Opinion: Why Gay Men Need Straight Friends Too

Opinion: Why Gay Men Need Straight Friends Too

We often hear that straight people need educating about what’s going on in the LGBT community. There’s a constant narrative about what we can do to widen our heteronormative society’s view of what it means to be gay, bi or trans today.

We march in Pride parades, write articles and talk on the TV to heighten awareness about issues that are close to our hearts.

But has this relationship between the LGBT community and wider society become too much of a one-way street? I think there’s also something to be said for LGBT people being open to the experiences of straight people, and that starts by making more straight friends.

When you walk into a room for the first time, be it during your first day at work or at a party, you instantly look for people who mirror your interests or experiences.

It’s only natural that we’re drawn to people who are similar to us; having something in common allows us to bridge ourselves with others.

For LGBT people, walking into a space for the first time can be a daunting experience, especially if we’ve been through rejection and discrimination during our lives. So perhaps, it’s unsurprising that we’re drawn to those who share a common identity, because they’re more readily equipped to empathize with our experiences. As somebody who was bullied at school, I think there’s always something at the back of my mind telling me to be careful when meeting new people or entering a new environment.

If you’ve spent a prolonged period of time being told that you’re different or wrong, then that’s bound to have some impact on you later on in life.

I attended a boys’ school, so the likelihood was that I’d make straight male friends. It’s thanks to them and the straight friends I have today that I’m able to brush aside this notion that straight men have nothing to teach us.

I think it’s lazy to simply put straight men in the homophobic pile, because the truth is most of them aren’t homophobic. They may not always get it right when it comes to discussing LGBT topics, yet that doesn’t mean they’re not open to learning and empathy. Perhaps we too could share a similar level of understanding for them, by opening our minds to finding out more about how they view the world and the challenges they may have faced.

Straight men are wading their way through so-called gender norms, just like we are. Am I saying straight men are having a tougher time than LGBT people? Of course not.

Although, I don’t think it should be some sort of competition. There’s no getting away from the fact that straight men are automatically born with privilege when compared with other groups in society, but that doesn’t mean they’re not also attempting to navigate social pressures around gender.

Toxic masculinity is something that is often voiced when discussing men’s mental health. I know from straight male friends who have been through challenges with their mental health, that societal norms dictating gender are one of the main factors for them to have not sought support earlier.

However, it’s not just mental health that gets a bashing from masculinity. Feeling pressured into going down a certain ‘acceptable’ career path can also be something that straight men might feel. Another friend of mine spoke to me about his regret of choosing his career, having swerved away from his ‘dream’ job in favour of a more male-dominated workplace.

Our relationship with straight men needs to continue in the form of a discussion, rather than a monologue about all the things they need to do for the LGBT community. We need to be having more discussions about how the LGBT community and wider society view different things, with friendships being an ideal way to explore this.

Only then can we truly begin to see a shift in attitudes around equality and inclusivity for everyone in society, irrespective of their sexuality or gender identity.

[Originally published on Attitude]

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12 Comments

  1. Keredim
    October 23, 07:43 Reply

    “I think it’s lazy to simply put straight men in the homophobic pile, because the truth is most of them aren’t homophobic…..”

    Oh how I love these articles that are so well tuned to all the possible demographics…

    Imagine sashaying up to a group of bus conductors, you just observed wolf-whistling a nubile girl at Oshodi and asking them their thoughts on LGBT issues?😏

    • DeadlyDarius
      October 23, 09:28 Reply

      LOL!

      Abi oh. Inukwa most are not homophobic. Wonderful. Why so much resistance to basic human rights for the community in Nigeria then?

  2. DeadlyDarius
    October 23, 09:34 Reply

    This is like saying people need to see and observe chickens everywhere to appreciate how much these flightless birds have changed our lives since being domesticated.

    In other words, I’m sure there are some corners of the planet with no hens and cockerels waddling about….but I wouldn’t put it as a burning need. Most hetero guys come in contact with the LGBT community everyday. Why they don’t have gay friends is simple: most should look at a mirror and listen to themselves talk for once.

  3. Arinze
    October 23, 10:46 Reply

    Lol, which kind yeye talk be this one? First, we don’t need straight friends–we automatically have them: Those folks are too many to ignore. But even if we didn’t have any, that doesn’t mean we do not know what’s happening to straight people. From childhood we have been (often unwilling) witnesses of their drama, and this will continue until we die. They are the ones who need to understand us, our struggles, who need to go out of their way to make friends who are not like them, or, rather, make their often toxic space comfortable for the queer friends they already have, molost times unknown to them, even.

    These kinds of opinions are deceptively dangerous, in that they claim to be seeking a middle ground, but what they are actually doing is perpetuating a certain kind of falsehood. I promised myself that I’m done with anything involving heterosexuals and our community, but it seems one can’t just catch a break.

  4. Francis
    October 23, 15:29 Reply

    What next,Downtrodden women should empathize with men abi? Mscheeew

  5. Andy
    October 23, 16:35 Reply

    Why does this sound like the gay equivalent of a ‘pickme’ we know how pickmes are the weakest links in the women’s liberation movement,anyways this doesn’t sound feasible for a Nigerian gay men whom seeks optimum health mentally

  6. Patrick
    October 24, 03:27 Reply

    Actually, what I need right now are gay friends, not straight ones whom I have had all my life.
    I think this article was badly thought out.

  7. Eddie
    October 24, 08:16 Reply

    Straight guys and their wahala!? Nope! If you’ve had them as friends, you’d know how toxic they can be… I’m done being the butt of every joke and nasty comment… Looking for like minded friends now abeg

  8. Anon
    October 24, 17:39 Reply

    Coincidentally, my bestie is straight and he knows I’m gay.

  9. MagDiva
    October 24, 19:44 Reply

    I think this topic meant to read “Why straight men need gay friends”

  10. Rainbow Nova
    February 02, 11:08 Reply

    Okay okay okay Imma be real straight up and blunt about this. I was actually unnerved by the title when I first saw it and reading the related article just made me even more upset.
    First of all, you don’t ”need” anyone unless you choose to. There is no law or obligation for anyone whether straight, gay, bisexual etc to need anyone except they choose to.
    Secondly, ain’t no one (who’s mature and sensible) makes important relationships such as friendships with people you don’t feel comfortable or safe around all in the name of tolerance and being good people. I for one will never sacrifice my mental, psychological health for any toxic person whatever their sexuality or sexual orientation. The decision to build such crucial connections in life requires more than just social or societal norms of human conduct but a personal reflection of what one wants from such a sincere beautiful relationship.
    Now lastly, this might seem one-sided but it’s as real as real is going to be. Queer people have been enduring, tolerating and treating straight people as well as their unnerving sense of overwhelmingly imposed heteronormativity since they cried as babies and so to state that for some ”so-called greater good” reason, we choose to sacrifice our peace of mind and security to build toxic relationships with little to no assurance of healing homophobia or enlightenment of extremely bigoted views is rather selfish and insensitive.
    No one deserves the pain and heartache we endure yet we do not cry out, we fight and we rise above it all always.

    I hope anyone who agrees with this article understands the law of karma and applies it readily in reverse to the writer’s perspective enough to ask that ”If straight people would walk a day in our shoes, to deal with all the important emotional, mental and psychological decisions we have to make each day, enough to still forgive, accept, love, endure and tolerate the ignorant rejection and unwanted hate we receive daily by hypocritical and selfish people then surely would they agree that they need to befriend those people under the terms and conditions the writer so generously entailed?”

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