By Chris Heide
As an openly gay man, I never thought my best friend would be a heterosexual male. Thankfully, my best friend is just that and it has become one of the most fundamental aspects of my adult life.
Growing up, I was not very close to my father. He was an emotionally distant individual and our relationship was heavily strained for most of my life. At times, I suffered emotional, physical and psychological abuse which resulted in a deep distrust of men. In not so subtle ways, my father made it clear that he was not comfortable with sexuality. These homophobic currents that permeated my childhood, coupled with episodes of masculine bullying during my formative years, left me with an emotional deficit. Fear told me that a healthy, emotionally intimate relationship with another man is shameful. Real men don’t cry, let alone share their intimate and vulnerable feelings with the world.
As a result of this dysfunctional dynamic, the majority of my sustaining friendships were with women. They were safe, non-judgemental relationships that allowed me to express my true self. Until this point, I felt as if I was incapable of developing that kind of platonic relationship with another man. I felt emasculated and broken.
Due to a series of poor choices and unfortunate events, I developed a serious drug addiction. Through the years of my using, I felt numb, disconnected and alone. Often, I would use sex as an attempt to form the intimate bonds that I was desperately seeking to build. Of course, hooking up is not a proper substitute for type of male bonding that I was really wanting.
Once I finally got sober, the early years of my recovery were spend rebuilding my life. I made efforts to develop meaningful relationships with other people. Other than the one close male friend that I had made in treatment, once again, the majority of my relationships were with women. Although I so deeply value these strong and beautiful women in my life, I still felt like someone was missing. I felt like I had created an image for myself as the “gay husband” or “gay BFF”. Tokenism, after a while, takes a toll.
Thankfully, Mike entered the picture. During that period in my life, I made the decision to step outside of my fear; to build meaningful relationships with other men. This was a daunting and terrifying proposal.
Mike and I are two of the most opposite individuals you would ever meet. Mike is a classic “dude”; fashion and pop culture (two of my interests) were of little interest to him. A man of few words, he came by his nickname of “Dirty Mike” honestly. He is a dirty cowboy with a heart of gold.
Our friendship built slowly over the course of many months. At some point, Mike because my accountability partner; basically, we would share our resentments, fears and secrets with each other all for the purpose of bettering ourselves and our lives. This practice required a deep level of trust and vulnerability with another man.
Over time, Mike and I grew to love each other as brothers. People began to expect us to show up to places together. We went on trips together and genuinely developed one of the healthiest relationships of my entire life.
My friendship with Mike has been one of the most surprising blessings. Here is a straight man, who accepts me completely. My sexual preference did not color his ability to love me as if I were a member of his own family. Through our friendship, my misconceptions and prejudices about straight men evaporated. Mike let me indoctrinate him into the cult of Britney Spears, as well as participated in Pride. I was able to be my real self around him and share parts of my identity that I would have hidden in the past. Not only did I realize that I was entirely capable of forming an intimate, platonic bond with another man, but I also came to understand that I was accepted, fully, for my entire person.
A relationship between a gay man and a straight man should not be a novelty, especially in 2017. However, in our society, prejudice and homophobia still exist. It is only when we commence to outgrow fear, that we can truly form meaningful bonds with the people around us. Today I am surrounded by a tribe of stong, loving men of all sexualities. My friendship with Mike has allowed me to mature and develop in unimaginable ways. Hopefully, I have been able to have the same effect on him.
After all, they don’t call it a bromance for nothing.