Author Topic: I Love You, Man (as a Friend) - NYT Article on gay/straight male friendships  (Read 4733 times)

Offline oilgun

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I Love You, Man (as a Friend)
Published: June 26, 2009

WELCOME to the flip side of homophobia.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

»“I’m flattered, and I think it’s hilarious,” Kris Allen told People.com recently, responding to the news that his former roommate and runner-up on “American Idol,” Adam Lambert, had a crush on him.

Mr. Lambert, who favors black eyeliner and leather pants, had told Rolling Stone that Mr. Allen, an aw-shucks Christian from Arkansas, was “the one guy that I found attractive in the whole group on the show — nice, nonchalant, pretty and totally my type — except that he has a wife.”

This all went down in the same interview in which Mr. Lambert finally confirmed the long-simmering rumor that, yep, he’s gay.

Mr. Allen’s cool, self-assured response to being the object of his gay roommate’s affection doesn’t exactly qualify him as a civil rights hero, not at a time when straight men march against Proposition 8 in California and the most anticipated gay-themed film of the year, “Brüno,” is coming from a straight (if highly waxed) comedian.

But do give him credit for overcoming one of the most common deal-killers in friendships between straight and gay men: the awkward crush.

The kinship between gay men and straight women is familiar to the point of cliché (see: “Sex and the City,” “Will and Grace,” Kathy Griffin’s audience, etc.), but friendships between gay and straight men have barely registered on the pop culture radar, perhaps because they resist easy classification. For every sweeping statement one can make about such friendships, there is a real-life counter example to undermine the stereotypes. And as with all friendships, no two are exactly alike.

But as America’s openly gay minority becomes more visibly interwoven into society — a 2007 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 4 out of 10 respondents had a close friend or family member who was a gay man or a lesbian — the straight world becomes more aware of the gay world. Although male friends of opposite orientations can face formidable obstacles — sexuality, language, peer pressure, inequality — there seems to be more mutual appreciation and common ground.

“The younger generation understands the spectrum and fluidity of sexuality much more than generations of the past,” said Tom Bourdon, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center at Tufts University. “Most liberal-minded straight guys today could say they have gay friends, and people wouldn’t bat an eye.”

Pop culture has also been picking up on this, serving up gay characters who have broken out of old stereotypes. In “I Love You, Man,” Andy Samberg plays a fist-bumping sports nut who is gay but makes the straight man, Paul Rudd, look prissy. On “The Sarah Silverman Program,” the gay couple acts so pathologically straight that they express their feelings with lines like, “I’m totally gay for you, dude,” between bong hits.

Still, as Billy Crystal remarked in “When Harry Met Sally,” it’s difficult for men and women to be friends because “the sex part always gets in the way.” The same can be true between gay and straight men — only it gets way more complicated.

Jason Mills, a gay screenwriter in New York, wrote a short film called “Curious Thing” about the time he lost a straight friend after things briefly turned sexual. “Where it can get confusing for a straight man and a gay man is when they connect on every other level, and then the gay man starts to question, ‘Well if there was just that one other thing, this could be perfect,’ ” Mr. Mills said. (Complicating matters a bit, Mr. Mills’s films are directed by his straight friend and business partner, Alain Hain, who must frequently combat the assumption that the movies are about him and Mr. Mills.)

Adam Carter, 34, a straight fund-raiser from Chicago who frequently travels overseas, recalled losing a friend in Brazil after rejecting his advances.

“We were driving to a party and he put his hand on my thigh,” Mr. Carter said. “I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I just told him it wasn’t my thing. But things were never the same.”

He added: “Now I look back on all the things we did together and wonder, was it all just to get me in the sack? Now I know what girls feel like.”

The notion that gay men can’t or don’t refrain from hitting on straight friends is, to many, the biggest stereotype of all. It’s simply not true, say most of the men in gay-straight friendships interviewed for this article.

A more common source of friction, some gay men say, is the tendency of straight friends to see them only through the lens of sexual orientation. “I do have a lot of straight friends, but it’s harder to make real relationships with straight guys,” said Matthew Streib, 27, a gay journalist in Baltimore. “I feel like it’s always about my gayness for the first two months. First they have questions, then they make fun of it, then they start seeing me as a person.”


Continues:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/28/fashion/28friends.html?_r=2&scp=8&sq=gay&st=cse

Offline oilgun

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No gay men with straight male BFFs here?

I've had one for 20 years now and although we've had the odd issue thanks to deep-seated homophobia surfacing now and then, it's generally been a very healthy relationship.  Mind you, I would still jump his bones if he let me, lol!  My sexual attraction to him was a bit of a problem at the beginning, but over the years I 've been able to accept his friendship for what it is, a good, intellectually stimulating friendship.

Offline milomorris

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This is very interesting article.

