The First Guy Who Ever Held My Hand

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Years ago, back when I’d first delved into the world of online SSA friendships, I got to talking with another SSA guy in my area. We commented on each other’s blogs, we friended each other on Facebook, and we traded phone numbers, too.

He intimidated me, this guy: attractive and charming and, most of all, interested in friendship with me. Those combinations in a man just didn’t happen upon a guy like me.

We talked about meeting up one day, a notion that both excited and unnerved me, and one day we did. We met at a pizza place, and he proved more attractive in person than his digital images showed: shaggy brown hair and bold, brown eyes.

I wondered what in the world I was doing in the same zip code as this guy, let alone across from him over pepperoni pizza.

But things got less awkward throughout the afternoon. Also, more awkward.

We went to a nearby park and shared more of our stories, walking and talking until we found a bench. We sat down side by side.

He reached for my hand and held it. It was the first time another guy had ever held my hand.

His boldness caught me off-guard, and his touch sent energy rushes all over. I’d never felt this before: holding hands with another man. In public, no less.

It was nothing, and it was everything. Harmless and devastating. Affirming and shaming.

My erection meant holding hands with another man was sinful. Right?

To complicate matters, the guy shared his increasing doubts on the Bible’s stance on homosexuality. It wasn’t “official” yet, but he was starting to lean more toward “Side A” than “Side B” — that he didn’t believe the Bible condemned same-sex monogamous relationships.

Looking back on this moment, his physical gesture felt less like masculine affirmation and more like his first dipping into romantic waters.

And yet I couldn’t help ignoring the latter for more of the former.

Later that afternoon, we drove to another park to play frisbee golf, one of his favorite activities. I’d never played, so he taught me the ropes and proper technique.

We had the whole park to ourselves, and somewhere around Hole 4 or 5, he initiated a “tradition” of hugging me before the start of the next hole. His hugs started innocently enough, a five- or ten-second hold before we launched our discs to the next hole.

He was such a good hugger.

But then the hugs turned into something else entirely. Five or ten seconds turned to thirty or sixty, and I didn’t want to let go of him.

Midway through our game, a summer drizzle turned to a torrential downpour; trapped in the middle of the woods, we held onto each other for minutes at a time, our shirts drenched and sticking together.

It felt like a scene from a film. To this day, I’ve never felt so frigid and so warm at the same time.

He looked me in the eyes after our longest embrace yet. I could tell he wanted something else. Something more.

I did too. But deep down I didn’t.

To be continued . . .

Have you ever held hands with another man or experienced a prolonged hug? Did you experience guilt or shame from such physical touch? Did this initial touch lead to more regrettable touch? Where do you draw the line between male-affirming and boundary-crossing?

  • Kevin Frye

    I love holding hands. Before I started dating the woman who is now my wife, I held hands with anybody who was willing, guy or girl, SSA or OSA. It carried no sexual or romantic implications for me. I just liked the affection. I still feel that way about it, but my wife doesn’t want me holding hands with any girl, although she’s fine if I hold a guy’s hand. I’ve held hands with people for my own sake, but I’ve also done it intentionally to help some SSA guys desexualize the affection, or desexualize me if I knew they were attracted to me. I like to think it did everyone some good.
    I know, too, though, that if a guy wanted to go further with me than just a friendly hand-hold or hug, if it meant more to him than platonic affection, I would be creeped out and push away. There is definitely a line that can be crossed, and it’s more of an intuitive, almost spiritual feeling than a physical act.

    • Thanks for sharing all of that, Kevin. My intuition is pretty good, and I could tell fairly early on that my hand-holder was after something beyond the platonic. Still, I entertained the act as long as I could…

    • D M

      Hey Kevin, could you please elaborate what you mean by “it’s more of an intuitive, almost spiritual feeling than a physical act”?

      And thanks Tom for sharing this very personal story.

      I’ve never held hands but I’ve experienced a number of prolonged hugs with a former roommate. There were at least some of those times where I had an erection. On the other hand, I wasn’t in those moments thinking about doing something “below the belt” with him….that said, those moments were intense for me and losing those opportunities for prolonged physical affection as our friendship went through a transition was difficult on me and revealed some idolatrous attitudes on my part. When I look back at those moments, I have a mixture of feelings.

      This topic can be really complex given our culture’s aversion to non-sexual but intimate physical affection between men. If anyone had seen my long hugs with my former roommate, they would almost certainly have interpreted it as “gay”. Part of me isn’t comfortable with the idea of doing something in secret, but how do we deal with the fact that if we expressed intimate physical affection in the open, it would be interpreted as something sexual? And perhaps I can’t totally separate my enjoyment of this kind of affection from sexuality. Should we just accept the fact that certain forms of physical affection in our culture are closely tied with sexual relationships and therefore those forms of affection should be avoided? Or are we then denying ourselves of biblical forms of affection (Jonathan and David’s long embrace, John leaning on Jesus’s chest, instructions to greet with holy kisses, etc) and thus hurting ourselves in the process? Or should we be more focused on fleeing sexual immorality? So many questions…

      • D M

        Maybe I should be asking myself if I can do to the glory of God or not (1 Cor 10:31) and whether I can do it in the name of Jesus (Colossians 3:17)…and whether it is an expression of true love for God and/or neighbor….

