If you've ever shopped in a queer greeting card store odds are you've seen the famous photo by renowned gay photographer Bruce Webber of the sculpted nude Carlson twins. Depicted in a tender embrace, their arms are intertwined and their penises almost touch. The Carlsons went on to state adamantly they are not gay but that didn't stop the VH1 show Totally Gay from labelling them the "hottest gay icons."
The most obvious reason for interest in twins is the sexual "double your trouble" aspect. Google "gay twins" and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the top hits are websites that take you straight to brotherly love, with some scenes looking as though they've been shot in a hall of mirrors.
In a widely read interview with Canadian queer twin folkies Tegan and Sara with the Dallas Voice, journalist Daniel A Kusner noted, "It's easy to tell they've grown tired of people's fascination with queer twins." Indeed when Kusner asks if they have ever seen gay twin porn the answer is a curt, "No."
But the queer twin allure extends beyond the sexual appeal and into the realm of science, especially using twins to pull apart the nature and nurture aspects of homosexuality.
While the thought of twins continues to inspire — think Jeremy Irons in the steamy scene from the David Cronenberg creep-fest Dead Ringers or the fun and frolic of Double-mint gum ads — are the lives of real-life queer twins as stimulating as one might imagine?Jocelyne & Natalyn
"Just being twins in and of itself is enough to get a special kind of attention," says Jocelyne Tremblay, adding that she and twin Natalyn learned to work the twin angle early on. "I didn't have to be smart or nice I just had to be standing next to her for people to come talk to me."
But when they both started dating women things changed.
"My first girlfriend and her first girlfriend were the breaking point that separated us," says Jocelyne, adding that they have had tug of wars over potential partners.
"There has been conflict in terms of liking the same people or people having to choose between us. My first partner Nat and I actually wrestled over and in the end I just happened to kiss her first.... After that we laid down rules. You have to call dibs right away otherwise it can be very controversial. There was one instance were Nat called first dibs but [the woman in question] was more interested in me. I had to gently, without telling her why, redirect her to my sister."
Natalyn says although they both came to the realizations that they liked women around the same time that it took a little while for them to talk about it to each other.
"My sister wrote me a letter that said, 'You know I'm in love with this woman' — this girl that we both knew that we both played soccer with — 'and I think that you're in love with this other woman. You know we should talk about this.'
"It was gorgeous. Oh my God it relieved so much off of my shoulders [to talk about it with Jocelyne]. It was a conscious understanding but we couldn't speak it because of the environment that we were in," says Natalyn, who grew up with her family in a small rural French Catholic community in western Ontario.
"It was so rewarding and refreshing to have each other to share that burden if you will," says Nataly. "That was one of the benefits of being twins and being queer."
Jocelyne adds that she got an added advantage: Because Natalyn had dated guys in high school she didn't have to. "I thought that people would read me as not gay because she had dated boys."Jacob & Joshua
Viewers of Logo's seven-part reality series "Jacob and Joshua: Nemesis Rising" met queer twins Jacob and Joshua Miller as they pursued their dream of becoming openly gay pop stars. They also came out to their Jehovah's Witness family which, besides risking rejection from the family, brought up the possibility of disfellowship.
According to Joshua their strength in numbers made the stressful queer rite of passage easier.
"Coming out was very scary at first," Joshua says. "It was scary to voice my feelings to myself and scarier to share them with someone else. But having a twin brother helped because I wasn't alone and once we were out to each other we could finally start swapping stories of relationships, dating and all the wild times that go along with that. It's been very freeing and empowering and I have a much better sense of who I am.
"Also Jacob and I have never relied on our parents the way a single child would. I didn't really ever need anybody but Jacob."
Once out of the closet how then to handle playing the field when you're both offering up the same dish? Joshua and Jacob both identify as tops and are often attracted to the same type but according to Joshua it's his brother who is more assertive, direct and fearless.
"I tend to approach things more cautiously and am more likely to worry people aren't going to like me," he says. Ultimately, for Joshua and Jacob it's been the man in question who is attracted to just one of them.
Normal dating tribulations aside, what of dealing with the often-lascivious interests of those who fetishize twins?
"Guys are really into the idea of being with both of us at the same time, but there's nothing exciting at all about having sex with someone while my brother's around," says Jacob. "I've seen some twin porn and thought it was hot so I get the fascination but it doesn't sound exciting for me personally at all."
"After all, we are brothers," says Joshua.
Joshua says he understands the appeal of having a twin, however uninformed. "It's very cool to be a twin," he says. "You always have someone to talk with who understands you and cares about you unconditionally. It's lots of fun too. You always have someone to do things with, fight with and test yourself against."Stefan & Jason
Stefan and Jason St-Laurent navigate the already tricky queer dating scene by being attracted to different types altogether.
Jason, programming director at Toronto's Inside Out festival, says he experiences an immediate knee-jerk response when his brother Stefan goes out with someone — that person is rendered immediately unappealing.
"The same goes for music," he says. "If my brother likes something I almost immediately dislike it. This is a defence mechanism that harkens back to our early development. It's all about asserting our individual selves."
"If Jason tells me he is interested in someone I lose interest right away," concurs Stephan, a curator at SAW gallery in Ottawa. "That person suddenly becomes unattractive."
Stefan comes closer to the "over-it" Tegan and Sara attitude when it comes to the attention twins trigger. "I hate the barrage of questions people ask when they find out I have a twin: 'Do you share the same dreams?' or worst — and more common than you would think — 'Did you sleep together?' I usually retort, 'Did you ever suck your father's dick?' which ends the conversation.
Stefan says he and Jason have even been propositioned before, which he finds "incredibly rude and embarrassing."
"I think the gay community fetishizes everyone in general but there seems to be more and more of these twin porn movies coming out," says Stefan. "The image of twins is a complicated one, rarely resolved by most people. They can't get beyond the oddity of the identicalness and that is when I feel the most objectified."
He adds that he's told by people that they have always wanted to have a twin of their own. "I am never sure if it is for companionship or for narcissistic reasons."
Still, it can't be easy — especially in such an image-oriented culture — to go through life with a doppelganger. Growing older seems to be one natural solution, at least for Jason and Stefan.
"I think we progressively look less like one another," says Jason. "On one hand I like it because that's what we strived for as individuals, but then again it pisses me off when people say we look nothing alike. I find it really annoying for some reason."
It doesn't take sexual prospects to excite the general populace, though.
"I think there's a general fascination with twins. A common thing people say is they always dreamed of having a twin," Jason says. "But it's funny to live as a gay twin mostly because of other people's perceptions. People often ask if my twin is also gay. When I answer yes, they become all ecstatic and surprised."