Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bill Patrick - What we straight guys can learn from our gay brothers about friendship

Bill Patrick blogs at XY, a cool site that addresses issues around men, masculinities and gender politics. In this recent post he suggests that straight men can learn a lot about friendship from their gay brothers. Maybe, but I am not that convinced gay men have the market on friendship cornered - although I do admit that my gay male friends are much more comfortable talking about their feelings than my straight friends.

Some of my best friends are gay! In fact most of them are! (What we straight guys can learn from our gay brothers about friendship

Last June The Village Voice published a tongue-in-cheek piece by a gay man entitled “Why I Hate Being Gay! 62 Reasons!” (You can find it here.) Although the column was aimed primarily at gay men, I think I understood most of it. I got many of the cultural references, and I chuckled at the things I was supposed to chuckle at.

I think.

But reading that column also got me asking myself two questions: first, why, as a hetero guy, was I able to understand and appreciate so much of the humor? And, second, after reading that article, why did I feel compelled to write something from a straight male perspective that would sing the praises of gay men?

The answer to both of these questions is this: throughout most of my life I have been wonderfully blessed to have had numerous close friendships with gay men. And it has been my experience that not only is it a lot easier to begin friendships with gay men than it is with my fellow hetero guys, but once these friendships take root, gay guys also typically make much better friends than we straight guys do.

(I am well aware that there are some gay men out there who happen to be very nasty. Just like there are nasty people in any segment of society. But in my experience, most gay men are far kinder than they are cruel.)

Bro-mance? Man-date? I am also aware that there are some straight men who against all odds do manage to maintain long-term, emotionally-intimate relationships with other straight guys.Interestingly, I never hear these men refer to these relationships as “bro-mances” or to their activities as “man-dates.” Maybe this is because these guys understand that to use such silly terms cheapens the deep love they feel for each other.

But the fact that society even has these new terms “bro-mance” and “man-date” suggests that we are only now beginning to grapple with how to describe the relatively rare phenomenon of deep intimacy among straight men. And while some straight guys do have this deep intimacy with other straight men, I believe that most of us don’t – either because it makes us uncomfortable, or because we just don’t know how.

Social isolation and violence. So what does all of this have to do with pro-feminism and working to end violence against women? The social isolation that is all too common with many heterosexual males has been linked to a whole slew of problems, including relationship violence. Many of us hetero guys are terribly isolated.Having few if any close friends, many of us lack the social networks that would help to lighten our load. And, tragically, far too many of us act out our suffering onto the women in our lives.

But it turns out that there are models that we straight men can follow that would help us improve our relationships with other guys – and shore up our social networks. One model is women’s friendships. Women typically have far superior relational skills when compared to straight men – and they have more rewarding, more supportive friendships as a result. But another model – this one a model of friendships between men – comes from our gay brothers. If we are willing to follow their lead, there are many lessons we can learn from gay men, including . . . . .
Read the whole post.

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