As a community we can indeed be our own worst enemy. From cutting drag queens to catty comments in the club, gay men can be just plain nasty to each other at times. Michael Musto wrote on Monday for Out magazine that, “too many times, we try to turn ‘community’ into ‘mutiny.’” The reason for this is a topic for another column. But what I find curious is just how nice we can be once out of our element.
My friends and I just got back from Aspen Gay Ski Week. Boys, bears, snow, flannel, twinks tumbling down mountains, all what you might expect. Gay Ski Week was my first gay destination vacation in some time, and I was astonished as to how well gays seemed to be treating one another. In a word, men were just being nice. While at a party one night, I asked my friend with whom I was traveling if he had noticed it too. “It’s the Rehoboth Effect,” he said. Gays are just typically nicer to each other when they’re on vacation. But why? Informal polling generally fell into three camps.
First, the fantasy. Gay men can land in just about any city not typically theirs and be just about anyone they want without having to lie about it. Yes, one could become Brock Thompson, sophisticated man about town — or Brock Thompson, ferocious top, or any other version of themselves they typically don’t see themselves as. Gay men can play just about any role knowing that their time there has an expiration date on it. Once they return home, there are few repercussions. It’s a shame that sometimes that fantasy plays out as just being a nice person. But, we take what we can get, right?
Secondly, guys I talked to referred to the shroud. More accurately, the lifting of the shroud. The postwar gay flock to major cities is a curious migration trend. Many of us who came from rural and small town America had the idea that once safely in the confines of a city, we would find ourselves among our own in some sort of gay utopia. While this is more or less true, we also learn that as gay men, we can be just as mean to one another, sometimes sadly even more so than the bullies we may have come into contact with growing up. Once outside their element, some us can lift the shroud of insecurity and proceed with greater ease. The old pitfalls and social snares aren’t around to snag us.
Lastly, the most popular opinion as to why gay men treat each other better while on vacation is the seduction. Or, as a friend told me when I put the question to him, “gay men want some.” This is more or less true for all of us. It’s a lot easier to snag a boy for the weekend, or the night, or the moment, with a bit of honey rather than vinegar. While most of our straight counterparts are rationalizing that second dessert because “I’m on vacation,” gay men are still passing on dessert, but trying nonetheless for some sugar using the same justification. The first two theories here may not really apply to D.C. and Rehoboth, two locations that share practically a pipeline between them during the summer months. It’s the same people, just with a sandy backdrop and taffy.
Musto ends his article saying that, “there are enough people out there who are against us. Let’s target them, not each other. OK, my fellow queers?” That may be a bit of a tall order for some of us. But until then, we’ll always have the Rehoboth Effect.
Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer who contributes regularly to the Blade.