Dear Straight People,
If Instagram is to be believed, gay friendship is mostly muscled, tanned men smiling topless on the beach or in a club surrounded by an armour of hashtags.
I figured that explained my struggle. I am shy, ugly and vegan, all of which pose a serious threat to anyone wanting to gain likes with the likes of #gaycute #gayhunk #gayhot. Moving through this glossed world in this wretched body made me feel like I was worthless; but moving in more intellectual crowds still made me feel like my brain and thoughts meant nothing so long as I had the same offensive face.
For a long time, I believed it was only me who was in this predicament, and that my biggest failing was my appearance.
According to LGBT counsellor Clinton Power, there are in fact many gay men who find it hard to make friends and suffer from “deep loneliness and isolation.” Sadly, these feelings of despair are not limited to those who are closeted or in remote areas.
“There is enormous discrimination and judgment within the gay community itself. This is a sad reality because many gay men grew up being bullied and discriminated in some way,” says Clinton.
“There is a strong cultural pressure to have a muscled gym body and not fitting into this stereotype can lead to feelings of shame and self-loathing for some men. The reality is many ‘A gays’ (good-looking and gym-fit men) tend to form cliques with similar men and tend to exclude men who don’t fit their physical type.”
But for every A, there are at least twice as many Ps, Qs and Rs.
In my bedroom, I have journal after journal filled with pages of yearning for people who disappeared, never to return, to come back or at least explain why they left. My words for all the others read a lot like heartbreak, even though they were written in memory of gay men I’d never so much as kissed.
I’ve spent my whole adult life trying to make friends with other gays, only to feel just as alone and outcast as I did as a bookish thirteen-year-old in a sport-obsessed, country high school. No one likes being rejected, but it’s certainly harder when the door is closed by somebody who promised you that they aren’t judgemental, and pride themselves on escaping the vexatious shallow stereotypes that have long plagued, and to some extent been perpetuated by, the gay community.
Perhaps it’s because gay men have long had to look to the internet to meet anyone that we romanticise — those behind the screen, or app — and hope that they might bring us the love we crave. Sometimes, that’s exactly what happens; other times, it falls flat. In offering my friendship, I have always felt like the beggar woman from Beauty and the Beast, pleading whoever opens the door to look beyond the gnarled flesh and rags and not turn me away dismissively once they find a lover.
But this isn’t a sad story, not entirely. After a journey of Tolkien proportions, I managed to find — and keep — two gay friends. If I wasn’t an optimist, I might have used adverbs like “just” or “only” — instead I just hope to know them for the rest of my life. In the beginning, I feared these friendships may evaporate or wear away into threadbare rag. Time has taught me to expect everything and nothing, and simply to enjoy the times we are together.
The desire to love and be loved is unequivocally paramount to human existence. But the belief that romantic relationships are the only ones worth fostering is a dangerous delusion that can only make the lonely even more alone.
So if there is anything I hope average-looking gay men can take from my article, it’s to cherish the relationships we already have instead of hankering after the ones we don’t.
This is an edited version, which was originally published in its entirety here
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