Age 11 — Grandpa Turned Me Gay

The innocent allure of International Male magazine

Joe Guay - Dispatches From the Guay Life!
Human Parts
Published in
5 min readJan 29, 2024


Black and white photo of a handsome man with a white shirt open at the top
Photo by Jens Lindner on Unsplash

I was only 11, sitting on grandpa’s front porch when the mail arrived. After sifting and sorting, he approached me with a magazine from the stack.

“More junk mail. I’m not sure why this came, do you want it?”

It was a copy of International Male, a 1980's men’s clothing catalogue.

I took hold of it. Grandpa had just handed liquid gold to the only grandson who went on to become a gay man. I paged through. The chests. The chiseled faces. And most unique of all, the four-page spread of underwear, a crotch-shot heaven of colorful options.

I decided to hold onto the magazine — you know, for the clothes.

Gay, bi or questioning men of a certain age will remember International Male — it was like GQ without the articles, and with a bit more skin. Kind of like Abercrombie in the early 2000's but not so blatantly sexual. It was more European, more over-the-top fashion.

The term metrosexual was a decade away from being coined, so even the least discerning eye could pronounce the magazine as “pretty gay” or just simply “not my style.” It was as if Ralph Lauren ads came to life with daring touches.

A shirtless young caucasian man wears jeans and sits against a black background with worked-out, muscled arms
Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

What red-blooded American male doesn’t need a full-length cape with hood to clasp about the neck? Or a zigzag mesh top to showcase your hairy pecs? You know, for those times you’re taking the family to church.

What? You’re not in need of a blousy shirt with ruffles down the front?

Perhaps grandpa needed a nice pair of lime-green short-shorts to be paired with black hiking boots. Or a swimwear onesie in muted plum to further showcase his epic biceps.

Take a look if you don’t believe me, dear reader. Dive into Pinterest or Google to see the ridiculously fun ensembles I’m talking about. (I don’t have the rights to share them here). You must witness the hats befitting a true Lothario or rake. The flowing chiffon or silk coverup that makes a…



Joe Guay - Dispatches From the Guay Life!
Human Parts

Joe Guay, a recovering people-pleaser, is an essayist, actor/voiceover guy with musings on mental health, LGBTQ, humor and travel & nature as church