I realized as I was finishing up the entry that I didn’t fully address the gist of Marc’s inquiry. Of course, he left me a comment pointing that out, so I decided to address my oversight, so here is part two.
I sort of segued into my first friendship with a gay young man when I was 17. I didn’t know he was gay and neither did he at the time. His name was Hoagy and he was a musician and a drama student. I had a crush on him and he seemed to reciprocate my feelings, but we were both shy and our romance consisted of a few stolen kisses. We lost touch and reconnected as adults. By then he was out of the closet and we became friends. He died when he was 29.
My first adult friendship with a gay man (not Hoagy) began shortly after college and I never really thought about it. We had common interests in old movies, poetry, and disco music. He was a good dancer and a willing dance partner. He also gave great back rubs. He didn’t tell me that he was gay until we had known each other for nearly a year, but I already knew. Don’t ask me how because I can’t explain it ,but it gradually dawned on me that his sexual orientation wasn’t towards women. I didn’t care because he was still fun, a good dancer and hand magic hands. I figured it was his business and that he would tell me when he trusted me enough to do so.
I’ve never fallen in love–romantic or just plain old sexual heat– with any of my gay male friends. I think what I enjoy most is that the relationships are based on genuine affection and there is none of that messy boy/girl stuff–does he like me, or does he think I’m attractive, is he flirting with my girlfriends, why won’t he call etc. There’s a level of honesty that is difficult to achieve in straight man and straight woman friendships. I’ve had gay guy friends with whom there was a degree of sexual tension, flirtatious banter, suggestive behavior but it was harmless fun, neither of us taking it seriously nor expecting it to be anything more than it was–a connection between good friends, comfortable enough to let their hair down together.
Perhaps my heart has been protected from taking a trip down the unrequited love pathway with any adult gay men that I’ve known because I seem to have a very active gaydar gene. I figured out that Hoagy was gay long before he was ready to acknowledge it. I’m a romantic but not a total masochist. There really isn’t much to gain by falling in love with someone who doesn’t want to play on your team. Besides, respect and love for a friend means not putting that person in an awkward position by wanting from him something that he can’t give.
I never went through any soul searching about whether I was comfortable with having a friend who was gay. Everything in my nature rebelled against the provincial thinking that was pervasive in the community in which I grew up. I really don’t have a revelatory moment. I don’t know why or how I escaped developing the prejudices that I was inoculated with as a child. I suspect it was because I always felt like the outsider–the other, so I identified with others who were on the outside. Who was more of an outsider than a gay man, anywhere in America?