That’s like asking if a guy and a girl can have a platonic friendship, isn’t it? The question is given the possibility of a sexual/ romantic connection, can a relationship exist even without it? Is a straight woman that different from a lesbian woman?
Okay, let me get out of the pseudo-intellectualising and go into real life. I do know some lesbians. One of them is a friend. She hasn’t actually ‘come out’ as they call it or even ‘confessed’ to me if such a revelation can be labelled a confession (as if it were a crime and one should look shamefaced about it!). Yet, I know. Don’t ask me how. I’d be a terrible friend if I didn’t realise it. As it is, I’m probably not as great a friend as I ought to be if she hasn’t felt comfortable sharing the truth with me. Or perhaps it is just too personal, too precious to her to speak about it. Either way, I’m fine with it. After all, I don’t consider friendship as a permission to sit in judgement and I also don’t think that one’s orientation bears judgement by others.
So that’s as far as it goes regarding our conversations (or the lack of them) about her sexuality. However, there are other things…undercurrents, emotions and grey areas. For example, how far do I go with my displays of affection? I’m a natural-born hugger, I love hugging my family, friends and people I feel close to. Thus far the only complication has been with men, particularly the ones in my age bracket with whom there is/could be a a certain attraction. Like most other women, I’ve tried and tested the waters and reached a certain comfortable balance of physical proximity with the various men in my life. Now we arrive at the new complication of having to consider the same thing with another woman as well.
Personally, I believe that sexuality isn’t binary with a person being either homosexual or heterosexual (and how does that account for bisexuality?) It is more like a range of shades and all of us fall somewhere along the scale. Oh, perhaps we even move up and down the scale at various points in our lifetime. Note now I’m talking about orientation not actual action so for the more conservative-minded, I’m not accusing you of doing anything that could shock you. And if you follow my belief it means that each of us is capable of feeling attraction for any other human being, male or female at any point of time in our life. I’ve written about my own bi-curiosity (as Desiblogging termed it) before. I’m quite unabashed in my admiration of other women. But I find it stops right there and I have no desire (physical, hormonal or otherwise) to go any further than that. That in my mind is what determines my orientation and keeps me in the dating pool of male partners.
How do you distinguish the affinity and closeness that like-minded women share from sexual attraction? How far do you go with someone you think there could be a spark of attraction with? How close do you get to someone you suspect might be attracted to you?
And therein I find I’m back on the same territory as I was a few years back when I discovered the opposite sex, attraction and love. Friendship is so wonderfully simple but the hormones just come and complicate them all, don’t they?
To come back to the case in point, my lovely lady friend appears to be in a relationship as well. How do I know? No, she hasn’t mentioned that either but it is clearly visible to anyone who knows her well. I wish I could speak up and tell her how happy I am that she has found someone special. When her eyes light up at the mention of her girlfriend, I wish I could tease her and hug her in sheer glee. But I don’t.
I also wonder sometimes what her girlfriend thinks of me. Just as I wonder what the wives and girlfriends of my guy friends think of me and I walk around on eggshells until I’m totally, completely 120% sure that they have no qualms about my closeness – I wonder in this case too whether her girlfriend ever resents me or even, well, frowns a bit at our closeness. Oh well, I think not. She seems a good sort in herself and I’m guessing if I had known her before I’d have been friends with her as well.
So to answer my own question of whether it is possible for a straight and a lesbian woman to be friends. Yes, yes, I think so. After all, sexuality is physical and perhaps mental but friendship, love and loyalty come straight from the heart.
(The friend this was written for, would go on to set up a prominent organisation to centre LGBTQ issues. Being friends with her & bearing witness to her journey transformed who I would eventually become and my politics. I will always be grateful that this friendship was possible.)