Straight Friend

Friday, May 01, 2009

Question

What do you do if a friend comes out to you as gay, but you already knew? We have this one guy in our circle who finally broke down and told everybody he was gay. He made a big, dramatic thing out of it and even cried and told us how relieved he was that it's out in the open now. But I have known this dude since fifth grade, and I always just assumed he was into other guys. It didn't bother me before and it doesn't bother me now, but I don't really want to wave any rainbow flags or set off fireworks. Am I supposed to send him flowers or throw him a party? Just kidding; that would be too gay!

Answer

So. Let me paraphrase your situation. You were willing to befriend, first a boy and then a man, who appeared to be gay. Do you want me to send you flowers or throw you a party? BFD, SF. I'm not sure what your acquaintance did to convince you that he was not heterosexual. Perhaps he remained a virgin past the age of 12 or didn't move solely in right angles. The rules for appearing to be straight are so stringent that I'm not sure how anybody with xy chromosomes manages to preserve their hetero privilege.

Do you feel that I am sneering at you? Acting superior or snide? Well, then, imagine how your friend would feel if he read your letter. Do you have any idea how difficult it is for someone to accept the fact that they will never be entitled to equal treatment? Coming out is a hell of a lot more than just understanding who you want to fuck. Let me walk you through it.

Gay men have to first understand that their sexual desire and romantic proclivities will always be directed toward other men; that a relationship with a woman is never going to satisfy or fulfill them. This is hard enough in a world where there are so few depictions of same-sex relationships. Yes, there's an abundance of gay porn, but this doesn't help us to understand how we are going to get an education, build a career, pick a life partner, make friends, and do the thousands of other things that compose a complete life. Gay porn doesn't even teach us how to have a healthy self-image or a satisfying sex life. Unless the man who is using it has already got his shit together, the typical commercial gay porn video or magazine

The first step of coming out is to understand yourself and your libido. But then you have to accept the fact that your core identity is despised. You are considered a sinner by most organized religions. Even the secular world finds excuses for seeing homosexuals as inferior beings—mentally ill, sex-obsessed, unstable, unable to form genuine relationships, disgusting and laughable. Obtaining equal civil rights for women who love women or men who love men remains a struggle in most of the world. There are very few places where a same-sex relationship will have anything like the status of a marriage. Families still humiliate and reject their gay offspring—or become violent toward them. If your own family can treat you that way, imagine what you then have to expect from strangers. Being visibly gay means there's not one damn thing you might want to do that you can take for granted without bracing yourself for some random act of hostility or harassment. How would you like to have to dig deep within and muster your courage before you could go to a Laundromat, step into a corner store for a soda, attend school, or line up to buy a ticket to a movie? Have you, "Straight Friend," ever had to worry that you would lose a job, a promotion, housing, a decent grade, or a social connection just because somebody in a powerful position didn't like who you fucked or who you loved?

Excuse me if I can't snicker with you as you pat yourself on the back for having this guy figured out way in advance of his own struggle. You are trivializing a process that is lonely, painful, and earth-shattering. Have some compassion and respect for what this means, in context, for your friend, and have the guts to show some love (manly love, of course) at a time when he needs to hope he's going to be okay. If you're the kind of fair weather friend who can only deal with knowing somebody is gay as long as they keep their difference as far out of sight as possible, buzz off. He doesn't need you. Because I can guarantee you, there will come a time when being gay will cause difficulty in his life. And he'll need somebody who will listen and tell him he's not fucked up or stupid or crazy. Can you be that person? Or are you determined to remain unaware of what gay people go through, even though you have somebody in your life that you ostensibly care about who could be discriminated against, persecuted, beaten up, or even killed for being a homosexual?

A lot of straight people who see themselves as being tolerant toward homosexuals are still holding their noses. They aren't aware of how much homophobia they still give off. These are the kind of people who tell us that it's just not the right time for us to demand the right to serve in the military, get married, or receive federal protection from job discrimination. They never bother to read books by gay authors, attend an LGBT film festival, volunteer for an AIDS service organization, or speak out when straight friends say something derogatory. Every struggle to wrest equal treatment from an apathetic and hostile majority runs into the problem of well-meaning people who are actually obstacles to progress. Here's a paragraph from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s April 16, 1963 "Letter From Birmingham Jail."

... I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the while moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice, who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice, who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

If I have to tell you to substitute "liberal heterosexual" for "the white moderate" and "queer people" for "the Negro," I probably shouldn't have bothered with this parable.

My advice? Hell yeah! Throw your friend a damn party and tell him you want to go to the next Gay Pride march. Keep your eyes and ears and mind open. Go to the School of Sexual Repression, and you'll probably learn a thing or two this unfair world has done that has fucked up your life as well. Because what goes around comes around, Straight Friend. Namaste.