‘Smells Like Boys’: A Night at the DeploraBall

By
Photo: Marisha Camp

When I asked to attend the DeploraBall — the vigorously protested 1,000-person pro-Trump black-tie event causing a rift in the alt-right — organizer Jeff Giesea offered an angle: “There’s definitely a Trump baby boom in the works.” His DeploraBall co-organizer, anti-feminist activist Mike Cernovich, will soon have a daughter with his wife. And Giesea’s surrogate mother is 12 weeks pregnant with a son. Surrogate? “I’m a gay man,” said the 41-year-old* businessman, whose mother is Mexican-American. (She supports building the wall.) Will his son have two dads? “It’s complicated,” he said, describing his relationship as well as the conflicting impulses within his movement — particularly when it comes to gender and sexual politics.

The DeploraBall was a surprisingly queer event. Although perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised: Giesea and Cernovich met, after all, at a Gays for Trump party at the RNC. The two would seem to have nothing in common: Giesea is a gay Stanford graduate investor and entrepreneur, while Cernovich is a gender-essentialist self-help guru whose hit book Gorilla Mindset sought to “unleash the beast” in men. (As an elegantly ironic twist, The New Yorker recently insinuated that Cernovich’s new empire may have been made possible by the seven-figure divorce settlement he received from his more-successful ex-wife.) But like Donald Trump, whose inner circle includes his gay best friend Peter Thiel — who was Giesea’s first boss and also made an appearance at the DeploraBall — Cernovich seems comfortable letting gay men into his macho tribe. While protesters with signs preaching feminism and resistance to fascism were being pepper-sprayed outside the DeploraBall, Cernovich invited Gateway Pundit blogger Jim Hoft (who came out as gay after the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando) onto the stage to announce his website’s first White House correspondent: “Twinks for Trump” photographer Lucian Wintrich, whom Hoft described as a (gay) victim of the New York City art world’s “gay mafia.” Leaning into the microphone, a tuxedo-clad Wintrich announced, “I’m going to be the youngest, gayest correspondent in the White House in history!” Someone in the crowd shouted, “Our gays are better than their gays!” DeploraBall’s guests, who had paid between $99 and $2,500 to be there, cheered. Soon thereafter, a man with a Flock of Seagulls haircut took the stage to sing.

The most famous woman at the party, Canadian libertarian Lauren Southern, legally became a man several months ago: It was part of an on-camera stunt intended to critique her nation’s approach to documenting gender. She now delights in informing male suitors that marrying her would, by law, be a gay marriage. “This is what’s hard: I know I’m legally a man, but I’m also male-minded, despite having the female appearance,” Southern said. Though she is an avowed anti-feminist and doesn’t believe in gender fluidity, the more Southern discussed gender, the more she sounded like Simone de Beauvoir. “It’s kind of hard to retain the feminine. I have so much respect for the feminine, but it’s actually something I have to work for,” she continued. “It’s something that should be worked toward. When people put effort in life, it’s more beautiful. But it doesn’t come naturally to me.” She believes feminists are trying to be masculine, whereas she is trying to be feminine. Perhaps, I suggested, everyone could just stop pretending and just be? “If it’s natural to you I think you should have the right to do anything. But for the majority of women I don’t think it’s natural to them, and they’re being told to portray a more masculine image,” she said, tossing her long, flaxen blonde hair for emphasis.

So what does Lauren Southern look for in a man? “I’m sapiosexual,” she said, using a buzzy online-dating neologism for those aroused by intelligence.

No matter what I asked Giesea about his love life, he had the same stubbornly serene reply: “It’s complicated.” He described his new political zeal as being tied to the surrogacy process: “I’m thinking about the future. What future is this kid going to grow up in?” He hopes that world includes gay marriage: “For me it’s like, once we have gay marriage, great. I can be right-wing again. I value gay marriage, so I like that, and there’s still some laws [that affect] doing surrogacy and raising a family. But like, I don’t need 53 genders.” He characterized the Republican Establishment as “fussy” on the issue of gay rights. “We can agree to disagree about these issues.” He’s fine with making “it’s complicated” work.

