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June 16th, 2004 Byron Beck | Cover Story
 

THE STRAIGHT ISSUE

A heterosexual's guide to the gay world you live in.

     
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Homosexuals are everywhere--or at least it sometimes seems that way.

Particularly in Oregon, the state with the fifth-highest number of gays and lesbians per capita, according to the latest U.S. Census report.

Yet sometimes the presence of homosexuals in Portland seems even more pervasive than that. Gays rule the fancy-pants hair salons, of course, as well as the theater world and the restaurant scene (well, at least in more than a few of Portland's best restaurants).

Our city's lesbo-friendliness is the stuff of legend. You can't swing a kayak paddle in this town without smacking a Sapphic sister, and you could field an entire rugby team of lesbian Realtors. (What's up with lesbians and real estate, anyway?) We've got a gay guy running for City Council, and his gayness is barely an afterthought, much less a campaign issue.

In a larger sense, lesbian and gay issues--like marriage, adoption and employment rights--dominate front-page headlines. And on TV, gay-ish sitcoms like Will & Grace are just plain funnier than Everybody Loves Raymond. It's clear that homosexuals have become the darlings of the 21st century.

That they are the latest special-interest group to be anointed by the cultural zeitgeist comes to the shock and horror of groups like the Defense of Marriage Coalition, which is pushing a statewide ballot measure to ban queer marriage (perhaps after that, the Coalition could set up a divorce-counseling service for heteros). In Portland, anyway, those who would stem the lavender tide stand about as much chance of success as Lyndon LaRouche has of becoming pope.

The reality: Queers are here. And frankly, some straights are more than a little jealous.

Jealous that gays can talk to members of the opposite sex without being slapped with a harassment lawsuit.

Jealous that so many lesbians can fix Subarus with more ease than most male car mechanics.

Jealous that gays and lesbians seem to do a lot of things so much better, whether they're throwing a summer potluck or planning an impromptu wedding.

All of this cultural attention adds up, making poor, color-uncoordinated straight folk feel, if not sorely neglected, at least out of style.

And so, as Portland takes to the streets to celebrate the 34th annual Portland Pride Festival, we offer a primer. The Straight Issue is a survival guide to understanding not just gay rights, not just gay style, but something culturally more relevant: how to negotiate--make that appropriate--this gay new world.

HERE'S WHAT'S INSIDE WW'S STRAIGHT ISSUE:

WEB EXTRA: The Straight TestHow well are you passing in this gay world?

Coming Out Straight--Two straight people tell what it's like to work on the gay front lines.

How to Communicate Like a Gay Couple--A Seattle psychologist has determined that gay couples communicate more effectively than straight couples. Who knew?

In Defense of Straightness--What's so wrong with being straight, anyway?

Pal or Playmate--A straight person's guide to same-sex flirting.

How To Pick Up Chicks...Like a Gay Guy--Straight guys acting like queers to score with the ladies.

As well as which musicals are safe/suspect, gay history lessons, hankie codes for straight people, a guide to the pride celebration and a straight--but not narrow--vision of the gay world we live in.

 
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