Is gay the new black?

Russell Tovey. Photograph by Charlotte Pritchard.

Russell Tovey. Photograph by Charlotte Pritchard.

Recently, I was giving someone a pitch about my new, gay-themed novel, “Water Music,” which bowed last week – a pitch that I sometimes end defensively with, “Well, it’s not for everyone.” (I really must learn to stop demurring like that.)

Or maybe not, because when I say that, my listeners often respond as this man did: “I’m not so sure about that. I think it’s an idea whose time has come.”

This week seems to have confirmed that. HBO has a new series, “Looking,” about gay men searching for love in San Francisco. Unlike Showtime’s “Queer as Folk” (2000-05) – which was, let’s face it, all about hot guys (and women) having hot sex – “this show is at such a time when suddenly gay people can conform to heterosexual blueprints of how to live,” out actor and “Looking” star Russell Tovey told the Sunday New York Times (Jan. 19). “You can get married, you can have kids, you can have joint mortgages, you’re recognized as next of kin, which is all fresh.”

Tovey, who’s actually made a career of playing straight guys (the athlete Rudge in “The History Boys”), stars as a closeted footballer – soccer player to us in the U.S.– in John Donnelly’s play “The Pass” in London.

So is gay the new black – in more ways than one? Is Ellen DeGeneres, who’ll host the Oscars again (March 2), the new Oprah?

It would seem so. But while I like to see the glass as half-full, the fact that Tovey is starring in these two different works – one in which gays are out and about, one in which the soccer player chooses career over intimacy – says that the human race still has a ways to go.

Sports, Tovey says, are “the last taboo.”

That’s why in “Water Music,” my guys – like Donnelly’s footballer – are caught in a vise, torn between love and work, who they are and what they’re expected to be. The difference is that “Water Music” explores the sexual and emotional lives of gay men through the prism of a female author.

Talk about your transgender literature.