Friendship Challenges

Friendships posed a particularly perplexing issue during those first couple years of living life as a gay man. Most of my friends at the time were evangelical Christians with rather conservative views, as I had been before coming out. This created some difficulty in maintaining those friendships. They were hurt and confused by my choice, learning to accept this change in my life. Similarly, I had trouble believing I could continue coming to them for support. After all, I was following a path they did not approve on, and one they wanted me to turn from.

My love for these friends requires me to make it clear that they were decent people and continue to be decent people to this day. Indeed, I'm still friends with most of them eleven years later, despite making a few more choices they don't entirely care for. Even then, as today, they have always strived to maintain our friendship and deal with the problems that came up to the best of their abilities. Any mistakes they have made along the way have been the result of the simple fact that they were human and inexperienced in dealing with the situations they were faced. So while I may speak of those mistakes and the hurt it may have caused, I do so without resentment or malice.

Besides, the mistakes made were not always their own. I was equally human and inexperienced, and I made my fair share of mistakes which hurt them as well. The fact that we have healed, forgiven one another, and managed to maintain the bonds of friendship - even though they were tested at times - is a testament to our love for one another. I have no desire to sully that with accusations or angry words.

As caring and supportive as the circle of friends I had at the time were, I also knew I needed to find new friends. I was stepping out into a new part of my life, and I needed friends who could greet me there. This in itself posed a problem, as my own religious convictions about homosexuality prior to coming out were well known on campus. I found the idea of going to the gay support on campus terrifying. I wasn't sure how I would be received. While I hadn't been particularly hostile towards the gay community, I hadn't been friendly either.

Instead, I began to make friends with many of the members of the campus project devoted to helping other students with their computer problems. Two of their members had set up a Telnet-based bulletin board system, and I became involved with that. This allowed me to develop friendships with people who, while not gay themselves (though I believe a couple of them did identify as bisexual), were extremely supportive.

Going home a little more than a month after coming out presented another problem. A college provides a miniature world where it's quite easy to find like-minded people, no matter your outlook on life. I was returning to an area where I would not find many likeminded people, especially since most people who shared my outlook were likely deep underground. Those who weren't willing to stay underground moved away as a rule. I admit I considered that option myself, but never took the plunge.

Fortunately, dialup access to the Internet came to my family's rural community shortly before I graduated. This allowed me to keep in touch with my new friends (and the old ones, for that matter) relatively easily. It wasn't quite the same as being there with them in person. However, between constant online contact and frequent weekend trips back to campus (most of my friends graduated one to three years after I did), the situation was bearable.

Of course, my life online enabled me to meet other people as well. I started meeting queer men and women around the world through my online travels. I was able to get some sense that I was not alone through this contact. It also gave me the opportunity to learn from "veteran queers" who had been out for some time. I even began to pick up pieces of gay history, such as the Stonewall riot.

Strangely, I've lost touch with most of the new friends I made during this time period. Given the nature of the friendships, I'm not entirely surprised. But each of them will hold a special place in my heart forever. No matter how short our friendships were, they provided a great deal of support during this turbulent period of my life.