It’s a story as old as time, dudes who like dudes can’t be friends with dudes who don’t. But is it really that simple? Has anyone ever dared to answer what comes after fatal attraction? Have we ever wondered what the realities of a homo/hetero relationship look like within hetero-normative America? It seems that the greater question surrounding such comradery is “Are we actually friends”? Is the homo secretly trying to turn you? Is the hetero secretly gay? And if either or both are true, is this “friendship” simply a prelude to a kiss?
For me, it’s not that complicated. I’ve always enjoyed the company of straight men and while I may have fetishized the hyper-masculine closet case in my younger days, I have no desire to be with a man who doesn’t want to openly and honestly be with me. So in no situation am I ever secretly trying to turn anyone. As it relates to the hetero being secretly gay... If he is and it’s a secret, then I don’t know anything about that. The true quagmire lies within the confinements of masculinity
America has a very specific view of what a man is and what he can do. And the hetero-normative fear of gayness exists in guy/guy relationships even if the world isn’t watching, no homo. As beings from the same species and similar surroundings, two men in a friendship are bound to have a lot in common. Athletic and Fraternity bro-mances are legendary for their seemingly intimate nature (see: Obama and Biden). What allows for these friendships to prosper while keeping the fear of intimacy at bay is the comfort that both men are attracted to women. So no matter how many times they shower together, hug, slap asses or cry over disappointments in the privacy of their own homes, it’s never “too close” because there is an invisible layer around the specific type of vulnerability that is related to sex. Once one or both of the parties is open to a romantic encounter with the same sex that layer is gone and fear arises. This fear doesn’t exist in a hetero male/female friendship because something romantic happening is the most masculine outcome.
The truth of the matter is, what makes hetero/homo relationships so interesting is that they allow for a surreal grey area. Having a deep connection with another human without physical/sexual pressure or familial responsibility leaves space for an incredibly pure form of human companionship. For me, two of my oldest and closest friends are straight and our relationships are incredibly intimate – and it happened organically. Being young, gay and closeted, I had no experience with my romantic emotions and I didn’t know how to compartmentalize. So when I started making guy friends in middle school (there weren’t many people most guys were too busy laughing at my short shorts) those relationships developed like a middle school romance. Not out of teenage lust but out of efficiency. I already had friends. Plenty of girls wanted to be my friend and I was happy to collect more. What I didn’t have was male companionship, a commodity that every young boy wants. The only difference was that I was also attracted to men. So when I finally found guys who were willing to be my friend, my emotions conflated and all the things that I wish I could do with a boyfriend, I did with them instead. Passing notes, going to the movies, talking on the phone, texting, etc. Many years later, I can admit that I probably was attracted to them on some level and would have more than likely loved for something more to come out of it. But because that wasn’t an option - they were and still are, very straight - the result was a sort of intimacy that to this day rivals any other relationship – platonic or romantic - that I’ve ever had.
The two of us, young boys experiencing puberty, self-doubt, fear, rejection and all the awkwardness of being a teenager, together, felt a sense of sameness. Removing the fear of seeming gay because I was, allowed an extra layer of intimacy that provided the sort of comfort and validation that one gets from being in a relationship. This is not a phenomenon. Women experience this euphoria with their girlfriends all the time. Perhaps, if more men stopped fantasizing about female friends becoming impromptu lesbians for their own misogynistic enjoyment, we could learn from the female platonic capacity.
That being said, I must admit how much harder it is to recreate that form of friendship when you get older. You’re going through less, you know how to deal with more, and as you come out of your shell – and the closet- you learn how to compartmentalize your emotions better. Reaching that level of intimacy with new adult friends seems almost impossible. Which is why, 13 years later, I’m still kicking it with the same dudes I was in middle school. Not because I don’t want more friends, or because I can’t find any friends, but because no one has ever shown me the same type of love and I don’t know if anyone else ever could.