Friday, August 14, 2009

Email from a young guy in love with another guy

About a week ago, a young American guy sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I recently came across your blog in a rather long and arduous search for any advice on this topic. A little click here and there found something vaguely helpful, but yours kept coming up in the Google searches, and with a little snooping around (I hope you don't mind), I think you might have the answers.

The short version of this is that I've got a male friend that as far as everyone knows is straight. However, even in public, he is so, 'sweet', I guess is the word. We cuddle and play around like we're a gay couple. Trouble is for one, I'm bisexual. Two, I have feelings for him. For the sake of discussion, we'll call him Windex.

To set up context, I think I should explain. Me, I'm 19 and I live in the US. I'm Asian and live in an Asian/Catholic household. Coming out is not an option here, as I would suspect I would be kicked out of the house unceremoniously and in this financial crisis, its just not feasible to survive, let alone finish my degree. Since 14, I realized I wasn't like the other boys in class and figured I was gay: several bad but typical high school relationships with both girls and guys later tells me I'm bi, but I've got no luck whatsoever. Since then, I know I've become rather more cynical and introverted. Depression may have hit a few months ago. Only a few people know I'm bi. Being selective in who has to know this has been a mantra for the past god knows how long.

Windex, he's cute. Cuter than me, Asian as well, tall, and all the girls love him. I know somewhere out there, someone is going to scream 'twink!' but he's actually quite intelligent and funny, and he's not as effeminate as he dresses or looks. Think of one of those effeminate anime characters and you'd get the idea. I'm rather average (I let myself go because I gave up the whole relationship game), shorter and stockier, and in general, I don't think I really sell the idea that I'm bi or gay in the way I act or dress. The contrast can be stark. I listen to progressive and technical death metal, Windex likes pop punk and R'n'B.

But I've confided in Windex many instances of 'drama' and he's always been there as a good friend and supportive whenever we see each other (we really only see each other once or twice a week, as we live in two completely different cities). I did confess to a mutual friend that I had feelings for Windex, but he stated quite frankly that Windex was straight. I know Windex has had girlfriends in the past, and still may be seeking female companionship. Windex only knows that I've had girlfriends in the past, other members of this inner circle know I've had partners of both genders.

To be honest, I don't really know what's going on here. I've often wondered if my feelings for him are just because I've been in and out of relationships so often that anything even remotely resembling that kind of intimacy is like a board I'm clinging to in a sea of uncertainty. I wonder how I can find out if he's open to a homosexual relationship, or even gay/bi to begin with. Then, I don't know how to do this when he's leaving to another university in a couple months. I wouldn't want to kill our friendship the way it is now, but sometimes I wonder if that's because I like this fake one we've created.

If anything is worth striving for, it isn't easy to obtain. But I think I've caught myself in an impossible situation.

Thanks for your time, and great blog, by the way, GB

When I read this email, several things that this reader says made me think that he's got some issues that need resolving, apart from the situation with his friend Windex. For example, he says "Depression may have hit a few months ago", and then "I let myself go because I gave up the whole relationship game". If it is depression, perhaps mixed in with a problem relating to his self-confidence, then somehow he needs to find a way to address it. My ex-boyfriend S has a serious depressive streak in him. In his case getting him to focus on keeping busy, especially with things that he enjoys, seems to help. But I'm not sure what will work for this reader. Of course there are always pills, but they can create a dependency so they're probably best kept as a last resort for serious cases.

As this reader suggests, it also sounds as though he's clinging onto this friendship as some sort of fake relationship. In any case, I think reaching some sort of resolution of the situation with Windex would definitely help the reader move on, and perhaps help him make progress with his general mental state as well.

Given that some of the people in the reader's inner circle of friends already know that he's bisexual, it strikes me that the simplest way forward is to let Windex know too. Of course, I'm not suggesting that the reader says "I like guys and I fancy you"! Instead he should find a way of casually introducing his sexuality into a private conversation with Windex in a neutral, 'matter-of-fact' way, and see what reaction he gets. I would hope that, even if Windex doesn't already know about this reader's sexual preferences, then they'll still be good friends afterwards. This is also a good thing to do because sharing that kind of secret with someone shows trust, and hence can deepen the friendship.

