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But according to 31-year-old Bronx native and Chelsea resident Nedelyn Acevedo, women such as herself who have lots of close gay relationships can see through the camouflage. "I see guys all pumped up and wearing aviators and so down with the fashion just to get girls," she says, pointing out that they've picked up the wrong gay qualities. She finds their "fake fagging" laughablelike when she entered a straight guy's bathroom and noticed "the towels perfectly placed on the bar, and a copy of Italian Marie Claire. Italian Marie Claire," she giggles. "I'm not turned on by that. I'm looking for someone who will listen to me."
But women are only part of the reason some straight men learn to play gay. As the gay scene moved from circuit parties and clubs to condos and dog runs, it exponentially increased the opportunities for straights to see and be seen with gays. Call it the Chelsea effect.
Along with this mix has come a boom in gay-identified businesses. Currently the Gayellow Pages lists 288 entries in the New York area that identify as "gay owned," 187 "gay friendly," and 198 specifying a primarily gay clientelemeaning everything from laundromats to lawyers' offices with rainbow flags on display. This has opened up a new job market for straight men who know how to play gay. At present, good-looking men are at a premium in this marketand cute straight boys definitely need apply. These guys have a lock on the always popular gay fantasy of the straight sex-object; plus their bosses never have to worry about them getting into a spat with a boyfriend across the bar.
According to promoter John Blair (who notes that eight of 10 applications for jobs at his new gay bar, xl, were straight), economics is now the primary motivation for playing gay. "I hired a waiter from Boise who had never known a gay person, and all of a sudden he knew the vernacular," Blair says. "Did he enjoy it? Yes. Was he straight? Absolutely. But the reason he was there was because the most money for him was at a gay restaurant."
This is de rigueur at gay gymsthe best place for straight trainers to find devoted disciplesand gay bars, which have become famous in Jersey and the outer boroughs as venues where an in-shape guy can make $500 a night and get worshiped while he's at it.
Twenty-eight-year-old Chris Cilione grew up in Westchester County, "completely free of gay influences," as he notes. But he and his high school friends, raised in divorced households and parented primarily by their mothers, were different from other boys to begin with. "We weren't the baseball hat wearing, same pair of jeans all week long, only talk to your girlfriends for sex type of guys," he says. "There was a friendship value to our interactions with girls early on. We were very in tune with being around women." He's also observed that this is a common theme among straight men he knows in the salon industry. "You can see that a powerful early influence of the mother has a lot to do with going to work in gay environments." But unlike black-styled white guysbetter known as wiggahspost-straight men can be guilty by association. So life for these guys doesn't come without its drama. No matter how gay-friendly they are, there is a fine line between being perceived as having gay qualities and being thought of as gay.
For men like Calderone, the biggest fear is being regarded as they saw gay men in earlier days. Calderone recalls being afraid the first time he had his eyebrows waxed seven years ago (though he points out that all the goombahs get their brows done now), and Cilione admits to similar fears. He says he went into the Fifth Avenue salon business for the money and the chance to work around women. He was irritated by the "stereotypical queens," but femmey attributes rubbed off nonethelessa fact he realized recently while sitting on a couch at a very heterosexual house party in a ski resort. "I was holding my beer and cigarette in what I would say is just refinedlegs crossed, but in a gentlemanly way. Then I realized that everybody else was sitting there with their legs spread open and half a hand down their pants, kind of an Al Bundy thing, and I looked like a big fag."
But what qualifies as "faggy" has changed. Spook the new Sound Factory. On any given Sunday morning, hundreds of bare-chested and pumped-up straight men with plucked eyebrows and shaved chests move about in tight black pants that maximize the shape of their butts. Many men dance together, some in tight group embraces, while others wave their hands in the air (a definite violation of the rule that straight men must dance with their hands down). "Eight years ago, you would never see two straight kids with their shirts off dancing together, singing like a bunch of girls," says Sound Factory DJ Jonathan Peters. "And you should see underwear night."
In many ways, post-straight is the mirror image of post-gay. The common idea is to move beyond the expectations that come with sexual identity. Slowly but surely, both gay and straight men are being "resocialized," says disco historian Peter Braunstein, who considers himself post-straight. "It means that you can wake up and say, 'Today, I'm Diana Ross in Mahogany.' "