We regularly cuddle-up together watching TV or get cosy at the pub (Picture: Adam Miller)
‘Do you want me to be there when you come out to your parents?’
That was the question my straight friend, Mitch, asked me in 2012.
This conversation happened after years of his unwavering support while encouraging me to open up to my parents about my sexuality.
I was incredibly touched by the offer, but I still wasn’t ready to have that talk with my parents.
When I eventually told them I was gay in 2020, they were just relieved the ‘elephant in the room’ had finally been addressed. But knowing the support was there from Mitch was like a life jacket.
I had met him as part of a wider group of ‘lads’ at university in 2006. They became the unlikely heroes to help me accept my sexuality.
Jack, on the left, and Danny, second from the right (Picture: CHANNEL 4)
I appreciate this is not a unique story to me, but until Jack Rooke’s autobiographical comedy Big Boys on Channel 4, I’d never seen a celebration of a gay man and his straight mate like Jack (played by Dylan Llewellyn) and Danny (John Pointing).
Jack is pretty clueless when it comes to everything LGBTQ+ (like I was too) – be it sex, dating or just trying to exist around people who seem much more socially-evolved.
Fairly quickly, Jack and Danny realise that, despite being from polar opposite ends ‘of the spectrum of masculinity’, they’re destined to be best mates.
And I completely relate to this.
Pretty much overnight, we formed a platonic kinship (Picture: Adam Miller)
Growing up, it’s almost impossible not to be traumatised as an LGBTQ+ child or teenager and – sorry lads – but that is mainly down to relentless bullying from you.
Even if we weren’t being directly torn apart by the boys at school, there was a good chance that while we were harbouring this painful secret, general chat across the classroom was wildly homophobic.
It’s a lonely place in the closet and, subsequently, our trust in straight men is broken – quite often beyond repair. I know many gay men who still can’t shake off their trauma from straight men and there’s a good chance they never will.
They felt like the enemy. They were the Darth Vader to my Luke Skywalker or the Mariah Carey to my Jennifer Lopez.
But then, at university, I felt lucky enough to stumble into an afterparty at a random house, which is where I met the most important men in my life. In fact, everyone in the group has the number ‘66’ tattooed on their leg, lifted from the design of the home’s door number.
Pretty much overnight, we formed a platonic kinship, which is still as strong almost 20 years later. Within that time, my straight friends encouraged me to be me or push my boundaries – like go to gay bars more.
They learned to stop casually referring to things as ‘gay’ (Picture: Adam Miller)
Our relationships with each other have endured many highs and lows (Picture: Adam Miller)
I was petrified of being gay but gradually, it was my straight male friends who helped me overcome that – including Mitch with that offer to help me come out to my parents.
Together, we’ve comforted each other through break-ups and the death of close friends. We still regularly cuddle-up together watching TV or get cosy at the pub.
At my 30th birthday, they even surprised me with a flash mob, performing the entire choreography for my favourite song, Tearin’ Up My Heart by N*SYNC. This was after what they later admitted were weeks of stressful rehearsals.
I’ve also been a celebrant at one of their weddings. Before my big day – should it ever happen – I’ll no doubt be leaning on them for support, as I like to think I did for them too.
Throughout this time, I learned that, yes, many straight men (and often gay men too) have homophobic tendencies, but given a chance they’re probably not the same breed as the monsters who tortured us in our teen years – they’re just a bit clueless.
A friend even got Adam’s nickname tattooed on their chest (Picture: Adam Miller)
I learned about the unique and fiercely loyal comradery from being in a brotherhood (Picture: Adam Miller)
We all learn a lot from each other. They learned to stop casually referring to things as ‘gay’, which they quickly nipped in the bud when given the context; they listened to what it’s like not to live with the privilege of being a straight man and grew from it too.
When I mentioned I was writing this piece, my friend and former flatmate Iain sent me a note.
He said: ‘You assume your mates enjoy the same safety, but that’s not the case when you’re a gay man; even here in the UK. Living with you, I witnessed this at music festivals for dressing a certain way, to just existing out in the street.’
‘I don’t think I’ll ever really understand how that feels,’ he admitted. ‘I’ve also learnt that, while not all gay men should be expected to love Britney, you really f**king do.’
As for how I’ve grown through their friendship, I learned about the unique and fiercely loyal comradery from being in a brotherhood and what a truly unbreakable bond it really is. Sure, they celebrated me for being different, but they treated me in the same way they treat each other.
That meant that I wasn’t immune to a rinsing or being pranked. The same friend who offered to help me come out to my parents also once gleefully threw me into a bin filled with rubbish.
Our relationships with each other have endured many highs and lows – and it hasn’t always been plain sailing – but not for a second has there ever been any love lost, no matter what.
Perhaps more importantly, I learned that straight men actually aren’t the enemy and, if given the time and space to learn, they can be better friends than I ever imagined.
More from Platform
Platform is the home of Metro.co.uk’s first-person and opinion pieces, devoted to giving a platform to underheard and underrepresented voices in the media.
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After decades battling a stammer following childhood trauma, things reached a breaking point for Jonathan Blair, who had been so ashamed of his speech impediment that he hadn’t even told his wife about his condition.
They’ve held me while I cried re-living the trauma of growing up LGBTQ+ and wouldn’t let go until I’d stopped.
That’s why watching Jack and Danny on Big Boys feels so monumental. Danny’s there for his best friend when Jack comes out to his mum (in one of the most touching, but funny coming out scenes there is). He also accompanies him when Jack goes on his first ever hook-up. While Jack helps Danny with his letter to re-apply for university.
I am so glad I have similar bonds in my life.
I know defending the straight male isn’t always a popular choice. In fact, I’ve been on dates with gay men who could not have disagreed with me more.
But I’ve always felt so protected and even celebrated by them. Every one of them has spent countless hours listening to my trauma, my ‘woe me’s’ and heartache – even if they can’t understand what it’s like to be LGBTQ+, they really try their hardest to.
It took a long time to really accept that I was gay, let alone be as proud of it as I am today.
But without having the support of my straight male friends – like Danny is to Jack in Big Boys – I’m not sure I would have ever got here.
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