More Than Just Friends

Carta-a-un-amigo

More Than Just Friends

Someone told me one night that I write because it’s how I come to understand things.  That through my writing I come to terms with things that once tormented me or what continues to torment, perplex or inspire me to journey inward.  I make sense of these things through writing when I can’t put the puzzle pieces together in my head by just thinking about them.  He said that I don’t write so that I can explain things to other people and tell them who I am, I write so that I can come to know myself.

His words struck me sharply.  They were absolutely true and I have never forgotten that night, a lot of truths were told between us.

However, this writing isn’t about that truth, or any of the other truths that were brought out into the open that night.  This writing isn’t even about that night or even really about that guy.

I can’t claim to know why human beings are drawn to each other.  I don’t know what really causes us to be attracted to certain people or even what things we collectively look for as a species in one another.

I’m not sure if I can even explain what attracts me to certain people.  Though, I have on numerous occasions attempted to figure it out and have tried to dissect it all in my writing.  But those were just personable things, physical features and character traits that caused me to be drawn to individuals.

I’d like to know what causes me to be drawn to a broader spectrum of people, more accurately particular genders.

When I was younger I was drawn to certain girls that I found both physically attractive in the sense that I thought they were pretty and who’s personalities I found favorable.

Like any male, I was also drawn to other males.  Friends.  Guys to talk to, relate to, have fun with, laugh and joke around with, pick on each other, normal guy stuff.

These are things all kids go through and experience.  But at some point everything changed and I became consciously aware of this change.  A change in perception and desire.

At around eleven years old I began to see things differently, I began to feel differently about people.  I still liked girls as friends, but it wasn’t just friends.  There was something else there.  I could feel it, proverbially in my heart.

I liked their attention, I liked spending time with them and talking to them and I wanted to be closer to them.  I became jealous when the girls I liked spent time with other guys.

By all accounts that part was entirely average.  Puberty causes physiological changes, charged by chemical changes in body and mind.

For me those changes didn’t just end there.  The way I saw and felt about some males also changed.  Sure, I still saw some of them as friends who I could spend time with and talk to, joke around with.  However, there were other males that I found myself drawn to in ways that I knew were not normal.

I started to notice things in guys such as attractiveness.  I knew whether or not another male was physically good looking.  For the most part, I have always felt like this was normal for all guys.  Despite guys being unwilling to acknowledge the attractiveness of each other, most males, if not all, are fully capable and fully aware of how attractive each other are, regardless of orientation.  I think it’s something that comes into play in knowing whether or not another male is a threat in competition for females or whomever they have feelings towards.

What pushed me beyond that level of new normalcy was that I didn’t just notice how attractive they were, I wasn’t just interested in hanging out with them because I felt like it would increase my chances of being noticed by a girl.  No, I was drawn to them because I wanted to become more than friends with them, I wanted to know everything about them, become best friends, even become physically familiar with each other.

You see, at eleven years old, I wondered what their guy parts looked like.  Not because I wondered whether or not I measured up, but because I was turned on by it.  It excited me to think about another guy naked.  When we looked at playboy magazines and the other guys got all worked up about the naked girls, I didn’t care about the girls anymore, I was way more curious about finding naked pictures of guys.

It wasn’t just physical lust or shameful curiosity and I only say shameful because back then I was incredibly embarrassed and ashamed that I had those feelings.  I may have been eleven, but I knew it was not normal.  I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I knew it wasn’t something the other guys around me were going through and experiencing.  I felt like I was all alone in my thoughts and feelings.

Even though I spent the next eleven years of my life hiding and trying my hardest to pretend that I didn’t have an abnormal interest in other guys, those feelings didn’t just vanish from my mind because I wanted them to.  I had to fight them every single day, sometimes I faltered, but who could hold it against me, I was fighting a war that I had no chance of ever winning.

Despite the unending curiosity towards certain guys, I carried on.  Luckily for me, I still had an interest in girls.  They still made me feel certain things and even though my raging hormones didn’t make me overrun with the desire to see them naked, I still wanted their attention.