Almost all of my friends--male and female--are straight. My "BFF" (God, I hate that phrase) is a guy I have known since I was 11 years old. He knows stuff about me that my own man doesn’t know.

A more common source of friction, some gay men say, is the tendency of straight friends to see them only through the lens of sexual orientation. “I do have a lot of straight friends, but it’s harder to make real relationships with straight guys,” said Matthew Streib, 27, a gay journalist in Baltimore. “I feel like it’s always about my gayness for the first two months. First they have questions, then they make fun of it, then they start seeing me as a person.”

My experience has been the opposite. Typically, people latch on to other qualities and character traits when they first meet me. So my sexual orientation is often an after-thought. Once they have spent time with David and I, either professionally or socially, then my/our sexual orientation becomes a more a part of their consciousness. Even then our sexual orientation is still playing second fiddle to the concept of our relationship, and the life we share.

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Another disconnect can be the tendency of straight men to purposely ignore their gay friends’ emotional lives. Jammie Price, a professor at Appalachian State University, studied 46 pairs of straight and gay male friends for her book, “Navigating Differences: Friendships Between Gay and Straight Men.” She concluded that only 13 of the pairs could truly be called close friends, often because the straight man was willing to delve only so far into the gay friend’s personal life.

I have experienced some of this. Its not so much that straight guys don’t care as deeply, its just that when it comes to relationships, they don’t want to talk about the sexual aspects. For example, its OK to say that you met a guy, went on a date, found him attractive, intelligent, funny, etc. But its probably a good idea to stop short of “…and he’s great in bed,” or “…he’s a great kisser.”

Outside of sexual conversation, I have found that all of my straight friends have some interest in my personal and emotional life.

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In a surprising twist, she found that the straight men with the most evolved sense of masculinity — the ones who forged the tightest friendships with their gay friends — were from military families or had some military training.

These men were used to being “thrown into different environments where it doesn’t matter whether you’re white or black or Hispanic,” Professor Price said. “You’re going to live in this house and you’re all going to be treated the same and you have to get along.”


I don’t know what’s so surprising about that. Military service is good for men for a variety of reasons. In addition to the diverse environment, the military helps a guy’s masculinity improve because he learns to respect and honor other men. He also learns to appreciate another man based on his individual merits.

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Unlike some other gay men interviewed, Mr. Estrin said he found it easy to socialize with heterosexuals. “I find straight men so uncomplicated,” he said. “They’re just easier.”

Can I get an AMEN!!!

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But Mr. Vachon got his revenge. When a girlfriend of Mr. Drew’s arrived, Mr. Vachon quickly let her know that Mr. Drew had previously referred to her as his “booty call.”

See, this is what some women and gay men just don’t get: that’s just guy talk. It doesn’t mean anything, and there’s usually no psycho-pathology behind it.

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One conclusion Professor Savin-Williams drew from his conversations with young men was that there was a direct correlation between how “straight acting” they were and whether they had close straight friends. Sports, he said, were a common area for bonding.

“I find very few straight men really wanting to be friends with really obvious gay men,” he said. “They’re afraid other people will think they’re gay because their friend is so obviously gay, or there’s a feeling of almost slight disgust with feminine behavior in a male body.”

This certainly confirms what I’ve been saying about the subject for quite some time.

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Mr. Perry admitted the situation wasn’t ideal. “There are a lot of straight guys on this planet,” he said. “I should probably learn how to talk to them.”

That’s an excellent plan.
  The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Offline delalluvia

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Great article.  I do agree with the article, most of the straight men I know are afraid of having gay male friends because they think the men will eventually hit on them.  Kinda like the When Harry met Sally scenario, which most of them buy into.  They wouldn't be hanging out with women as "friends" if they didn't hope at some point to get in the sack with them.  So why should they think gay men are any different when it comes to objects of their affections/lust?

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Quote by milo -
Unlike some other gay men interviewed, Mr. Estrin said he found it easy to socialize with heterosexuals. “I find straight men so uncomplicated,” he said. “They’re just easier.”

Can I get an AMEN!!!

and

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quote by milo - But he speaks frankly about what such friendships afford him. “Every time I hang out with my gay friends, we have to spend half an hour talking about how they have to get to the gym or how fat they feel,” Mr. Streib said. “My straight friends just sit in a crowded bar and drink. It’s like a mini-vacation from my life.”

Both this guy from the article and milo agree that straight men are uncomplicated.  The guy from the article considers them a mini-vacation.  Try not being able to take a "vacation" from them.  Dealing with straight men as a woman - simple creatures who hangout and just drink - no talking, no discussion, no nada.  What is seen as a plus by some gay men is seen as a major complaint by straight women about straight men - that they're simple, only want 3 things, uncommunicative, etc., etc.,.

