My best friend was gay

I met my best friend when I was about 6 years old in the first year of primary school. We connected for the usual reasons people connect: something to do with the vibes, something chemical, and perhaps also because we were both from bilingual families and had similar birth dates. He born in December and me in October made us the youngest in the class. We also lived in adjacent villages outside of the capital city Brussels.

Many things separated us while many others brought us together. His family liked their luxury clothes while my mum only bought me some when the old ones were beyond repair. He valued holidays abroad while I never traveled. He didn’t like the outdoors while I spent my time getting dirty at boy scouts, building tree houses and later, skateboarding. He liked neat and tidy, while I was disorganized. He was the furthest thing away from artistic, while I loved to draw and create.

And still, something connected us in an unexplained way. We just got on very well, had fun and never argued. It was the reassuring feeling of a best friend.

We stayed in contact up to the age of 19 or 20. During that time we took several camping holidays together and had some glorious times. Our last parties together were epic, but then I failed my senior year in high school and he moved on to college. I discovered new friends and interests and so did he.

Thinking back on certain periods in his teenage life, it is clear to me now that he was “gay”. Or that he liked men. He had a girlfriends, but sometimes he would also have menfriends. Especially around the ages of 14 to 16, he told me of at least 3 men that he had known. Then in his twenties, he lived with a gay couple for a few months, with whom he got very close. He went back to liking women again and the last I heard he got married to the sister of one of our former classmates, divorced and married for the second time as per his sister whom I saw just a few months ago. (In the same village I referenced earlier in this post)

Whether he is married to a man or woman I have no idea, nor do I particularly care. Just as I never cared who he was seeing, dating or sleeping with when I used to frequent him. It made him no better or worse. No more or less likeable.

The time at which all this happened was well before the Big Social Awakening that led to “middle of the road” people being told they needed to like and support gay people. From a simple awakening, it became a more pro-active position that is noticeable in having to declare our sexual preference on Google My Business or in official work forms. Excess leading to more excess, saying “I don’t care if you are gay” is now be interpreted as “I don’t like that you are gay”, when in reality it really means that I don’t care.

All things considered, whether it was necessary to take action and explain to a certain type of people that gay people deserved to be liked and accepted is most probably “yes”. Why these people viewed gay as a problem in the first place, or to which extent they didn’t like them, or who we are still trying to educate on the matter these days, I have no idea. Wouldn’t it be like launching a big program to tell the population that “bikers” or “karate champions” aren’t bad people? How many more groups of humans need to be introduced to the world?

If we look closely at this educational wave we must suppose several things. First, it must have been so much of a problem created by so many people that something had to be done in order to remind folks that it’s OK to sleep with who you want. Second, they must have supposed that being attracted to someone of your own gender made you a different breed of person whose non-threat to society had to be explained in reassuring terms.

In my innocence, I never considered that being attracted to a man made my friend different in any way. After all, how many minutes in a week did the act of being gay actually represent? Does he shop in a supermarket as a gay person? Does he tie his shoelaces in a gay way? What was it in the sum total of his daily actions that made him “gay”? Sure, he kissed and slept with men. Then what? Are we saying that this action is sufficiently meaningful to justify a whole new social identity?

Perhaps it was the fact of coming up in alternative music scenes that desensitized me to differences. This one had blue hair, that one looked like a freak. It was all just people in the end. Nothing to worry about.

The odd thing about this recent sexual tolerance program is that it demands of the forward-thinking people to think and act as a backward thinking person and embrace their retrograde standards. As if we all had to walk back to the same starting line. “I already thought gay was a non-issue 30 years ago” is not good enough. We must actively profess our support for gay people in the most unambiguous way on social media and in professional contexts.

It might well happen that two colleagues say of me: “Look at Chris, he didn’t say much when we told him Mark was gay. Do you think he has a problem?” “Probably. Maybe we should report him to HR.” The fact is that Chris is past these conservative concerns.

Issues of sexual identity have certainly exploded in the last ten years to the point where some now use it to define themselves as humans. Not so long ago, I was doing a face-to-face lesson with a French teenager who felt it necessary to declare with noticeable pride his very specialized sexual preference. I wanted to say “Yes, that’s very nice but we’re learning English now.” But instead, I smiled and went with a polite “Oh really?” In truth, his remark added nothing to the lesson nor were we on any such topic. In a counterproductive way, the kid marginalized himself by underlining his unique specificity. Instead of considering that we were just two humans speaking, which is the real step forward we should all be aiming at.

In the end, the degree of reality we give to all of this is our own choice. Each of us navigates the world with ideas, some of which were handed down to us, some we developed ourselves. A person might think that “traveling is dangerous” or that “romance is a boat ride in Italy” without clearly knowing why. In the same way, they might have been influenced into believing that sexual politics are high on the scale of important issues. If humans ever start to identify themselves by their historical DNA, this too could become an idea that is projected onto society. Sex is not the real issue, it is rather whatever idea is being held at this moment in time.

I don’t have a though-provoking conclusion to this entry other than the fact that we should be mindful of the ideas we hold as a society. Sexuality should be a non-issue and not the main label under which we define ourselves or others. I don’t play the guitar as a heterosexual, nor do I cook, read, put my underwear on or enjoy a sunny day.

Going too far to the left gets us back to the right. Pushing health concerns too far brings us unhealth. Imposing freedom with too much fervor brings us loss of freedom. Anything in excess creates the opposite effect. Give it at rest. We’re all just people.

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