The Season of Best Friends & Brotherhood

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Elliott’s Story: Chapter Thirteen

Read: Chapter 12345678, 9, 10, 11, 12

Those next four years were some of the most formative years of my life — relationally, spiritually, and personally. I went from few friends to many friends; from no one knowing of my struggles to handfuls of people knowing all my secrets; from knowing no other same-sex attracted guys to seeing them every day.

It was the season of best friends and brotherhood, and it was extremely healing.

I wish I could go through the entire list and tell you about each and every man I met and how each one changed me. I wish I could tell of each and every long conversation we had, and of the kind looks in their eyes and the warm embraces we shared.

The silly moments like running in the rain or the simple things like brushing our teeth together.

The times when we cried for hours and got upset and threw things across the room.

All the moments that make up living life together.

Yet I can’t translate all of those memories to you in a few hundred words. I will however highlight some of the most poignant people and moments that affected me most with regard to my SSA journey. Those moments that will never fade from my memory.

I wrote recently about my best friend Nathan, and he truly was my best friend. We often joked of having two halves of the same brain because we would not even need to use words to communicate with each other; we were that in sync.

I felt more myself and more comfortable with him than with any other person I have ever met to date. There was such an openness and understanding between us, and I had no fear in that relationship.

There was no fear of ever losing Nathan or ever being alone again, for God had answered my years of prayer for a best friend. Nathan taught me how to let go and enjoy life, even if it is difficult; that there is always a reason to laugh and what it really means to be creative.

A fellow blogger from our old Xanga community suggested I get in touch with another blogger who lived near me. So, I contacted Jesse, and we met. I shared my story with him, and he shared his with me. He was a few years older than me and had been journeying for much longer than I. His eyes told the depths of his story, and they just overflowed with love.

Our relationship grew, and he became to me like the big brother I had always wanted.

One night, while sitting in his car, I began to unload more of my story and past hurt. I told him about my suicide attempt and Google search that ended up leading me to that Xanga community — in essence, that Google search saved my life.

His eyes misted over, and he looked at me. I asked what he was thinking, and he said: “I started that blogging community.”

Whoooosh! The dots connected right before my eyes, and I felt that deep sense of what was traditionally called Providence. God did this.

I became friends with this man who saved me from suicide and unknowingly changed the course of my life — and not just any friends, but very close ones.

We traveled the country together and eventually became roommates. He single-handedly taught me the importance of healthy, non-sexual, physical affection. We would hug a lot and also cuddle and even sleep in the same bed some nights. There was never anything sexual between us, and it really helped to make me desexualize my relationships with other men (like Kevin mentioned in his post).

There was another man I befriended by happenstance. In a groggy, post-nap stupor, I stumbled into my college cafeteria and sat down at a table of strangers. Little did I know that two of those people at the table would become two of the most influential people in my life.

One was named Cody. He was a loud attention-seeker, but inside he had a heart of gold. We connected quickly. His compassion and confidence were what drew me to him.

I opened up to Cody about my same-sex attraction, and he received me with open arms; in fact, one night while sitting on my couch, he wrapped his arms around me — well past the “normal” hug length, and he would not let go.

It was a bit awkward at first, but it felt so good.

Then something within me broke, and it broke hard.

I started weeping uncontrollably — as if there was a secret well of un-shed tears that had been locked for 20 years, deep inside my soul, and the combination to the lock was the security of an unrelenting embrace. That moment sealed our fate as friends and bonded us together in a deep and powerful way. He would hug me like no one else ever had or ever would.

Cody remains one of the most influential men in my life, even to this day. I do not see him nearly as much as I would like.

There was another man who I met with the most mystical of origins. I knew nothing about him but would see him around campus here and there. It’s hard to describe, but I felt like he was highlighted by God to me. For whatever reason, I needed to speak with him — to be his friend, even though I knew nothing about him. Not even his name.

I discovered through a mutual friend that his name was James and that we were in the same major. At a picnic, I introduced myself to him and we instantly found many things in common to “geek out” over. We then planned a continuation conversation at a local restaurant for lunch.

We talked about everything from families and fears to hopes and dreams. By the time we “finished,” it was well past the dinner hour. To this day, that was one of the greatest conversations I have ever engaged in.

