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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Your Friends of Another Gender

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Author Topic: Your Friends of Another Gender
Executive Director & Founder
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So, people of my generation -- more a little older than my age, really, though we seem to be swinging back in this direction lately -- got kind of fixated for a while on this idea that men and women could never be friends, probably thanks to When Harry Met Sally, a film that really cemented that idea. The general premise is a heterosexist one, and also one that really oversimplifies people to being about little more than sex or romance: that men and women can't really be friends because men and women are sexually attracted to one another. Now and then, someone will state the exception is when there is NO sexual attraction.

Like I said, this is a pretty ridiculous premise, one we can easily know is silly because of, you know, siblings, parents, and all kinds of people who have relationships with those of a different gender that aren't about sex. Then there's that funny little detail where we're not all heterosexual, too. [Razz]

But for me, when I started hearing this stuff, it was always so weird because I'd always had friends of all genders, and to this day, some of my closest friends in my life have been men or people whose gender identities were radically different than mine. I can't imagine my life being as rich without some of those friendships. And for sure, sometimes in those friendships there was sexual or romantic chemistry, but most often, we just didn't go there for various reasons, including that we liked having a platonic friendship. Or, now and then we DID go there, either temporarily or by changing our relationship, which certainly didn't mean we still were not friends.

What do you think about this? what are your opposite or different gender friendships like? What place do they have in your life? How do other people treat and value them?

I bring that last piece up because, of often enough, we'll hear from users here who feel very distrustful or insecure about a partner's opposite-gender friendships, or where a partner feels that way about theirs. For example, we've heard from people whose partners -- or they, themselves -- have lost their marbles when they talk with people of the opposite gender, or obviously feel very, very threatened by the closeness they have in an opposite-gender friendship.

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Scarleteen Volunteer
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Great topic!

When I was a kid, I always found it much easier to make friends with boys than with girls. At the time, no one commented much on it, but I also grew up very rural and as children we all tended to play together outside in general. There wasn't really a strict divide between girl play and boy play. We were all climbing trees together.

As I got older, people started to become more concerned with who I was hanging out with. Some of my closest friend in high school were male, and there was always an expectation from my parents as well as some of my other friends that we would "get together" eventually. I found this particularly offensive because, during much of that time, I identified as lesbian and had no romantic interest in any males, including my friends. I also found it patronizing to the extreme when it was coming from people older than me: it's about on par with the notion that anyone under (what? 15? 20? 45?) is "too young" to know what real love is.

The suspicions reached their peak during my senior year of college, when my male best friend and I moved in together so we could split the rent. Despite the fact that we told the landlady multiple times that we were friends, she insisted on referring to my friend as "your boyfriend". Most of my extended family never tried to understand the difference, either, and some of our friends prophesied that we would wind up together sooner or later. Surprise, surprise, our friendship was platonic the entire three years that we were inseparable, and we fell out after that time over a completely unrelated issue.

I now have friendships with people of all sorts of genders and sexualities, and they are all important to me. Since I am not straight, and many of my friends identify as some sort of queer, as well, the whole idea that opposite-gender friendships are somehow sex-waiting-to-happen just seems completely ridiculous to me. Of course I've developed romantic or sexual feelings for friends - that can happen when you are really close to someone and spend a lot of time with them. But whether or not that happened had nothing to do with their, or my, gender. Not to mention that none of my friendships have been permanently damaged when romantic feelings did enter the picture. A lot of my close relationships have shifted and morphed over the years and been all over the map from romantic to platonic to sexual and back again.

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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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moonlight bouncing off water
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I have a bunch of male friends now, although I do have more female friends. I don't really draw a divide between my male friends and my female friends, people are people, are people, are people. Being bisexual I often find that people think that there is interest on my part in anybody that I am friends with, male or female. The notion is ridiculous. My male friends now I wouldn't even consider dating, it's not that I am not attracted to all of them, but that I prefer the friendships I have over romantic relationships with them.

Since I can potentially be attracted to just about anyone, to steer clear of those I could potentially be attracted to in my friendships would mean having no friends.

I definantly find it annoying when people assume that just because I'm friends with a guy that there is a romantic element.


I am ME and that is the only label I need.

Posts: 864 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Oct 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
bump on a log
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I always leaned towards identifying with males and palling around with them -- when I was in nursery school I dressed up as Captain Planet and I'm told my best friend when I was three was a boy, though I've no recollection of him. Throughout my early childhood, however, I really was 'genderflexible', switching easily between playing with boys and playing with girls, playing 'girl games' and playing 'boy games'. When I went to school and made friends for myself, as opposed to playing with whoever was around...well, one such friend was a girl, when I was five, and then when I was six I had two friends, both boys.

