I haven't written on D&R for a long time, and I won't go into the reasons for that here. (It's a long story.) However, recently, I had the chance to watch three films by legendary gay porn film maker Joe Gage (aka Tim Kincaid): El Paso Wrecking Corp., Kansas City Trucking Co., and L.A. Tool & Die. I had seen L.A. Tool & Die many, many years ago, but I had not seen the other two. So, when the chance came up to do so, I did.
For me, back in 1981, at the age of 29, with my first marriage just about to go under for the last time, I met an older guy who, I soon discovered, was gay. I got a job painting his house that summer (I was temporarily unemployed), and about three days later, as I was about to wind things up, he "came on to me." That was a really hot summer, with low-to-mid 100's, and not much cloud cover, or shade of any kind (except for what was under my hat). He had invited me inside on several occasions prior to that particular day for a glass of iced tea. That last time, however, things got much more--- erotic.
Anyway, he and I ended up having sex that day, and on and off for the next couple of months! I would spend hours there with him talking about all sorts of issues (as well as having sex), and it was through him that I saw L.A. Tool & Die! He owned a VHS tape player (I didn't own one in those days), and he said I just had to watch this film. It was also the very first "gay porn" movie I had ever watched. It was an eye-opening experience for me.
What I remember the most about watching that Joe Gage film was the guys. They were all, every last one of them, blue-collar, working-class guys! Just like I was!! It was so not the typical stereotype of the limp-wristed "fag." These guys could have walked onto any job site I had ever worked on, and no one would have suspected that they were gay! Scruffy blue jeans. Tattered chambray work shirts. Boots. Beards. Base ball caps. Cowboy hats. Hairy chests. They drove trucks. They welded. They worked on automobiles. They got their hands dirty doing real labor jobs. They went to bars. And yet, they were gay! These were eventually known as "Gage Men," and I loved it. I, too, was a "Gage Man". I, too, drove trucks, wore blue jeans, boots, ball caps, got my hands dirty on job sites, cussed like a sailor, and looked very much like any heterosexual, mid-western male. And yet, I was not exactly "straight".
The older guy I mentioned earlier, said I looked just like those guys on the film. He meant that as a high compliment! He said that that was why he had wanted to see if I was gay, as well. At the time, though un-happily married, I didn't regard myself as "gay." I didn't have a word for what it was I was feeling around this older guy, but I assured myself that I was absolutely not gay, whatever else I was. Later, I discovered the term "bisexual", and that's been generally the way I have regarded myself ever after.
After I finished watching L.A. Tool & Die, Which I had not seen in a long time, what really struck me the most was how far our society has come since those days about the entire topic of sexual orientation. In the summer of 1981, to be gay was a very dangerous thing to be, especially living out in the American heartland where I still do. The older man I mentioned, was quite "out" for that time. He made a lasting impact on my life, both sexually, as well as intellectually. Though I am married again, I have never quite been the same since that summer.
Watching that film today brought that summer back with great vividness. Had I never met that older guy, who knows? Maybe I would never had taken the path I did because of him. Then again, maybe some other influence would have come along? It's fun to play "what-if." For me, this film underscored again just how impossible it is to "tell" what a person's sexual orientation is from just looking at them. Maybe there are certain aspects of stereotypes that are partially true, but, most of the time, and from my own experiences--- they are not.
Since 1981, I have discovered quite a few "blue-collar Queers" living undercover out here in the mid-west! Things are so much more convoluted than many people wish them to be; but I like the nuances better. It makes living much more interesting.