OPINION: I am not your gay best friend

Illustration by Lindsay Hart

Emma Schirmer, Contributing Writer

It’s a completely normal day in the library, the second floor is full of chatter. Occasionally, I catch a snippet of a conversation. But one conversation distracts me enough to completely abandon calculus. It’s a group of young women, and their discussion goes something like this:

“I feel like gay people are just so insightful, and like having one around would be really great.”

“Yeah, they’re so fashionable and fun. Did you know Henry is gay?”

“Yeah, maybe he could be like, our gay best friend?”

As soon as those words left her mouth, I was past livid. I was at raging queer level.

Now I know these young women meant well. In their eyes, this desire to have a gay best friend is seen as a form of acceptance. But it’s not. It’s a fetishization of a whole group of people based on a stereotype perpetuated by straight people. 

Obviously, I am not their target gay because I’m a bisexual woman, and to them, queer women are unicorns. We’re not thought of in the same adorable, fashionable “cute” way as gay men. We’re thought of as edgy Silvia Plath-reading, Tegan and Sara-loving, flannel-wearing lesbians. 

Let’s play a game — an exercise to understand the error of the “gay best friend” stereotype. Close your eyes and imagine the whole world were LGBTQ+ and that the minority sexuality were hetero. Would we gay folks search out a token straight friend? No. Would you straight folks like being sought after like that to give advice on what sorority to join, what Nicholas Sparks novel to read next or what photo to post on your VSCO account? No.

The specification itself is gross. You wouldn’t call up your “Jewish best friend” or your “black best friend” to hang out. When looking for friends, don’t search for a specific race, sexuality, ethnicity or religious background. If the situation doesn’t call for it, there’s no need to specify anyone’s identity. It is neither relevant nor necessary. We are not here to be your token friends to flaunt and brag about. 

You’re also assuming what all gay people are like. You — who wants this so-called “gay best friend” — assume all queers will tell you what shoes go best with that dress because they have a fabulous fashion sense. And they’ll scream-sing Broadway hits and Britney Spears with you. But gays don’t always present like that. There are a plethora of gays, all of whom come in different shapes, sizes and appearances. If a queer person doesn’t meet your stereotypical expectations, they’re not “straight-acting.” They’re being themselves. So, please don’t push your hetero notions onto us.

Your stereotype is seen as acceptable. But it’s not. It causes damage and regression to years of hard work and suffering from the LGBTQ+ community. These remarks are ignorant and put a community of people into a box. 

Your perpetuation of the “gay best friend” stereotype promotes homophobia. When you make remarks such as “Gay men have great fashion sense” or “The gays are so much fun,” it makes it seem OK for homophobic people to exaggerate them. Suddenly “great fashion sense” becomes “dressing like a fairy” and “so much fun” becomes “promiscuous.” 

Let me give you a piece of advice from one friendly neighborhood queer to a population of straight people: Your generalization of me results in a feeling of pure suffocation. There’s a term for grouping every single member of the LGBTQ+ community into one umbrella: marginalizing. 

Next time you’re about to say something, ask yourself: Is this statement marginalizing a large group of people into one arbitrary category? If the answer is yes, don’t say it. Trust me when I say this: us queers don’t want to be your “gay best friend” anyway.

1 Comment

  1. Yeah, I totally agree that the entire notion of a “gay best friend” really should be discouraged. The right way to think about and analyze other people is to look who they are first-and-foremost as individuals, and not to judge another person, for better or worse, solely on the basis of their group identity.

    On the other hand, I tend to be sympathetic towards people who do this whenever it’s clear that they’re just trying to be inclusive. Especially in college, a lot of people are getting their first real exposure to different kinds of people that they’ve just never met before – people for whom their perception is based entirety off what they’ve seen on TV or in pop culture.

    So yeah, it MIGHT be true that this Henry guy is fun and fashionable, and all that stuff. It’s might true that he’s just an asshole! Lol, either way, you don’t know just because he’s gay.

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