Sunday, December 07, 2008

Gay Interest

If you've spent anytime looking for homobilia on eBay the most common label you'll see is "gay interest." It's applied to just about any photo of a man. Two men in the same photo: "gay interest" no matter how disconnected they are.

If one man lays a hand on another's arm or shoulder, well you can be pretty sure that gay collectors will go ape-shit for it.

Or so eBay sellers hope. If there is such a thing as gaydar it can be directed at photos as well as people. Very few photos of men together are actually of "gay interest."

So what does this photo reveal? Two well dressed, cigar smoking men pose for a formal portrait. There is but one chair. The man on the left (call him Peter) sits on the others' knee. The other man (call him Albert) puts his right arm around Peter and holds him closely.

Gay interest? Absolutely. These guys are comfortable with each other. There's a matter-of-fact quality about their physicality, an intimacy you rarely see between two straight men. But that doesn't make them gay.

We can actually identify these men. Peter Aardahl on the left, Albert Aardahl on the right. Brothers. Farmers in North Dakota. Their photo was taken between 1912 and 1920. Before straight men learned to worry about being mistaken for gays. Now that's gay-interest.

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