Free fries or a ‘not-gay’ punching pass?3/5/2014
Many gay-obsessed conservatives are no doubt a lot like Iowa Senator Mark Segebart of Vail. They’ve done their “research” about what turns the eyes of otherwise red-blooded Hawkeye State men from the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition to, well, the eyes of other red-blooded Iowa men.
They are sort of experts in how not to be gay. The result: Bob Vander Plaats and his flying monkeys figure they are safe in boasting finely tuned gay-dar. They know the gays when they see them.
Only maybe they don’t.
Which raises a question I haven’t heard asked as Arizona leaped ignominiously into the national news with a proposed law that would allow businesses to refuse service to homosexuals. What if you are wrong? What if the two men sitting together at your restaurant, ordering salads and Michelob Ultras and ice waters with cucumbers, aren’t gay at all?
Eyeball bigotry works swell for cops pulling over young African-American men for driving while black or for department store clerks who follow Latino customers around the racks and shelves. “Papers please?”
Not all gay people “look” gay and there are an increasing number of men who you wonder: Is that dude gay?
The debate in Arizona — and a number of other states — has centered on an alleged balancing of religious freedom and civil rights for homosexuals. But no one really got into the front-line discussion of the actual application of the proposed laws.
If Adam and Steve show up looking for a wedding cake at the local bakery, that’s an easy call. Gay.
Two men sitting next to each other at a table for four, when appropriate “man distance” calls for opposite-side dinner accommodations? Could be gay. Could be bad hearing or a business meeting in which whispered confidences are paramount.
Whenever I see men shopping together at a grocery store, I think, gay. But again, you never know. About a year ago, I was in Milwaukee visiting my college roommate and his wife (traditional marriage) and their two children. The Mrs. needed something from the grocery store, so she dispatched us and we took Mike’s toddler son. We used the same cart, of course, with Mike fulfilling the honey-do list and me grabbing some beers and snacks. Someone with bent gay-dar could have gotten the wrong impression, thinking we were two dads with a kid — something I observed at the time to much laughter from Mike.
There are defenses against false accusations. When I go to the movies with a male friend, we require three seats: my seat, his seat and the empty “we’re-not-gay” one between us.
But danger abounds.
Presume your state has an Arizona-style law. And let’s say you are a single conservative guy, one who reads Leviticus and finds homosexuality abhorrent. But the theater is busy, and you have to sit right next to your pal. The $7.25-an-hour assistant manager (whose diet of Dr Pepper and popcorn has buttered his mind) spots you. He thinks you are gay and asks you and your friend to leave the theater — excitedly citing the law and his own religious beliefs.
But you aren’t gay. What’s your in-the-moment recourse? Can you call a state agency and get a “not-gay” ruling?
Or, if you are religiously opposed to homosexuality, but you are mistakenly accused of being gay and tossed from a restaurant, can you, in a variation of stand-your-ground, punch the offending waiter in the face?
“What, me gay?”
Allowing a right hook or two as a response to false allegations of gayness ought to be provided for in the law in a kind a bare-knuckled twist on stand your ground. Stand Your Manhood.
Or maybe the chase-the-gays-away laws could take a different angle. If you are mistakenly accused of being gay in a diner, you get a free order of fries. But if you eat them with a fork, or dab off the grease and salt with a napkin or don’t use enough ketchup, the restaurant gets an appeal.
In a culture where gender and sexual identity is not always what it seems, calling gays and straights, or even men and women, like you see ’em is above the pay grade of most waiters and small-business people.
As much as many of them would like to discriminate against gays, to kick them from table to curb, they just don’t have the eyes for it. Really, who does anymore? CV
Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.