When I was seven my social awkwardness caught up with me. The other kids outstripped me socially and it became a question of drifting together with fellow outcasts, rather than choosing my friends. They were always girls, these fellow outcasts; I was too scrawny, too timid, too unsporty to fit in with the boys, even the socially-rejected boys. But my male identification remained, expressed through a devotion to a certain ideal of boyhood, the Tom Sawyer, Oswald Bastable, Just William type, the boy in my storybooks who was everything I wished I could be. These idols of mine did not think of girls as equals, and neither did I. I was that common and uniquely annoying type of female misogynist who considers herself an honorary male and thus untouched by her own criticisms of the female gender.

And meanwhile I was growing up socially isolated and TVless and thus unaffected by large tracts of typical gender-role socialisation. And I was surrounded by women. I was raised by a single mother, and the other important adults in my life were her friends, likewise women. I had an uncle and an older male cousin but I had very little in common with them. Men scared me. My dad especially scared me, because I saw how upset he made my mother (he'd left her during her pregnancy and she was very upset about it, basically). I got to be an adolescent and I realised I was transgendered and damn if I didn't still have no idea about boys and men, find it impossible to think myself into the head of one, even though I felt I was one. I remember being fourteen and listening to the boys in my class talk about a website which showed you girls in cars and feeling alienated from them and being thoroughly troubled and depressed about it.

Long story short, after the age of six it wasn't till I was sixteen that I had my first real close friendship with a girl, but it wasn't till I was twenty-one that I had my first real close friendship with a boy -- young man, really. It was a revelation. I saw how he and his male friends were close to one another, how they discussed girl problems with one another and ran emails by one another, the way I'd seen girls talk to their friends about boys. I saw how he and I were very alike, which was massively affirming of my trans identity, and how he didn't fit a lot of the male stereotypes. It became more feasible for me to be male. It became easier for me to understand what life is like for some guys -- because my natural capacity for empathy is very poor and so if I'm not shown what things are like for other people, I have a heck of a difficulty putting myself in their shoes. Shortly before this friendship hove miraculously into sight I had discovered, and seen myself in nearly every page of, the autobiographical writings of Alan Bennett and Stephen Fry, and that helped too.

Mind, I don't mean to imply that my troubles are over as far as that goes -- I still, as I always did, admire and love strong, confident, extroverted males whom I can't be like, can't fit in with. I'm not 'one of the boys' and it causes me frequent pangs.

As for the relationships side of things. Of that I have no firsthand experience, but I've always found that the people my age whom I know have fairly mixed friendship groups and are relaxed about it. One thing -- the girls I know tend to have mostly female friends, and a couple of good guy friends, whereas the guys have an even mix of male and female friends or, not uncommonly, more female than male friends. Friendship is often largely seen as the province of women these days. It's part of the price which homophobia, sissyphobia, misogyny, sex-negativity make us pay for increased acceptance of homosexuality -- all of a sudden male homosexuality is thinkable and it and the appearance of it must be avoided at all cost. With the result of the couple in which the girl has several strong friendships with other girls and the guy basically has his girlfriend as his best pal and that's it. I've seen that a lot.

Mind, of the two close friends I have mentioned, one female and the other male...well, I am apparently most unoriginal in my choice of love objects, because I was secretly in love with both of them, and it sometimes seemed that everybody else was too, only not so secretly. The girl had male friends falling for her right and left and paying her unwanted attentions, whereas the young man had the same problem with female friends. It didn't help that the girl got along well with boys and had quite a few male friends, whereas the young man got along well with girls and had a majority of female friends. Just increased the pool of potential lovestruck hearts, you see. But as people have said, this is hardly only a heterosexual risk. My female friend in high school talked to the nerdy boys like she was actually interested in talking to them, and they fell hard for her as a result. Precisely the same thing happened with nerdy, female-bodied me, but because I was presenting as female, I wasn't suspected of being in love with her, though I was, terribly.

The paragon in question did consider a relationship with the nerdy boy who was most in love with her at the time, but decided against it. They talked it out and remained good friends.

[ 11-28-2011, 04:21 PM: Message edited by: bump on a log ]

Posts: 170 | From: UK | Registered: Mar 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Two of my best friends are Female. While I am (secretly) sexually involved with one of them, I am purely platonic with the other. I personally have never had anyone have a problem with this. Every now and then I get asked if I am going out with one of them but when I answer no nobody seems to have any problem with this or find it in anyway strange. This probably because as noticed by bump on a log as well as myself it is not uncommon for guys to have female friends nor is it uncommon for girls to have guy friends.
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When I was really young (about 3) I often played with the son of my mom's friend who was about the same age as me. i also played with boy toys like hot wheels, blocks, and trains but also had my fair share of dolls. When I was 6, the only kids in my neighborhood were girls and from then until I started 6th grade I was pretty much just friends with girls. Then in 6th grade I made new friends who were guys and who were girls. In the early part of that year my female friend and I sat at the boys table 3 days a week and with our female friend the other 2. I specifically remember preferring sitting at the main guys' table than the main girls' table. I've always been closer with girls but I'm currently friends with several guys. As for the relationship aspect I have only had crushes on my guy friends and currently do.

Knock on the sky and listen to the sound.

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