Many women feel comfortable expressing love for our platonic friends — and we're not just throwing it on the end of an email, either. For my closest female friends, saying "I love you" means "Even though we're not blood relatives or sex partners, I have your back and you're important to me." And it can be really nice to know that personal ties can run deep, even if they're not forged by blood or other bodily fluids. However, saying "I love you" — like crying — is a lot more difficult for dudes.
Jack Valero bemoans this problem in the Guardian, complaining that just because Victorian-era Cardinal and saint candidate John Henry Newman shared "an intensity of love" with his best friend Ambrose St. John, and was buried with him, this doesn't mean they were gay. Unfortunately, like much writing that speaks wistfully of a bygone age of platonic love, his piece has some hints of homophobia. He says a gay activist "noisily alleged" that the Catholic Church wanted to cover up Newman's homosexuality (the Church covering things up? Never!). And here's how he concludes:
Can a man nowadays own up with pride to having a dear and close friend, another man to whom he is devoted? Can he, without it being suspected as repressed homosexuality? I fear the answer to both may be "no". And it is hard to know which is the sadder.
Is it really so bad to be suspected of being gay? I think this is the real problem, not a modern conflation of love with sex. Being perceived as gay is so anathema to many straight dudes that they not only can't say "I love you" (except maybe as part of a semi-ironic "I love you, man") but they have trouble hugging or even complimenting each other. Maybe if male homosexuality were truly destigmatized, then a dude could "own up with pride to having a dear and close friend," because nobody would even care if they were fucking. But we're a long way from that, unfortunately, and many male-male friendships have to make do with a limited repertoire of jokes, disses, and side-hugs. Which is, as Valero says, pretty sad.