      • Kevin Frye

        Hey DM! What I meant was that a guy can hug me and hold me in a long embrace and I’ll feel nothing but warmth and pure affection from him, while another guy can hug me in the exact same way, but creep me out with it. The spirit/attitude/intention behind a person’s action affects the action a lot, even if the action itself is not bad.

        As for your other questions here, I’ll butt in and say I think you should read my blog post linked below. I’ve wrestled with a lot of those same questions.
        https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/2016/04/06/american-christian-male-identity/

        • D M

          Thank you Kevin for your reply! I enjoyed your article. I like the emphasis on Christian freedom to love other men in a chaste and yet counter-cultural way (counter to modern Western culture, that is). What this actually looks like I still feel is complex, as I know it can present temptations if done in private and can present misunderstandings if done in public. I lament the way we our modern, Western, sex-obsessed culture has neglected the art of chaste physical affection between men. May God give us both wisdom and also a sense of Christian freedom in this area.

  • I never held hands with a guy as public diplays of affecton are extremely frowned upon here in west Texas. A man loves football. A man fixes cars. A man marries his highschool sweetheart ten minutes after graduation. A man parties. A man is masculine and works out. A man never shows his emotions, and buries them down deep. If you don’t comply, then God help you.

    • Jeff Brady

      I lived in Abilene, Texas back in the late 70’s. I know what your talking about. Even so, I went to a Christian college and still managed to carry on a 18 month relationship with a man two years my junior. We lived in the same dorm. It was easy. We also had the same group of friends. No one was the wiser. We just did it. Looking back, I think how dangerous that was. There were people at the school that would have killed us or worse; nevermind getting excommunicated or expelled. Those were the days.

      • I know Abilene well, as I am from Lubbock.

        • Jeff Brady

          Do you know where Idalou is? I had a friend from there in college. I think he died in 1990, not sure how. His name was Dirk Neill.

          • I know Idalou well, but I didn’t know Dirk Neill. 1990 was a very dark period in my life and I very nearly killed myself.

    • I can only imagine what growing up in Texas would have been like from an SSA perspective. I got the Georgia experience, but I feel like even that can’t compare to your land.

  • Yes, I have held another man’s hand and also had an extended hug with a guy.

    Once a straight friend, who is now very happily married to a woman, showed up at my front door. In a humorous and dramatic gesture he threw his backpack on the floor, grabbed me, and pulled me into a full hug. He is muscular so he held me very tightly. We held on and talked for several minutes, then stood side by side with our arms around each other for maybe 15 more minutes! Neither one of us felt anything sexual. All I felt was intense brotherly affection. I remember the experience with great joy and no shame.

    For some reason, none of my straight friends will hold my hand because it “feels too gay” to them. I don’t view it as anything but a healthy expression of love, but I respect their boundaries and don’t try to force it. It is a different story with my SSA friends!

    One time a SSA friend was struggling with such serious anxiety and depression that he could barely function. We were good friends but not sexually attracted to each other. I stood next to his bed for maybe a half hour, just holding his hand. He was the one who reached out his hand and initiated it. Sometimes I prayed for him, but mostly I was silent. Again, I felt no lust or guilt, only Christian love and compassion.

    One time I regret was when I held hands with an SSA friend on his couch. We were both attracted to each other and my friend admitted that he had an erection. We did not cross any significant lines but we got too close to those lines! I remember that time with guilt and shame.

    Many of both my straight and SSA male friends share extended hugs with me. As long as there is no mutual sexual attraction between us, it is merely an expression of Christian love and friendship.

