Words by Vish | @VishdelishUK 

I’m watching my Will & Grace DVD boxset as I write this. It’s my ultimate comfort TV show which is on par with my other comforting aid – deep pan pizza.

I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the charisma and sass of my favourite comical foursome. Even a decade on from when the show last aired, I’m still deeply invested in the show’s fundamental message: friendship.

This got me thinking about the people I have in my life who I can call ‘mate’, ‘buddy’, ‘darling’ etc. The truth is I can count them on one hand and that’s fine with me.

The interesting thing about Will & Grace was the dynamic explored between gay men and straight women (i.e. the fag hag). What is this magical connection that gay men have with women? Yes I’m making a big sweeping statement here, but looking at my own friends while growing up, I have always played with and befriended girls -  right from primary school to my working life. Much to my mother’s disapproval, she’d keeping teasing me with ‘why are all your friends girls!’ jibes. Well mother, it’s because boys are toxic shits and their socialised and performative masculinity suffocate me. If only my 12-year-old self could articulate this to her then.

I would say right up to my early 20’s my friend circle consisted of mainly cis straight women. Though this was fine, I did feel dragged down by their heteronormativity, which frankly made me feel ‘meh’.

Moving to London was an eye opener and it expanded my social circle with diverse members of the LGBT+ community. Not that my home town didn’t have a buzzing LGBT community, it was just literally too near the judgmental gaze of my family. Though I had come out to them, I still lived under their roof and control. My authentic self was compromised and I always felt isolated. As you can imagine, London changed that. I was eager to meet people and ‘put myself out there’. I went to social meet-ups, Pride events, speed dating and advertised my existence on various apps. Though I rarely found a date, I did meet some awesome people and a few good gay friends.

However, in hindsight I was very naïve. I initially thought I would be best friends with every gay man I came across. I was so very eager to be liked and overlooked people’s problematic ways from their racist tendencies to self hate.

I would meet wonderful, colourful characters who made me feel short changed. I would pay their bills, buy them food, even bought them a phone in their time of need with promises of repayment. Unfortunately these promises were never fulfilled and glossed over with wit and charm. I didn’t have the confidence or the self-worth to confront them.

Don’t get me wrong, friendship is about giving and not necessarily about keeping receipts of what we give and what we should expect, but there is a line. A line, I believe a true friend would be mindful of crossing.

I’ve realised confidence is key when making and keeping friends. Standing your ground and making your stance clear is imperative not only to one’s mental health but for any relationship’s future.

I can empathise with friends whose behaviour may seem inconsiderate, after all, we all carry around our own issues. I believe in helping people and not ditching them at a drop of a hat. However at the same time, it’s about realising your own resources and their limits. For the sake of self-care, I believe that walking away, be it for reflection or to move on from a friendship, may well be the answer.

They say you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends. I can’t think of a truer statement. Many LGBT+ people have had turbulent upbringings or felt isolated and disconnected from their next of kin. So it’s not surprising that our friends become our family, our tribe - but we must choose carefully.