Dear Gay and Straight Guys,
I have a really hard time making and keeping friends. Living in an army town, people come and go and there's not much I can do about it but enjoy the friendships while they last. Thing is, most of my friends are straight guys. I don't really seem to get along with gay guys and women all that much, I don't know why. I just seem more comfortable hanging with straight guys, perhaps because the gay guys and women in my area seem to treat me more like competition rather than a potential friend and I have too low a self-esteem to be around that kind of competitiveness. I enjoy my straight guy friends because there's no competition there. I can just be me and that's good enough for them.
But lately, every straight guy I've had gotten close to, there seems to be some sort of crossing of boundaries. Like my current friends, two married men I usually hang together with on weekends. From day one there was some flirting from their end, even before I came out to them. It started out as nicknames like "Pretty Ricky" and "Pretty Boy" which I sharply denied, which only encouraged them to escalate to see how far they could push my buttons. Eventually it turned to putting their foot on my leg while sitting on the couch or trying to engage me into wrestling match.
For example, one just picked me off the couch out of the blue and but me in his lap and held me close as if I was some sort of baby. Later on that same night, he had feigned sleeping in his son's room and when his wife told me to go in and wake him up, he pulled me into the bed with him and wrestled me to floor. Then went back to "sleep" with me still in a choker hold. I had to tell HIM, a straight guy, that that was too much male physical contact for me, a gay guy. And this was the first day I met him, within minutes of him learning I was gay.
At first I didn't really have a problem with it. I've had this stuff happen to me before. In college I hung out with a lot of frat guys who did the same thing. I didn't really take it as sexual, more as immature and mildly annoying. Besides they mostly did it when their wives were around so it seemed like they were showing off to get a reaction from their wives, who often just ignored it. Also I just took it as their way of showing me they were comfortable with my sexuality. I probably would have preferred a less physical way of showing me this but I guess that's just how their personality's are.
It started being a problem when the touching became more frequent and public and often times both of them were touching me at the same time which caused some anxiety in me. I tried telling them to stop but they just laugh and keep doing it. It's not so much that they're touching me in any sexual way, it's more so it's just that they're invading my personal space. It's like I'm some sort of "pet" to them or a toy. In fact, the way they touch me is very much in the same way they treat their dogs. It's the very opposite of sexual and more rough and incredibly annoying.
I guess that's my fault for being inconsistent with them on what my boundaries are. I've only known them less than a month and already I'm comfortable enough with them to eat from the same plates as them and drink from the same beer cans. They also act inconsistently with me as well. One day I can make a joke about how good I am at sucking dick and they think its hilarious. Then next week and make a similar joke and they think it's gross and start acting homophobic like I'm trying to come on to them. Other times they can be touching me but when I tickle them or touch them back they push me away. There's lines being crossed here but since there's inconsistency on both sides on where the lines are, I'm left confused and frustrated and there are days I intentionally try to avoid them because I honestly don't know how they expect me to act around them.
Thing is though, like I mentioned earlier, I don't make friends easily so I don't want to burn any bridges with what little friends I do have. These guys seem to want me around for the long haul and I'd love to have friends that stick around for years instead of a few months. But I don't know where to begin with these two. What should I do? I don't want to lose what could be the only two friends I might have right now.
GAY GUY RESPONDS:
I felt sad after reading your post. Sad because these guys are not appreciating you, sad because you aren't setting good boundaries, and sad because you don't seem to be able to make friends with other gay men.
Given what you've told me, your two buds are not really buds.
The motivation for their behavior is really weird. I haven't wrestled with a guy since my 6th grade gym class. I don't do those things with Straight Guy, my other straight male friend, or even my gay male friends. I feel like your "friends" are trying to goad you into some kind of reaction or drama. That's not how friends behave.
I'm not a therapist, but I've been in therapy and receive good advice from friends who care about me. So here's my somewhat educated opinion: You are in a bad repetitive cycle. First the frat guys, now these guys. They are not, may I repeat not, showing you that they are comfortable with your sexuality. I don't know what they are trying to show you, but it is not respect.
Please start setting boundaries today. And respect yourself enough to carry through on them. Tell your friends that their behavior is not respectful, that they are not listening to you, and that the behavior must end. Then mean it. If they don't get it and continue to treat you like a child or a pet, move to the other side of the room. Or, better, go home. Trust me, being home by yourself is better for your ego than being harassed.
Confused and frustrated: Here's a starting point. No tales of blow jobs, no tickling, no sharing beer cans. This is not normal behavior for adults. In short, you are part of the problem.
I'm not saying to dump these friends, but I am urging you to set boundaries, say what your boundaries are, then mean it. If you have trouble meaning it, I urge some therapy. You are getting something weird out of this, and it needs to end for everyone.
I'd like to know why you have trouble making and keeping gay male friends because they see you as 'competition.' I don't really know what you mean. Competition for what? For other men? For attention? One thing I have learned along the road is that when you start seeing relationships in competitive terms, everyone loses. (Yes, I used 'loses' deliberately to make my point.)
Please work on the self-esteem issue and give gay men more chances. You might need to say, "Wow. I'm feeling that we are in competition and I don't want that. What do you think is going on here? How are you seeing me?" It'll be scary, but even if they can't respond in the way you want them to, saying how you feel is always good. And, go through the phone book and find a gay club, social group, or support group. Above all, please start taking better care of yourself.
Stay in touch.
STRAIGHT GUY RESPONDS:
Face it, dude, you are being harassed. But I have to agree that you're doing a horrible job of setting boundaries. Plus, your social group's hormones are out of whack. Wrestling in front of their wives, flirty tickling, and oral sex gigglefests? Get a grip.
My harsh assessment? You can't trust your friends, and they don't seem to respect you. Without trust and respect, what kind of friendship do you have? My best advice is to start over. A shared beer can is not a benchmark of a successful relationship. How about you volunteer, play a sport, or take an art class? Don't get stuck. Keep meeting new people.
You have a lot of work to do, and if GG hasn't already recommended therapy, I will. Other gay guys and straight women should not be viewed as competition (unless you really are after straight guys, hmmmm). Many straight guys are perfectly nice, but many are not, and, in general, confused gay guys shouldn't rely on frat-boy-types as their only social connection.
Of course you should "be you." But I don't think you're very comfortable with yourself yet, and these guys are exploiting all of that insecurity. My worst fear is that this could end up in the kind of humiliating episode that causes permanent emotional damage. Just a hunch, but any father/brother issues for you to work out?
Sounds like you feel you don't have many options. But what are your long-term plans? I don't think it's a coincidence that many gay guys leave their small town upbringing to find acceptance in the big cities. Others don't and are probably fine, but I'll bet they find a way to build a better network than you have. If you have to choose between being a loner or a victim, then that's an easy choice.
Get centered, protect yourself, and keep meeting new people. The long-term will take care of itself. We're rooting for you.