Though I have never been able to understand that aspect of me, it was something that carried on into my adult life.  Even today, I still feel drawn to certain females, especially the more time I spend with them.  They make my heart feel something that is similar to how I feel with a guy.  A romantic and flirty sensation that hasn’t gone away with my attempts to ignore it.

There was one particular girl from my past that made me realize this before any other.  I had always found her physically attractive and her extroverted personality made her enjoyable to be around.  When I spent time with her, she made me feel good emotionally.  I liked having her attention and I liked being with her.

The more time we spent together the more drawn to her I became.  I started to see us together in the future.  Dating, a relationship.  I fantasized about what it would be like later down the road, what we could become, what our lives would be like together.

Eventually the fluttery emotions turned to physical desires and one particular day when we were standing close to one another I became consciously aware that I wanted to kiss her.  It confused me because by that time I had already accepted the notion that I was gay and no longer interested in women.

So I didn’t understand how I could feel that way towards a girl.  I had no intention of dating women anymore, I had no desire to have a sexual relationship with one and yet here I was feeling romantically drawn to this girl and suddenly craving physical interaction.

Periodically that same bizarre feeling would come back to me on rare moments with other females.  Over the years I have found that who the girl is plays a major effect on whether or not it happens because it didn’t just happen with physically attractive women.  It took much more than looks to spark that feeling inside me.  In the last ten years it has probably only happened a handful of times.

The most recent time happened just in the last month or so.  This time it was different, I hadn’t spent time with this girl, in fact we didn’t know each other at all whatsoever.  Just the mere sight of her face caused that reaction and it was the first time that it had ever happened without interaction or familiarity.

For the first time a girl whom I did not know personally, caused the same physiological reaction inside of me that for the majority of occasions had been caused by males I found physically attractive.

It baffled me, it caused a lot of confusion and inner conflict.  It didn’t make sense to me at all.  How had this happened, why did it happen and what did it mean, were just a few of the questions I started asking myself.  I didn’t have answers for any of it.

It was a fundamental moment for me.  It made me rethink who or rather what I was.

Ever since I first came out as openly gay in 2008, I have encountered situations that made me or others think that I wasn’t gay at all.  I’ve dated men who told me I wasn’t gay, some told me that I was bisexual, others told me I was straight and confused.  I’ve even had girls tell me they found it difficult to believe that I was gay.  But I was so convinced that I was gay, that I just brushed off their words as them simply not knowing me well enough.  They didn’t know the thoughts I had since childhood.

Despite these momentary lapses of confidence in my orientation, I was still sure that I was only really into men.  That was until this girl made me put all those pieces together and I realized that I wasn’t entirely gay.

I’m not gay.  Not gay?  Even now it seems odd to type that because for the last six years I’ve typed:  I am gay.  And now I’m going back on all of that?  No, hardly, in reality I’m accepting the truth I solidified in my writing “Ubiquitous” which is that orientation is not always so black and white.  Human attraction is a fluid thing, not everyone is just gay or just straight.  In reality, I think most people are somewhere in between those two things, whether they ever act on it or not.

What draws or attracts us to some people isn’t always what attracts us to others.  It changes with the individual we’re looking at.  Sometimes we have to find different people who attract us before we realize the differing aspects that we find attractive.

It was a sobering truth and even now I don’t know what to call myself when faced with a situation where I have to pick an orientation.  Recently I was asked and I simply said that I didn’t know and that I was following my heart wherever it led me.

I’ve looked back across my past relationships, attempting to figure out where I was the happiest.  Hoping that in-so-doing I would figure out which gender I should be focusing most of my attention on and looking for a partner in.  Truly I don’t know.

Most of my relationships with males were fleeting.  None of them ever lasted more than three months from the point at which we met.  Granted many of them were detrimental relationships that crumbled due to their lies, their cheating, their drug addictions and a lack of their willingness to commit to a monogamous relationship.

