If you haven’t read Ann Friedman’s piece last week on courting friendships in the same vein we court relationships, you should. Ann gives language to a situation that most, if not all of us are faced with: how do we make meaningful friendships in adulthood? Her piece prompted me to ask a question of my own: what changes for queer people when we want to create platonic, same-sex friendships? I wanted to expand on the conversation that Ann started because it’s a really important conversation- but I wanted a space to bring up what’s different if you’re having that conversation as a queer person.
No longer in the safe and comfortable confines of neighborhood friendships, college groups, sports teams, etc., many of us find ourselves in new cities, and new stages of life where potential new friends aren’t exactly waiting around the corner. Making real friends is something we have to work for. Ann says: “We still don’t have a good way of talking about pursuing friendship…most of our courtship narratives are still romantic, which really tends to obscure the importance of friendship’s early stages, and downplay the thought and skill that goes into cultivating meaningful platonic relationships.”
As Ann points out, homophobia can have a shitty impact on forming those platonic friendships, particularly among men. Citing Carlin Flora, author of Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are, Ann writes,
Broadly speaking, though, women are still light years ahead of men when it comes to the direct pursuit of platonic love. “This division is breaking down somewhat with younger generations, but one factor still leads some men to not pursue friendships outside of ‘safe’ group activities: homophobia,” Flora says. “Women who ask out other women on friend-dates might feel awkward or weird or pushy, but they are not usually worried about appearing gay.”
Some commenters were justly stressed about this, since, of course, some friendship-desiring people are gay. “Turns out, gay people also desire platonic same-gender friendships. It’s a pretty glaring omission to talk about this topic as if only straight people seek out nonsexual companionship.”
I don’t think it’s Ann’s prerogative to speak to a queer person’s experience, if she herself hasn’t lived it. But I do think it necessitates an important follow-up, and one that those in queer communities should have space to discuss. How does sexuality inhibit, help, or change these friendship courting rituals?
My take is that the the boxes we put ourselves into, when it comes to identity, make this process of connecting with other humans way more confusing then it needs to be. What if we liberated ourselves from the confines of labels, and just connected with whoever the hell we wanted to, and see where it led? What if all of us (wherever we find ourselves on the sexuality spectrum) weren’t so strict about dividing people at the outset between those who are potential friends and those who might be more.
Ann’s piece invites us to queer (v) friend-courtship. She wants us to re-imagine the process of creating meaningful platonic friendships, and I want us to take it even further to think about what happens when we are queer, and court new friends.
Homophobia is alive and real, and I empathize with some of the commenters’ concerns: “It’s the height of awkwardness to be the out gay dude pursuing straight male friends. How do you express platonic interest that isn’t completely misread?” But I’m wondering what would happen if we stripped “platonic” and “romantic” from the equation when talking about pursuing meaningful relationships — this is my ideal world I’m talking about, but could we start working on that now?
What do you think? Has your sexuality impacted the way you approach platonic friendships? Leave it in the comments.