Straight men have always been scary. They’ve long been “the other,” going all the way back to first grade.
I used to sit with this one girl on the bus, and we’d tent our jackets over our heads and tell stories about the boys in our class. I had regular dreams about one boy in particular, and I never hesitated to share these stories with her like a secret club on that tented bus seat, no boys allowed.
And what an adolescence it would be.
I found my male classmates cute and charming and attractive on the surface, yes, but something beneath their exteriors also beckoned me. Whispered what I wanted to be. Screamed at me what I wasn’t.
Their hobbies were alien to me: video games and action movies and sports on sports on sports.
But also their personalities and proclivities: brash and conniving, speaking without thinking and sneaking pictures of topless women in their jeans.
It all horrified me.
And yet I wanted it, all of it. To fit in with the other boys, yes, but more simply to be. I just wanted to be a man.
I fixated on one particular boy until sixth grade when I changed schools and changed states and changed regions altogether. Even then, I fixated on him. Stalked him online, craving his connection from afar.
To this day, I still have dreams about him, though not as regularly as in years past.
The first straight man to be my friend “had” to be my friend, as he was also my ministry supervisor one summer. He was fantastic. One of the most charming men I’d ever met: a gigantic smile, jokes and stories for days, and just spiritually wise and mature.
He was “the other” for all the right reasons.
If I can be half the straight guy this guy is, I thought, I’ll really be something.
We’re no longer friends, but I’m grateful for what he kickstarted in me that summer. That straight men can be vulnerable and sensitive, too. They can be empathetic and pray for you. They can speak life into you. They can express healthy touch.
However. I’m insane — or at least immature — if I think I can expect a straight man to meet me fully where I am within a single moment, or even a single summer, of knowing me. Emotionally, physically.
Friendship takes time. Takes work.
I was a soul-sucker with this straight guy. Eugene described it in vampiric terms, and I hate this tendency to objectify straight men. To demand so much of his time and touch.
Without my offering him anything back. Not thinking myself comparably masculine or capable.
~ ~ ~
When we started YOB nearly four years ago, I assumed straight people wouldn’t “get” it. Even though our very name called out to them:
Hey, Church, we are your other brothers, too. We’re not just in the gay bars and Pride parades and closets. We’re sitting right beside you in the pews.
But to actually hear from straight people who encounter our website? Who read our blogs. Who listen to our podcasts. Who treat me to coffee and lunch. Who share their story with me.
Pastors, moms, dads, fellow singles, and fellow strugglers. New friends.
What a thing this has been — both for YOB at large and for me personally.
In an ironic way, this community for sexual minorities has contributed to my growth as a man, a man among men, a man among straight men. Creating this counter-culture of masculine vulnerability, I’ve been blessed by straight men confiding some of their deepest secrets with me.
We may not share the same tastes for sports and media consumption, but we still share a common masculine heart. One fraught with hauntingly familiar masculine thorns.
Lust. Insecurity. Anxiety. Crippling fear.
Am I enough?
My first instinct remains to feel separate from my straight friends, even as I’ve befriended several such men over the last couple years.
I’m not sure if this instinct will ever completely go away, but the instinct isn’t as immediate anymore. Some days are better — or worse — than others.
But the more intentional I am. The more I text straight guys. The more I call them. The more I meet with them. The more we share vulnerably and laugh heartily. The less I believe I’m inferior and not worth befriending . . .
I don’t feel quite as alien anymore. Don’t feel as obsessive about time and touch, like peering over fences, back when these men were so foreign, so alluring, so prone to idolizing.
Yeah, I still want their time and touch. Yes, I still have to fight the urge to idolize them.
But they’re people, not calories. Not things to be consumed for my benefit.
We’re souls to be shared. Masculine souls with masculine hearts and masculine bodies.
And gosh are they beautiful. From their surface to their soul, men are just beautiful.
Have you struggled to connect with straight men? How have you grown in these relationships? Are you a straight person who has been impacted by YOB?