  • Ashley Lavergne

    Being that girls are usually more affectionate than guys I always tended to have friends who held my hand or we’d hold each other or have long hugs or whatever when I was a teenager.
    I remember that we moved around a lot so I didn’t have a lot of friends, but when I moved back home I did reconnect with some childhood friends at my church. And being that my family wasn’t very affectionate and that I never had very close girl friends at the time (when I was a kid my best friends were usually guys and the closeness is obviously different) I wasn’t used to that female affection and it really threw me off at first. Now that I’m older and see and recognize my attractions throughout my life I see why it threw me when at the time I thought I was just weird or just very averse to affection. I guess it’s how any straight girl would feel if one of her guy friends came up to her and kissed her on the cheek to greet her or sat on top of her in a playful way. Though I was never attracted to my best friend and she’s straight and all that, her affections and the reaction they brought about in me were some of the most confusing moments of my teenage years. And at the same time she showed me what committed friendship looked like. At one point in my early 20’s I was almost angry/upset when I realized how much longing my friendship with her woke up in me, but after a while I realized that she was such a safe person and someone who loved me the right way – even though we were basically kids – better she wake it up than someone else. This is my good example lol
    Now, the first time I ever came out was to a former student of mine. I was 21 and she was 24. We were both engaged to guys at the time (I married my guy and she didn’t). I already kinda knew that she liked girls, but she confirmed it and I admitted to it out loud for the first time in my life in her living room. It wasn’t a bad moment. We connected and shared a little bit about our experiences – mine having been more mental and she had actual experience. Now she had always been affectionate, but after that day I felt she changed and became more so. At the time I just brushed it off as she felt safe with me and we never saw each other again so I never really figured it mattered and it felt good to be paid a little extra attention to and she was cute so I ignored it. A few years down the road, turns out she was attracted to me and hoped I was too and made an awkward pass at me.
    Another story where I fled from all affection out of fear. (This is kind of out of order by the way). One year I had gotten very close to falling for someone and we had a unhealthy relationship to begin with so come the next year I was sensitive and didn’t trust myself and more than that my leaders didn’t really trust me, especially with another ssa girl around and there just so happened to be one around and we hit it off and became good friends. It made me kinda paranoid because I couldn’t just be the way I am with my friends. She had spoken of her attractions in a small group setting so everyone knew about her but only a few knew about me (she figured it out on her own at the time even though I hadn’t told her). We were good friends, we had good conversations, she would ask for hugs when she needed one, she confided in me, and I felt very much myself around her, but that put my leadership on edge all the fricken time. And that made me paranoid. So a couple time things happened like she’d be tugging on my hoodie or something and we’d be goofing off and someone would walk up and I would very abruptly pull away and leaver her thinking she did something wrong. In YWAM they prefer that girls dance with girls and the guys with each other (in south america anyway) and she asked me to dance and I turned her down, because I just couldn’t deal and they definitely wouldn’t mind her dancing with a guy. Things like that, and in the end she always thought I was pulling away from her, and even though after a year or so I kind of explained my behavior and she said she understood I think it still hurt her a little that me keeping my cover or making sure people saw me a certain way was more important.
    So do I hold hands with girls? Depends on the girl. Do I think it is always inherently romantic or something? No. Be careful still? YES

  • mistaken identity

    Good writing Tom! I think I would struggle with that boundary you ask about because I am so inexperienced.

    • I definitely struggled with it at the time, MI. And I was as “inexperienced” as they come. To be honest, I probably should have stopped the hugs after three or four holes. It got to be a little…much.

  • Dean Samuels

    I’ve held hands with guys before and had it be non-sexual and affirming. Honestly, I wish it were a more common practice. Also, I love prolonged hugs- but it needs to be with someone I know extremely well. There’s only a few guys that are allowed to do that if desired.

    • Jeff Brady

      You are very strict

      • Dean Samuels

        I learned long ago the dangers of lacking boundaries in my life. I have physical boundaries to protect myself, my wife, my ministry, and my friends. I am definitely strict- but that simply adds greater value to my platonic physical affections.

  • Jeff Brady

    I’m sorry. For some reason, I thought the whole encounter was kind of hot and steamy and sweet at the same time. I just wanted to say ‘awe’, and not in a nauseating way . Erection not withstanding (oops, that was kind of funny), I think you did well in the situation. Though desire for more was present, you stood your ground. You did not kiss him. Getting through that many extended hugs with someone you saw as attractive without going for it shows a great deal of strength in my opinion. But then part two is coming…I kind of can’t wait!

    You’re still friends with this guy right? I think I know who it is. He comments here occasionally? No?

    OK, I’ll stop it, but if it’s him, good job Tom. You are a brave man..

    • Time will tell if you know this guy or not. Appreciate your encouragement, Jeff.

  • mike

    “But then the hugs turned into something else entirely. Five or ten seconds turned to thirty or sixty, and I didn’t want to let go of him.”
    I’ve been there too. Not wanting to let go that is… How can I deny such a real part of me? Dissecting the hugs to find the boundary lines? Sounds so clinical! It’s cruel. Like denying I’m introverted and need lots of quiet time. How can I deny me? Like your friend one eventually can give up. How can anyone even God blame anyone?
    And, the reparative therapists are wrong. I don’t want ‘normal’ hugs from guys. I want (need) more!
    And one day I did. I wanted more. And for seven years I got the hugs I craved…

    • Jeff Brady

      more please

    • It’s a messy process, dissecting the boundaries of physicality. Some physicality is good — great, restorative even — and some is quite the opposite.

      • mike

        Yeah, like Marshall calls it “intense brotherly affection”. It is “great” as you say. But, how “restorative”? Many brothers here talk about that and reparative therapists major on that (despite it being not therapeutic in solving SSA). Generally, excepting some anecdotes, nurture lost in the formative years can not be restored by us humans and even by God this side of Heaven. And you’ll have to do a post to explain why “some is quite the opposite” beside the Bible says so… I think you owe it Tom to the gay lurkers here :).

