A Brief Minority Report (circa 2013)
A Brief Minority Report
It is Sunday afternoon in late June at the culmination of Seattle Gay Pride weekend. I am in a vinyl tent behind the main stage at the Seattle Center with eight other men that are modeling for a designer underwear store in a fashion show that is set to soon begin. We are each assigned a couple pairs of designer briefs that we will be modeling on stage in front of thousands of people shortly. A variety of models that could easily pass for traveling circus performers (men, women, animals, and a few variations of those themes in an array of attire befitting Mardi Gras) have been waiting in this prep area for a while due to the prior performances starting and running late. I am in the middle of defending my amount of body hair by adopting some of my colleague’s verbiage.
“Honey, you are as, if not more hairy than I am,” I tell him.
“Girl, don’t go using language your body can’t cash,” he clamors over me calling him honey.
“I suppose you’re right, I don’t have any deposits in my homo account, do I?” I fire back correctly, a modest attempt at witticism. He just nods in a suffused agreement.
“Be nice to him, he’s our token straight guy,” says our coordinator in a passing smile with protective pats on my shoulders.
In the midst of this modeling underwear experience, I realized that something I had never experienced was occurring here: I was a minority. Let’s be honest here: I’m a 30 something, Caucasian male, liberal college educated, and in the Pacific Northwest, and for that matter, America. I didn’t ever think I would ever be able to relate to what it feels like to be part of a minority. Call it, “White Privilege,” and yes it exists.It isn’t that I have hated or welcomed this social status, it has just been the culture I was born into and all that comes with my phenotype. I have always sought a better understanding of the human condition, and new experiences/trying things outside your comfort zone are often the best means for such things. Modeling underwear in front of strangers is certainly outside my immediate comfort zone. Now make the audience a majority of people with different sexual orientations, and that comfort zone is further away—at least it was at first.
When the opportunity to be an underwear model arose, I felt compelled to give it a try. For the past ten years or more, often when meeting someone for the first time and hearing them murmur that I looked familiar, I would jokingly reply, “Well I do a lot of modeling, primarily underwear.” I manage to say this rather straight faced and with a little bit of gullibility on their part, the response is often, “Really?” To which I must quizzically shake my head and dismiss the affirmation. Well, not anymore. From now on, this is something I do and I feel oddly comfortable being in my underwear in public. It just may well be my calling.
I know I am comfortable in my sexuality, I believe in gay and transgender equality, and I think society is at its finest when it celebrates diversity as much as community—as they sustain and perpetuate one another. I felt that this opportunity was the perfect chance to test my beliefs and gain some much needed experience of near public nudity.
My experience in front of audiences goes back to a youngster in school plays and presently as a spoken word artist. One of those early mind games performers learn to play on their psyche is to imagine the audience in their underwear. I suppose it is only a matter of time and justice that the tables are turned and that audience doesn’t have to use their imagination. This is me giving back to the community you could say. My interview for the job was quick and easy, just like me. It consisted with me meeting the manager of the store and coordinator of the models.
“Alright, pop your shirt off,” he says after a brief introduction.
I did so and I was hired. If only my life could always be so simple. I have since tried this interview technique for some other potential jobs. It didn’t go over as well.
My first few weeks were spent as a sales clerk at the Capitol Hill store in Seattle. This job is pretty simple and easy. All I do is mingle with guests, directing them to feel the great fabrics on the underwear and help them find the right sizes in their preferred styles. My first time modeling in underwear wouldn’t be as easy.
I will admit that I love attention. Good or bad for that matter. I just like attention. When it comes to my body however, I want the attention to be admiration. I went on a one week super diet prior to modeling at the Capitol Hill street fair. For me, this diet simply meant, no booze. For me, one week without booze is the longest I’ve gone without alcohol for as long as I can remember. I coupled this crazy diet with lots of working out. The working out was primarily cardio in the form of running, especially sprinting stairs and abdominal workouts every day. The results spoke for themselves. Rather, passer bys spoke for the results. As I have mentioned, I was looking for a new experience and I like attention. So I have come to learn a little bit what it is like to be a hot and sexy babe that is subject to many comments. Some flattering, some embarrassing, some crass, some jackass, often all at once.
