Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee: Courting expectation and frustration

I recently walked in on two female co-workers commiserating over the immaturity and aversion to commitment shown by straight men. One of them assumed their bitterness was foreign to me, since the gay dating scene (she assumed) attracted upstanding, loving men who were eager to marry.

“This conversation could be a template for half the profiles I see on gay dating sites,” I said. “Every other guy is like, ‘Gay men are no good,’ and ‘All gay men think about is sex,’ and ‘Everybody just wants to play games.'”

I’ve always thought it was dangerous for gay men, or any minority, to view themselves and their people as uniquely deficient in any area; in this case, the presumption that we lack a sexual restraint and emotional capacity that heterosexual men possess. This mindset not only frustrates gay men’s search for love, but can sabotage the potential for friendship.

Many of my friends are guys I met on a gay hookup site—some former sexual partners, but most with whom a friendship developed over shared interests in tennis, politics, nightlife or marijuana. There is an abundance of opportunities for platonic bonds to develop between gay men, if only so many of us didn’t view our interactions with each other as tainted.

About a year ago I sent a friend request to someone with whom I shared several mutual Facebook friends. I’d enjoyed his comments on various threads. After reading a few weeks of his status updates, seeing similarities in our interests and thought processes, I sent a message asking if he would be interested in meeting in real life for a movie or drink.

In fairness and full disclosure, he was an attractive man, and I likely wouldn’t have sent the friend request or message had he not been. Still, it was an earnest invitation to someone whose worldview seemed to harmonize with mine that was received, and rejected, as a sexual advance.

He later posted his frustration with gay men turning Facebook into a hookup site, and I cringed at being perceived as a troll. I’m secure in my intentions given that I am not looking for a boyfriend and sex without pretense is one of my favorite parts about being gay, and further comforted by the knowledge of how straight men employ an arsenal of “likes” and inbox messages to pursue women they wish they could fuck.

Despite being singed by someone I’ve continued to admire, and who has since expressed appreciation for my perspective on issues, I repeated this sequence with another guy who had mutual friends, who had intriguing opinions, who happened to be attractive…

Based on his posts and comments, I thought he might be interested in an exhibit at the High Museum this past January. We got together for brunch before the museum, enjoyed the novelty of exploring fine art with a stranger, and kept the good time going with dinner at Henry’s.

There was a glow to our conversation that caused someone to approach our table and guess that we were on a first date. My Facebook friend and I looked at each other and couldn’t deny that our day was filled with idyllic courtship, and we shared the hope that a friendship would develop.

One of the things I’m most thankful for over the last year is the growth of our bond, going to art shows, symphonies and nightclubs, talking about politics, passions and sexual philosophies and behaviors. It’s generally difficult to make friends in adulthood, and I think it’s a mistake for gay men to let distrust of today’s tools and people to make it harder.