The bond we share is probably the most mystical of any I’ve ever had. We often talked about our friendship as being that of David and Jonathan’s, for it seems there was a spiritual tie connecting us together even before we met.

I truly care for this man unlike any other, because it feels the most pure to me. There is absolutely nothing sexual in my love for him. It was deeper than that, just as David and Jonathan’s love was greater than that of women — mysterious. Whenever James and I would depart from each other, it would be mingled with the deepest grief and the largest tears of any other parting to date.

I want nothing but health, wholeness, and love for this dear brother of mine.

Finally, I found a life-long brother in a man who, up to that point, I had only known digitally through our Xanga blogging community. We commented on each other’s blogs and chatted here and there. It wasn’t until a summer conference in the Midwest that we met in person for the very first time. I ambushed him in the parking lot with a hug, and our online relationship soon turned to flesh and blood.

We would meet in snowy Pennsylvania during the holidays to reconnect over coffee and conversation. It wasn’t until a year or so later that we were talking on the Internet that this guy wanted to make a big life-change, and I suggested he come out from the East Coast to live with me and my friends in California.

To my surprise and great joy, he accepted my offer and made the courageous move — though upon his initial arrival, I was bedridden with poison oak and sadly couldn’t hug him for days.

This man and I would live together for two years and share many of life’s toughest moments together. Though I found brotherhood in many men at this time in my life, this guy was probably the one who was in the trenches with me the most. The one who shared my deepest pains and fears, and the one with whom I’d have the hardest conversations and shed the most vulnerable tears.

This brother of mine is also one of your other brothers here — none other than Tom himself. Our brotherhood would endure many trials and span many miles, and I still feel like it has only just begun.

During these times when I was surrounded by such a large family of confidants and brothers, my struggles with homosexuality were so far on the back-burner.

I learned that in community — honest, intentional community — my needs would often be met in healthy ways and the struggles were not nearly as intense.

Something I will talk about more in my next post.

Who are some of your most valued brotherly relationships? What are some pivotal experiences you’ve shared in healthy brotherhood, and how have these friendships intersected in your struggles with homosexuality and lust at large?

* Photo courtesy jenny-pics, Creative Commons.

  • Karl Jacob

    Elliott, your posts are so encouraging! So you’re one of the people Tom told me a bit about…hmm. So yeah, just yesterday I was kinda on the verge of tears just thinking about moving away from one of my friends. He’s come to mean a lot to me and I care about him so much. Basically, that friendship has been built upon us just being honest with each other. Including me sharing my SSA experiences with him. In fact, he was the first person I told in real life. I can’t say, though, that I have tons of great brotherly relationships, because I don’t. And moving to SoCal later this year is definitely going to affect the relationships that I do have. On the bright side, though, I’m sure I’ll have opportunity to meet lots of new people. Plus, going off to college, that’s exciting!

    • Karl, I have the utmost confidence in the school you’re attending. I’m sure Elliott would agree. Praying already for life-changing brothers to meet you there!

      • Karl Jacob

        My plans for next year have changed since we last talked, actually. I’ll send you an email when I get a chance!

    • Elliott Gladwin

      I have so much hope for you Karl!

      • Karl Jacob

        I look forward to reading more of your story. Thanks!

  • mistaken identity

    Outstanding post, Elliot! Thank you!

    • Elliott Gladwin

      You are welcome! Thank you

  • Red

    This was a good post for me to read today. Although I am prone to envy when reading such experiences that I haven’t had, God right now is giving me joy for what He provided for you. Thank you for sharing Elliott. God bless you man.

  • Brian

    That was a beautiful post! Unfortunately I wish so badly that I could say I’ve had the same experiences or brother figures. I’ve had buddies that I’ve had fun and gone on adventures with but they were not very close as hard as I tried to make them be. And they were also one way in the affection department. I’ve been trying so hard for the past few years buyt with no luck. Ugh and it hurts so bad. It really does. All I want is some brothers to hold me and tell me that everything will be okay. But I can’t, because my current guy friends won’t do that because it’s too “gay.”

    • mistaken identity

      I feel that pain, Brian, and I know God cares more for you and is more sensitive than I am. I do believe he will do something about it. It is so hard to wait so long for such an important thing.

