When a Friend Says, "I'm Gay"
Many of you reading this article have a friend or acquaintance whom you suspect or know is gay. Maybe the person is a relative, someone you see occasionally at family gatherings. For others, the person is a neighbor, fellow student or co-worker. Whatever the situation, in this article we will examine specific strategies on how to effectively reach out to them.
When You Don't Really Know
If you have a strong suspicion that friends are lesbian or gay but the subject has never come up, it is important that you do not label them by asking if they are homosexual. They may never have thought about it, and raising the question can make them begin to question their identity. Or it may strengthen a latent fear they already have within themselves. The belief, "Once gay, always gay," is very strong in our culture. We have seen many men go into a gay lifestyle because of something as simple as a same-sex dream that went unchecked. They gave into fear and then became curious about homosexuality. "I tried it once just to prove that I wasn't gay," explained one man who was subsequently drawn into many same-sex encounters.
World-renowned sex researchers Masters and Johnson found that the fourth most prevalent fantasy of "straight" men was homosexual encounters. And, in our society, those who have a gay thought or desire are urged to accept their homosexuality. But this reasoning runs exactly opposite to the Bible. All of us have fleshly desires which war against the soul (Rom 7:23). Taking on the gay identity is a major step into spiritual deception. All of us have areas of temptation, but our identity as Christians is centered in Christ, not in our fleshly struggles.
How Can We Help a Friend If We Suspect That He or She Has This Problem?
Work on deepening your friendship.
Become a "safe" person with whom that man or woman can be honest. Sexuality is an intimate area of life, and it takes time to deepen a friendship to the level where such private subjects can be discussed openly. Make an effort to become a reliable, consistent friend.
Pray for your friendship.
Even if the other person's problem is not homosexuality, you may be discerning a struggle which needs prayer. Ask the Lord to show you how to be a better friend and find specific ways to support this person.
Be open about your own struggles.
Be willing to risk your own reputation. If you are hoping that your friend will open up at a deep level, you can reach that level of communication by opening up first.
Often as Christians we feel that people expect us to be perfect and we try hard to live up to that false image. What a mistake! We end up erecting false barriers because others with deep life struggles feel that we could never understand them. But our honesty opens the door for others to share openly with us. We begin to connect with each other in a way that is genuine and life-changing.
Mention homosexuality in a neutral context.
Those who struggle with this issue constantly have their "radar" on full alert, picking up the attitudes of those around them in regard to this subject. They remember unkind remarks and cutting jokes about gays for months or even years.
A married pastor who struggles with homosexual temptation relates, "Recently the music minister at my church made some comment to another man and held out his hand in the stereotypical limp-wristed fashion. They both laughed and I hurt inside. I consider myself a fairly masculine male. I play sports, work on cars and do house repairs. Yet I would never feel comfortable going to these two men in a time of need. They wouldn't understand me." Be careful not to offend those who may secretly struggle in this area. As Christians we are called to love others, not condemn them.
People who profess Christianity but who hold up signs at the gay parades like "AIDS is the cure for homosexuality" are not responding in true Christ-like love. Sometimes our judgmental attitude is less obvious. We know better than making a remark such as, "Get a load of those two faggots across the street!" But we may still project an attitude of hostility when we meet someone who has outward signs of being gay.
If you struggle with being judgmental (and all of us do at times), be honest with God. Become educated on the subject of homosexuality. As you gain understanding of the early life traumas which often lead to homosexual behavior, you will gain compassion for those caught in its trap.
Many of you have no doubt: Your friend is gay or lesbian. This person has talked about it with you or others. Now what?
The authors of this article are often asked, "How do you share Christ with a homosexual?" Our response: "The same way you share him with anyone else!" We make a mistake when we imagine that the person dealing with homosexuality needs to be approached with the claims of the Gospel in some totally unique way.
When we become aware of something "different" about other people, we can become uncomfortable and overly focused on that one area of their life. It's like talking to a man with a crooked nose-as much as we try, we cannot keep from looking at his nose! The same principle tends to operate when we are talking to homosexuals: We become consumed with their sexuality, forgetting that there are many other aspects of their lives which have nothing to do with same-sex inclinations.