The two that were good guys, I lost interest in and no longer had a physical attraction or romantic feelings for, which led to an inevitable break-up.

The girls I dated were girls who asked me out.  None of them I actually went out and pursued.  I think one of them was a mutual interest prior to us dating, but just like with the guys I’ve dated, none of my relationships with girls lasted more than three months.  I will, however, say that a couple of those girls I held an interest in for years after our relationship ended.  It was just one of those things, where we were not compatible, despite my interest in them.  Breaking up with them didn’t mean I was no longer attracted to them.

There is this one girl that I have always had an interest in ever since we met in high school.  She’s so loving and gentle, she’s extremely beautiful, compassionate and caring, funny in a subtle, innocent and adorable kind of way.  She’s creative and artistic, expresses herself with her style rather than with words.

She’s short, has stunning eyes and perfect porcelain skin.  She likes keeping her hair short and it just accentuates her beauty.  She could always make me smile or laugh, even when I was having a bad day.  She made me feel safe and comfortable and I always enjoyed the days when I got to see her and spend time with her.  And not to mention we both like tattoos, cats and the same kind of music.

I don’t know if she and I could have ever been together romantically, but I know that if there had ever been a girl in my life that had everything I looked for, it would be her.  She is the standard by which I compare all girls that come into my life, she is literally the epitome of the perfect girl in my eyes.

She and I can never be together, she’s married these days and I doubt she ever even knew I had feelings for her.  She seems happy and honestly that’s all anyone ever wants for someone they care about.

More importantly, I’ve had my heart set on a male.  Probably one of the biggest questions I could ever ask myself is why.  Why have I been so hell bent these last six years on finding a male partner when I am capable of having romantic feelings towards girls?  Why haven’t I been looking for a girl the same way I’ve been looking for a guy?

That’s a huge question for me.  Sometimes I have considered the answer is that I spent so many years holding those feelings in that now that I am able to let them out and be who I am, I don’t want to focus my attention on girls.

Keyword there is want.  I want a guy.  But not just any guy.  Just because a guy is physically attractive doesn’t mean he’s actually going to keep my interest.  I have a very specific type that gets my attention and is able to keep it.

Sure, physical appearance makes me initially notice someone, but if he doesn’t have the right personality or collection of traits, then I will not be able to maintain interest in him.  Even if he looked like a model.  Without the right behavior, he’s just another guy on the street.

I won’t go into detail about what type of guy attracts me, that’s been the subject of other writings.  Something I’ve often found consistently true, is that I’m much more likely to be interested, or as some circumstances have proven, fall for a straight guy rather than a gay one.

I’ve often wondered why that is and I’ve attempted a few times to decipher an explanation.  It really boils down to appearance, personality and behavior.  There is an undeniable physiological (physical and psychological) difference between men who identify as strictly heterosexual and men who identify as strictly homosexual.

The differentiation between the two is not just something I’ve noticed.  This is something most people, of all genders and all orientations have noticed.  The real question for me is why I find one more attractive than the other when either could be equally attractive in terms of physical features?

More than likely it has to do with my past.  Childhood probably.  We come to understand who attracts us or what type of traits both physical and psychological we find most attractive when we are children.  We observe, socialize and come to know and understand people throughout our lives and these people help us come to understand who or what we find attractive later in life when we are able to act on those feelings.

These traits, physical and psychological, are also traits that we have within ourselves or traits that we would like to have in ourselves.  Eventually these traits become externalized within our perception.  By that I mean they become traits we wish to find within others.  Naturally, in our romantic partners.

As a young kid, I idolized super heroes, I was obsessed with all kinds of characters from different cartoons, video games, movies, books.  I collected all kinds of action figures.  When my girl relatives would come to my house, they would bring their barbies or whatever type of dolls were in trending at the time, we would play house together.