      • Brian

        Thanks man, I really appreciate it. I guess the thing that makes it hard for me is that sometimes I can’t tell if its my fault for not taking the initiative or that I just need to be patient that God will bring it into my life. I think its mostly the latter because when I do take the initiative, more often than not the guys I meet just aren’t right for me.

        • mistaken identity

          I know exactly how you feel. I have been burned by taking the initiative, but that is the world we live in and the church we presently face. Nobody is going to change it but us (by His grace). And after decades I am finally getting to the point where I don’t heap fault on myself, wallow in self-loathing, and thus shut down the entire process. Prayers that you will avoid my mistakes.

    • Elliott Gladwin

      Brian, I get it. I still long for those kind of relationships. Even though I had a season of experiencing them, I have not been lucky enough to have that be my daily life. I am geographically far from all of these men and with two of them we have had a falling out. It is very difficult to have a need that needs to be met, but being unable to find anyone who can meet it. Man I resonate. I have a lot more thoughts to add on this subject and you can expect some future posts from me on this.
      Hang in there Brian. At very least, we have a hope, that one day, our Savior can hold us close – physically and emotionally. I long for that day. And in the meantime, we pray for him to unit his followers in love and unity. It’s hard to see it, but I have to believe its possible and worth fighting for.

  • Jack Hariton

    Hi Elliott,
    Boy, what a great and encouraging post. It sounds like you have had some beautiful brother experiences. I’m somewhat jealous, but in a good way. I have never had male friends growing up. My experiences with other males was one of name-calling, bullying,emotional abuse, etc. which made me withdraw from anything male,mbecause they were not “safe” people for mr and I didn’t know how to respond to them other than to run away.
    So, the male hunger in me continues to be strong and in dealing with ssa, I have looked for connection in the wrong ways. Any type of attention and validation would suck me in and I would allow them to do whatever. I know, definitely the unhealthy way, but I was receiving attention, right? I still learning slowly to deal with this reaction in myself in better wants, but it is extremely hard. You have been blessed with good close friends.mhold onto that and cherish the times you enjoy with them. Maybe someday I will have this kind of friend who will embrace me as your friends have with you.
    Blessings to you. Keep it up.

    • mistaken identity

      praying now for that friend

    • Elliott Gladwin

      Jack, thanks for sharing. I get it. I had horrible experiences with men growing up which alienated me from my gender and caused me to relate almost entirely to women. I did not have any real close male relationships like this until college. And ever since that time it has been a major struggle finding men who can relate on that level. We have a lot of things stacked against us, culture, beliefs, stereotypes, etc.. which make it hard for modern men to connect. But there is a way. I do believe there is hope and it is possible. It wont be perfect, as even these relationships I detailed here have not even worked out the way I would have preferred. You will see later in my story that two of them do not even relate to me at all anymore. It has been years since I have even spoken to one of them. So I don’t want to create a false hope of the perfect relationship, but as we all grow toward holiness we are able to love more truly. And that, is worth fighting for.

      • Jack Hariton

        Thanks for your reply Elliott. It’s nice to know someone who understands our plight. I appreciate your words. Blessings to you.

  • Hey, it’s me. It’s so fun to reach the point where I can read myself in your story. Such a magical feeling.

    Honored to call you brother and share this journey with you, Elliott. I certainly count you among my most valued brotherly bonds.

    • Elliott Gladwin

      Likewise Tom. Onward, my brother.

  • Cory Miller

    So honored to be part of your life and story. Love you brother.

    And yeah, we don’t see each other nearly as much as I’d like.

    • Brian

      You sir, win the most awesome bro of the year award!

    • Elliott Gladwin

      You are forever a part of my story.

  • Incredible post Elliot. Reminds me a lot of my recent history. As many others said I was bullied etc by boys growing up, combined with a very strained relationship with my dad. Didn’t leave any room for male bonding and bros. But the first time experienced a taste of what you described above was in 2006. 10 years ago. I was in my late twenties, married (to a woman) but had been unfaithful to her (with a man). Fully in bondage to sin. Well she found out about my affair. I came home from work one crisp autumn evening to a completely empty apartment. Everything was gone. All but my bed. I was not surprised. But I was alone. I had a (straight) male friend named Joe who was a self-proclaimed sex addict himself but trying to love Jesus as best he could. Joe called at just the right time and I told him what happened. He and his wife were fighting because he had fallen to porn….again. He asked to crash at my empty apartment. Of course I let him. He arrived and we talked and shared our woes and Joe being a straight male was not threatened in the LEAST by my SSA. He loved me, talked to me and ended up holding me close all night. It was the first time I had experienced that kind of intimacy in friendship without a sexual experience. Joe proved to repeatedly be a bro to me for years to come until I moved west. It was so special to know that was possible for a man like me. I’ve experienced it in a few other friendships since then and long for us all to know those kinds of friendships. thanks again for sharing! God bless you guys!