Ideally, sharing the claims of the Gospel occurs in the context of an ongoing friendship. Don't make homosexuality the primary point of your evangelistic conversations, but don't avoid the subject if it comes up. Most non-Christians know that the traditional biblical viewpoint condemns homosexual behavior. Gently explain that the Bible condemns all sexual behavior outside of heterosexual marriage, so the same standard applies to all single people, no matter to whom they are sexually attracted. If you're single, it can be helpful to share how God is helping you live up to this standard. If you are married, talk about the inappropriate attractions you have had to deal with -- before and after your wedding day. Emphasize that God empowers us to obey him; we don't attain sexual purity on our own strength. If we desire to please the Lord, he will help us in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9,10).
Be very clear that God condemns homosexual behavior -- but not homosexuals as people. A homosexual may wonder, "Does God hate me?" The answer is: "No. The Bible is clear that God has a deep love for everyone, including you [Jn 3:16, Rom 5:8, etc.]. It's because of his love that he prohibits sexual behavior which he knows will harm us."
If the subject of homosexuality does keep coming up, however, a helpful book to give your friend is You Don't Have to be Gay by Jeff Konrad. This book consists of a series of letters between a former homosexual and his gay friend who is seeking the truth. They discuss roots and causes of homosexuality, loneliness, the dynamics of gay relationships, and a multitude of other issues that your friend will probably be wondering about. The book is also excellent study material for you. Seeing how Jeff handled these topics will give you lots of ideas on how to discuss them with your friend. About halfway through the book, Jeff's friend becomes a Christian and the remainder shows how you can encourage a new believer who is dealing with homosexual issues.
Christian Friends Involved in Homosexuality
What about friends who profess to be Christian but who are actively involved in lesbianism or homosexuality -- and defending their moral choices? Some of them may have once been part of your church, attempting to walk away from illicit same-sex relationships. But they grew tired of resisting the pull toward homosexual or lesbian behavior and now they have adopted a pro-gay theology. How should we respond? Treat them as you would a heterosexual friend who is pursuing sex outside of marriage. You may know other friends from church who have discarded conservative moral values and now are pursuing sinful behaviors. If so, how do you relate to them? If not, picture yourself in this situation. What is an appropriate response?
In determining how to react, we have to take several factors into consideration. As believers, we want our relationship with Jesus Christ to impact others who have not yet discovered His reality in their lives. Yet we worry about being too lenient of sinful behavior in others. There are several possible responses. Some people totally ignore another person's morality. Their private behavior is none of my business, they reason. On the surface, this may seem like the most "loving" approach -- but is it biblical? We think not. The Bible discusses our private behavior and even our thoughts at great length. It doesn't hesitate to give moral standards that we are commanded to obey. For example, the Apostle Paul commands Christians to "flee from sexual immorality" (1 Cor 6:18). The writers of the Scriptures did not hesitate to detail the moral failures of biblical figures and discuss how their behavior brought grief to God's heart. God loves us -- but he does not overlook our moral choices.
Another possible reaction is shunning a Christian involved in homosexuality or lesbianism. Those who act this way usually quote such scriptures as "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord" (2 Cor 6:17) and Paul's instruction, "You must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral" (1 Cor 5:11). Paul adds, "With such a man do not even eat." How do these verses apply to this situation?
Some Christians take these passages at face value-and avoid even speaking to a person who professes Christianity yet indulges in homosexual acts. To have an ongoing relationship of any kind, they reason, would imply approval of the friend's immorality. And other weaker Christians who see our friendship may wrongly think that homosexuality must be OK. Will our actions "stumble" or confuse others in the church?
Social isolation seems to contradict Jesus' behavior, however. He didn't shun people around him who lived contrary to his standards. He reached out to them but confronted them about their behavior. "Neither do I condemn you," he told one adulterous woman. "Go now and leave your life of sin" (Jn 8:11). He attended social events with "sinners," much to the disdain of the Pharisees (Mt 9:11).
