I came out as a gay man my freshman year here at Ferris, just three months after graduating from high school with the people I’d spent the last 12 years of my life with.
I did so pretty publicly, so it wasn’t very long before most of my classmates from high school found out. This is why I have so few friends from high school left.
Over the weekend, I went home to spend time with my family. While out on the town, I ran into somebody from high school who was formerly one of my best friends. After locking eyes, we both realized that we couldn’t really pretend to ignore each other. This awkward conversation ensued:
“Nothing. How’s it going?”
“Yep…so, I gotta go.”
“Yeah, me too.”
This has pretty much been the case with most people I’ve run into from school, but especially those who used to make up my circle of friends, all of whom were high school athletes who went on to become “bros” in college.
I’m not entirely surprised, to be honest. I grew up in a small but wealthy and very conservative community. I didn’t expect to be welcomed with open arms once I came out, nor did I much care. However, the fact that even those I considered my closest friends would turn on me over something so – on a cosmic scale – minor does make you wonder what friendship really means.
Maybe friendship is entirely conditional. Two people can only be friends if they have the same interests, values and attractions. That’s certainly how it felt back in high school, which is why most of my classmates were so neatly organized into cliques.
I spent most of my high school life hanging out with this person. Our parents knew each other pretty well, and most anybody you asked would label us as best friends. But now that I’m out and he’s not OK with it, what does that make us? Do we get downgraded to acquaintances? Does the death of our friendship now invalidate the great times that we had?
I’d like to think it doesn’t. After all, it’s impossible to erase the past, no matter what the situation of the present is. There was a real friendship between us not all that long ago, one that meant something. So despite being angry at how the situation unfolded, I feel that if I were to act as if the entire friendship was a waste of time wouldn’t be fair to anybody.
I have no delusions that he and I will ever go back to being friends. I’m not so naïve. Perhaps, though, this is all for the best. Even if we were friends at one point, we aren’t anymore. Frankly, I deserve better. I’m aware that at least my male friends don’t entirely understand homosexuality, but the reason they’re still around is because they, unlike my friends from high school, don’t care about it. Our friendship would be the same if I was straight, and my sexuality has rarely been a topic of discussion, much less an issue.
The sign of a true friend isn’t somebody who tolerates your differences but somebody who doesn’t seem to notice them. I’m petty about a lot of things, but one thing I can say with honesty is that I hope my ex-best friends, despite their ignorance, have forged friendships with the same depth and meaning as those I have.