Cars are all about power, strength, metal. Creating explosions (admittedly tiny explosions entirely within the confines of an engine) for fun.
Power, strength and metal
Pushing yourself to the mental and physical brink, as higher speeds put your bravery to the test. It’s unashamedly manly.
Or at least that’s what a lot of people would have you think. Hypermasculinity still looms large in the car-enthusiast community, meaning it can feel pretty hostile to anybody who isn’t a proudly heterosexual man — or, of course, a good-looking girl happy to be seen with the cars, but not actually driving them. I definitely don’t remember ever being given the impression that the car scene was a good place to announce an interest in anybody other than women.
The gayness of cars
Look again, though, and don’t you think there’s something downright gay about it all? About passionate men forging strong bonds with each other? About men obsessing together over the tiniest aesthetic detail and openly admiring inanimate beauty? About men escaping everyday reality and retreating into their own communities with other men who ‘get it’? Yup, seems a bit fruity to me.
Taking my first steps into both the car and gay scenes (thanks to my Saab 900-obsessed then-boyfriend), I couldn’t exactly miss the parallels between the two. I could see a young man, just finding his way in life, clinging onto two different groups of like-minded men. Men he could share his passions with, who he could go to when times got tough, who he felt understood him in a way so many others didn’t. Even I didn’t really understand the Saab, but seeing how intensely attached he was to it, how proud he was for it to be admired by other men, how powerful he seemed when the turbo turned that admittedly rather feeble engine into something a little mightier… well, anybody would be captivated by that dynamic, potent but ultimately delicate masculinity.
Liking cars can be homo-erotic
Perhaps the fact that the car scene is so close to collapsing into a strange kind of homo-eroticism (or at least as close as the intimate female friendships straight men like to fantasize are ready to burst out into steamy lesbian romances) is what drives so many straight men to aggressively assert the masculinity of their hobby. Letting gays waltz in unopposed would ruin the charade, right? Suddenly the straight man’s love of beautiful cars and the gay man’s love of beautiful… I don’t know, tablecloths or whatever it is we’re supposed to be into nowadays, would end up looking like one and the same thing.
Some cars are just gay
It doesn’t take long to find evidence of this exclusion. I never realized cars could be gay, straight or somewhere in between, but at some point I found out that everybody knows Miatas are gay. So if you happen to like Miatas, you’re either forced to acknowledge its gayness — which excludes you from the true car community and puts you in with the lowly womenfolk who are only interested in pretty things — or to deny its gayness and argue that you’re actually impressed by the “nimble driving experience” (which also sounds crazy gay, man, please just listen to yourself). For reasons I’ve never quite understood, admiring a vintage Mustang’s sculpted body, thrusting power and glittering chrome doesn’t invite the same questions about your bedroom habits.
Fast track changes
Fortunately, things are starting to change. As LGBT people gain acceptance in society, we’re also starting to get a foothold in those niches of society that we haven’t always been welcome in. The car scene is just one of those niches. The toxic masculinity is still there (at least until Amazon cancels “The Grand Tour” and Jeremy Clarkson is banished from our screens forever, of course) but it’s weakening. A new, younger crowd is starting to assert itself, in many cases more interested in progress, environmentalism and — dare I say this? — LGBT rights than the often reactionary generation that came before it. The car scene, a tightly-knit community of men, is finally opening at least some of its doors to the young men most in need male camaraderie.
Now we only have to figure out how to start letting women in, too.
Written by Daniel, a writer for bvzine.com.