Friends in Straight Places

One of my biggest fears of coming out as a gay man was the difference in the way I thought I’d be treated, especially by straight men. For the longest time, I was frightened by most of the heterosexual men in my life. I had no real reason to feel this way – it was more of a dangerous generalization I needed to work out.

The men in my strictly Catholic and machismo-fueled Filipino family were not always the most supportive role models for someone unconsciously searching for an ally. The straight guys in my school also did nothing to set my worrisome mind at ease, and while they generally left me alone, I saw the way they taunted others with the f-word. Being a small, slight boy, I had nothing to protect me should the attacks come my way.

Oddly enough, it would be a few straight men who emboldened me with the confidence to come out. In the summer of 1997, I was hanging out with Matt and Greg at Structure (the hetero anomalies of my retail world) and Chris in California (the metro anomaly of the rest of the world) – and they accepted me for who I was. My being gay wasn’t a big deal to them, they weren’t uncomfortably curious about any of it, and they let me be myself without judgment, derision, or ridicule. They also had my back, and said as much on several occasions (or I never would have known). They became, over the course of that summer, my closest friends at a time when I was just beginning to come out. Instead of any overt rainbow-flag-waving show of support, they offered their friendship ~ a far more powerful and potent talisman against feelings of inequality.

The importance of straight allies cannot be underestimated. Those men opened my own mind, broadening my wary views on the world, and paved the way for my friendships with other straight men, like Skip and Joe and Wally– some of my closest straight-guy friends, whom I met through their wives and sisters, but who have become friends in their own right. Whether they know it or not, they are my straight allies, and in offering unconditional friendship in return, they give me hope that one day being gay will be a complete non-issue, a simple matter-of-fact facet of one’s life, and a rather minor one at that. I see it in the way they raise their children, and as hard and jaded as I may be, it still inspires a vision of a better world to come.

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