Other Christians interpret Paul's instructions to mean, "Do not have ongoing fellowship with someone who is sexually immoral." In the light of this interpretation, a periodic phone call is different from ongoing, regular communication. The main motive of the relationship is to be a redemptive influence, reminding that person of the truth and attempting to lead them to a place of repentance regarding their immoral behavior.
Here is how one man, Rob, found himself working through this situation: "James and I were close friends at one time. He had been in the church for several years when I first came, and he reached out to me with genuine friendship that was really encouraging. Soon we were getting together for hiking or other activities several times a month." When James disclosed his ongoing homosexual struggles, Rob found the fact surprising -- but it didn't damage his interest in their friendship.
Then, about two years later, James decided to get an HIV test. He had fallen periodically into homosexual behavior and knew that he was at risk. Unfortunately his AIDS test came back positive. Over the next few months, he struggled with deep anger and disappointment. Why had God allowed him to get infected? He was making concerted efforts to stop his immoral behavior and was eagerly pursuing a closer relationship with the Lord. He had even served overseas for a one-year short-term missions project. And now this!
Soon afterward, James left the church and began spending time on weekends at gay bars in a nearby city. Months later, he called Rob and announced that he had "married" his male roommate in a gay church ceremony.
Rob was in a quandary. He had enjoyed a close friendship with James, but didn't agree with his homosexual involvement. Should he continue to see James or cut off the relationship? "I decided to back away somewhat," he explained. "If James would call, I'd certainly talk with him. However, I tried to focus our conversation on the positive things that God was doing in my life -- the same kinds of discussions that we had enjoyed in the past."
Rob found that the "glue" of their relationship -- their mutual faith -- had been disrupted. Suddenly a major disagreement hung over the relationship and the dynamic of their friendship changed. "I know we both felt it," Rob observed. "He knew I strongly disagreed with his active homosexual involvement. And I noticed that, as he got pulled more and more into friendships with gay men, he lost interest in the spiritual things that our friendship had focused on in the past."
As James began exploring various New Age religions, their friendship became more distant. However, Rob always tried to leave the door open for future communication. "I never wanted to close the door totally on the relationship. I kept praying that, one day, James would become dissatisfied with the gay life and would turn back to the common faith we had previously shared." James waited until the final weeks of his life to abandon his New Age beliefs and reclaim Christianity. However, he never did renounce his homosexuality.
Even so, Rob was able to see James several times just prior to his death. They talked about eternity and James said he was ready to meet the Lord. They prayed together and James expressed deep appreciation for Rob's visits. "When the big crisis came," Rob said, "most of James' gay friends disappeared. It's almost like they couldn't face this last chapter of death and dying in his life. But I had the Lord to help me. I could `be there' for James. I had earned the right to speak into his life at the end because I had maintained the relationship." When Rob saw James for the final time, he was slipping into unconsciousness. Within several days, James was dead.
Rob says that seeking to maintain balance in such a relationship is difficult, and something that should be prayed about regularly. "I think there is a fine line between staying in touch for the sake of being a witness, and compromising by maintaining the friendship as if you're in agreement with that person's behavior. I'm glad that several of us from church stayed in periodic contact with James, as I believe it paved the way for him to return to Christ in his final days. But, at the same time, I couldn't remain in a close friendship with him and pretend that nothing was wrong with his homosexual relationships. It wasn't easy or always clear to me, but I tried to maintain a balance. I think God honored my efforts."
Rob says that one important question helped him evaluate his relationship with James: What is the spiritual impact of this relationship? Rob tried to discern the results of their times together. Was their interaction pushing him away from Christ -- or pulling James toward Christ? Quite frankly, sometimes it wasn't easy to tell. One night James wanted to talk about how wonderful it was to finally engage in gay sex after repressing his feelings for many years. He wasn't open to considering what the Bible had to say about sex before marriage, whether with a same-sex or opposite-sex partner. Rob went home feeling like the evening had been a waste of time.
