The following piece is written by “Elliot N”, an anonymous member of Courage International. This is the first of a four-part series on the topic of authentic male friendship.

Part 1

One of the most difficult things for those of us who struggle with same-sex attraction is authentic friendship. In most cases, we crave others’ attention and company. We may have learned how to temper our sensual desires concerning others, but the fact remains that God intended us to be in communion with others and with Him. So how do we do that without stepping over the line as it were, and using others for our purposes, rather than living the natural give-and-take of relationships that God intends. What makes our friendships ‘authentic’?

We first learned about friendships when we were little. We found playmates of our age and gender that were not our brothers or sisters. Maybe they had a toy we didn’t own, or maybe they taught us a game we didn’t know. Suddenly we started calling each other best friends and shared our simple lives with our newfound companions. Life was good when we were around our friends. We did things together that no one else in the world knew about. And we had shared interests. Maybe it was baseball cards or riding bikes and exploring. Our young lives were an adventure, and we added friends we found at school and other social gatherings. Life seemed to be going along just fine. But somewhere along the way, something went wrong.

At a certain point, we began to feel like we didn’t fit in. Maybe our best friend found another best friend. And as time went on, for some strange reason our ‘friends’ started teasing us. What the heck? So, we slowly retreated into our own world and found other friends, maybe even girls – that were more accepting of us and easier to get along with. We started to identify with them, had conversations with them, and learned about their interests.

But all at the same time the boys were still there and still intrigued us. They cursed, spit, and did nasty things that mom and the girls didn’t like. So, we became indignant at their behavior – all the while being attracted to their ‘nastiness’. And the further we distanced ourselves from them, the more they fascinated us.

At a certain point, an invisible wall separated us from our ‘same-gender’ peers. And even though they weren’t our best friends anymore, we remembered the good times when we played army in the woods, rode our bikes, or watched scary movies together. Back then, we didn’t think so much about their appearance or what they wore because we were all so similar and it just didn’t seem to matter. But as time went on, we somehow lost track of those similarities. Then, when we became teenagers and didn’t spend as much time with the guys, we wondered what they did in their spare time, who their friends were, and how their bodies matured. In the locker room, we stole glances when they changed their clothes.

Why that curiosity? Maybe we wanted them to reveal themselves to us anew or vice versa. If we reciprocated, maybe we could reconnect with each other and feel no shame. Maybe the guys could become our besties again.

Fast forward to today. Over the years, those curiosities never faded. And we kept our friendships with the girls, but nothing intimate ever became of those relationships. We continued to be drawn to the guys, and eventually, those attractions became sexualized. Perhaps we tried out the ‘gay lifestyle’ and acted out. But even if we did, those friendships weren’t as fulfilling as we thought they might be. Oftentimes when we acted out – the relationship was over. Nothing in common and then on to the next conquest.

Because of all the past bullying and rejection, our relationships became emotionally superficial and self-centered. We needed something and had to protect ourselves all at the same time. As time went on, we hid in games or hobbies that didn’t require much interaction or connection with guys. But all the while we still wondered what it might be like to be on their side of the tracks.

During that awful period of Junior High and High School, I spent a lot of time avoiding guys. I had only a few friends I felt comfortable with, including some girls. My guy friends were nerdy and I generally kept to myself. It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I discovered that guys genuinely liked me and wanted to be around me. I had to sort of re-learn how to socially connect with guys. My new, more mature friends taught me again how to interact with male peers. I came to terms with my SSA without having lived in the lifestyle, and eventually built relationships with chaste SSA men as well as with straight men. There were some falls and major struggles over the years, but I discovered a great richness in my male friendships.

Read Part 2 here.