        • Jeff Brady

          thanks Mike

        • Charlie

          Mike, you have a very small view of God if you think the one who created heaven and earth and loved us enough to sacrifice His own son is either unable or unwilling to restore us on this side of heaven. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, even if you state it as fact to the exclusion of all others, but I find it interesting that more than 9/10 ssa guys I know of are, according to you, ‘anecdotes’ who find restoration in healthy brotherly affection.

          • mike

            “a very small view of God”. No, Charlie, you read me wrong there.
            My view of God has to be realistic if it is going to help others. I view SSA as genetic in origin (it is a view at present not yet a scientific fact). And so, just like God doesn’t restore all Christians with genetic defects this side of Heaven He doesn’t restore all SSA Christians either.
            We must be careful not to generalize from our own experiences or those of a small number of our friends and come up with our own idea how God works. That was the failure of Exodus International.
            Healthy brotherly affection is good but we must be careful and explicit as to what we are talking about as to what is being restored so that our fellow SSA strugglers don’t jump to unrealistic conclusions and become disheartened when things don’t change.
            In my own case my SSA has gotten worse as I have aged despite years of healthy brotherly affection. But in that suffering with SSA my intimacy with Jesus has grown and it is He (not brotherly affections) that gives me life outside of gay on a daily basis.

          • Jeff Brady

            Mike, they haven’t got a clue. They are same sex activated, but they are not same sex attracted. They are just bent heteros. They do not have any idea what it means to know that they will never have actual sexual attraction to the opposite sex. Maybe you are with them? I am not. I have no hope…no hope for a straight female partner. Why? Because God has not made it possible. He loves me as I am. It’s hard for the heteros and the near heteros to wrap their minds around that possibility. At 60 years of age, I finally have. I’m gay and God loves me. I believe He made me that way.

            The rest of you can just get over it.

          • Charlie

            There is nothing to get over, Jeff. I’m well aware that nothing could possibly compel God to love any of us more or less than He already does. I never suggested that anyone ought to change or even want to, only that they shouldn’t discourage others from seeking change if they desire it, with the understanding that God is not obligated to satisfy our desires unless they are aligned with His own. Some He see fit to change, others He give comfort and satisfaction where they are, and neither is more righteous or should question God’s choice to do as He wills.

          • Jeff Brady

            Charlie I was not talking to you, yet you seem compelled to respond to what I said to Mike. Odd that. Or maybe not. Perhaps you are beginning to realize that you will always be at least a little bit gay. Kind of makes you hate your self and get snippy with others that do not tow the evangelical party line doesn’t it?
            That’s what you need to get over. Accept it. You will feel so much better. The flesh is broken. It will always be broken as long as you live.
            Your homosexual panic is typical of people that cannot fathom that a God that loves them would also be OK with them being SSA. Deal with it. You are gay and there will never be a time in your life that you will not feel the urge. You can marry a woman and father 10 children and it will always be there.
            It is who we are whether we like it or not.
            It ain’t gonna change. You need to deal with it.

          • Jeff. Be nice. We all come from different backgrounds and stories, and it’s quite possible that more than one of us could be “right” on any number of things. Telling someone else what will work for him may in fact not work for him, even if it’s worked for you. Stuff of this nature is way more complex than a cut and dry answer.

          • Jeff Brady

            you’re right. I am a man that knows his mind and sometimes I just want to tell people about it even if it is not nice. I am sorry Charlie, Tom. I will back off.

          • Charlie

            Sorry I came across as snippy, that was not my intention but written words do not convey tone very well. It may well be that there are some ssa men that can’t change and are authentically gay, not just ‘bent heteros’ as I apparently am. My attractions have changed, but perhaps not in the way one might assume and I’m sorry if I haven’t articulated that well. If you read my last response to mike I explain that I have no attraction to women and wouldn’t necessarily consider that a positive outcome if I did. Restorative change for me means that I can express my attraction to men through brotherly affection according to biblical guidelines. I find this much more satisfying and I’m better able to fulfill God’s command to love others more effectively and with more people than I could through sex.

          • Malcolm

            “Bent heteros”– I like that term! I have never heard that before, but I think that may be what I am.

          • mike

            I like that term too. “Bent heteros”. Thanks Charlie :).

          • mike

            Jeff, I agree God loves you as you are, but I know for sure He won’t leave you as you are. Don’t extinguish hope! What you will be is up to Him and you. I think He respects our will but desires that we trust Him to bring about whatever change He has in mind for each of us but He’ll love us to the end. Only He knows us to that degree.
            I have SSA and thought I needed to act on it. But that only made things worse. It emptied me emotionally and spiritually. I then realized why God is against that. It doesn’t work. Yeah, we can try to force it. Does it work for others and have God’s blessing? I can’t see it. Maybe you do?