But I never wanted to play with the Ken dolls.  I never liked the way they looked.  I used my actions figures, so that when we’d play house, I’d be Conan, Tarzan, one of the guys from the Masters of the Universe series such as He-Man, a Marvel or DC Comic character, toy soldiers, ninjas or some other masculinized and testosterone driven action figure from some cartoon or video game.

I idolized these characters as a kid (as do many young boys).  I wanted to be like them.  As I grew older, I never really lost that idolization.  Most guys don’t, we still base our understanding of manhood on the same basic principles we learn as children.

Because I was born with the ability to be attracted to other men, when I became a teenager my interest in males reflected my perception of self and of manhood in general.

Now that I’m an adult, my interest has not changed.  I’m drawn to men who reflect my childhood and teenage perception of manhood.  Physical and psychological traits that I associate with masculinity.  They don’t have to be big and buff like Conan or have the skills of a ninja, but they still have to meet my perception of what a real man is in their appearance, the way they think and how they behave.

Based on research into the cause of homosexual feelings in men, as I explained in my writing “Ubiquitous”, the theory about the hypothalamus suggests, in my opinion, that varying degrees in testosterone during prenatal development causes varying degrees in male behavior later in life.

These variations in the hypothalamus not only explain differing orientations, but also differing personalities in the men within those orientations.

Being subconsciously and now consciously aware of these differences, I fully understand why I’m more attracted to certain straight and bisexual men than I am to most gay men.  They reflect something that I was drawn to growing up, both outside of myself and within myself.

So that explains why I’m attracted to certain males and not to others, regardless of their level of physical attraction, but it still doesn’t completely tie together what I’ve been trying to accomplish over these passed six years of failed relationships with men.  Why am I trying to get into a relationship with a male that reflects my childhood ideology of manhood?

Love, romance?  Without a doubt, I can and do develop romantic feelings for men that I’m drawn to.  When I imagine my future with a guy, it’s not a house with a white-washed picket fence, not a dog in the yard or even kids.

When I think about what I want from a relationship with a guy it really cuts away all the nonsense that people fluff up romance with.  Regardless of orientation, everyone has this idea of what life would, could or should be like in a relationship, dating or marriage.

I don’t abide by the standards of other people.  I walk my own path and live my own life.  As I said before, I follow my heart and my heart doesn’t feel like it’s been leading me down the path of what society deems a relationship between two people in love.

Mostly because society depicts that type of relationship between a man and a woman.  Even with gay couples, there seems to be this need to fulfill that image.  I, however, am anything but orthodox.

When I was a kid and played with my action figures, of course they had girlfriends.  Sometimes the girl would be the damsel in distress type who always got captured by the bad guys and I had to go and rescue her.  Sometimes she was the kickass heroine type who would fight along side the guy.  Sometimes the guy and girl would be married and have a kid or two and live out the happy family fantasy.

Regardless of the dynamic, there was always another male action figure involved.  A best friend, a side-kick, a loyal companion who would always fight beside the other guy and even be willing to die for him.

As I grew, this two male dynamic became more prevalent in my action figure fantasies.  The girl action figure ended up staying at home or at the hero’s base of operations or his hideout, while my main character and his male pal would go out and fight crime or go on adventures together, whatever my imagination created.

Eventually, the girl action figure no longer got played with unless she was the bad guys’ prisoner.  Even then she was no longer the girlfriend or the wife, just some girl that needed saving.  Sometimes I would even make her the villain, the one that came between the two guys and tried to separate them by trying to seduce one of them.  For some reason I became more fixated on the two guys being together against the odds they faced.

In cartoons, games and movies I experienced this same fixation.  I would focus on two male characters that were best friends and thus very close to each other.  I would become upset when one of them died or when they were forced apart for whatever reason or would even become angry when a woman would come between them and cause conflict.

Perhaps this was some form of prepubescent subconscious desire for deep and intrinsic male bonding that would later drive me to seek out male-to-male relationships within which I would eventually want to cross over heterosexual boundaries?

Whatever the reason, it was the turning point for everything after.  As I went through grade school, the action figure scenarios were reflected in real life.  I sought that same male-to-male friendship where two guys were inseparable, took on things together.

