As a straight man who has several close gay male friends, I have found that a sense of humor from both parties is essential to cutting through the differences that could be somewhat awkward, particularly if one or both men take each other too seriously. I have given my gay friends abuse for not knowing anything about football, and they have busted me for my total inadequacy in.....the kitchen (what did you THINK I was going to say?).
The kinship between gay men and straight women is familiar to the point of cliché (see: “Sex and the City,” “Will and Grace,” Kathy Griffin’s audience, etc.), but friendships between gay and straight men have barely registered on the pop culture radar, perhaps because they resist easy classification. For every sweeping statement one can make about such friendships, there is a real-life counter example to undermine the stereotypes. And as with all friendships, no two are exactly alike.
But as America’s openly gay minority becomes more visibly interwoven into society — a 2007 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 4 out of 10 respondents had a close friend or family member who was a gay man or a lesbian — the straight world becomes more aware of the gay world. Although male friends of opposite orientations can face formidable obstacles — sexuality, language, peer pressure, inequality — there seems to be more mutual appreciation and common ground.
“The younger generation understands the spectrum and fluidity of sexuality much more than generations of the past,” said Tom Bourdon, director of the Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual, Transgender Center at Tufts University. “Most liberal-minded straight
guys today could say they have gay friends, and people wouldn’t bat an eye.”
Pop culture has also been picking up on this, serving up gay characters who have broken out of old stereotypes. In “I Love You, Man,” Andy Samberg plays
a fist-bumping sports nut who is gay but makes the straight man, Paul Rudd, look
prissy. On “The Sarah Silverman Program,” the gay couple acts so pathologically
straight that they express their feelings with lines like, “I’m totally gay for you, dude,” between bong hits.
Still, as Billy Crystal remarked in “When Harry Met Sally,” it’s difficult for men and women to be friends because “the sex part always gets in the way.” The same can be true between gay and straight men — only it gets way more complicated.
The most important factor I have found, though, is mutual respect. As I had the opportunity to share in a room full of gay men at The Evangelical Network's recent conference, I have the deepest respect for them to plow through the pain and abuse they have taken, emotionally and sometime physically, and still found their way to God, to love and be loved by Him. The commonality of Christian faith can get through a LOT of barriers to a strong, healthy relationship.