Saturday, July 10, 2004

The Straight Men In My Life

There exists a great divide between straight men and gay men. I think that most straight guys do not have male friends who are gay. Or if they do, these friends are not usually close friends. I have always wondered why, in general, straight men treat gay men more like girls than guys.

Growing up, I was always surrounded by girls. All my friends were girls, and they naturally included me in everything they did. I was one of the girls. If I was going to an all girl event, it was ok. The girls would say : "Its Gabriel. He's one of us." Talk about confusing. I was lucky enough to have a couple of real guy friends. And I cherished their friendships immensely.

My first "guy" friend was Marc. Marc and I met when I was taking the bus for the first time in Grade 1. He was a third grader and I was in awe. I remember thinking he was so smart and so big and strong. He had all the cool friends. He was the big brother I had been longing for all my life. Pretty much for next 7 years, Marc was my big brother, my mentor, my advisor and he was very proud of that. I remember one day he even pulled me aside to tell me about girls. Explained it all to me because he thought someone should. He was probably the nicest guy I had ever met. At school though, I had to make myself scarce. I mean, who needs a yappy little brother around?

Jerome and I met at Scout camp when I was 12. We became instant best friends. We made our parents drive an hour almost every weekend, for the next few years, just so we could hang out. Jerome was the first guy to treat me like a regular guy. We hung out, got in trouble, played in the woods, drove our bikes, picked on his little brother, did everything we possibly could think of together. I loved him to pieces. I think what I loved the most was that I truely was his friend. Like, a real, guy-guy friend. There is an incredible bond between men, when they are close, that is unspoken. Guys just simply won't admit that they have a strong love for their good friends. Jerome would have layed down in traffic for me, and I would have done the same. I wonder where he is sometimes. I have not seen him since high school, over 12 years ago now. I miss him dearly.

Tobi and I met when he started dating my, at the time, best friend Nadine. I'll have to tell you about Nadine another day. Then, in grade 11 we had the same French class, and we ended up partnering up for some homework. Tobi was mysterious, dark and poetic. He was passionate about everything. He was also vulnerable. There was an honest vulnerability about him that was magnificent. He portrayed himself to everyone else as a tough guy, once you knew him and you could break through the walls he had around him, he was a sensitive guy. Tobi was the first of my straight guy friends to whom I spoke of being gay. It was a very difficult time for us both. He did get over it and our friendship continued for years. I have not seen him in almost 3 years. I don't even know where he is now. I hope he is well.

Initially, Mario and I were friends by default. His mother (who ended up being my grade 10 math teacher) and my mother were childhood friends. So, I went to Mario's house a lot and Mario came over to my house quite a bit. We were eventually together so often that we became friends. It was either sit there and stare at each other or do something fun while our mothers chit chatted for hours and hours. We became very close over the years. Mario was part of my gang when I was a teenager. The bond we all shared as part of the gang was very strong. Even today, that bond is there, even though we all have lives of our own, scattered across the country.

Some guys are just way too cool for their own good. My friend Luc, thankfully I am still in touch with him, is one of a select few that I can actually say I know, for a fact, that he doesn't see me any differently than any other guy. I think Luc is beyond cool actually, he is genuine and the fact that we can fight over the dumbest things and get mad as hell and still remain friends is not lost on me. When I told Luc I was gay, we went for a long walk and talked until the wee hours of the morning. He was the first person who actually listened to me about being gay. He has no idea what a big part he played in getting me to feel good about myself. Today, he lives not too far from my hometown with his wife now. Good for him. I am hoping to see him when I go to NB this summer. Its been too long since he and hung out.

Mike aka Duke
I met Mike, or Duke, at a summer camp were we both worked. We only started to hang out when he started dating my friend Gina (aka Willow). Eventually we became good friends, and then we ended up renting an apartment with his good Friend Tim. Our friendship lasted longer than his relationship with Gina. The year that Tim, Mike and I shared that apartment in Fredericton was probably the best year of my life. There was another apartment down the hall, "The Girls". We were "The Boys". It was cool.

Patrick aka Newton
I also met Patrick at summer camp. Patrick and I have been through everything together. I mean everything. We have cleaned shit, driven 16 hours on a bus, 12 hours in a truck, gone camping with psychos, done triathlons together, went swimming together, ridden together, and so much more. We have shared more cups of coffee and large pizzas than anyone else. I know all of his deep darkest secrets (hehehehehe) and he does mine. And for some strange reason, life keeps putting us in the same city. He is in Montreal now. I think our bond is probably the strongest of all. Patrick is my buddy.

My Father
There is one person with whom I had a different type of bond. This person defined me as a male, a boy and now a man. Without him acknowledging it, or maybe even without realizing it, had the biggest impact on my life... Not always positive, but that's life. That person is, my dear readers, my Father. My father taught me that to be a man you must stand up for yourself. My Father taught me that men don't cry, or act silly. Men shoot guns, hunt, fish and work with their hands. Men are the breadwinners, men are solid, men are brave and most of all, men fuck women. Well, you might think my father is extremely diseapointed as I am none of those things. But, I taught my father that men are sensitive, men are proud, men respect nature, men respect people, men laugh, play jokes, and men care for each other. Today, I know, my father is very proud of me. I am proud of who my father has become.

So to Marc, Jerome, Tobi, Mario, Luc, Daniel (aka Baloo), Michel B, Michel L, Jason, Kevin, Adam, Newton, Wolf, Duke, Yogi, Beast, Tim, Jean-Guy, Jean-Pascal and the Mis-Understood Venture Company and my Father : You guys rock!

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