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As I was going through my list of Facebook friends, it dawned on me that I have very few, real close friends. Apart from my family and relatives, a great bulk of my social media network are classmates I haven’t been in touch with in years, as well as former colleagues who I don’t really speak to. Even those I shared meaningful years with during my time in university are not what I consider the textbook definition of ‘friends’, especially after I had decided to cut off so many of them in my life. Collateral damage, as a former close friend mentioned.

In real life, I have always kept my circle of friends small. It’s the same in Facebook. Every year I unfriend people I don’t really talk with. I can probably count on one hand those who I can really share about my personal life. Even those I consider as best friends are now what they used to be. Part of the reason is the deliberate effort to minimize interaction with people from my past life. And even if we are still on good terms, we’re no longer ‘chummy’ or ‘tight’. Yes, I communicate with them but not with the same emotional investment as some would when dealing with their best friends.

In this network of friends, even fewer are men. Most of them are gay. Or effeminate. I don’t really have straight guy friends. I think it’s because of two things: either straight guys avoid me because they think I like them when the find out or find me too effeminate, or because I avoid them because I might like them or because I think they find me too effeminate. Plus, my posts about George should be a good reminder of the dangers of this kind of friendship.

But since my conversion, I’ve attempted to connect with straight men although it has often been hit or miss. First, because the burden of adjusting often falls on me. When they start talking about NBA or dating or the latest boxing match, I can’t really keep up. I’ve tried to ‘be like them’ but have often found it awkward and unlike myself. It only brings back memories of my childhood years, when I was being bullied for being a softie, and how I desperately tried to act like a ‘big boy’, or wanted to be athletic, just so I could fit in and gain their approval.

If I try to bring up topics like religion, or music, or entertainment, there is almost always nothing in common. My personality appears to be more comfortable around women, where I can have frivolous conversations, and laugh boisterously over silly jokes and antics. I can count how many times in out-of-town trips with a large group how I often gravitate more towards the girls than the boys. When I approach the boys and then they offer a fist bump or a hand slap, I immediately freeze and think, how the hell do I fist bump—should it be firm, and strong, and masculine?

Perhaps the closest straight guy friend I have is my mentor. He is a colleague and also a good family friend, and he knows about my personal struggles more than my family friends. He’s the only straight guy friend who knows that I struggle with same-sex attraction. I remember how I just unloaded to him my life story and how he just listened so intently and without judgment. I cannot thank him enough for that. He’s also tried to introduce me to other male peers with the idea of teaching me to be comfortable around straight men. I wouldn’t say it’s been easy.

Every single time I have to interact with a straight guy, I often have to be conscious about my affectations. I lower my voice, I try to man up, I avoid gazing them in the eyes. My mentor too, like everyone else, tries to break the ice by talking about dating, basketball, and other hobbies I can’t relate to. It’s all fine with me. But I guess my only resentment is that none of them bothers to ask me why I love Sierra Boggess, or Mariah Carey, or the Chinese Women’s Volleyball team or Koreak drama. No one is interested to listen to my quip on why Butterfly and Caution are Mariah’s best work, and why Boskovic is still better than Egonu in terms of skill and floor defense.

Maybe that’s the reason why I have few friends—both guys and girls. I am always trying to like what they like, or be interested in what they are interested in. Yet so few are genuinely interested in my own passions. So few have actually bothered to ‘adjust’ to me. Even with my female friends, I’ve noticed that they always poke fun whenever I am obsessed over something I really like, and usually just nonchalantly pass it off as phase of mine. But when they’re obsessing over BTS, it’s all over the place to the point you feel out of place in the space wherein you’d think you would belong. I guess you have that odd day here and there when you just have had enough of trying to like things just so you could fit in. I’m not unhappy about this situation. I mean, it really is hard to find people on the same wavelength as you. All I can say is that, I’m just okay with it. It is what it is. And sometimes to leave it like that is better than getting worked up about it.