As gay men, it’s still easy to get boxed into that ‘gay best friend’ category, perpetually feeling like some sort of novelty fashion-loving Christian from Clueless, or Mariah-obsessed Damian from Mean Girls. Remaining close with our cliques of “gays” and “fag hags” can feel almost like a comfort blanket at times. The relationships that can often stand neglected in our lives are those with heterosexual men… but why is this?
I personally have a good handful of close straight male friends, but these relationships seem to blossom few and far between. And no, although you may be thinking it, but it’s not because I’m completely social incompetent – in fact, working in PR, my schmoozing skills are supposedly top-notch! Put me in a room filled with your average heterosexual male however, and suddenly a wall goes up.
I’m not alone in feeling this. Even as openly gay men, having a natural guard up about revealing our sexual identity can prevent us from being ourselves in new and unknown social situations. Who can blame us, after spending our entire youths hiding our sexual preference from those around us? Surely this is an embedded survival mechanism that we never truly shake off.
As an avid gym-goer, I’m well used to being around beefy alpha male-types all the time. I’m not the butchest myself, but I somehow seem to remain pretty incognito when it comes to my taste preference for those of towards the male persuasion [insert video of the guy tread-milling in pink stilettos]. And while I might be sneaking in a stealthy listen to ‘Call Me Maybe’ in my headphones, conversations about sexuality hardly ever seem to arise in the gym.
Having met up with several straight guys from my gym for drinks outside of that environment, you’re always aware the moment will come when the Ryan Gosling-loving, gay me is going to eventually have to be revealed, like some sort of homosexual version of The Exorcist. It can be a source of anxiety not knowing how they’ll take the news. Again, this could perhaps link back to the fact that the majority of us are used to hiding this part of ourselves in fear of rejection during our younger years.
There’re two types of reactions I’ve heard before from a number of straight guys that might just sound familiar to you. Number one: The ‘oh, I’m completely fine with it, I met a gay guy once’ reaction (because, of course, all gay guys are the same). And number two: the classic ‘bet this means you’ve got a lot of hot girl friends then?’ reaction (as we all know, gays are the trendiest new dating resource).
Let’s get this straight though (mind the pun), this isn’t an article intending to bash or generalise heterosexual men at all – if anything, quite the opposite. I actually think these kinds of responses are meant with only with positive intentions, and are often a knee-jerk reaction to not knowing what to say. If somebody did in fact have an issue with your sexuality, then it’s pretty likely that would become apparent soon enough.
Like Damien, in the end, it can just seem a lot easier to hang with other gay guys and hetro girls who you’re not worried about telling you spent the whole morning listening to Mariah’s back-catalogue. But resist temptation to stay glued to our cliques! Friendships with individuals from all walks within wider society, including straight men, can bring completely undiscovered dimensions to our relationships with others – learning a lot about one another along the way.
George Palmer is a Brighton-based writer and singer. You can follow him on Twitter @george_palms.