On Intimate Male-Female Friendships

In NYT Modern Love, Jennifer Boylan writes about how she experienced a change in her male friendships after she transitioned from a man to woman:

"I wondered if, among the male privileges I had surrendered in transition, a certain kind of romance-free intimacy with straight men was the first thing to go. From now on, even among the guys with whom I had been (and in some ways still was) closest, the not-too-far-off aroma of sexuality now hung in the air."

This reminds me of something I have been very mindful of in the recent years: vast majority of people struggle with the idea and actuality of intimate, opposite-gender (heterosexual) friendships, which are not primarily driven by sexual attraction. I am referring to individual friendships beyond workplace and group collegiality, displaying a closeness usually reserved for same-sex friendships. Such friendships are exceedingly rare... not because they cannot and do not exist, but because we sorely lack cultural and social narratives of such friendships, and also because such friendships face the potential complication of the development of sexual attraction. These are hardly fatal obstacles, but are daunting for a lot of people. A smoggy skepticism envelopes the notion in commonplace societal wisdom, often requiring someone engaged in such a friendship to be actively non-conformist. It is a shame that genuine male-female friendships are not more prevalent; I can definitely say that my own life would've been vastly poorer without them.

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