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Dare to Ask: Why are straight men wary about having gay male friends?

By Phillip Milano


Why do straight men think they can be “just friends” with a woman but can’t with a gay man?

Duane, gay, black, Washington, D.C.


They don’t want to be labeled gay. My boyfriend makes faces or groans when I talk about gay marriage and equal rights. He admits he has no problem with gay people but is so accustomed to living up to the standards that men can only be manly that he automatically makes expressions even though he doesn’t mean to. — Shaina, Fort Worth

Men are thought to lack sexual self-control. Homosexuality is considered abnormal, and to too many people is evidence of even less self-control. You’ll notice how homosexuality is too often equated with pedophilia, because if you would do something as crazy as [being gay] you’re probably crazy enough to [be a pedophile] — and in the end crazy enough to pursue a heterosexual man even though he’s not interested. — Omelio, 28, Philadelphia

The majority of people don’t believe homosexuality is abnormal, and most know it has nothing to do with pedophilia. Psychologists point to insecurities about one’s own sexuality as the reason some people are uncomfortable around gays. — Dot, Los Angeles

Expert says

All straight guys have had close gay male friends. Sure, you were in third grade together and neither of you knew it, but own it now. In a pinch you can use it to sound cultivated and stuff.

As adults, though, too many hetero men are still uncomfortable getting friendly — er, bonding — with a gay dude, said Jim Sullivan (jimsullivancoaching.com), a relationship coach and author of “Boyfriend 101: A Gay Guy’s Guide to Dating, Romance and Finding True Love.”

“Imagine … what it’s like for a straight man to deal with the possibility he might be perceived as less of a man if he’s hanging out with a gay man, or that he might be [perceived as] gay?”

Sullivan said straight men under 30 tend to get less bent out of shape over befriending someone gay. And any man who’s around a gay guy long enough often can be softened up. In his therapy work that has involved intensive weekend group sessions, often straight men come away open to friendship, reaching a point where they see that “Jim Sullivan is just a guy who wants love, has affections, fears.”

His advice to wary straight men is to just go with the flow — and not be nervous about a “come-on.”

“If there ever was some inappropriate action or flirting, just say ‘I’m not interested, I just want to be friends.’ … Don’t broach the topic unless he makes an overture. Otherwise, if you say, ‘Well I want to be friends but I think you’ll come on to me’ … what arrogance!”

And gay guys: Don’t focus on your “gayness” all the time, he said. Think about what you may have in common with a straight man — whether it’s politics, choice of music or, in Sullivan’s case, a passion for basketball and Irish culture.

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