Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I need a friend

There is a documentary that plays periodically on Logo TV titled Camp Out which is about a summer camp for gay Christian teenagers. I first watched it last year; but, I took the opportunity to watch it again recently. There are two things which stuck with me when I watched it again:
  • One was where they were interviewing a 16 year old girl. She said that she, and all of the other homosexuals she knows at school, are still virgins, but a lot of the straight girls she knows are either pregnant or have had babies. I found this interesting in light of homosexuals usually being cast as the promiscuous and immoral ones.
  • The other was when they were interviewing a couple of the teenage boys. They spoke of how they have much better relationships with girls than they do with the boys in school. many of whom tease them, call them "faggot", "queer", etc. So, it was difficult for them to relate with other the boys at the camp because they had never learned how to relate with boys.
I've been pondering this because I think I have the same problem - I've never really learned how to relate with other guys. I too was taunted and teased. I was the fat kid who was always picked last for the team. I was the "queer" and "faggot". I was the kid who just never fit in. Growing up, I never had many friends in school. I can't say that I got along better with girls because, truth is, I was extremely nervous around girls. I mean to the point that I would sometimes start stuttering (and I don't stutter).

Now, as I've grown into adulthood, my interpersonal relationships have improved somewhat over what they were in high school; but, as I examine my life, I realize that I live in my wifes shadow. My friends are the husbands of her friends. I don't really have any friends of my own; we get together as couples. I don't know anybody that I would just get together with and go do something together. Other guys get together for a round of golf, play basketball, watch football, or some other male bonding activity. I sit at home alone in my pathetic life writing in my blog.

I am extremely suspicious of reparative therapy and the ex-gay movement. But, there is one thing that intrigues me. As I understand it, one thing they teach is how to establish deep interpersonal relationships with members of your own gender. Maybe this is the void I feel, what is lacking in my life. I don't have male friends because I don't know how to have male friends. Growing up I was always the butt of jokes; so, I've always pulled back, never willing to fully give of myself.

Now, to be fair, I have found friends in the queerosphere. But, these are cyber friendships where our only interaction is blogs, email, and an occasional telephone conversation. As much as I value these friendships - I still yearn for a real flesh and blood friend. I've never met my cyber friends in person, and in all likelihood, I never will. I'm not trying to replace my cyber friends, I cherish the relationships we've built - it's just that it's not enough, I need more! I love receiving emails or talking on the phone; but, once I reach the end of the email or I hang up the phone, the emptiness returns. Would it be any different with a real flesh and blood friend? I want to believe it would be - but perhaps I'm only fooling myself, hanging on to a fairy tale dream.

But, what is it that I want in a friendship? This is where my mind goes blank. I really don't know what I want, I just know that what I have isn't enough.

What about my wife? Yes, she is my friend - in fact, she is my best friend, which is as it should be. But, she's also a girl. Sometimes a girl needs to be around other girls doing girl stuff. And, sometimes, a guy just needs to be around other guys doing guy stuff. Therein lies the problem - I don't like doing straight guy stuff - I want to get together with a bunch of guys and do gay guy stuff. I don't want to go golfing or watch a BYU football game, I want to go shopping. I want to go see a movie together. I want to cook a fabulous meal together. I want to paint each others toe nails - OK, just kidding on that last one.

Last week I was in a stake singles adult meeting as the bishopric member over single adults (the over 30 crowd). They were going around the room asking what we were doing in our wards to reach out to the single adults. I told them that, in our ward, we don't do much explicitly the single adults; but, we do make a point to include them in all of our regular ward activities. I pointed out that our relief society has a great deal of success involving the single sisters in their enrichment activities. The priesthood has more limited success involving single men in their weekly basketball. We've even had some of the single brethren bringing desserts and other dishes to to ward potlucks. I then added that, perhaps, the brethren should be more like the sisters and have more activities specifically for the brethren in which we could involve both married and single men. Not as frequently as the sisters, but perhaps monthly or quarterly. Somebody then mumbled something about how, in their ward, they had unsuccessfully tried to organize a Saturday bike ride for the brethren. So I responded that, perhaps, we need to think beyond sports. I even suggested an idea, like getting together for an outdoor BBQ and sharing grilling recipes. The way everybody looked at me you would have thought I had a big booger on the end of my nose. After several moments of awkward silence, the counselor in the stake presidency who was presiding over the meeting said "well, um, thank you for your comments - any other ideas?"