In terms of whether any kind of boy-friendship is possible between the reader and Windex, I think that will depend very much on Windex's reaction to the news that the reader is bisexual. Another good thing about this plan is that it makes it very natural for the reader to ask Windex about his sexuality, perhaps as part of the same conversation, or perhaps on another occasion. If he says that he's had an interest in guys, or that he's a bit curious, then that would be an encouraging sign for the reader. But if just talks about girls, then trying to take the matter further would almost certainly be a mistake.

It seems likely to me that the reader hasn't yet told Windex about his sexuality in case Windex reacts badly to the news. If that were to happen, then the reader wouldn't be able to pretend that he's got this fake relationship with Windex any more. However, this reason for not telling Windex doesn't really make sense. If a friend can't handle that kind of news that he's not a friend worth having, and in reality the two of them only have a friendship, not a relationship.

However Windex reacts to the news, the unfortunate reality is that if he's moving to another university which is a long way from where the reader will be living, there's probably little realistic prospect of any deep relationship developing between the two of them. None the less, as I said earlier, I still think it would be good for the reader to move things forward with Windex along the lines that I've suggested. Otherwise the reader will always be thinking "What-if ..."!

Do any other readers have any thought about this situation?


Snoskred said...

I do have one thought re the anti-depressants.

Depression is not something that will go away if you cheer yourself up a bit - the chemicals in your brain are out of whack. It might happen for many reasons.

I know a lot of people try to steer clear of the drugs but to me this is pure insanity. Would anyone recommend to a diabetic that they steer clear of insulin? Of course not, because if they do not get the insulin they need, they will die. The same thing can happen with depression - except in that case it is usually people getting so down they take their own lives. :(

I strongly recommend seeing a doctor and asking for the anti-depressants. I would also suggest trying to find a good counselor to talk to about all this. I know there are places in the US where you can see a counselor for free or very low cost as I have a friend in the US who is doing that. Probably the doctor might know who to refer them to.

Anyway, this is a bit of a hot button with me, so apologies for the long comment. ;) I spent two long years in the dark hole of depression due to not seeking treatment, so I hate to see other people heading that way. :(

Superchilled said...

When I was a student I stayed on campus at one of the colleges at Sydney Uni. There was another guy from my year at med school also at the college and we spent loads of time together. Ended up doing pretty much everything together, he was an elite swimmer before uni and incredibly bright. I wasn't sure about my sexuality at the time, but did find myself attracted to him. I was pretty sure he was straight and when he started mentioning other people who were gay that we knew, I thought it was just conversational, but was a little uncomfortable dealing with it all. I didn't realise at the time he was feeling the waters. And if I had reacted differently I think we may have actually turned a whole different corner.

We kind of drifted apart around then, and it was much later that I found out he too was gay.

I agree with your suggestion GB that your reader come out about his bisexuality. I know if this were the case for me years back now, if he was honest and open with me about things then I'd have been entirely different in my reaction. If 'Windex' has been connecting in the way it seems with your reader, it's highly likely he's not entirely straight either. While he may not be comfortable talking about sexuality he may certainly be feeling differently.

It seems to me that if he doesn't reciprocate your reader's feelings, he'll at least respect them. Having him as a confidante wouldn't be a bad thing now would it?

Unknown said...

I think being honest and open about who you are (step by step, not telling the world you are gay in one day of course) will ultimately solve this problem.

Last year after I came out to my parents I decided to be more open about myself. Right after that I interned in a PR firm, and there was another intern I was really attracted to. He seemed pretty "straight" and even a little bit homophobic based on his comments about gays. I was, on the other hand, pretty open about my sexual orientation when other people asked. Surprisingly enough, that intern actually came out to me at the end of internship and told me that he has been living "double life" for years. Moral of the story, just be more open and honest about who you are, and you will be fine.

and also, the reader shall not be too sad if his friend is not gay. I was in the exact situation as him last year (I clicked well with that intern, and was really wondering wether he is gay or not for months). If things are not exactly like you wish for, just let it be. There are plenty of fish in the pool ;)

Good luck!