          • Jeff Brady

            Thanks Mike. I’m almost 60 year-old. It doesn’t much matter at this point what He does. It’s over for me in terms of any possibility of family. He left me as I am. I am good with that.
            He has saved me from many things…just not SSA . I am good with that too.
            But, trust me, it will always be there.

          • Charlie

            I agree that our view must be realistic in that we cannot dictate to God HOW he will work on us, but He does promise, and we must be confident of the fact, that He is restoring us in whatever way He sees fit, even if that work is not completed in this lifetime.
            Perhaps we out to define what we mean by restoration. If our standard is the holiness of Christ then being attracted to women instead of men is not necessary or even beneficial unless He calls one to be married. But giving us power to express affection within biblical moral parameters, to flee temptation, and to love each other well is beneficial to all. The restoration I’m talking about is that my brokenness is no longer an obstacle to expressing love and affection to men as friends and brothers. Gaining sexual interest to women is of no consequence to me.

          • mike

            Thanks Charlie for the clarification. Indeed, when we talk “restoration” we need to be clear. It’s true what God does for you will likely be different for how he deals with me. Like the man born blind what is important is the purpose for the handicap, and that is always for God’s Glory which is likely different for each of us. You might be fully healed of your SSA; me, SSA increases. All, for His purposes for which we need to personally cooperate.
            I think restoration is a promise too. “Such were some of you” we are told. We are given power for change. But there is no promise at the other end of what that change will turn out to be. Because I think it’s different for each of us this side of Heaven and only then will it be the same.
            For you, restoration means freedom for same sex affection without the burden of figuring out boundaries of physicality (as Tom calls it). But for me (and likely others) as Tom says it continues to be “messy” and even clinical for me taking away the spontaneity for it such that I’d rather do without. And, it appears that you are blessed as well with the gift of celibacy. I’m glad for you. No such gift was given me. Eventually, I married a beautiful girl as change for me meant desire and attraction to her. Blessings to you Charlie.

          • Charlie

            Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response Mike. I had the same scriptures in mind as I was writing as well as Phillipians 1:6. I’m glad we could find so much to agree on and that God made a way for you to be married, he who finds a wife finds a good thing. . .
            I wouldn’t say I’m fully healed, I still struggle with lust and porn occasionally, but I don’t allow that to affect my relationships. I am free, but freedom comes with the responsibility to check my motives and see that my freedom does not infringe on anyone else. My moral boundaries are clear, but personal boundaries vary between people and what is permissible may not always be beneficial. Whether my ssa has diminished or not is debatable, I probably pursue men more passionately now than I ever did as a gay man, just not in the same way. For me it was more of a lane change than a U-turn, the goal of loving connection and intimacy is the same, I’m just doing it very differently. Blessings to you and your wife, brother.

  • Jeff Brady

    Another thought…question…comment.

    Tom, if this guy were 60 years old and unattractive (like me ;^))) and you did not discover that fact until you met him in person the first time, would there have been any handholding or hugging or frisbee golf? Would you have dismissed him as an old, lonely pervert and assumed that he was stalking you? I think it’s a valid question. When we go in pursuit of affrimation from straight guys and SSA guys, are we really still looking for Mr Right? A hubby. A partner? Is that what backs up behind the emodep and brings the walls crashing down? Sublimation is a subtle and terrible thing

    • To be honest, very few people could have been able to grab my hand after only meeting me an hour before and then hold it and hug me repeatedly over the course of an afternoon. This guy was special. Anyone older or younger or of a different personality type or appearance would have probably been met with an “are you for real right now?” Admittedly, I am a very selfish and self-preserving person, and I rarely look out for the other person’s best interests, even if what he might need most is indeed a hand-hold or a long hug. Something for me to work on: getting out of myself and extending appropriate love to others.

      • Jeff Brady

        Good answer young padawan. You are strong in the Force. Finish your training

      • Tom, I have definitely seen you being unselfish in showing love to others! I would certainly encourage you to do that even more. You will actually find yourself happier as a result!

        • Jeff Brady

          ok…so when are we going to play frisbee golf….actually I would prefer fishing, but I’m flexible

          • Jeff, I just noticed that you replied to me and not Tom.

            My father actually taught me to fish in a very old fashioned way. We used to throw a 12 foot diameter circular net over the fish, rather than using a rod and reel. It worked better for catching salt water fish in the surf in Florida where I grew up.

            Even so, if I ever get to meet you it would probably start in a coffee shop, not with fishing or frisbee golf.

          • Jeff Brady

            I live in a land called Iowa which, while centrally located, is close to nothing. Many pass through, but few stop by or realize what a wonderful place it is. We do have coffee shops here, Starbucks and Caribou and a few independents. So if you ever find yourself passing through the Beautiful Land, you should give me a shout. My email is staelred001@gmail.com . Spring, summer or early fall is the best. Winters are brutal here, but not as bad as say, Minnesota.
            I have used a casting net, but generally for the purpose of picking up bait fish (minnows, chubs) to catch other fish. I’m not very good at it either.