    • Elliott Gladwin

      Jaye, Thank you so much for sharing this story. Woah, that’s intense. So glad Joe was there for you at that time and you got to experience that kind of friendship.

      • Thanks Elliot. Yeah. So am I. I will say that I have experience it in a few other friendships since then as well. Twice with straight guys and one not-so-straight guy. The point is, it REALLY IS available to us and I’m grateful!

  • Jeremy

    Wow! Incredible! I have never had such experiences and wouldn’t have believed them possible before reading your post. I’m amazed, and envious too. I’ve had straight male friends who were good friends but never close buddies like this. I am newly “out” and exploring relationships with guys who are gay, but could never conceive of close male bonding in this way without sexual intimacy. It is something so off my radar that I’m not sure quite what to do with it or about it, if anything. But thank you, Elliot, and the other bros here for sharing your experiences. Seems these things were never a possibility for me, and I am awe-struck that such relationships have been possible for others like you. Makes me wonder.

    • mistaken identity

      That is so true, Jeremy. It is off the radar and awe-striking for so many of us who have not had such experiences to date. I share your gratitude for Elliot and all the other bros. I do know what they are describing is an incredible gift from God. It is so like him. Makes me wonder too. God bless your wonderings.

    • Elliott Gladwin

      I honestly believe that these kinds of relationships are miraculous. Gifts from God. There are very very few men in this world who know how to love deeply and truly. Though it is extremely rare to find them, they do exist.
      I believe God has something better in store for male relationships than what we have been generally experiencing in this broken world. As we all move toward health and wholeness we are more capable of loving each other this way. That, I believe, would change the world – or at least change the world for many people. Don’t give up hope. I pray that you may find those kinds of men in your life. Anything is possible.

  • Elliott, like you I have also experienced close friendships with other guys. Those friendships have made a huge difference, not only in bringing me personal happiness but also in helping me resist sexual temptation.

    You and Tom from this blog have met a few of these friends and I know you appreciate them too. After I finish my series of posts on my brother I plan to write about these friendships one at a time. Some of these guys I have been friends with for decades, others are more recently friends.

    Each friendship is different, but it is absolutely possible and desirable to maintain a heartfelt friendship with another guy for decades and possibly even a lifetime.

  • Eddie

    Excellent post Elliott! The world needs more seasons of best friends and brotherhood.

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  • E777

    It is really hard for me to believe this, how did you established this kind of friendships without eroticizing or falling into emotional dependency? I had a great friend but I left him because I started to have sexual fantasies with him in my mind and I became emotionally dependent, so I cutted that friendship. However he still wants to be my friend and now I am not sure, I don’t want to see him as a sexual object, but I am obsessed with him, and I fear to fall in emotional dependency again, so I mantain myself separated from him, and this hurts him too much.

  • My best friend, David wells committed suicide on September 24, 1984. It was an event that changed my life forever. I found out in school at Mackenzie Junior High. We had to search the news paper and write a paragraph on a news story. I just happened to open to the obituaries. I could hardly believe what I was seeing, but there it was, his picture and the details of the funeral. I excused myself to the bathroom where I sat there and cried for about thirty minutes. My best friend was dead.

    I had met him at my grandmother’s house a few weeks before school started by a mutual friend. We played and had a good time. We said our goodbyes and I honestly thought I would never see him again. When junior high started I was lost and confused, and had no idea of how the school functioned. I finally found out what home room was and I went there. I found David sitting in at a desk. I sat down next to him. Finally someone familiar! We compared classes and discovered we had many together.

    We were always together. It didn’t matter what it was were always with each other; whether having lunch, playing, getting in trouble whatever. I never confided in him that I was SSA, but he may have sensed it, seeing my discomfort in undressing in gym class. He assured me that it was okay and undressed in front of me.