Another night, James seemed more reflective than usual. He had "married" his lover and they had entered into a lifelong relationship -- only to find themselves splitting up seven months later because they couldn't agree which part of the city to live in. Rob found that James was much more open to talking about spiritual things that night, including an evaluation of whether homosexual relationships were really God's best for us.
Rob did not hesitate to seek input from his other friends and church leaders on how to best spend his time with James. Although he probably made some mistakes, Rob felt satisfied that he had played a significant role in James's life -- with eternal consequences. There are no hard-and-fast rules for this type of situation. Pray for God's guidance, as Rob did. And pray that you will have positive spiritual input into your friend's life.
Another woman observes, "When I run into someone who has been part of our church and I know they have left the Lord, we usually have a warm interchange. These men and women are dear to me. Several of them are involved in immoral relationships, but usually I don't say anything about their lifestyle choices. I just pray that seeing me and sensing my love will be a reminder of good things they have left behind."
If your friend is open to discussing the biblical perspective on homosexuality, we recommend that you become acquainted with the principles behind the pro-gay theology. For a quick "crash course" on the basics, we recommend appendix A in the back of Coming Out of Homosexuality by Bob Davies and Lori Rentzel (InterVarsity Press, 1993). For a more in-depth treatment and a book which would be excellent to share with any active gay or lesbian friend who claims to be a Christian, we recommend Straight and Narrow? by Thomas Schmidt (InterVarsity Press, 1995).
As your friendship progresses, you may be faced with many of the same questions that parents ask about their gay children: What about inviting your friend's lover to dinner? What boundaries should you place on seeing them together? and so on. For further guidance on these types of situations, see the relevant sections of Chapter 8 in our book, Someone I Love Is Gay: How Family & Friends Can Respond (InterVarsity Press, 1996.)
Supporting Former Homosexual Friends
Now let's discuss the situation where your friend is seeking help in dealing with his or her homosexuality. Do you have anything to offer, even though you have never struggled with this issue? Yes, you do! But, depending on the genders of you and your friend, your friendship has special opportunities and also potential problems. First, we will examine the dynamics of same-sex supportive friendships.
Female Friend Helping a Female Struggler
Being accepted by a female straight friend is very healing for an ex-gay woman. Many lesbians are struggling with rejection issues at the deep level of their sexual identity or sense of womanhood. You can show God's love through your actions and words. Typically, these women feel an intense need for same-sex approval and emotional bonding with other women. You can provide a godly example of a non-sexual friendship.
Many years ago while my husband was out of town, I (Anita) spent a Saturday night at Patty's house so we could attend her church together the next morning. I was a little uncomfortable because Patty was fairly new out of the lesbian life, but soon we were chatting together and having a great time.
As we were getting ready for church the next morning, I noticed that, although Patty was very attractive, she could benefit from a little blush and lipstick. But did I dare suggest it? Would she think I was being critical of her looks, or trying to change her in an outward, artificial way? After a minute's thought, I realized that I would share make-up tips with any other friend, so why not Patty too? "Do you want to try this light lipstick?" I asked, and she was eager to try it. She liked the result and we went off to church. The next time I saw her, she couldn't wait to show me her "new" look. Patty had visited a make-up counter at a department store and looked great -- except for the bulging pockets of her blazer. She saw me looking at her pockets and explained, "These are the things that lady at the store said I have to carry with me." A frown crossed her face as she thought for a moment. "I guess I will have to start carrying a purse!" Just a little encouragement at the right time can have quite an impact in your friend's life. (Today, many years later, Patty and I have a great friendship; I rarely think about her lesbian background.)
You can help your friend break old patterns of relating, such as manipulation, self-pity and selfish emotional demands, by remaining constant and faithful. You can also hold her accountable for her end of the relationship, challenging her to develop mutuality rather than dependency.
But there are special cautions for this situation. Some "straight" women fall into a lesbian relationship with another woman seeking help. Even women with no previous history of lesbianism -- but who are emotionally needy -- have experienced strong lesbian feelings in the midst of these types of friendships.