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Quote by milo -
But Mr. Vachon got his revenge. When a girlfriend of Mr. Drew’s arrived, Mr. Vachon quickly let her know that Mr. Drew had previously referred to her as his “booty call.”

See, this is what some women and gay men just don’t get: that’s just guy talk. It doesn’t mean anything, and there’s usually no psycho-pathology behind it.

But you don't really know, do you?  So you can either take a chance he's just kidding, risking your heart, emotions and time or bail and find someone who doesn't refer to you this way.  Personally, whenever a guy referred to me this way that I found out about, that's exactly how he considered me. 

Offline milomorris

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simple creatures who hangout and just drink - no talking, no discussion, no nada.  What is seen as a plus by some gay men is seen as a major complaint by straight women about straight men - that they're simple, only want 3 things, uncommunicative, etc., etc.,.

Gatherings of straight men are not completely devoid of communication. Its just that they don't sit there blabbering on and on about a topic. The converstaion tends to be more direct and to the point. And yes, depending on what's on the TV at the bar, there will be long stretches where nobody says anything. 

Its not a matter of women and some gay men being willing/able to communicate, and straight men and some gay men not being willing/able to communicate. Its about a difference in the approaches of the two groups when it comes to social interaction.
  The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Offline delalluvia

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Gatherings of straight men are not completely devoid of communication. Its just that they don't sit there blabbering on and on about a topic. The converstaion tends to be more direct and to the point. And yes, depending on what's on the TV at the bar, there will be long stretches where nobody says anything. 

Its not a matter of women and some gay men being willing/able to communicate, and straight men and some gay men not being willing/able to communicate. Its about a difference in the approaches of the two groups when it comes to social interaction.

Social interaction is communication.  The bar scenario is a common complaint.  If you go to a bar and spend long stretches not saying anything and watching TV, why not just stay home? 

Offline delalluvia

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This just points to a fundamental difference between men and women. The POINT is sharing good times. To a woman, it might look like wasted time because it did not involve much verbal interaction or exchanges of deep thoughts, but to a dude, that is not necessary because your buddy is there spending time with you.

I suppose.  I guess people have different ideas of "sharing'.  In this scenario, if you are sitting at a bar not saying anything and watching TV, then I guess ANYone sitting next to you could be 'sharing' that moment with you.  They don't even have to be a friend.

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Theres a lot that does get exchanged but its just not explicit. Guys do stuff together, women get together and talk, and theres the difference between male and female gatherings.

Thats not to say guys dont ever have deep conversations, but nowhere with the frequency that woman do, it that tenbds to be a "special Occasion" with a guy you have known for a long time and trust, not the everyday thing that it is with women.

I guess, but sadly, it does say a lot that straight men invariably call their SO their 'best friends' because they are unable to communicate deeper feelings with their male friends.  Therefore it seems to me that a lot of what men 'share' isn't as close or as meaningful as they say it is.

Offline milomorris

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I guess, but sadly, it does say a lot that straight men invariably call their SO their 'best friends' because they are unable to communicate deeper feelings with their male friends.  Therefore it seems to me that a lot of what men 'share' isn't as close or as meaningful as they say it is.

I don't know of any straight guys that call their significant others "best friends." They usually go with "girlfriend," "woman," or some such.

As for the bolded part, this is a myth. Men communicate on a male scale. Part of that is an economy of language. You get the rest from inflection, facial expression, and body language. Its all there, and just as deep as with women. It just doesn't all come out of the mouth.
  The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Offline delalluvia

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I don't know of any straight guys that call their significant others "best friends." They usually go with "girlfriend," "woman," or some such.


They don't refer to their SOs as their best friends, but based on research done by marriage/relationship counselors, that's what they are.

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As for the bolded part, this is a myth. Men communicate on a male scale. Part of that is an economy of language. You get the rest from inflection, facial expression, and body language. Its all there, and just as deep as with women. It just doesn't all come out of the mouth.

It's not a myth, otherwise so many divorced men wouldn't need therapy.  It's not that the men are incapable of it, it's just that they don't do it due to the current attitude of many straight males of maintaining face, not showing emotion or weakness to their friends/co-workers etc., which is what devastating blows of divorce, infidelity, etc., can generate.


Offline milomorris

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It's not a myth, otherwise so many divorced men wouldn't need therapy.  It's not that the men are incapable of it, it's just that they don't do it due to the current attitude of many straight males of maintaining face, not showing emotion or weakness to their friends/co-workers etc., which is what devastating blows of divorce, infidelity, etc., can generate.

People who let all their emotions out in the most expressive ways possible need therapy just as much as those who are "bottled up." I know this for a fact. I work with opera singers, dancers, actors...people who express themselves for a living. And they are just as fucked up as the quiet guys.

Perhaps we don't always meet female expectations of emotional expression. But that does not mean that we are not expressing. If one knows what to look for, and when to look, one will see it all there.
  The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.