nailed it

Brent Bailey, the wonderful guy who writes the wonderful blog Odd Man Out, recently posted three heartwarming examples of how his friends “got it right,” specific stories of being treated so correctly that they stuck with him. He then asked a few of us to post something similar, and seeing as how I love what he writes I pretty much had to do it.

1. Camping

What happened: A large group of my guy friends had planned an international (ok, we were just going to Canada) camping trip that would take us to a remote island for a week. A friend and I needed to wait an extra day because I’m an idiot and left my passport at home 2500 miles away and it had to be Fed-Exed to me. As my friend (this friend) and I talked, I commented on how bummed I was that my accountability partner/one-of-my-absolutely-closest-friends flew home and wouldn’t be able to come to Canada with us. (I mean, come on, Canada has toffee and jell-o-in-a-cup and vast expanses of wastelandic nothingness, how coud he say no?!) The friend I was with, who knew I was gay, interrupted me and said, “Hey, you know he loves you a ton, right?” “I mean, yea, I know that.” “No, but listen. Before he left he told me to make sure to look out for you, and to be aware that when the guys decide to strip naked and jump over the fire or something I should go over and just talk to you. He made me promise to be there for you. Which is stupid because I was going to do that anyway!”

How he got it rightThey both were winners in my book, but I want to focus on the guy who had to go home. At that time of my life I struggled immensely to know if he really cared or not. He was the first friend I told I was gay in person and had been with me through the whole, slow, agonizing process of coming to grips with my sexuality, and therefore bore much (too much) of the weight of my anxiety. This small revelation made me feel overwhelmingly seen and loved in a relationship often punctuated by uncertainty and tortured invisibility. His comment showed that he took our relationship seriously, that he was thinking and learning and growing with me. We ended up not going camping anyway because of a certain, now-notorious, explosive incident that required a trip to the ER and some minor surgery, but the excitement of being known, of being carried in the hearts and minds of my friends even when we weren’t in the room together was a gift I haven’t forgotten.

2. Pillow Talk

What happened: My freshman year of college, while I was still deep enough in the closet to have one foot in Narnia, I went to a friend’s house for Easter. I instantly noticed there were no sleeping bags laid out in his room, and sure enough when night-time rolled around he simply asked if I wanted the left or right side of the bed. I tentatively chose the left side, unsure if there were, you know, rules to this or something. He slept with his arm draped across my chest, which was nice and not awkward but made it rather tricky when I woke up and needed to go to the bathroom really bad. Four years and an email saying I’m attracted to men later, I’m crashing at his apartment for a few nights. Still no sleeping bags. Left side. Arm across my chest as we talk late into the night.

How he got it rightHe’s always been a deeply affectionate friend, and I had no doubt he would still love me, but there’s this lurking fear that once straight guys know you are gay they’ll shy away from physical affection or closeness. Yet he displayed the same warmth and intimacy as before with the ease of someone who wouldn’t even have considered the possibility of treating me any differently in that regard. Having a friend like him is just one more nail in the coffin of my anxiety and fear.

3. Casual

What happenedI’ve mentioned this before, but at a recent wedding reception I was sitting next to a very dear friend who, during a lull in our conversation, asked if I was often attracted to people of different ethnicities. It was the first time anyone who knew I was gay had asked me for specifics about what I found beautiful, who talked about attraction in a way that included me and my experiences. The conversation shifted from that topic to others with ease, helped by a steady flow of sparkling apple cider, sometimes touching on my sexuality, sometimes not. Eventually we wound up talking about Harry Potter or something (as we always do), and that was that.

How she got it right: She treated the fact of my homosexuality like any other part of my experience and allowed me the privilege of being able to, finally, talk about my attractions concretely without having to lie (the answer, by the way, is yes, far more often than being attracted to people of my own ethnicity). Coming off of a summer in which my sexuality dominated my daily life and was a perpetual source of debate, she gave me a much needed reminder that my same-sex attraction could come and go in a conversation without shoving everything off center stage. It was a small thing, but it felt like a spell was lifted and I could finally see myself without the cursed distortion of being controversial.

So those are just a few – I have many, many more examples just as life-giving. If you’ve experienced anything like this, please tell us the story! Lord knows we could always use a bit more encouragement in our days.

