I’ve learned an interesting thing about myself recently, in the last couple of days, actually. I don’t trust straight men. It’s an old problem, beginning back when I was three and molested by a man who was straight. (Don’t ever say to my face that if he molested a boy, doesn’t that mean he is gay?) Gay men don’t molest boys. Pedophiles molest boys.
It continued through child years as I was molested by other straight men and neglected by some straight men who should have been my caretakers. I grew up under the impression that men were bad and women were good, since at the time I had no idea about gay and straight and all of the care-taking of the little boy that was me was done by women.
I will avoid the complicated conversation about how a boy who thought men were bad grew up attracted to them. I don’t think same-sex attraction is at all simple and easy to explain, and much less easy to live.
Watching television shows like My Three Sons, I saw a potential personality of a man who was trustworthy and inherently good, but it didn’t match my experience so I just thought of it as fantasy. All of the straight men of my youth failed and disappointed me.
In my adulthood, I’ve rarely had experiences with straight men that would lead me to believe that straight men were the least trustworthy. I should point out that I’m not talking about casual acquaintances. I’m talking about the kinds of people you can call close friends where there’s a certain degree of personal sharing and emotional connection happening. I acknowledge that there have been a lot of straight men in my adult life who haven’t taken advantage of me or turned on me. They haven’t made a special effort to be close to me either.
The kinds of friendships I mean are with men you spend a lot of time with talking with each other , getting to know each other, doing things together. With such men, I’ve been manipulated, used, and rebuffed. I’ve learned about ulterior motives and endless selfishness on their part. This has included priesthood leaders.
With them, I’ve learned to practice a fairly strict self-reliance so that I don’t have any reason to interact with them. I behave myself so that I don’t have to confess to them. Of course, that’s not the only reason I behave myself, but it is a factor.
Among the kinds of things that have kept my trust levels low are things like the man who befriended me as part of a little conspiracy to get me to deny my faith or the man that harbored a desire to get involved with my wife. Then there are the countless straight men who see in me a knack for helping men with man-types of problems and using me as a listening ear and then forgetting me after I’ve helped them.
Back in high school, a female teacher once noted that everyone wants to tell me their troubles. She thought it made me a perfect candidate as a chaplain’s assistant at a local Catholic hospital. I’ve found it to be completely true. It’s a rare person who, after using me as a sounding board, sticks around to remain my friend. That can get pretty lonely sometimes.
I will admit right here that some gay men haven’t done so well by me either, but if I were keeping jerk-score, straight men would be way out ahead. I can’t explain it but I wish it weren’t so.
So, straight men might be wondering, though my gut tells me to doubt it, just how do you gain my trust? For starters, don’t be selfish. I remember a furor over statement by a general authority that many construed as saying that gay men are selfish. In my experience, it is just the opposite.
By all means, if I can help you in some way by using my skills as a good listener and a man full of empathy, then use me for that. However, when you are done and have had your needs met, stick around. I may need you to do the same for me some day.
Yes, I’m pretty stubbornly self-reliant in that area, and it is true that my life is pretty stable and I don’t often find myself wanting a listening ear. When I do, I’d like to think that men that I have helped are willing to do the same for me.
Also, don’t try to manipulate me. I don’t like it and it just makes me angry. Like character David Banner of the old, The Incredible Hulk series said in the opening credits every week, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” I turn into The Incredible Bulk. Watch out.
Another thing I don’t like is being treated like a child. My sense of my own manhood was hard bought and I don’t appreciate condescension. I’ve probably seen more of life than most of you, so treat me like a peer and we’ll get along just fine.
Yesterday, in a hard and difficult situation, my best friend, Drew, an extraordinarily straight man, listened to me, empathized with me, and said the best things to me about me. Men like him in my life are helping me see that male does not always equal jerk and that straight doesn’t always equal selfish.
There’s hope for me learning to trust straight men. Like I often say, “Forgiveness is free but trust is earned.” Feel free to try.