We cannot be naive in this regard. Same-sex attraction between women is based on a genuine God-given need for intimacy that has been twisted. We all have a need for love. God made us social beings and it is common for women to find a deep satisfaction in forming significant friendships with other women. If these same-sex needs are currently unmet, even "straight" women can find themselves drawn into inappropriate relationships.
The fall into lesbianism can be very subtle, starting with an exaggerated emotional need to be with the other person. One of the major danger signs that this relationship has taken a bad turn is the presence of jealousy and possessiveness. Your lesbian friend feels insecure and you need to increasingly reassure her of your commitment to the friendship. Some feelings of jealousy are common. But when they begin to control the relationship, it's time for an evaluation, perhaps with the help of a counselor or spiritual advisor.
Another danger sign is feeling overly responsible for your friend's feelings. You may begin to be consumed with making your friend happy, taking on a responsibility that God never gave you. Overall, this relationship becomes hard work as you do more and more to assure your friend of your unconditional love. Beware of the "just us" mentality. A healthy friendship is not exclusive. It welcomes others into its company. And a healthy relationship is flexible. If a luncheon date or night out together is canceled now and then, it's disappointing but not crushing. The person who cancels should not be made to feel guilty. Emotionally dependent relationships are marked by a clinging possessiveness, not wanting to let go at any time, even though the reasons for being apart are fully understandable.
Make sure that you maintain other close friendships. They are an important safeguard to keep your relationships in balance. Encourage your friend to pursue other friendships, too. Do not believe for one moment that you are the only one who can really help her! It will help to spend time with your friend in a group setting. Invite others out to lunch with the two of you. Get involved in church groups where you interact with others. These safeguards will help avoid the exclusivity which can lead to an emotional dependency.
Women coming from a lesbian background may have fallen into overly- dependent relationships because they don't know proper boundaries in a healthy friendship. I was counseling Martha one day on this subject. She had phoned me and asked me out to lunch. Soon we were sitting at an outside restaurant on a beautiful sunny day.
Martha seemed somewhat preoccupied as we started our meal. I asked her what was wrong, and she looked up at me. "Anita," she asked, "do you think two greeting cards and a phone call are too much in one week?" I started laughing -- realizing that I tended to have the same problem in my relationships -- and she joined in. Then her face grew sober again. "You know...with Sarah. I value our relationship, but I don't know what is normal."
Martha and Sarah were both coming out of a lesbian past, and they had become emotionally dependent on each other during the past year. Now they were trying to find a balance in their relationship. I was encouraged that Martha could be so vulnerable with me, and I weighed my words carefully. "Yes, I think that two cards and a phone call are a little excessive in one week, unless there is a special reason for it." She didn't look too pleased at my response. I continued, "Think about your relationship with Betty from church. You two are close, aren't you?" When she quickly agreed, I asked, "How much contact do you have with her in a week?"
Martha thought a moment before answering. "I guess we talk about once a week, and I send her a card on special occasions or if she needs a little extra encouragement." She couldn't hide her disappointment as she asked, "I guess that's what is normal for friends?" I nodded, and then we both smiled. Even though it was hard, Martha was learning healthy patterns in relating to other women. She persevered in the following months, continuing to interact in a healthy way with Sarah. Today, over five years later, they live in different parts of the country but have a good friendship and still keep in touch periodically.
Male Friend Helping a Male Struggler
Most male homosexuals have suffered a deprivation of same-sex bonding in their early lives. They are eager to have approval from other men. So you have a special opportunity to build confidence in your friend's life through your acceptance of him as another man. You can help him by being vulnerable about your own life, discussing your weaknesses and fears as well as your strengths. This openness helps him realize that many of his problems are the same as any man's. Not all his struggles are "gay" issues.
Become a prayer partner and invite mutual accountability. Your friend needs someone to offer support during times of sexual temptation. If you have had problems with heterosexual immorality in the past, you have much to offer your friend in terms of practical insights into the battle against lust. Most men struggle with visual temptation. Whatever spiritual strategies have worked for you will also be effective against your friend's homosexual lust. Enlist his prayer support in your areas of weakness, too.
