ahunter3 (ahunter3) wrote,

BOOK REVIEW -- Chameleon: A Memoir, by Michael Caputo

As a person reaches that age when they become aware of their sexual interests, they'll sometimes realize they are on a different path than the others around them. Michael Caputo came to realize he was fascinated by male people and male bodies, although not exclusively; but as he got older he found he was more interested in guys who seemed pretty typical but who liked to have sex with other guys now and then -- guys who didn't broadcast that they weren't straight but were up for gay sex on the "down low", or DL.

It's a phenomenon I've mostly been oblivious to, myself -- if I encounter the letters "DL" my first assumption is dual-layer DVD media for recording feature-length movies!

But I'm aware of a certain body of critical attitudes among gay rights and gay culture folk. That gay males who don't want to be associated with discernably gay people or culture are full of self-hatred, that the bar scenes where everyone is so relentlessly masculine are harbors of both misogyny and internalized homophobia, and all that.

Michael Caputo doesn't directly engage with any of those notions, but just lays out his life and experience for us to draw our own conclusions.

Not being part of the "G" or the "B" portions of LGBTQIA myself, I don't have a personal stake in that matter, but I do note that Caputo is quite emphatic about identifying as a gay man himself, both in his book and in his everyday life. No sign of being ashamed or skulking around in secret, he's definitely out. And in his description of his dating experiences and hookup behaviors, it's not so much that he seeks straight fellows to play with, but that the kind of guys he finds attractive apparently don't find it necessary or important to embrace gay (or bi) as a fundamental identity, so much as it's an activity that they enjoy. So Chameleon is not one of those books about closeted masculine guys living on the twilight fringes of the gay world, like some of those that John Rechy wrote, even if some of the people Michael Caputo has played with would seem to fall into that pattern.

As for preferring the masculine, well, I tend to enjoy masculine (aka butch) traits as expressed by female people and find them attractive, so I can relate to appreciating them. Sure, there's misogyny and sissyphobia, but speaking as a femme person, I found no contempt for women or sissy-femme males in Caputo's story.

Michael writes in a comfortable and accessible narrative, telling his story in a matter-of-fact conversational manner. He is at times irate or frustrated and lets it show in his recount of his life's events, but that's against a general backdrop of a good life well lived. He likes who he is and has his own tale to tell.

Like the lives of LGBTQIA folks in general, this is not a tale only of gender or sexuality. Sometimes it's the central focus but often it's peripheral to what's going on in his life. Michael has a head for business and a flair for keeping his clients happy. He shifts career paths several times, working in a flower ship, then as a receptionist for a phone sex business, a stint at CBS studios, and then his longest and most successful role as a licensed massage therapist, esthetician, and groomer.

Fairly late in the book, there's the story of Michael's relationship with Manuel, which is a good representation of a larger pattern in Caputo's life -- he has tended throughout to prowl for sexual opportunities but not so much to openly seek a boyfriend, to look for an opportunity to fall in love. When it does happen, he's appreciative and even ecstatic, but also vulnerable in ways he doesn't directly write about. There's an abrupt transition from life with Manuel being lovely and wonderful to wary distrust on both their parts, with hurt and disappointment driving them apart. The reader may wish for a more introspective examination of getting one's hopes up or fearing loss and how it affects one's behavior within a relationship.

Michael also has to cope with the nightmare of being accused of sexual misconduct. The complainant is female, alleging improper advances and offensive workplace behavior, and Michael is horrified to be in a position of being treated as guilty until proven innocent.

As with the rest of the tale, there's a persistent thread: events like these could occur in anyone's life, but would they unfold in quite the same way to someone who was not gay?


My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.

My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It's expected to be released in early 2022. Stay tuned for further details.

Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page


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Tags: gay guys, masculinity, review

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