Friday, July 22, 2011

Straight Men and Gay Men, Part 3

This is the third (and last) in a series of blog posts about relationships between straight and gay men. See Is It Hard for Straight Men to Be Around Gay Men?" from July 20, and "Straight Men and Gay Men, Part 2" from July 21.

This is a guest blog piece from a straight friend who is sharing his thoughts about the issue of relationships between straight and gay men.

This guy has been a friend of mine since we met in first grade.

Dear (you),

I read your email and the post on that blog that you referred me to. I found that article mildly offensive at first, because I said to myself, "I'm not like that." But then I thought about it, and realized that indeed I am like that sometimes with gay people I don't know. I find myself creating more space between me and someone I know or think is gay, and I have found myself avoiding them (I don't go to the gay pride celebrations at work, for example.)

I realized that since I grew up in a strict Catholic environment, that my perceptions of what "gay" was were influenced by the Church, my family, and my friends. I know that I have felt uncomfortable around gay people, but did not realize why. I would not say that I felt digusted. That is a very strong word. But I agree that I never understood why a man would not enjoy intimate relationships with a woman. I also felt revolted (? too strong ... but highly uncomfortable) by two things: the mere thought of two men having sex with each other, and also how some gay people act -- frilly and flamboyant.

I know from knowing you for what, some 48 years?, that not all gay people are the same. You have remained the same, steady, strong friend I grew up with. You were there as an usher in our wedding, when our kids were born, and helped me finish our basement. Over my wife's objections, you taught our oldest son how to ride a motorcycle safely. You cut through the county red tape so that my twin daughters could do a significant service project and win their honors in the Girl Scouts. In so many ways, you have been closely entwined with our family, and we remain grateful and appreciative.

That made me think -- we have no aversion to you (as that blog post says.) Why? Because I knew you before you identified as being gay. I did not notice that you changed when you became more open about being gay, other than your self-confidence seemed to improve, and you became more relaxed and self-assured.

We have grown to admire and like your partner, too. While we don't see him that often, we know that he cares for you a lot and we can see how much you love him, and he loves you. Your strong bond of commitment is parallel to what my wife teaches through her work in the Church's Relationship Education program.

I also think that how I feel about you may be different from how I feel about other gay people because you act like a man. What I am saying is that I have never understood why some gay men act so flamey. You know what I mean. You have taught me that all gay people are not the same. I have to admit that I would be more distant if you behaved the way gay people come across on TV or on the news during those gay pride parades.

I remember one time that my older brother asked me about you and our relationship when he found out you were gay. I distinctly remember him asking me if I wouldn't be seeing you any more. I was put in the uncomfortable situation of defending our friendship. Then I thought about it, and told my brother that you're the same guy we always knew, and that he should change -- not you. He didn't say anything to me again.

Thank you for the chance to explain, and to comment. I have never written for a blog before -- or even read yours until this week. But I will always be your friend, and appreciate your friendship in return. See you next week at the crab feast!



Anonymous said...

"I did not notice that you changed when you became more open about being gay, other than your self-confidence seemed to improve, and you became more relaxed and self-assured." And that's exactly how I felt when I came out. And because I felt this way, my relationships with family, friends, and co-workers became far more genuine and far less strained.


Anonymous said...

This has been an interesting series of great reads. I never know what to expect on your blog, from the erudite to the excitement of riding your Harley to all of your boots....

Speaking as one who grew up with you, four minutes apart in age, let me share some of my thoughts.

Like you said, when you more fully shared your sexual orientation openly, you became more of a confident, successful man. I remember all of those conversations we had when you were more in the closet, where you shared worries about what you thought your bosses might think and do at work. Yet, you still were individualistic -- that is, riding your motorcycle to business meetings, wearing boots all the time, and also wearing your heart on your sleeve as you saved the world.

I can say that knowing you as we grew up and seeing you emerge as an adult, achieving spectacular results in your profession, in community service, being elected and serving in a number of positions ... I myself developed an awe about you. I was never afraid or fearful or ashamed. You have always made me very proud to be your brother. Your being gay had nothing to do with my pride in sharing you with the world, and telling everyone that I am YOUR brother, proudly and loudly.

Because I grew up with you, I never was uncomfortable around gay people and never had the back-away thoughts and actions that some others have had. You are you, I am me, and together we are brothers throughout life.

I can safely speak for the whole family: we love you for who you are, regardless of your sexual orientation.

Love always, ore e sempre,


Anonymous said...

Gay or straight, you've got wonderful friends and family, dude. God bless them, and you.

Your friend "T" identifies what I have thought for a long time to be the real concern and discomfort straight men have with gay men. It's not as much that they are uneasy with the sexual inclination itself, but with the lack of masculine bearing and behavior so many gay men display. Generally speaking, it's my impression that straight men will be much more comfortable in the presence of a known gay man who carries himself in a manner becoming and expected of men, as opposed to a gay man who epitomizes the stereotypical "nelly queen". I am reminded of an excellent book which addresses the subject of masculinity vs. femininity in gay men, Androphilia. The author, an openly gay man, makes the case rather persuasively. Furthermore, he goes on to reprimand gay men for consciously abandoning, even deriding, masculinity, and calls upon them to reclaim their rightful masculine character alongside their homosexual orientation.


Booted Harleydude said...

Thanks, Hank, for your comment. Let me refer you to a past blog post titled, Androphilia and the Gay Man. I agree with what you said, and appreciate the time you took to provide such a thoughtful comment.