There is a gay mafia. And if you’re not careful, we will whack you.
We’re nothing like “The Sopranos.” Sure we wear plenty of tight-fitting undershirts and even the occasional gaudy gold chain. We like our windows tinted, and most of us are in therapy. But we wouldn’t be caught dead with ungroomed chest hair. Hell, we wouldn’t be caught dead in New Jersey. But we have a mafia nonetheless. And if we don’t whack you, we’ll at least gentrify your ass (and your neighborhood while we’re at it).
My freshman year, a good portion of the campus gays gathered weekly in the Branford Common Room to play a ’mo version of ‘Mafia,’ that game loved by bored families and over-eager theater kids the world over. The occasional “straight man” might show up to play, but only if we were actively trying to out him. If he didn’t play nice, the gays unanimously massacred him while he was sleeping.
All with cards, of course.
Although if you pissed off the mob boss, (especially on a road trip, rumor has it), he wouldn’t think twice before leaving you to die by the side of the road. And not with cards, either.
While the game of Mafia dissolved along with that particular social circle, the mafiosos live on.
The society of sodomy is the most sordid, storied, infamous and influential of Yale’s secret societies. More dangerous than Skull and Bush, more campy than Snake and Plane, the graduates of Sword and Sword will slowly but surely take over the world. After all, the gays have centuries of practice at social secrecy.
I imagine the dark ages of homosexuality were ironically akin to the early years of Christianity. In those years, when Jesus Love was illegal, followers of Christ used secret signals to recognize each other: One Christian drew an arc in the sand with his foot, and the other bisected that first arc with a second one, creating the famous Jesus Fish.
I imagine the gays had a similar signal, since Man Love had been forbidden long before Jesus Love was even a twinkle in Mary’s virgin eye. For them, one scrawled ‘top,’ in the sand, and a fellow gay responded, ‘bottom.’ Hopefully, at least. Because if you had two tops like the Christians had two arcs, well, then you were just asking for a wrestling match.
And of course the gays removed their super-vintage Manolo Blahnik strappy sandals before digging around in the dirt.
I guess if you scrawled top and the other answered with a Jesus Fish, the ’mo ran screaming. Hell, we know all your secrets.
Even today, we use secret (or not-so-secret) markers to recognize each other. Gay culture has often been criticized for being an artificial creation. Which it is. But one with a purpose. We create culture so we can have a group to which we belong.
And of course we seek that group so we can find more people to sleep with. Duh.
Because honestly, rejection rates are a lot higher when you’re getting rejected by a symbol in the sand. Hell, you try drawing a sand picture in front of every hot guy you meet and see how many wrestle the way you want them to.
And just like Yale societies, ours is no longer so secret. Even if you try to be hush-hush about it, be it Bush, Plane or Sword, everyone knows to which one you belong. Often the gays belong to both. So, these days, our signals have become more obvious; they’re more like badges of honor. Pride, if you will.
Homo-hawks, tight sweaters, thigh-hugging stone-washed hundred-dollar jeans. In the South, they all wear trucker hats.
Hell, put rainbow colors on anything, and you might as well move to Chelsea. These tags are all gay gang colors. Our priority has always been finding others of the same inclination, we’ve just made it a lot easier to figure each other out. Unless you’re in England, which is a cesspool of heterosexual men far too in touch with their feminine sides.
We’ve got some secret markers left, like the Jesus Fish, that are only discernible to the color-coordinated homosexual eye. I’ve seen more than one man wear a gay porn-star T-shirt in the gym. Because any straight man who recognizes the name would never admit it. And any gay man gets the hint.
Sure, there are some on the Down Low who still have their secret ways of finding other “straight, but curious” men. Although even that isn’t so much of a mystery; it’s called Craig’s List.
But why would anyone want to avoid being out?
OK, homophobia, hate crimes, blah blah blah.
But seriously, we own your ass:
Ellen Degeneres — suddenly stole Portia de Rossi from the entire drooling heteromale population. Then she took over daytime television. Now it’s Hollywood and the Oscars. You’re next.
Chelsea — suddenly one of the most over-priced districts in already-over-priced New York. Without us, your neighborhood would still be a slum devoid of salons, fancy dogs, coffee shops, art galleries and interior design. We own the nightlife, the gourmet-food stores and the patent to your new Pottery Barn china. We even employ the people who come up with the names for that sultry new color on your kitchen walls. Honey Butter. Apple Sauce Cake. And we chose that new color for your kitchen walls. And then we painted them. It’s the same for Soho in London and the Chueca in Madrid. Even Brooklyn’s giving in to the glorious gay revolution.
The Irish — suddenly smarter than everyone else: The gay district in Dublin is directly downtown. And The Dragon is the swankiest club I’ve ever been to: gay or straight. So, as the gentrification begins, the whole city gets a taste. As always, America could learn a thing or two from the Irish. War isn’t always the answer. Especially in this case: welcome the invasion.
The Castro — not-so-suddenly clinging to old-school speakeasy gay culture, but only because it was the first. It represents a golden age, and a time passed. Look at us, we’ve even got traditions. Our society’s neighborhood culture is well-established enough to get us nostalgic for the good old days.
Hollywood — Suddenly Susan! (Come on, Brooke Shields, no straight woman has eyebrows that bushy.) The gays all get to work in Hollywood, but we don’t have to live there. We get to live in West Hollywood, which has more backyards, Sangria Cantinas and safe streets. I challenge you to find a Hollywood film without a ’mo attached or a home in WeHo without aromatherapy oils.
Partly, I think we’re bitter at everyone else for calling us names when we were kids. The best revenge is living well. Partly, I think we’re better than everyone else, and we’ve now learned better names to call people (and better names for our purebred puppies). If only gay people had more babies, we’d have far fewer straight names to laugh at. Because honestly, could our senses of humor really survive without Apple Martin or Pilot Inspektor Lee?
So the gay network — and a wry angry wit — evolves from a lifetime of getting even. No wonder the clique becomes a mafia. So don’t piss off a ’mo, because it just might ruin your career, or at least your social life. Gay people want to help other gay people and leave everyone else to die by the side of the road.
Chad Callaghan has absolutely no connection to any money laundering scheme and no recollection of the events on the highway that one night.