One night last semester, I had a couple of shots in my system at a party. Needless to say, I was feeling good. There was a girl behind me in line for the bathroom who laughed at a snarky comment I made about the clashing, navy blue curtains and black couch, which got us talking. She said something along the lines of, “You are so cute. I wish I had a gay best friend like you.”
Wait, excuse me? What is that supposed to mean? It’s not the first time I heard the title ‘gay best friend,’ but it was the first time I had someone say it to me. At the time I didn’t really care because, let’s face it, I didn’t really care about anything. But the next day I started thinking about the idea of the gay best friend and how demeaning it is.
Sometimes homosexual men or women will make friends with the opposite sex because their personalities are drawn to each other, and I have no problem with that. The issue lies with people who seek out that token gay best friend or, in my case, assume a gay man will automatically befriend you because of one aspect of his personality.
This girl assumed I would fulfill this ideal, stereotypical image of a gay best friend despite knowing nothing about me, and she completely commodified me based on one aspect of my personality. Rather than take the time to try to understand what I’m actually like, she labeled me as gay and assumed I would be her gay best friend.
It’s as if people have this idea that all gay men are the same. Gay men are supposed to like fashion, sex, clubbing and alcohol, and because some gay men like those things, all gay men are automatically a potential gay best friend waiting to be cast into that role.
Normally, people say they don’t feel much prejudice being a gay man in an urban environment in 2011, but I completely disagree. The gay best friend is the epitome of stereotyping because it doesn’t allow room for any individuality. =While some gay men are interested in fashion, sex, clubbing and alcohol, some run for Congress and others train for marathons. We are all very unique, despite being attracted to the same sex.
What makes the situation worse is the fact that people think having a gay best friend makes them seem completely accepting of homosexuality, and they’ll go so far as to introduce someone as their gay best friend to show how comfortable they really are with it.
The gay best friend pandemic of 2011 is similar to the “Seinfeld” episode “The Outing,” which aired in 1993. The cast discussed homosexuality, and after each comment they said, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” If they said it once or twice, I wouldn’t have thought anything about it considering it was a ‘90s sitcom, but the quote must have been repeated 15 times. While it was mostly for comedic effect, the repetition showed that even though people act as if they’re comfortable with homosexuality, deep down they’re actually not.
The gay best friend is a very similar concept. There shouldn’t be a need to say anything about someone being gay when it’s completely irrelevant. The awkward emphasis on sexuality makes the person introducing their best friend seem like they’re secretly uncomfortable and must make it known that their friend is gay. When a friend of mine introduces me to someone, they introduce me as their friend Mark, not their gay friend Mark. Introducing me their gay friend marginalizes me into the gay-best-friend category and puts an emphasis that isn’t needed on my sexuality, much like the “Seinfeld” episode.
Rather than trying to show acceptance of homosexuality by going overboard and making it a known topic, talk about it when necessary. I don’t have a problem discussing my sexuality, but it also doesn’t have to be part of my title. My friends wouldn’t introduce me as a gay fashion columnist, a gay student or a gay runner, because my sexuality and my titles aren’t relevant to each other, so why introduce me as their gay best friend?
The heterosexual community needs to understand that discussing sexuality doesn’t mean constantly bringing it up, but rather, bringing it up when it matters. If someone were to say something rude about homosexuality, that’s an appropriate time to say, “I have a best friend who is gay,” not “a gay best friend.” The subtle arrangement of words changes the meaning greatly. A gay best friend is a best friend who fits all the stereotypical gay qualities, but a best friend who is gay is a best friend who happens to be homosexual. It shows that while they are attracted to the same sex, it’s simply only one part of their personality.