For all the gay men present (and gender-bending Lauren Southern), I didn’t manage to find any lesbians. I did, however, find several sets of straight women on girls-only inaugural-weekend getaways. Each gender, I soon realized, was interacting only with members of his or her own gender, and crossed the divide solely for heterosexual romance or connubial partnership. And I must admit, hanging out with the women of DeploraBall was a lot more fun than talking to the men — was I becoming a gender segregationist, too? Or did their world necessitate it? The DeploraBall only featured two women in the 14-person list of featured guests on its invitation — one of whom was legally male Lauren Southern — so there were fewer high-profile women to chase down for interviews. (Several featured guests didn’t make it. The flamboyantly gay, and steadfastly alt-right, Milo Yiannopoulos didn’t attend, nor did Nixon-henchman-cum-Trump-supporter Roger Stone. An assistant advised me to check the internet; Stone believes he was recently poisoned.)

The world of DeploraBall women was, however, cheerful. A pair of high-school besties, now in their 40s, told me how tracking Trump’s progress online had reinvigorated their long-distance friendship. Now they had ditched their husbands for a girls-only inaugural-weekend getaway. “Painting the town red?” I asked. “Republican red!” they cheered. Several women cited motherhood as influencing their politics. A Floridian florist named Ingrid Setzer, who spoke softly and wore a romantic sea-foam green dress, showed me the inauguration scrapbook she was compiling for her son, an active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force. She’d come to the DeploraBall to collect signatures from the movement’s political heroes. “This is why I’m here. For my son,” she said, offering me a handful of homemade Trump victory buttons, adorned with tinsel and glitter.

In the world of the DeploraBall, same-sex interactions of all kinds — social, political, sexual — seem somehow easier than those between men and women. Right-wing hipster icon Gavin McInnes got in a fistfight on his way into DeploraBall, and later told me that he was amassing a group of brawny men to “protect our women” on the way out.

A question about Trump’s golden-shower rumor led McInnes to an indictment of sex in New York City: “That’s not really his culture,” he said of Trump. “I think the fact that rumor got wings shows how naïve the left is, and how they don’t get Trump or really anyone that’s not in their inner circle. That’s normal for us to hear about, golden showers.” By “us,” he meant “New York creatives,” the liberal-leaning tribe to which McInnes, who has worked in magazines, blogs, radio, and TV, still sort of belongs.

“I mean, I may have been into that stuff as a young man, but when you get older, you get more traditional. And you realize that these things that go back a quarter-million years maybe have some merit to them,” he said. McInnes recommends getting out of “that stuff” by the age of 25. If you stay in it much longer, “you become a colostomy bag for other people’s cum. New York City is an elephant’s graveyard for ovaries.”

This might be a good moment to bring in my interaction with Martin Shkreli, because what’s a DeploraBall without an awkward and vaguely humiliating encounter with the “most hated man in America”? Shkreli didn’t want to be interviewed. Later in the evening, I circled back with a New York Magazine photographer to see if he might want a party picture, anyway. (Not a crazy question — plenty of people who don’t want to talk are still down for a professional portrait. Just ask Tiffany Trump.) “I know you don’t want to be interviewed, but would you like a picture?” I asked, gesturing to introduce my co-worker. “This is my lovely photographer, Marisha Camp—”

“She’s not lovely.”

“What?”

“She’s not lovely. I don’t want my picture taken, and she’s not lovely.” He proceeded to explain that he’d probably go through 200 adjectives before he’d even consider “lovely” as an adjective for Marisha. “Artsy,” he said, would be the first, which I’m pretty sure he meant as an insult.

Later, waiting to exit the party, my un-lovely colleague talked to and photographed yet another set of blondes who had turned inaugural weekend into a girls-only getaway. (For the record, they found Marisha so lovely, they asked me to take pictures of them hugging her.) When the elevator doors opened, we piled in tight. “It’s okay, we’re not SJWs. We don’t smell like B.O. and patchouli,” announced one of Marisha’s new friends. Then the other turned around and lowered her voice: “Honestly, though, when we first walked into that room? B.O. Did you smell it? The whole room. Smelled like boys.” Her friend nodded sagely. Then the doors opened, and we women walked out.

*This article has been updated to show that Jeff Giesea is 41.

‘Smells Like Boys’: A Night at the DeploraBall