  • David LWD

    I’ve held hands and prolonged the hugs with men whenever I’ve felt free from the fear it would be misunderstood, stigmatized as something sexual, or my affection would be rejected. In the general population of American men, it’s hard for me to become free from that fear, but with work on the friendship and developed trust, I have been more affectionate with a few. I’m also part of a community who share an initiatory experience where we’re given a context for enjoying Father-Son-ly affection in the tens of minutes. Part of that context is a commitment that sex is off the table with anyone else in the community. Other guidelines for SSA men include being in a group rather than one-on-one.

    In neither context (general or committed community) has affectionate touch ever led to anything sexual. Strong emotions of affection (whether to best buddies in my early years or later when I got my first dog) could lead to sometimes embarrassing erections, but I knew it was different from the desire for sex that I experienced at other times. In fact when I felt secure in letting a guy know about the love I felt for him and my desires for affectionate touch, sexual fantasies I had about him evaporated. (I quit getting aroused around my dog, too.) I see that as evidence that my body used sexual feelings as a way to medicate the distressing emotions I had around connection.

    If I knew the other man might want to go to a sexual place, I’d apply safeguards, starting with don’t be alone with him.

    • Yeah, I think a large reason for my “success” with this other guy was the fact that we were always in a public place. Technically we were “alone” out on the frisbee golf course, but there was always that pervading sense that anyone could walk up at any moment. That went a long way, actually.

  • Ashley Lavergne

    I had written a lengthy response this morning and I now see that it didn’t post 🙁

    • BUMMER. I hate it when that happens, Ashley. I actually copy all my longer posts and comments before hitting the magic button because that disaster has happened to me too many times. I do it out of habit now!

      • Ashley Lavergne

        I know. when my computer is giving me issues I usually do. but it had posted. it just disappeared

        • Eddie

          This has been a concern of mine in the beginning as well. When I first started here at YOB, I took down the ending questions and simply wrote down in my $1 composition book my thoughts to be rewritten on the site. Being a techie, I know firsthand how precarious computer equipment can be in its operation.

  • Eddie

    I can’t say I experienced the hand holding or prolonged hugging with a guy. Yet I would like to at some point, but of course only under noble and platonic circumstances. Loneliness I tend to deal with quite a bit. It’s bad enough that I don’t need to add regret to the mix. Male affirming versus boundary crossing seem conditional as to whether we are acting based on selfless or selfish motivations. In my opinion, this is also a defining factor if not THE defining factor between love making (sex) versus fornication or adultery. It is selfish intentions that fuel the sinful desires of the latter as to “what can I get or exploit from this person (siphon) to satisfy my own wants and desires.” It is a greedy and self-centered mind frame. Alternatively, the more Christ-like and virtuous condition of the heart and mind asks “what can I give this person” to allow them to feel a noble and healthy sense of affirmation, love and affection. It all weighs on where one places the importance of this sort of engagement, on oneself or on the other person.

    • Ugh, I feel this too much. The exploitation of other men versus the selfless giving to other men. It’s good that I realize this selfishness in myself. It’s not good that I rarely act nobly on it.

  • One gay Mormon

    I appreciated coming across this article. Before I begin, I’m noticing my username. I have typically used “gay” and SSA interchangeably, yet I do not (or no longer) consider myself part of the LGBT community. So anyway, don’t worry or assume that I’m suggesting anything specific by my use of the word “gay.”

    Anyway, I’m just getting over a triggering conversation with someone who did not understand my intentions or my perspectives on male physical affection. Like much of American culture, it’s incessantly attached to lust and a desire to push sexual boundaries.

    I guess there will always be a “risk,” but I figured it’s better to take a risk instead of stay in isolation and deal with accompanying addictions. I try to think of Christ and His male followers at the most crucial moments of His life. I imagine Him holding my hand, letting me rest on His shoulder. I feel like my opportunities to do this with men…who have the same focus on faith in Christ…is representative of this spiritual setting.

    Of course there are sometimes romantic undertones or an occasional arousal. I just have to let those feelings be. I don’t think it’s worth forsaking all physical contact just because of some fleeting feelings. I can’t say how much I would love to hold a good guy friends hand without society thinking we’re having sex (or that we’re even “gay”). In fact, I wonder if most men are deprived of this kind of connection, regardless of whether they’re SSA or not.

    I have some strong feelings about the definition of marriage and about sexual morality (man-woman marriages). Yet I also acknowledge that this desire of mine for (hopefully) platonic physical touch is right up there too.

    • Eddie

      No need to worry about “gay” being in your handle. I’ve come to think of the YOB blog as a forum or refuge for all to share our stories and individual perspectives without judgment and in a civil manner. I especially want to hear others’ viewpoints as I have become fully aware that I just don’t know everything.

    • This is a safe place for labels or lack thereof, OGM. Feel free to post with whatever handle you feel suits you best. Thanks for commenting here. Hope you do so regularly!

