Jack Malebranche is an ordained priest in the Church of Satan. He likes to watch old Nazi movies. He used to work as a "dancer" at gay clubs in New York. But none of that stuff is nearly as fascinating to me as this: Malebranche is an "androphile."
He explains what that is in his new book, Androphilia: A Manifesto Rejecting the Gay Identity, Reclaiming Masculinity (Scapegoat, 143 pages, $12.95), a portentous tome that asks queer men to drop their gay ways in favor of a more Marlboro (and some might say backward) way of life. And no, he's not part of the religious right or an ex-gay or, well, I'll let him explain it.
"The dictionary definition is—and it's not in a lot of dictionaries—is that an androphile is anyone who loves men, including women," says the Portland-based author. "I added on to that definition. Loving men to me means more than just loving body parts. It's about masculinity itself." And a rejection of what has come to define modern gay life; the bars, behaviors and other man-to-man manifestations gays openly "flaunt."
Speaking of masculinity, when I asked the 32-year-old androphile to meet me at the gayest men's bar in all of North Portland, the Eagle, I was surprised he agreed. But there was plenty about this dude—who has been in a relationship with the same man for over nine years, his "compadre" Lucio, even though he says he's "not gay"—that surprised me.
For one, he's not a total jerk. In fact, he's the opposite. Thoughtful, attractive and sweet (can you tell I like the guy?), Malebranche struggled for years with his sexual identity until he hit upon androphilia. Although he's been with men and women, he prefers men and doesn't consider himself bisexual. "The last time I was with a girl, I was like, 'I ought to do more of this,' but you have to keep that up to make it work," says Malebranche over a beer on the Eagle's patio. "Obviously, I'm not 50/50."
So what is he, then? I'm still not sure, but he says there are others just like him.
"When I started to write this book I had to force myself back into the gay scene," says Malebranche, who has trouble with a lifestyle he considers to be full of men acting like "14-year-old girls." "I pushed myself to explore all of that and I found out there are a lot of guys, like me, who are on the fringe, saying, 'This is not what I am part of,' even though they get sucked into it anyway by default." Malebranche believes Androphilia, which includes chapters on "The Stigma of Effeminacy" and "Gay Party Crashing," is ultimately about "manhood for men." He wants it to be a manly manual for "younger guys who are trying to figure this shit out."
No matter how much I may like this guy, this is where I have to call bullshit. I didn't spend my entire life in the closet just so I could go right back in. While I understand the need to separate the "girls" from the boys, I can't help but think that when Malebranche says it's less about orientation than taste, he does a big disservice to gays and non-gays alike. Identity issues or not, gay is here, it's still queer and that's the way (uh-huh, uh-huh) I like it.