I have a small circle of friends. They are the ones who know me deeply enough. We discuss everything under the sun. They are the joy in my little wins and a sounding board when I feel low. I feel the same about them too. Therefore, I ensure I am always available for them when they need me, like a 2am friend.
We have the coziest get-togethers, hot chocolate evenings, movie dates, mindless couch gossips, intellectual debates and stories of longings and yearnings about love and life. We trust each other a lot and drop our guards when we pour our heart out.
And this might precisely be the reason why it was time for one relationship to mature into a whole new level.
Here’s the story!
It was a Saturday evening and a customary visit to a local coffee shop followed by a stroll on the beach with my best friend. We enjoyed the cool breeze and the sun setting on the horizon that painted the sky with an orange hue. This was a much-needed downtime after a long and tiring week.
As we walked on the cool brown sands, I noticed a strange silence in him. It was evident that he was lost in thought. But I dismissed it with an assumption that he wants to merely enjoy the moment. We continued to walk for a few more minutes and then to simply trigger a conversation between us, I shared some funny stories about my college crush that I regretted after graduation.
He opened up to me about his life in college too but with a tinge of sadness. I noticed the heaviness in his voice when he said that he couldn’t enjoy his days like an average teenager. He was surrounded by a lot of boys with a tough demeanor and their over the top behaviour was difficult for him to keep up with.
I’ve known my friend to be an introvert with a feeble physique and a strong heart brimming with love and empathy. I understood his plight of not being able to step up to a male dominated environment.
With a hesitation in his voice, he confided in me that he’s attracted to men. For the rest of the evening, he dominated the conversation by pouring his heart out about how he feels to live in a gender biased culture, how he protected himself as a child from the prying eyes of the world about his sexuality, the challenge of never being able to open up and if he does; then not being accepted as part of a so-called evolved society, his inability to find love, his fears of being abused and mocked for who he is, his dilemma on how he hides his true identity under a robe of what is acceptable and normal to the society.
This was quite a revelation for both of us. I realised what a mammoth task it would have been for him to open up with such intricate details of his life. And this wouldn’t have been possible without him trusting me to be his ally. I have known him for many years but never wondered that there was so much going on under the surface of his predictability.
Nothing changed between us after the conversation, but I became mindful of a few things that helped us strengthen our friendship even more.
Here’s what I did to show my affection and solidarity and this is what you could do too: –
- Listen – This may sound clichéd but your ability to listen is the biggest gift you can give. It is even bigger than love. Listen to the spoken and unspoken feelings of your friend that will allow you to explore their inner world
- Empathise – This is different from sympathy. My friend expected me to empathise with his situation knowing that I will not be able to move mountains for him. He wanted me to be his strength in trying times and celebrate euphoric moments. I continue this approach even today
- Suspend Judgment – The revelation will most definitely change the equation between the two of you. This may either make you over protective or judge every move or subsequent feelings he’d share with you that might draw you apart. It is up to you to handle this with maturity. Suspend judgment and allow your friendship to continue the way it was before, rooted in respect and compassion
- Encourage – We all seek encouragement. It helps us become better individuals. After he poured his heart out to me, I realised how much he was deprived of encouragement and to be truly accepted from the inside out. And since that day, I encourage him to never keep a veil of secrecy between us and be who he is atleast in my company
After a few months, he asked me “Hithakshi, what has changed since the time I confided in you?”
And I said, “Absolutely nothing! You are my best friend and will continue to be one. It’s just that I got to know more about you. I am honoured that you chose me to reveal the depths of your inner world.”
If you have a friend who confides in you about their identity, consider it a blessing that you are perceived as a trusted ally.
Gender has nothing to do with friendship. True friendship has no definitions.