The other day, I reconnected with a friend of mine from high school; he was two years behind me in school, so we lost touch after my first year of college. I told him that with the holidays coming, we should get together and catch up; he agreed and invited me to meet him at a bar. I would have been happy to accept his invitation, but there was one problem: I had a prior commitment to perform in a drag show that same night - a minor wrench thrown into the gears of a hetero-homo friendship.
Though we've stayed in touch via Facebook, I had never explicitly come out to this friend, so I privately messaged him and informed him of my prior commitment. I ended the message with, "Times have changed slightly since I saw you last ..."
Some background information that should be addressed before I share his response:
• I came out my junior year of college
• In high school, I dated an amazing girl
• I went to a private, all boys, Catholic high school
• Many of my friends in high school and college are what we could call "jocks"
Knowing this boy's character, I expected nothing less than support, but I have to say I was shocked by just how sincere his response was: "Good for you! I'm glad you're doing your thing and what makes you happy! Things may have 'changed', but I don't see it like that. It doesn't matter."
I speak for myself, and can imagine other gay men can relate, when I say that one of the worst parts of coming out is the thought of losing friendships. Obviously, the majority of gay men do not live up to the stereotype that precedes them, so keeping their straight male friends and "masculine" rituals that they share with those friends is a looming concern when making the decision to come out. Unfortunately, gender stereotypes and generalizations about sexual orientation have forced many men who identify as heterosexual to shy away from friendships with men who identify as LGBTQ. Heterosexual men are sometimes seen as less masculine and can often be deemed "gay by association."
These attitudes are very heavily beginning to diminish from my generation - a generation that has become accepting of the entire LGBTQ community, not just gay men. Celebrities who identify as heterosexual are voicing their support at an exponential rate and identifying the gay men they have in their life. I knew what it was like to be on my end of the friendships I had when I came out, but I wanted to know what it was like from the other end of the friendship - so I asked.
The following are comments re-written and edited from texts and messages I received from some of the most important heterosexual men in my life:
"When you first told me that you were gay, I was not shocked. I felt like everyone knew but you. I was ready to support you [though]. I felt like you had to overcome a mountain and I was standing with you at the bottom, with my arm around your shoulder, pointing you in the right direction." - Sam
"I was so happy for you. I was very humbled to know that you felt comfortable to share that information with me. And honestly, I was happy that you finally did it because I always knew it. I knew you would come out in your own time, so I was truly happy for you" - JB
"When you came out, my first feeling was one of happiness; I had suspected that you were gay before you came out, but knowing you and knowing the environment you were in, I understood why you came out when you did. It is for that reason that I am very proud of you: you came out on your [own] terms. I felt happy because I knew it meant that you could finally be the amazing person I knew you were, but weren't ready to show. Nothing really changed for me because you were still the amazing human being I knew and loved." - Edwin
"When you told me, I wasn't shocked at all. I always knew from the moment I saw you; however, you were always a genuinely nice person with a great heart. Those are qualities that I value much more than to look at you differently for being gay. When you approached me crying about the situation, I did nothing but smile because it seemed foolish that you would even think for one second that I would view you differently. You are someone with a great, big heart who I can talk to about personal issues and confide in for advice. When I hear someone say, 'you faggot' or 'you homo,' I shut them down right away and get very upset because of you. No one should judge a gay man without knowing them personally." - Jesus
I must reiterate that I only speak for myself when discussing what I believe to be the importance of straight men in a gay man's life; I, personally, am constantly reminded of how blessed I am to have a number of straight men who continue to support my journey as an out and proud gay man. They truly prove that sexual orientation and identity should not matter when a friendship is real.
"A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you." - Elbert Hubbard
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