  • Jeff Brady

    Good Morning Mike. Just a few more thoughts here. Perhaps it’s not your SSA that’s increasing. Maybe it’s your will to fight it that’s decreasing. There is a world of difference between giving up and giving in. For 50 years I have been pushing it all down, denying it and fighting it. I have concluded that it is no longer worth the effort. It’s like trying to hold a life jacket under water. I have many hopes for many things Mike. Getting rid of the SSA though, is no longer one of them. Accepting it as part of who I am has made my life easier in many respects. As for the future, I can predict two things with 100% certainty for both of us. We will pay more taxes and we will then die. Life is too short to spend it repressing and sublimating a desire that seems completely natural to me. I will not waste another minute on it. It is what it is. I accept it. I am gay. I doubt I will do anything about it at this point in my life. That would be equally stressful I think. I have more important things to concern myself with. It is only a small part of who I am and not worth pursuing. Even so, I am as God made me.

    • mike

      “It is only a small part of who I am”
      This is my reality too. There are two of me. One day there will be one. All is well brother.

  • Fred

    “All things are permissable, but not all things are beneficial”

    That’s in the Bible, and I think it makes it clear where we need to draw our boundaries. I think too many SSA men like myself convince themselves that they need this kind of thing to fix themselves. There’s nothing wrong with non-sexual intimate male touch inherently, but it isn’t something that is needed to fix you. That fix is Jesus my friends. And if intimate physical touch is a temptation for you, then it’s probably not something God has in mind for you to explore. Ultimately prayer to God is the only final answer on a matter like this. But I advise that it is most likely better to draw boundaries that are too tight than too loose. Better to overrestrict yourself than risk sinning.

    • Patience, my young padawan. Patience. You’re right though. Too often I convince myself if I just had this or that (this or that involving the emotional and physical touch of another man, usually), then I’d be fixed or healed. But I don’t go to God often enough. Thanks for this reminder.

  • I’m pretty sure I recognize Tom on the left. The guy on the right could be Elliott but I’m not sure.

    • Jeff Brady

      It’s Elliott. I recognize the arm from his YouTube videos.

    • Looks like Elliott to me. We’re really getting to the important stuff here!

    • Y’all are too precious. Now I really wish I’d just used a random picture from the Internet and made this super anticlimactic.

  • Brent

    I had a best friend / roommate in university who was as straight as they come. To a fault actually. But he had spent time overseas and so had I in cultures where men hold hands. When we came back we continued the tradition. It did lead to stares but we didn’t seem to care much. Most people knew us and knew why we held hands. I’ve given up the practice living in the west but I recently asked my friend and he said he still does it with his friends. His wife told him to stop because it looked gay. Ha. Healthy affirming affection can be good in the right context.

    • That’s so interesting, Brent. I’ve never had the experience of traveling or living in a land where men holding hands was completely platonic. I’d love to witness that and live that for myself one day.

      • Brent

        Middle east… some places in Europe and East Asia. It varies from place to place but it’s pretty wide spread. I was taken aback at first… but when in Rome and all that. It’s refreshing. However, I know in Thailand that the presence of more and more gay men has changed the culture. Men feel less safe to be affectionate. Men have to be willing to take affection back and possibly get labeled in order to have it in their lives again. These days most men get it from sports.

  • A Friend

    When I worked in Asia, my good friend (a local) held my hand as we walked down the street. Without going in to a great diatribe, this is a common practice between good friends, and it’s quite heterosexual. Then it dawned on me–is this what God had planned the whole time? It was seen as natural and once I looked around, many were doing it–and no homosexual thoughts even came to their minds.

  • At Peace

    Me and my friend hold hands all the time. Especially when I am driving. He is hypersensitive. When I first got on the highway speeding from the merge, I noticed he was anxious, so I slid my hand into his and he grabbed right on, and even kissed it. Since that time, we always hold hands. I am 50 years old and I have long since abandoned the idea that I should ever be normally married to the opposite sex. I could be deluded into thinking that the LORD gave me my current friend. Yet, he is in my life for a purpose. Though he is quite sexual, I have learnt to keep my urges under. I know what it’s like to get out of control and I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now. My friend doesn’t understand how that faith in Christ can be satisfying. Don’t get me wrong, I am no holy sage, far from it. I jerk off from time to time, we cuddle and play around, and giving “thanks in all things”, even when Law says something different. Thank God we don’t live under it. I’d be dead right now..

  • Having served over 20 years in the military, I’ve been to many different places throughout our world. And one keen observation I’ve made is that male-male hand-holding is a stigmatized “taboo” mostly evolved out of our own, overly sexialized Western cultures. Heterosexual men in other cultures (Asian, Indian, Israeli, Arabic, and some Hispanic, just to name a few) openly and publically share the affectiin of holding hands in friendship with other males.

    Hungering for the innocent (and rare) expressions of physical affection from my male friends was something I’d always sensed inside of myself. So my observations intrigued me to the point of researching it a bit further. What I discovered was both astonishing to me and deeply tragic, all at the same time.

