Standing on the train platform I looked down and spied a young black youth who looked to be in his early twenties. Instantly my gaydar went off and in his steps he wasn’t trying to hide who he was. Seeing him strut down the platform made me smile as he walked as if he was on a runway and we were the audience for his Topman fashion show. Choosing a spot where everyone could see him he stopped and found his mark as he pulled out his cellphone despite you can’t get a signal at this station and feigning indifference to the others around he enveloped himself into the digital world. He was oblivious to the attention he created to the other men who gave him attention and one even leaving his spot on the platform and in his smooth way shuffling to where the young man was standing. I admit he was cute and I think he knew it, and in my observation I smiled as I reflected on my own days when I myself was a hottie.
As a young good looking man I had the same walk as I walked as if you couldn’t tell me anything. I was exotic and my exoticness was knowing I was young, gay and black. In essence I was the forbidden fruit your mother warned you about. I portrayed confidence yet it was all a facade as I was trying to figure out what this thing called gay meant. I would never tell you of my insecurities. I just knew that as a young gay man I was a commodity with plenty of older consumers looking to take a bite of that apple in the Garden of Eden. My insecurity was external and I was in a place where I didn’t have to expose my feelings and instead wear this lacquered exterior of indifference. In truth I wasn’t ready for my sexuality as I was a young man given the keys to a car I had yet learned to drive. But I wouldn’t tell you that as I was Mario Andretti and there was no speed limit for me.
I think at that time my value in myself was in how attractive others thought I was. I had adopted language you hear form most girls, statements of how they didn’t want to date boys their age because they were too immature. I was the same only my reason was that I knew that older men had one thing I didn’t have much at the time, money. And money bought material things that increased my value and set me apart from the other young hotties who gave their stuff away free. It was a dance of what were you willing to give me for me. I knew you couldn’t tell me anything when one paramour who was a famous writer wrote me a large check to be exclusive. I made a promise with fingers crossed and on the way to the bank knowing there was no way I was going to be anyone’s private joy. Honestly many older men were drawn to the young skin and didn’t mind bestowing gifts or showing their own value by having someone young to show off in public. Some in their pursuit of satisfying their sexual gratification were not always looking for a relationship. In fact some had other hotties spread around the city. Some had wives or other relationships that satisfied their other needs and every so often you got the one who truly wanted to be monogamous but asking someone in their twenties to settle down was asking someone to walk on water. It just wasn’t going to happen no matter how many zeros were thrown.
I was never looking for a relationship only because I didn’t know what a relationship was. I was unaware my transformation into a hottie was preordained for me because of several factors. Growing up my learning’s of being gay was taught to me by old issues of Colt porno magazines or sneaking my VHS copy of ‘Crusin’ in the VCR just to see what gay men look like never minding the fact the movie was about a gay serial killer. At that time something was better than nothing. Unlike today gay images of any kind were easy to see. The mainstream media had yet to jump on the gay wagon and anything remotely gay was something to laugh at or scorn. I didn’t have examples I could look at to see what being committed meant. And in the black community it was like an extremely dry desert with no relief of water as the idea of two black men together was the biggest taboo. And even if I was to find someone I couldn’t do the actions I saw other straight couples do. Holding hands in public, giving innocent kisses while sitting in the park or resting my head on my other half’s shoulder in the movie theatre was not common or welcomed. And even today with many affirming their sexuality one rarely sees the coupling of gay black men showing their affection to others in public. So the idea of trying to be in a relationship was an illusion that was never attainable. In fact based on people’s response it wasn’t something I welcomed as I was having learning lessons at the time of what it meant to be black and didn’t have room on my plate for the meaning of gay.
My lesson in what a relationship looked like was displayed to me at the one moment in my younger life when I broke my own rule and committed myself to an older person. The stigma of being gay was so prevalent that when out in public we both acted like we were only buddies. Not to simply blame him but as he was older I followed his lead and his example was one of hiding your true self especially in the public view. In my teaching moments I didn’t have anything to show me it was abnormal as at that time it was normal. There was even a time when we went to the movies we left an empty seat between us to leave no doubt to others. Our only action of affection was left to when we were alone in the privacy of our house. It didn’t last long as it was easier to be a hottie without having to put energies in pretending for the sake of others.
I didn’t set out to be a hottie. I feel I got my title from how others saw me. I honestly felt I was created from the community I was trying to understand. It seemed I was not made visible by my intelligence or personality. I didn’t notice my own ass or size of my package or smoothness of my skin. That’s how others saw me and approached me on those attributes. Even the name hottie was not penned by me as it became my name as I passed the company of others. ‘Hey look at that hottie’ “man he’s a hottie” In that space of looking for identity and living in a society when how your identity is less than because of race, you grab and embrace those things that make you visible even if it isn’t positive. Young black boys especially grow up in a disadvantage place where often our sex and sexuality provides worth to others and gives sense of self even if it’s false.
Today’s examples of learning of ourselves through our bodies are no longer offered through issues of x-rated magazines and in its stead we embrace images of us in a sexual context where doing porn either professional or homemade is a validation of worth. Unlike our straight brethren who are given instructions and examples as young gay black boys we learn it in the context of sex or sexual attraction. Even our stories of gay black men are swathe in stories of sexual encounters and the other aspects of our lives are left on the cutting room floor. This is a historical context of black men in general as former slaves we were displayed naked on the auction block showing our prowess for the highest bidder and today we have become headless shots on sites such as Adam4Adam where we have no distinctiveness and our selves are seen in the framework of our penis and/or ass shots displayed for the lowest bidder. We carry preordained values such as feeling it’s only a matter of time when we will get HIV as based on any statistics as African American we are constantly on the top of any negative stats.
As a former hottie I didn’t know I was continuing the lineage that was already cast before me. I thought I was creating my own identity when in fact my identity was being created for me. Now looking at the young man on the subway platform I smiled not because he was going to follow my footsteps. I smiled because circumstances have changed in the world that being gay is a public conversation instead of a private one. His comfort in self didn’t come off as a sexual self but more as I’m comfortable with myself and in that space I find my confidence. Are there currently young gay men who see themselves based on their sexual attractiveness. Yes. But by recognizing that we, members of the gay community made them we, can also unmake them by moving past lecherous ways and instead being positive role models with the absence of sexual attraction. I guess my smile was in that in my growth I didn’t immediately see him as a simple sex object but one that carry confidence and pride of self. I didn’t look at him only in a sexual context.
So although I call myself a former hottie I still give myself the title of hot except my hotness is not defined by others nor do I seek the naming of it from others. My hotness is no longer border by my sexuality or my sexual positions with others. With my knowledge and a solid footing on my being I can redefine my attractiveness by the new history of what it means to be gay, what it means to be black and most importantly what it means to be a man. In my confessions I reaffirm my worth.