How could you possibly have been expected to stay heterosexual in the presence of a show that featured hot musclemen in spandex, running around and beating each other with pillow sticks?
You knew you loved “American Gladiators,” but you didn’t know why. Was it the obstacle courses? The feats of strength? The tennis ball gun?
No. It was the gayness.
The male gladiators were basically sexy superheroes come to life, with uniforms that were campier than Captain Marvel. They had names like Nitro and Gemini and Zap. The women were so testosterized that they were also basically men. And yet, it was perfectly acceptable for you to ask to watch “Gladiators” at a friend’s house, or with your big brother, because everybody thought it was cool! (God, what the fuck did they put in the water in the 80s?)
You sat and you watched, commenting on how tough everybody was, waiting in eager anticipation for the part where the scantily clad men battle each other in giant cage balls. It was the most titillating thing you could look at since you learned that National Geographic sometimes published photos of penises in foreign lands. You could even get away with saying you wanted to BE an American Gladiator when you grew up.
And as you said it, you probably joyfully imagined your life of chest waxing, unitards, and staring at the tight asses of other men as you chased them up a rock climbing wall. And in that moment, it may have occurred to you in that weird, unvoiced region in the back of your head, that yeah – you’re probably going to turn out queer.