Last week, someone visited my blog by searching “how to be friends with a gay guy for straight guy.” I hope he found my blog useful, even if he didn’t find exactly what he wanted: there was no blog post on the topic… until now.
Let me begin by saying, I have a lot of straight male friends. In fact, I have more straight male friends than I have gay male friends. Most of these friendships were made during school, through friends from school, or through work, and as with many friendships, my connections with these men are based on shared interests, not sexuality. (I find I have very little in common with many gay men in Washington aside from our being gay, and a shared sexual preference isn’t enough to keep me interested or engaged in developing a friendship.)
Here are five tips on how a straight man can nurture and sustain a friendship with a gay man.
1. Respect Differences, Recognise Similarities: You know he’s gay and he knows you’re straight. Don’t pretend like you’re both blind to sexuality. It is OK to ask questions about experiences, histories, or values that are related to sexuality as long as you are respectful of one another’s answers. You are both men who want some of the same things in life; it is how you are going about fulfilling your desires that may differ.
2. Avoid Double Standards: If you’re uncomfortable hearing about what your gay friend does with his dates, then focus on discussion topics unrelated to dating but don’t expect him to listen to you talk about your own dating life. I have a friend who is OK with my being gay but sometimes if I mention a passing attraction to a guy, he’ll stop me and say, “Too much, Zach.” I find this kind of response problematic, especially because he freely discusses his attraction to women with me. This is unfair and degrading to my experience as a sexual being. Friendships should be fair and mutually valuable. If you can talk about dating and can check out girls, then your gay friend can talk about dating and can check out guys.
3. Not the Token Gay: Nobody wants to be the token friend. Your black friend may not like it if you go to him for information on stereotypically black topics, right? The same is true for your gay friend. There are stereotypes about gay men’s style and aesthetic sensibilities, but as with any stereotypes, it is incorrect to apply them as general truths to an entire population. Not all gays want you to call for advice on how to light your living room or what colors to wear this spring. Such requests are cliche, insulting, and just plain boring.
4. Not A Girl: Your gay friend is not a substitute for a girl. If he is sensitive and caring, it’s because that’s his nature, not because he’s “like a girl.” Also, not all gay men are tuned into what girls think or want. If you want advice about what you should do regarding a situation with your girlfriend, ask him because he’s your friend, not because he’s gay. And never approach him as if he has some insight into the female psyche. If anything, he knows more about you than he does about her, and that’s because he’s your friend.
5. You’re Not that Cute: I know this may be hard for you to handle, but you probably don’t have to worry about being hit on by your gay friend. Chances are, you are not as cute as you think you are. Unless he has made direct passes at you, he knows you’re straight and he’s not foolish enough to try and “change you.” If he is that foolish, he has issues that he needs to deal with. Also, if he has made passes at you even after you’ve told him you’re straight, then he may not be a genuine friend. Good friends listen and respond to one another out of mutual respect for sustaining the friendship. Nobody should ever be made to feel uncomfortable because of your individual sexualities. Also related to this issue, don’t judge all gay men by one bad experience.
I hope these five tips help whoever it was that came to my blog last week looking for tips on how straight men can be friends with gay men. That you were sensitive enough to look for such information says a lot about who you are, and I’m sure you’ll be a great friend. One last thing: if your friend has just come out to you, remember that nothing about him has changed. He has been gay long before he revealed his sexuality to you. Coming out to you means he’s ready to add more of who he is to an already beneficial friendship.
Finally, please note my tips are based on my experiences alone, and I do not speak for all gay men. Just remember, the foundation of every relationship is respect.