    One night while spending the night at his house, he confided in me that normally he slept in the nude. I told him I didn’t mind if he did. He didn’t, but had no problem with the two us sleeping in our underwear. He didn’t reject me for making the suggestion that he be naked in the bed with me. A good friend of mine suggested that maybe he discovered he was gay too and that was why he took his life. I don’t know, but it would explain a lot.

    After spending time crying in the bathroom over his death, the teacher became concerned that I was taking so long and sent a student to look for me. As I went home, I threw up on the school bus. I threw up again walking to the house. I told my mother and threw up again. She asked me if I wanted to go to the funeral but I threw up again. I went to my room and just wanted to die. My mother should have sought a minister or a grief counselor, but she was stoned. When I went back to school, a counselor in school pulled me aside, to make sure I wasn’t going to be the next suicide. He meant well, but I will always think he was just trying to protect his reputation. I went from an A/B student to straight Fs. I forged my mother’s signature so she wouldn’t find out, but she did. To say she was pissed was an understatement.
    I wound up going to summer school. I passed all my classes, but only enough to keep me out of summer school again. I just didn’t care. I went to visit my father and his wife after summer school. They were my only source of religion at the time, and I trusted them. I was still despondent and very much in grief. They offered their condolences. I made the mistake of asking them if I would get to David again in heaven. I was told that all people who commit suicide go straight to hell.
    I was crushed beyond all measure, as I believed in God. I fell into a deep depression where I nearly took my own life (I had the pills in my hand). This was the night I came to the Lord.

    • Wow, Bradley. This was almost too much for me. I can’t imagine what that experience is even like. Losing a best friend. But especially losing a best friend that young. And then seeing these pictures to go with your story.

      Ugh. So sorry, brother.

      • There is a happier addendum to this story. In February of 2016, an absolute miracle occurred (2016 was a very momentous year for me spiritually).
        I had been in mourning over David’s death for 31 years, and I didn’t even know it. I assumed that since I was no longer depressed (from the night I got saved) that I had put it all behind me. I was wrong. I do work on Ancestry and use many resources for my research. I occasionally think about David (was part of an obsession). I just happened to be thinking of him so I entered his name in one of my searches. I was shocked to find a picture of his grave, and where he was buried, just three miles from where I work. I had never been, because I was too sick at the time to go to the funeral. The Holy Spirit urged me to go.
        But I was afraid. Would all of this end if I just went? I spent the week wrestling with this. I finally made up my mind to go that Saturday after Bible Study. I had my brothers pray for me that I would face this. So I went, and found the grave. I did much weeping over his grave, releasing all the pent up sadness and frustration I felt. While I was there, God suddenly let me know that he had a brother, and his brother’s name was Steve.
        I thought I was crazy. Had it been my imagination? Was Steve Wells even a real person? Had I ever met him? It turns out I did once, when I was twelve. He walked through a room, gave me a wet willy and called me a dork. I asked David who that was, and he said that it was just his brother. I dismissed it and promptly forgot about him.
        I still thought I was crazy. I had lost all of my memory after the stroke, and why all of a sudden was I remembering this now, a one time incident when I was twelve? I wrestled with this all weekend. I finally did a Google search of his name. The only return I got back was that of a prominent pastor in Houston. That couldn’t be him, could it? I finally broke down and contacted his church and left him a cryptic message, that had to much information to be ignored, if this ‘Steve’ was David’s brother, which in all likelihood it wasn’t.
        About an hour later, I got a call on my cell phone from a number I didn’t recognize. I assumed it was a recording telling me I had won a fabulous vacation to the Bahamas. Instead is was the Steve of that church, and yes, David was his brother. I wept, telling him who I was and what David meant to me. I told him I was sorry for not being able to attend the funeral. He forgave me. He didn’t need to. He didn’t need to as he didn’t even know me. I had been just dork friend of his kid brother that he had given a wet willy to in 1982. He then gave me a bit of scripture that I had not heard before: “…God is not god of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:32) He said it helps him get through the day. I had not previously considered how much harder it must have been for him to lose a brother.
        I finally put and end to the mourning process in September on the 32 anniversary of David’s death, releasing so much repressed anger and frustration I felt towards my friend. I still feel very sad about him, and I can’t even discuss what happened without breaking into tears. I miss him so, but at least now I can get on with my life.

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