Jordan

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14 thoughts on “nailed it

  1. Yesterday, (after I desperately wanted to tell somebody how attractive I find Channing Tatum, and could actually not tell anyone), I came to a conclusion that was affirmed through this post: I don’t think I have any real close friends that I can share my life with. I have many acquintances, but no real inner circle.

    I always thought that was just who I was, and that I was comfortable with my own company (I still am). But I’ve realised I need people to share my life with.

    The walls I’ve built around myself to protect me from getting hurt, are not only keeping enemies out, but potential friends too. Thanks for this post, its got me trying to find a way to allow people through my defences.

  2. Beautiful and thoughtful post. I just found your blog today and find it insightful, interesting and poignant. I look forward to spending more time here perusing your words and thoughts. Thank you.

  3. Your number two is analogous to my number two encounter on my blog (“Late Night Walks.”)

    Friends – real, affirming, genuine friends – are the best. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks, Justin. Your examples of being surprised by grace shown by others reminded me of an experience of my own. I was involved in a small group, and our topics usually revolved around the previous Sunday message. At that point we were studying Romans 1, and our teaching pastor decided to spend a week or two specifically on the topic of homosexuality. We had an interesting conversation the next Friday evening in small group. Several group members talked about their own experiences with gay friends and family members, and a couple of younger members talked about their own disgust for homosexuality or difficulty understanding how someone could be gay. Then, with the blessing of our small group leader, I “came out” and shared about my attraction to other men. Everyone was supportive once they got over their shock. That was the first pleasant surprise for me, because the church I was attending teaches that homosexual acts are sinful, and I was not confident in their ability to “love the sinner.” The second surprise, however, was the most meaningful to me. A couple of the men made a point of hugging me. These were men who were not normally “huggers,” and who are very masculine and definitely heterosexual. That made such an impression on me, that these men were not disgusted by me, or threatened by me, and cared enough to engage in that simple act of love and acceptance. They got it right.

    • Jordan. I just realized I called you Justin, and I feel like a complete heel. Please accept my apology – I obviously got it wrong!

      • I’m glad you fixed it because I was just about to hop on a plane, find you, and beat you to pieces.

        Haha, no worries man! I knew who you meant! The comment was great.

        Jordan

  5. Jordan, this is a helpful post when I think about how I can be a better friend (on the opposite side of that issue).

    Thanks

  6. Wow Ken! That’s pretty brave to choose to come out right after a Romans 1 discussion. I don’t think I could do that

  7. Great post! Shortly after starting my job, my boss (who I had casually mentioned sexuality in a earlier conversation) called me into his office and wanted my feelings on how I felt as a gay individual in our office. I was immediately excited to know that I was working for an employer that saw my specific situation and was looking for ways to make it easier.

  8. Recently, a close friend of mine who I came out to a couple years ago started dating someone. We’re in different states now, but we still talk over the phone about once a month or so. He talked a lot about his relationship with his girlfriend, and then he asked me if it made me uncomfortable or if it was painful to hear him talk about his relationship. I was so touched by his thoughtfulness and his empathy in asking me that. Him talking about it really didn’t bother me, but the fact that he asked me about it spoke volumes. In that moment, he truly demonstrated great empathy for my situation despite having not experienced that himself. I was just blown away by it, and that’s definitely a time when my friend got it right.

  9. I happen to be a celibate same-sex attracted Catholic man at this juncture in life, but have not always been celibate by any means, and was also in a heterosexual marriage for 12 years. I share this to lead up to my comment, which is this…when I first came out as actively LGBT in the early 1990s, a very dear evangelical Christian friend of mine (male) leaned over and KISSED me (on the cheek) when I told him of my situation and decision to end my marriage and live within that world. That was his immediate reaction. Nothing sexual about it, just love. I had previously been his youth minister and considered him one of my dearest friends, still do, and I was very frightened to tell him this as he had looked up to me a great deal and I was so very afraid of losing his respect. He not only did not judge me, but ungrudgingly loved me and showed it spontaneously–and he was and is a very straight man. I have never ever forgotten it. He surely had it right indeed.

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