My first underwear modeling gig was the Saturday of pride weekend in Seattle. At first I was in the store and I then swapped spots with the model at the street fair. I was wearing a pair of Andrew Christian boxer briefs that claimed on the tags to be “Like you are wearing nothing at all.” Not a false claim whatsoever. This was truly the feeling. After standing inside for nearly two hours, the common statements I heard were, “Is he for sale too?” “Will I look like him if I buy those?” And, “Is he twenty five percent off as well?”
The street fair tent we had set up with a podium for the featured underwear model and all the underwear was half off in this tent. I was out there, right in the middle of it all, on a pedestal. There was a lot more foot traffic here than inside the store and as far as I could see down the street, I saw people from one side of the street to the other, an endless mass of bodies. I was next to a stage that had trained dancer’s boogying to Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson. The dancers were wearing cheerleader outfits and the tallest one of them was a man, wearing lots of makeup and he was perhaps the best dancer.
People would pause in awe for a moment when they came upon me standing there wearing just my underwear and a rainbow sash to show my support. I could feel the eyes looking me up and down, assessing my physique, often followed by some lip smacking and nods of approval. More often than not, a camera phone picture was taken, usually more than one. It didn’t take long before requests came flowing in to have a picture with me.
“Sure, I just have two rules, no touching and you can’t touch the podium.”
I was outside for about an hour and a half. The sun started shining, bringing with it some much needed warmth. There was only once that I felt uncomfortable. This was after a creepy looking old man hovered around me for about ten minutes straight, taking countless pictures. This was followed by him coming close up to whisper, “Well you sure are drawing a crowd.” I just murmured a demure and unsettled, I guess so. He soon left and there were many kind words from passing fair goers along with some pictures taken with a few straight women. This helped to shake the odd feeling of a little too much voyeurism that the creeper had left me with. Every now and then someone tried to put their arm around me when taking a picture and I simply shrugged away the arm to little or no protest. Other times there was a hand that came groping out, no problem avoiding them. On his way off stage, the tall cheerleader came and got a picture with me.
I switched with the other model and went back to the store. Here I posed for another hour or so. While back inside I was approached by a man and a woman that gave me a pair of nice flowers. The lady remarked that she wanted me to smile. I said thanks, smiled, and put one of the flowers behind my ear. I also took off my rainbow sash at this time, as I felt it was covering my abs that I had worked so hard to pop. I heard plenty of, “Oh my Gods,” and, “he’s yummy,” etcetera. The complements culminated in what was either a father and son, or sugar daddy and younger lover that came in and were very vocal in their admiration. They stated flat out that my body was perfect and that I should be a professional model.
The next day was the store’s big event, the Sunday fashion show on the main stage. I am not a punctual individual. I am either a little late or a little early for everything. I opened the store that day and had an hour and a half until I was asked to be down at the Seattle Centers Fisher Pavilion to prepare for the show. I walked down there from Capitol Hill and made much better time than I expected. I was at least forty five minutes early. I checked in with the owner and the coordinator so they knew I was there. We had a model on the same podium I had stood on the day before.
After about fifteen minutes the coordinator asked me if I wanted to get some modeling in before the fashion show, thus, get paid instead of just sitting around not getting paid. I said sure and was told to go through the set up tent store and pick out a pair of underwear and put them on in a small changing tent that was set up nearby. I relieved the other model and instantly I was surrounded by admirers as the sun shone even more bright. I had just sprayed on some tanning oil that smelled of coconuts and I was rubbing it in. This only addled onlookers. I had really been watching what I was eating the last 36 hours, so I was rather shredded in my midsection, my bottom set of abs showing a clear division, the quintessential 8-pack.
The frenzy was on, more than it was the day prior. Every which way I looked, cameras and phones were out taking pictures of me. It all kind of culminated with a pair of men that stopped and got the crowd to confirm that I had a perfect build and was a genetic masterpiece. One of them was taking as many pictures as he could, saying as he snapped shots, “You’re built like Michelangelo’s David, but even more toned, perfect proportions…” Flattery achieved. Comfort in my sexuality confirmed. I had on teal boxer briefs with purple piping and a rainbow waistband that could only be worn by someone absolutely at peace with their sexuality. Equally questionable would be the sexuality of anyone wearing these.