    The photographic history of American men shows an amazing trend that suddenly comes to an abrupt halt, right before the era of what has been labeled the “sexual revolution” of the early 1960’s. What the photographic evidence shows without any dispute, even among “heroic” WW2 military men, is that American males use to hold hands and show much closer affection too, especially in front of a camera lens. So what happened?

    The answer is simple. Sad to say, the stigma of open homosexuality in America happened! And our once willingly affectionate male friendships fell to the fear of accusations of it being something sexual. And how incredibly sad that is for all of the generations of young men that followed that one… How sad for you and for me that we’ve missed out on this once “normal” and innocent interaction between males in friendship, because it’s become so stigmatized by sexual association.

    I found a close friendship in my later years, with a Christian brother who grew up in Mexico, and never had an SSA inclination in his life. After we’d gotten close in friendship (I’d already shared with him about my own struggles with homosexuality), I felt “safe” to muster the courage to ask him how he felt about two men sharing affection with each other.

    He was open to it and so I asked him if we could. After that conversation, we sometimes held hands, or sat close to each other, and sometimes even kissed each other on the cheek or lips when greeting or saying goodbye to each other. Over the next five years that followed, I felt like ours was the most honest and deeply rewarding male friendship I’d ever experienced. But then something went wrong, and my best friend suddenly pushed me away.

    To this day I’m still not sure what it was that I did, or even “if” it was something I did? You see, I also have this tendency to blame myself (or my struggles with SSA issues) for everything that seems to go wrong in my male friendships. All I know for sure is that the most rewarding friendship I ever experienced in life is also now the most painful for the loss of it.

    I think that grieving the loss of someone so deeply close to me who never died is, perhaps, far more painful than grieving the loss of someone who actually departs this life. And all of the unanswered questions are emotionally draining. I still cry over him from time to time, when the inward accusing voices come to torment me about the loss.

    http://www.beyondtheshadesofgray.org

    • Dean,
      You should read my post about losing my best friend. Here is a link :

      https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/2017/03/06/male-friendship-dies/

      Here are links to podcasts where I told more of the story :

       https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/2017/04/06/yobcast-emotional-dependency-part-1/

       https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/2017/04/20/yobcast-episode-014-emotional-dependency-part-2/

      • Thank you, Marshall. I definitely will!

        • Just read parts 3 and 4 of your friendship with Justin… I agree… Relationships of emotional dependency are horrible! I do believe that was very much an issue initially. But very honestly, I think the friendship became very one-sided in the way that it fell apart in the end. Yes, it hurt terribly, and I did experience a lot of the same feelings you did in the rejection I felt from him… and a cold-hearted rejection it was! He seemed like an entirely different person from who he’d presented himself to be in the years before his rejecting me. Still, you give me plenty more to think about. Much love, brother!

  • Joseph Tanel

    I wish I could hold hands with another man and have a prolonged hug, nothing sexual or sinful. To be honest I hardly am able to be vulnerable around other men including my father and step-father. Is this normal? I feel like I’m missing out…

    • There are lots of different opinions about that, Joseph. Speaking for myself, I’m honest to say that I do desire it and have indeed been enriched by such affection and masculine intimacy, when I’ve experienced it. And I believe the desire we often feel for such things is COMPLETELY normal!

      I think the biblical truth of it all is that the desire for such things should never be allowed to become an idol to us. But the desire for platonic human touch and affection… it is very, very normal, my brother!

      • Joseph Tanel

        Thank you so much for your wisdom as well brother! I will try to open up a little bit where I can!

    • There’s nothing wrong with you, Joseph. Your desires to be held and accepted by other men are good and true. I’ve been blessed to experience these affirmations along life’s winding roads, and I pray you find the same one day. If it’s a sincere desire of your heart, I believe God will eventually honor it. Keep on, brother.

      • Joseph Tanel

        Thank you brother! I hope I find this experience and I thank you for all your support!

    • Joseph, read my comments on this post. I have been blessed with straight and SSA male friends who share extended hugs with me. Some SSA friends will even hold hands platonically. As long as you have good boundaries this affection is a blessing, not a temptation.

      • Joseph Tanel

        Thank you for your advice!! I will definitely look at your comments!

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  • Robert Fleming

    So, I cuddle with other men. Straight guys as a rule. I found that there’s something about holding my hand that I just love. It’s like a way of saying I’m here beside you and I’m for you. Yes, my body still responds sexually, but I believe that’ll pass in time. And like you said, I’d rather live dangerously than isolate. I’d rather thrive. For me personally, I draw the line at you don’t touch my penis and I don’t touch yours. One of my pastors told me a boundary of anything sexual might be safe and I liked it. I believe my body reacting sexually is merely muscle memory and can’t be helped.

    • That’s a good line to draw, Robert. I feel you on the muscle memory thing. Kevin Frye on our blog has written some good stuff about erections and the like.