Be willing to hear some of the nitty-gritty details of your friend's struggles (he shouldn't have to be afraid to say the word "masturbation" in your presence, for example), but there is a difference between being honest and being graphic. Details of his past sexual exploits are unnecessary. He can be informative without burdening you with inappropriate details of specific people, places and sexual acts.
You will also have to be honest in letting him know how much specific detail you can handle about his current struggles. For example, if knowing his attraction to a mutual friend is too burdensome for you, he needs to know that. He can keep you abreast of his struggles without giving specific names. He needs to know your limits in other areas too, so that he does not cause you to sin by stirring up sexual fantasies in your own mind.
You may be surprised to discover how many current or past struggles in your life match those of your friend. His homosexuality is not really a sexual problem-it is merely the surface symptom of deeper root issues which need healing. The roots of homosexuality are mainly emotional, and center on issues like envy (I'm not as masculine/secure/aggressive as other men), rejection (I've never felt really loved), loneliness (nobody would love me if they knew the real me), and deception (I'll never amount to anything). Do any of these sound familiar? Of course they do. Many of these feelings and thoughts plague all of us to varying degrees. So you can share with your friend that these issues are not "gay," they are universal. And you can share how God has helped you deal with comparable struggles in your own life.
Your friend may become too dependent upon you. He may become too demanding of your time. In a few cases, he may even confess sexual attraction toward you or feelings of "falling in love" with you. Lots of straight men run for the hills at this point, which confirms to your friend that he's a complete failure and will never form a healthy friendship.
Running away is not God's best solution to this awkward situation. This is an important time in your relationship and an opportunity for you to make right decisions which will impact your friend's life in a major way. The answer is not to flee but to establish appropriate boundaries. Let's look at some specific guidelines.
First of all, if a dependency develops, do not ignore the signals that he is becoming demanding of you. You need to stand firm and gently confront him. You might say something like this: "Chuck, I can't be there for you all the time. Only God can. I am still your friend but I feel that you are becoming too dependent on our friendship." So be honest in your communication with him; don't dodge the issue in the hope that the emotional dependency will somehow resolve itself on its own.
Second, your friend may need some basic education about the dynamics of male relationships in our culture. In a nutshell, men tend to bond in groups while doing activities together. Your friend may have unrealistic expectations about an intense one-on-one friendship with you. Perhaps this is the pattern he experienced in gay relationships, but that is atypical in heterosexual culture. He needs to understand that reality so he will not feel rejected when you begin inviting him along on group activities, rather than just spending time alone with him.
The safety of a group dynamic is especially important if he is being pulled sexually or emotionally toward you in wrong ways. He needs to be drawn into other male-male relationships and you might have to set some clear boundaries on the time you spend with him. Don't retreat entirely, but seek balance in your friendship by limiting your time alone with him. Welcome him into group activities by inviting him along when you and your buddies attend a ball game or church retreat. You can become his "bridge" to forming significant relationships with other straight men.
Finally, do not push your friend into premature dating. This may seem like a logical answer to his friendship needs, but this is the last thing he needs if he is just beginning the process of emotional healing. Until he becomes secure in his masculinity through forming right relationships with other men, he is not ready to tackle an opposite-sex romance. Now we will look at the situation where you are helping a gay friend of the opposite sex.
Male Friend Helping a Female Struggler
Women who struggle with same-sex attractions often have a distorted view of men. Your friendship can be very healing in this regard. Show her respect and let her get to know you as a brother. She needs to know that you are not expecting anything romantic or sexual from this relationship.
In our experience, the vast majority of women dealing with lesbianism have been sexually abused. Often they have a fear and even hatred of men because of deep emotional wounding. Your friend may have many fears lurking behind her friendly facade.
Give her time to establish trust in your relationship. For example, one woman declined a ride home after Bible study because she would be alone with a man she didn't know well. Unknown to him, she had been raped as an older teen. Respect her boundaries and don't get offended if she says "no" to what you consider a kind offer.
