Barney Frank was once outed by his eyeballs.
In an interview about his new autobiography “Frank” on Fresh Air, he tells of being read by another gay man. This fellow had watched Frank’s eyes looking at the same things — the same men — as he did.
I know other people outed that way. A woman at a Halloween party read the Legendary Barbara because she saw Babs looking at women, not men. Sure, that could have meant she was a lesbian, but no lesbian would have been so perfectly Barbied up.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t see my own eyes. But I knew what made my head turn, what attracted my attention on a deep, instinctive level.
When TBB did our top ten list of the lies crossdressers tell, one of the entries was “Honest,Honey! I was looking at her legs, not her shoes!”
My head turned — and it still turns — for women. I just find women much more fascinating than men.
Publishers have long known that women like looking at pictures of good looking men and also like looking at pictures of women. That’s not so true of men, who mostly have resisted looking at pictures of men.
Fashion and pinup photography has long centred on images of women for this reason. Men like looking at well dressed women and so do women, though women read the photographs in a different way, viewing them in the same way that they assess other women. We read style clues to get a story out of the appearance, extracting context.
Women do a lot with that context, from judging the beauty of ensembles to decoding story, from triggering memories to finding suggestions about what would work for our own presentation. The marking of women means we convey a lot of information through our appearance, and being able to read that is one of the first steps in woman’s cultural literacy.
Men’s reading of women is usually much simpler and less nuanced than women’s reading, looking at shapes and colours, missing nuance, because they have no need to learn the complex symbolic language.
I watch women mostly because their markings make them much more fascinating to me as they reveal so many more details and layers. Like so many women, I understand men better by the women they are connected to, one reason that it has always been important to reveal the candidate’s wife. How she speaks of him and how he treats her tells us a great deal.
Much like Barbara, though, men have never made my heart flutter in the way that they do for Mr. Frank. Elegant, mature butch women, on the other hand, do snap my head, at least when I move past the sublimation of desire that is at the centre of my hermetic aesthetic denial. TBB laughed when I described my first sexual encounter, one where I wasn’t cocky enough to make the sweaty bits work, but was with a woman who later identified as a soft-butch. Yes.
The more I have stopped fighting to hide my tender, feminine heart the more I can acknowledge the charms of men. For me, though, those charms are in wit, devotion, curiosity and intellectual passion and not really in the hard muscles and cocky behaviour that so often get straight girls worked up. I like the human side more than the male side.
The focus of our deep attention is always revelatory. Not having to resist that focus opens up our possibility for happiness.
It takes an open personality to be a good legislator, according to Mr. Frank. While he was trying to stay in the closet the grumpiness that accompanied the chronic irritation of denying his heart really showed. When he came out, he was able to come from a happier, more open place and he got better at his job, moving into leadership.
I know how much denying what turned my head cost me, even if I knew from a very young age what tickled my passion. So much of my own energy was burned off in waste heat rather poured into the work that can make a full life, that can contribute so much to building family and community.
Our choices reveal the contents of our heart, and the choices that we make unconsciously, like with our eyeballs, reveal the deepest parts. Eyes on stalks are connected to our deepest desires.
Being able to work with those desires, to trust our eyeballs, lets us mature finding our own strength rather than having to fight to stay hidden, denying it.
We have to trust the eyeballs.