By the time my teenage years came around, my interest in having a best male friend became more than us just being best pals.  I wanted to go beyond that.  Best friends was no longer enough.  I wanted to know all of him, emotionally and physically.  To swear absolute loyalty, to never let anyone come between us, to be unequivocally honest, and finally to cross over the forbidden boundary and be the source of each other’s physical release.

I was too scared back then to actually find or create a relationship with another male on that level, but years later I would eventually find a group of males that I became very emotionally close with.  It wasn’t the type of friendship that would foster the crossing of the forbidden boundary, but it definitely helped me grow in the understanding of what I wanted from a male-to-male relationship and how to go about nurturing that type of close friendship.

Sometimes friendships are the best teachers in showing us how we should approach relationships and what kind of people we should be in those relationships with.  I’ve always sought after a guy who I could see as my best friend.  To this day, I haven’t found that guy in my relationships.  Only in my friendships with heterosexual men have I found that type of emotional connection, where trust, loyalty, honesty and love were present.  But without need for mention, they were not interested in becoming anything more than just friends.

So there-in is the answer to my question.  Somewhere in all that writing I just did, I answered my question about why I’ve spent the last six years looking for a male companion with whom I could become romantically involved with.  And that is to find my best friend who is willing to go beyond just friendship and into something much deeper and much more intense.  That for me, the relationship between two males is something more important than a relationship between a guy and a girl.

A culmination of childhood and adulthood experiences led me to this point and even though I find myself with yet more questions, such as why do I see male-to-male relationships more important than male-to-female relationships, I have at least found some sense of resolve in the fact that I’ve yearned for male companionship since I was a kid and that it’s not just some phase or momentary fracture from who I’ve always been.  It is in fact who I’ve always been.

Even if I were to get into a relationship with a girl, I still would not lose my intense desire to form an unconditional bond with another male, inseparable and primary to any other relationship within my life.  No girl I’ve ever met wants to get into a relationship with a guy who considers his relationship with her secondary to his relationship with another male.  And I suppose for that reason alone, it is in my best interest to continue searching for a male worthy of my heart.

Love between two guys is real.  My friendships with straight guys over the years has proven to me that two men can love each other just as much as a man and a woman.  One of the best places to find and understand the bond between males is within the military or some other similar profession.  These guys spend a lot of time together and get to know nearly everything about each other.  In some cases they know each other better than their own spouses.

It’s been a long and arduous journey trying to find a guy who understands all these things the same way I do.  Who has traveled through his life with the same perspective that I have and wants the same things that I do.  A guy who realizes that love between two guys is more than the superficial nonsense that society tries forcing on us such as the notion that we have to behave the same way a man and a woman act in a relationship, where at least one guy needs to be effeminate or where both guys somehow lose their manhood by becoming physically close.  Or in more modern times how gay men are assumed to act.

I’ve loved men before, we never held hands and skipped down the side walk.  We never did anything that people stereotype gay men to do.  In fact we weren’t in a “gay” relationship at all because he wasn’t gay and apparently neither was I.  And yet he loved me and I loved him and we both told each other as much.  My aspiration is to find the same kind of love with a guy who’s willing to commit to one another and not let anyone come between us.  The final complexity for me is in crossing that love over the forbidden boundary of physical contact through whatever ways both guys are comfortable with.

Conforming to what other people think or want you to be is no way to live your life.  Whether you’re an effeminate gay man, a masculine gay man, or you’re a straight man or a bisexual man, or if you’re not even a man at all, just be who you feel that you are and look for someone who just tries to be who they are and that has the same perspective on life and love that you do.


This essay is available as an audio track on SoundCloud:

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About Kephen

I am a writer who happens to be a pantheist living in the heartland of America. I write about everything that interests me, from Zen Buddhism to depression and mental illness, society and civil rights to the LGBT community and the personal meanderings of my life. To learn more about me just check out my blog.
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