[Content Note: Homophobia, problematic and difficult friendships.]
I have to admit that Sunday’s post about ending friendships was not a topic I chose out of thin air. It was primarily inspired by the day last week when I was looking through my blog visitor statistics and discovered that someone had found my blog through the search phrase “being gay and having a homophobic friend.” My immediate reaction to reading that was to think of the old adage: With friends like that, who needs enemies?
Rather then immediately responding to that query and the subject of dealing with homophobic friends, I decided to write Sunday’s post and talk about the liberation I found when I realized I’m allowed to choose my friends and even terminate current friendships if I feel it’s the best choice for my life. After all, when dealing with a friend who is homophobic and making my life miserable because of hir homophobia, having the option to walk away altogether is a powerful thing. Whether a person is virulently homophobic by spouting hateful slurs or merely inundating me with subtle microagressions like meeting every mention of my love life with cold and disapproving silence, that thing can get wearisome. And it’s good to know that I don’t have to put up with it for the sake of some idealistic notion about “friendship” and “friends are forever1.”
Mind you, that doesn’t mean that I can or should immediately kick every person out of my life. Sometimes, there really are things about the friendship that make it worth sticking it out. (But I get to decide whether that’s really the case.) Sometimes, other factors require me to keep that person in my life. Perhaps a given “friend” is really a relative that I simply will not be able to avoid or cut off all communication with without making family functions horribly awkward. Maybe we’re on the same sporting team or involved in the same project and I’m unwilling to give that up in order to avoid them2. There are other reasons as well.
But knowing that I ultimately have the option to terminate a friendship with someone who cannot accept me for who I am — even if I decide that option is not a good choice in a particular situation — allows me to think of my many options of how to deal with such a person.
1As an aside, while searching for a graphic to include in Sunday’s post, I was disturbed by the sheer volume of images that promoted this “friendship is forever/never let go of a friend if you’re a real friend” thinking.
2I will note, however, that in such a scenario, I still have the power to limit my interactions with that person. I may have to be cordial at team or group functions, but I don’t have to go beyond that. Nor do I have to pretend we’re bosom buddies. This is where it’s helpful to keep in mind that there are not just friends, but also acquaintances.