But, why not? Why can't we have more activities for the men in the church? We are the forgotten people in the church. We have activities for primary aged children (3-12), young men and young women (12-18), single adults (young and over 30) and the sisters. But for the men, especially married men, there is nothing. Even for the single men, the activities are usually not for them to bond with the other men - but are intended to put them in contact with single women in hopes of marrying them off. Now, I'm sure there are wards which do a better job at this; but, they are the exception and not the rule.

So, since I can't count on the church to help me bond with other men, how can how can I develop a close interpersonal relationship with other guys? How can I fill this void in my life?

Of course, since most of my blog readers are gay males, we may be the blind leading the blind...


MoHoHawaii said...

Is it the case that you must only socialize within the Church?

For example, I still think you should join your local gay hiking club. These events are nonsexual, fun and you can feel totally yourself. Believe me, this crowd won't mind if you share BBQ recipes. I don't know if your wife would be freaked out by this, but maybe she'd be more positive if you compared it to Relief Society socials.

My town also has a gay fathers support group. Most of the men in this group are in mixed-orientation marriages. These tend to be less social and more support oriented, but it's still a good place to find compatible men for friendship.

I think what we can reject the idea that gay people who are active in the Church should stay away from other gay people. You need connections! You need to feel validated in a social setting. You need some male friends, but since you're gay, you might find you have more in common with other gay men in a social setting. There's nothing wrong with this.

Abelard Enigma said...

No, I'm not trying to limit my socialization to within the church. My only point is that I can't count on the church to help fill this void - which is unfortunate since I can't believe I'm the only LDS guy who feels this way (gay or straight).

I tend to agree with you - it's more likely I'll find common ground with other gay guys than with straight guys. Plus, given that I live smack dab in the middle of the bible belt, it's unlikely those gay guys will have an LDS background.

I have looked for gay groups in my area. I joined a photography group which is primarily gay men and met with them a couple of times. Unfortunately, that group seems to have fizzled out. At our last meeting, a couple of women had joined - and I wonder if that scared the other guys off.

I've also looked at gay men choruses, but the one we have here locally is semi professional - I doubt I sing well enough for them (I just want to get together and sing for fun).

I tried joining a model railroading club (which are traditionally all men); but, I just never hit it off with those guys. Plus, it was a 20 mile drive each way to the meetings.

I also once belonged to a water gardening club. But, that was mostly couples - I was the oddball in that I was there by myself. And, again, I never hit it off with the other members and it was a 20 mile drive each way to the meetings.

You might be seeing a trend - everything I find is far away. I love the community I live in - but I sometimes think I must be the only gay guy in town, or at least the only gay guy who isn't interested in just hooking up :( (last summer we had a rash of guys arrested down at the lake for having sex in the public restrooms)

ewe said...

you sound very sweet. Please don't think you are the only one feeling this whether it be gay or straight men, our culture promotes isolation. It is important to share closeness and intimacy with a friend. If you are in need of one then you will have to go out and do the things you like. I know that our local Whole Foods market has cooking classes, how about yoga or bingo? If you are anything like me it is probably a trust issue that has not been dealt with long ago and you have to be clear whether or not you are actually seeking platonic friendships via group get togethers or perhaps having a desire for a one on one relationship. Rome wasn't built in a day and your life is not just one day either. Good luck
P.S. All those comments in the past are over and not real today. You can completely let go of it like it was a dream you do not want to have again.

MohoInTx said...

I was so like that as a kid until around college. Most of the time I just didn't care during my public school years.

I do find it difficult to find something I am really interested in here in San Antonio... I did find a flag football team primarily for gay guys, but I don't know how much I will really enjoy that. We'll see.

MoHoHawaii said...

Wow. You should try out for the men's chorus. Don't worry that it seems semi-pro. We have one of these where I live; my BF is going to audition this fall. The one here has a training program that you stay in until you can join the main chorus. It's great fun and very social. Go for it.

Beck said...

My experience tends to be very similar - with socialization centered around the church - and even then, it varies based on the current calling which puts you in different social groupings. Outside of church, it is strictly professional friendships that really are male friendships - but still professional in nature.

And if it isn't chuch or profession, it is family. And that's it...

Isolation and closet dwelling are the name of the game.

I loved your story about the silence after your suggestion of sharing recipes... I would have paid big bucks to have been a fly on the wall to witness first-hand the stake leader's reaction and expression on their face as you were passionately outlining your ideas.


Abelard Enigma said...

