It’s called the “Gay Reflex Moment.”
No, not “gag reflex,” which is arguably annoying but hardly a reason to hate someone. Besides, the “Gay Reflex Moment” (GRM for short) happens way before you figure out he has a gag reflex. In fact, it happens within the first few seconds of one gay man meeting another gay man for the first time.
In the L.A. gay scene, men are essentially pieces of meat put on display in the butcher shop known as West Hollywood. Gay men scrutinize each other, judge each other, create entire narratives for complete strangers in the matter of milliseconds. At this point, the GRM occurs, and it actually is a physical reflex response. Simply put, it looks like a hair flip, usually coupled with a rolling of the eyes.
Next time you’re introduced to a gay man for the first time, look for it. I promise you that 4 out of 5 – if not more – will do it.
Scene: Fiesta Cantina, West Hollywood, on the Second Floor near the Overlook, on a busy Saturday night. Two-for-One Drink Specials.
My Friend spots a Gay Man she knows, motions him over to us.
Mutual Friend: “Hey, let me introduce you two.”
Gay Man looks at me, and a million well-trained neurons fire in his brain. His eyes flick down, then flick up, as he takes in the physical person in front of him and then his intellect instantly pairs each of these attributes with his own preconceived notions. Then, the GRM occurs, and he reflexively twists his neck to look past me.
Gay Man: (still looking past me) Hey.
Me: (turns and looks where he’s looking) You talking to me?
Ah, the GRM. Some gay boys are so fast at it, almost instantaneously jerking their necks, I’m surprised there isn’t more whiplash in WeHo.
Full disclosure, I am completely, utterly, absolutely guilty of the GRM. I have a very expressive face and pitch black eyes, so I’m sure I can look positively satanic whenever my GRM kicks in. Because the GRM is not really done out of malice and it largely isn’t done knowingly. But, dear god, does it have large overarching ramifications for the gay community in general!
What causes the GRM? The GRM is essentially a diverting of the eyes, a crooking of the neck so that eye contact is broken upon the initial interaction. And why do we gay men do this? It’s because our minds literally go into overload whenever we meet another gay man for the first time. Society has taught us that every gay interaction must have a sexualized undertone, and hence, the GRM is really a form of self-defense.
Furthermore, just being gay in today’s world is a rejection of a sort. We still can’t get married, we’re still being called perverts, politicians toss us around to rile up voters in the crotch regions of the Bible Belt. Being gay and being rejected are seared into the homosexual psyche.
To put it simply, when we meet another gay man for the first time, we expect to be rejected by him, and are instantly on the defensive. Hence, the GRM.
That’s silly, you might say. Why can’t gay men just greet each other friendly-like, with platonic warmth and mutual respect? Well, that’s kind of hard to do when you’re meeting right next to a lubed-up gogo dancer shaking his enormous bulge a foot away from your faces. By the time you’ve spent just a month in the gay party scene, you’re hardwired into the hypersexual culture, whether you’re hypersexual or not.
Because of all this, a very tragicomic phenomenon occurs. Since most gay men are largely unaware that they themselves are perpetrators of the GRM for reasons that are mostly personal and have very little to do with the gay man in front of them, they take this defensive act and assume it is offensive. The feelings of rejection kick in. Memories of being the last kid picked for dodgeball suddenly surface. And before we know it, we hate the man in front of us. (It’s called projection.)
This does not bode well for the gay community, which has become a bitchy stew of shallow insecurities. But there’s a simple solution, and by implementing it, I’ve suddenly made wonderful gay friends in the past month.
Scene: LA Fitness Westwood. Rush hour. I’m sitting on the ab machine, pretending that just sitting on it is enough to get abs. My workout buddy spots me, with a new friend in tow.
Workout Buddy: Hey dude, this is my friend, Adam.
Adam reaches out his hand.
I grasp it firmly, genuinely smile, and look him square in the eye.
Me: It’s great to meet you, Adam. I’m Justin.