When I first took over on the podium, I swear there was a gasp and then a pandemonium of camera flashes usually reserved for royalty. I felt like the king of queens. For the moment, I was totally fine with being the center of attention and I was comforted by the positive responses from the most critical judges of male form, other men. I was reminded of the way that women gawk, hate and sometimes appreciate other women in ways that a man would never think. Approval from the homosexual majority was an affirmation of my beauty and confirmation of my sexual identity as a heterosexual. I have never been able to see myself through the eyes of a female or a male that’s attracted to other males for that matter. The audience was my lens.
There were too many pictures taken to recall them individually. Tripods were set up, multiple vantage points sought, with the digital camera phone being the most common means of the picture, I was instantly viral. I began to implore a few different poses, attempting to be as comfortable as possible while still being mindful of the occasional attempts by passer bys to get a handful—I’ve got good reactions. I used a trick I’ve learned from watching beautiful women my whole life: I avoided eye contact. I just imagined everyone naked and often enough someone did walk by, ass naked—half the time it was a female, though more eyes were still on me. Every moment people were asking to have a picture taken with me…”Yes, but you can’t touch me or the podium.”
I was surprised by a couple of women when they actually asked my permission to photograph me. They were obviously lesbian and just as obviously, together. I said sure, “I’ll give you my ‘Cold steel’ look,” I told them. The camera malfunctioned, “I guess that’s too cold,” I quipped and they kindly laughed, it wasn’t that funny. But things said while wearing nothing but your underwear in public are contextually funnier than they would be otherwise. More comedians should try it. They eventually defrosted the camera and they got a picture that they were really happy with. I was startled that women who are sexually attracted to women (I believe they’re called lesbians) would be interested in taking a picture of a man. The moment took the sexual orientation of an individual out of the appreciation for the human body. The moment made me feel and see the human body as physical art and not a sexual object.
A few weeks later, I was even more surprised when working at the store on a regular shift, which is to say, clothed, and this couple recognized me as, “The super cute model from the podium.” I agreed jokingly, saying, with that preface of ‘Super cute,’ I’d be foolish to say no. Then I remembered the exchange of words and their kindness. We chatted for a bit and I admitted that I was curious to see some pictures of me, as I hadn’t seen any. I gave them my email and the next day got the smug smirk pic. I liked it. I’m looking rather relaxed and I’m not flexing but still look good. Maybe I am a little vain, now.
After about an hour or more of the podium modeling outside the tented store we had set up, it was time to get ready for the modeling show at the main stage on the lawn outside Fisher Pavilion. This brings us to where I began the story; here I am, at the Seattle Gay Pride parade culmination, main stage, the token straight guy. The show is running late we’re told. A few of the models are taking in some liquid courage—you may know it as booze. I don’t imbibe any. I want to remember every detail here. Somber, funny, awkward, enlightening and everywhere in between.
A bit of a ruckus is caused when my store declared we had brought our own transgender announcer for the fashion show. Apparently, there was an official tranny announcer for the main stage. After some bad vibes over being told that he/she wouldn’t be allowed in lieu of the fact that there was already the one contractual and official announcer, the official tranny spoke up and welcomed the incumbent tranny, clearing the way for he/she to announce us. Sorry if those are not the preferred nouns or PC words, but that’s what was going on and I don’t know how else to say it.
I was selected by the coordinator to go on the first round, come back to the changing tent while the second round of guys went out and get into another set of underwear quickly. The tent was really only a changing booth, due to its having but three sides to it. There I was, the token straight guy, getting naked and clothed with the majority of gay men and women passing through in a pansexual barrage of flesh and Lycra-fabrics as we all rushed out of and into our various attires.
On my way out of the tent, the official transgender announcer recommended that I fluff my junk and center it, that the way it was cramped in had a male camel toe thing going on. I did so, neglecting the announcer’s sincere offer to assist. That’s much better he/she said. I replied “Thanks,” and I strutted my stuff once more in front of thousands of screaming people, throwing a rainbow cowboy hat that I had donned out to the crowd.Posted on: June 5, 2020Ryan