Similarly, because many ex-gay women are dealing with abuse issues, be sensitive to her body cues regarding affection. Even if you are in a church where hugging is common, your friend may not appreciate you taking the initiative in expressing such familiarity with her. Watch how she interacts with other men in the church for guidance on how to relate with her.
Lesbians often struggle with control. They tend to dominate in order to avoid "losing control" and therefore risk being victimized again. Equality is the key to a comfortable relationship in this situation.
Be careful to avoid a "buddy" relationship. Lesbians are often comfortable relating to men in this fashion but your friend is seeking to overcome past patterns. Remind yourself that she is a female and needs to be treated with appropriate respect.
Beware of premature romantic involvement if your friend is just beginning the process of overcoming her lesbian background. Sometimes a woman will become emotionally entangled with a male friend who seems "safe." If you see this occurring, don't pull away totally but seek to establish healthy boundaries in the relationship. You may want to become accountable to a mature Christian friend.
It is possible that you will feel romantically or sexually attracted to your friend. If she is just beginning her healing process, assume that she is not at all interested. In fact, your attractions could be her greatest nightmare come true. It is nothing personal, just that you are male. If she has been abused by men, she has struggled for years with thoughts like I'll never trust a man again and Men are only interested in one thing. Don't confirm those messages. She may have her guard down. You are a Christian and a "safe" friend. If you begin to pursue a premature romance, the relationship will quickly crumble when she realizes what is occurring. And her healing process will be badly derailed. Your friend can never enter into a successful heterosexual romance until she has resolved her lesbian issues. Both of you will be badly wounded if you enter into a premature emotional involvement.
Female Friend Helping a Male Struggler
It is common for men struggling with homosexual issues to confess their secret to a woman. Often these men have had a closer relationship with their mother than with Dad, so they find it easy to confide in a female friend.
Seek to maintain the relationship as equals; resist the tendency to become a rescuer or substitute parent figure. Your friend needs to grow up. Many male homosexuals resist facing the realities of adult manhood. Don't keep him in a "little boy" syndrome by taking responsibility for his life.
Don't shield him from the consequences of his bad choices. Many gay men are masters at blame-shifting; their problems are the fault of everyone else but themselves. Don't allow your friend to manipulate you into thinking that he is always the victim and you need to rescue him.
Encourage his friendships with other men. This is one of the most important things you can do. Often, gay men have felt separated from other men as they grow up; they fear other men and feel insecure around them. They have attempted to bond with men through sexual relationships. Now they must learn to bond emotionally through appropriate activities which may seem foreign to them. Typically, gay men feel very comfortable around women and may even enter into "woman talk" about make-up and current female fashions. Affirm his masculinity by resisting this kind of interaction.
If you are a sports enthusiast or enjoy other activities which attract male participation in our culture, so much the better. Engage in these activities with your friend, so he can move a step closer to enjoying them with his male friends as well. For example, if your friend is a novice at tennis but you are accomplished, offer to give him a few lessons. He will find it much less threatening to learn from you than another man (vast numbers of gays have been ridiculed in their youth by male peers for being athletically-challenged!). Perhaps you and your friend can invite along other people from church to enjoy a hike or ball game with you. Including others in your activities can be a good safeguard for you, too.
Too often, women in these types of relationships begin to become romantically inclined toward the man. They begin to hope that this platonic relationship could develop into a romance. Unless the man has had considerable time to move forward in his healing process, such a hope will only lead to hurt and disappointment. Typically, the ex-gay man will "turn tail and run" when he senses even a hint of romantic interest on your part. The relationship will quickly become strained and probably break apart.
So enjoy your friendship but realize your limitations. You are a woman and your friend will find his primary source of healing through appropriate emotional intimacy with other men. Keep your relationship with him in balance by spending quality time with other men and women, and you will be an important part of his support system in finding emotional wholeness and spiritual maturity.
Reprinted from Someone I Love Is Gay: How Family & Friends Can Respond by Anita Worthen and Bob Davies. Want to buy this book? Go to our Book Resources section for purchasing information.
Copyright © 1996 by Anita Worthen and Bob Davies. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515.