GBF stereotype deemed wrong

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

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.

-Mark Longacre

13 Comments

  1. Yeah, its the same with being the “Black best friend” and I can’t tell you how many times one of my friends has spoken about me to their other friends as “yeah, My black best friend, Imani. . .”

  2. I think that this is just splitting hairs at this point. Yes, it does make me uncomfortable when people introduce me gay. But, the fact of the matter is, I am gay. Being introduced as gay is about annoying as being introduced as being tall. It is annoying, but not offensive. We have come along way here in 2011, and if you believe that we have not come along way, head back to the fifties, see how it is. My point is, they are trying to be supportive. And yet, here is someone who is offended that they are trying to be supportive. People are trying these days in 2011, I think we need to give them the benefit of expressing that we know they are trying, and with time, it will become easier, and better.

  3. I understand your point. As a writer, I have to deal with such labels in regards to my sexual orientation and to my writing. Add to the fact I am a person color, I often have to make the statement that there is more to me than my sex or my race. I am a human being first, a published author, and if I may say so, a very good friend. What does my sex have to do with any of that? Not much. What matter is the kind of person I am. For a true friend, your sexuality should be the least of what endears you to them. labels are for products. How I like to be addressed, simply put, is by my name.

  4. This reminds me of a similar phenomenon, that only happens when I’m talking to straight friends who know I’m gay: We’ll be having a perfectly normal conversation and they’ll reference someone else they know, STOP, mention that said person “happens to be gay” and then continue on with the conversation. I mean, what, why? Unless that person’s being gay is directly related to the story (it rarely is), it feels like they’re just pointing it out for my benefit. Err, thanks? I know other gay people exist in the world, guys.

    Granted, I know this is said with good intention, but that doesn’t make it any less jarring or uncomfortable– like they’re trying to prove something to me by pointing out I’m not the only gay person they know.

  5. All stereotypes do people a disservice – my best friend is just that because I love him for who he is – not what in any regard – sexuality really should not be the fact – it’s the deep connected bond that should be why we choose a friend

  6. I definitely lost the sterotypical GBF lotto. My best friend since childhood likes meditation, politics, and Tori Amos. He can’t stand Rachel Zoe and he does’t even drink cocktails. He is beautiful and complex. He’s be the best friend I could ask for (even though his eyes cross and glaze over when I talk about Gucci’s fall collection.

  7. As a married woman, I’ve used this only when caught ‘out’ somewhere alone with my best friend, G. Although, come to think of it, he did it the first time to wipe the “Hmmm, What’s this?” look off someones face after seeing us come out of a movie together. Our culture still isn’t comfortable with M/F friendships without the other and, well, if no explanation is given – let’s just say the gossip is hard to quell.

  8. I have a best friend who happens to be a gay man… But, I don’t consider him some “token” that makes me appear to be okay with homosexuality. I love him dearly, regardless of who he loves. I feel incredibly comfortable in the gay community, and I often do mesh well with gay men. I only ever mention his sexual orientation to people if I’m trying to help him find a boyfriend (at his request) or when people give me that facial expression that begs the question: “Why does your husband let you go out with some other guy?” I’m proud of everything about him… his talents, his flaws, and his bravery to be himself. He jokes that I’m an odd bisexual, because there’s no “straight woman” to me… I’m just a lesbian and a gay man smooshed into one person. I’ve met lots of gay men… all different types… and I’ve almost always connected better with them than any other group. No one would think it was odd if I said that I get along best with straight women… Why should it be different with gay men? I suppose I don’t make the faux pas of introducing him as “my gay friend, Justin”… Though, I’m very comfortable with myself and wouldn’t care how someone introduced me. Though he’s outgrown clubbing, he does happen to like fashion, alcohol, and sex… But, I didn’t know that when I “fell for him” as my best friend.

  9. I just wanted to clarify that I’m not saying gay men shouldn’t like any of the things listed, I’m just saying that you don’t have to like those things. You can like anything, its just we shouldn’t be required to like them because it fits a stereotype.

    I also wanted to personally thank everyone for reading my piece and voicing an opinion here. It really creates a dialogue about the issue at hand, and its very interesting to hear everyone’s opinion.

  10. This same stereotyping (while “innocent”) is no better than those who stereotype gays negatively (the so-called “homophobes” and those who do not agree with homosexuality). The x-best friend thing is just forcing people into roles and identities that have nothing to do with who they are. I’m straight, yay, good for me. My cousin and a few of my friends are gay. Yay, good for them. Sexuality shouldn’t define a person – their personality and characteristics, what they do, their hobbies etc, etc is more “true” to identity than sexuality is.

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