I loved your story about the silence after your suggestion of sharing recipes.

Yeah, I suppose I kinda outed myself there. Fortunately, everyone else was probably too dense to recognize it - after all, that sort of meeting would be one of the very last places you'd expect to find a gay guy :)

Abelard Enigma said...

Ewe, I appreciate your comments. Cooking classes is something I should look into. The closest Whole Foods is [sigh] 20 miles away (it's near the temple, which is also 20 miles away). But, we do have a Central Market in the area (the most awesome grocery store in the world).

All those comments in the past are over and not real today. You can completely let go of it like it was a dream you do not want to have again.

Unfortunately, that's easier said than done. The fact is, I haven't changed, I'm still the same person. I still don't know how to relate with guys very well. So, I have no reason to expect the results to be any different than before. I need a "Guys making friends with other guys - for dummies" book.

Cliff said...

You know,

Cliff said...

crap, I hit the "return key" too soon.

Anyway, I was going to say, that most guys have moments where they feel awkward around other guys. Our society isn't all the conducive to male bonding.

Plus, you live in the southeast. I've heard lots of comments from westerners about how hard it is to make friends here, but once you do, those friends are friends for life and are the kind you can count on for anything.

Start small: conversation here, BBQ there. It takes a long time to build friendships. I've got several guys in the process of "friendship-building". I can get impatient sometimes, but I realize that stuff like this takes months (or years). Just remember that you'll probably have to be the one to reach out and you may crash and burn (complete with awkward embarrassment) a couple of times, but in the end, you'll end up with some friends that will be worth the effort.

J G-W said...

I'm not sure how the ex-gay movement helps gay guys relate better to male friends...

But I found that for me the number one de-inhibitor in being able to build deep meaningful friendships with men was coming out.

Once I was no longer afraid of that part of myself, it freed me to develop enduring, positive, (emotionally though not physically) intimate friendships. I have built such friendships with both gay and straight men.

Self-love and self-acceptance are the key. But I think it also helps that I was no longer afraid of my legitimate need for intimate male friendship, no longer afraid of where such intimacy might lead.

Pancakes said...

I only read some of the comments, so if I repeat something someone already said, my bad.

I don't know if you completely hate sports, but I think one of the best things to do to meet people is either, adult male softball or co-ed softball. Just go to your local Rec Center and sign up. My family does it and it is a blast to watch. No one is expecting you to even come close to hitting the ball, but to just have fun.

Other idears are...difficult to come up with. Know what you like and do an Internet search on groups in your community. Hiking, biking, softball, BBQer's lol Just search and you should be able to find something.

And don't let society tell you what role you are supposed to take in this world. Men don't HAVE to be masculine dick heads. They can be anybody shape and with a heart. Damn jocks.

Abelard Enigma said...

I don't know if you completely hate sports

That is one of my OGT's (Obviously Gay Traits). I throw balls like a girl, I have no coordination, and I just really suck at sports.

No one is expecting you to even come close to hitting the ball, but to just have fun.

You haven't seen my pathetic attempts at playing sports. I really really suck. Other people find it painful to witness and do what they can to 'rescue' me (e.g. "um, maybe you could go get everyone some water ...")

And don't let society tell you what role you are supposed to take in this world.

That is one advantage of growing old - I can be an old curmudgeon and do and/or say whatever I want :)

Abelard Enigma said...

But I found that for me the number one de-inhibitor in being able to build deep meaningful friendships with men was coming out.

I am definitely getting closer to reaching that point - my closet is getting very stuffy.

Problem is, when I told my wife that I'm gay - I didn't come out of my closet, I dragged her into my closet. Now she shares my closet and any decision to come out needs to be mutual. Right now, she is deeply entrenched in my closet staying as far away from the door as she can. I'm not blaming her, she is still processing all of this - I just don't see a 'coming out' happening any time in the foreseeable future.

-AZO- said...

I grew up isolated in the church & was never friends with the other youth, but was social in school with mainly male friends.

which seems to be sort of a backward experience.

Perhaps on some level I thought that if a church member was my friend, it would be hard to maintain that friendship if I ever fell away from the church(which was
on my mind a lot)

maybe being closeted in a midwest high school has sort of made me socially retarded with gay people, because I don't feel comfortable with the level of openness about it.

A moho camp documentary needs to be done, so we can experience the joys of gay mormon emotional wrecks.

& Someone is going to have to perform a embarrassingly bad modern ballet to a primary song.