Tired of labels, one hag says enough is enough!
by Valerie Heinmets
Even as the case of gay marriage is being argued in the Supreme Court, hurtful and damaging stereotypes still resound that cause much more harm than intended. The worst and most epidemic of these is the idea of the “gay best friend.” Glorified by shows like Sex and the City, Will and Grace, and even Girls, and perpetuated by bawdy comediennes like Kathy Griffin and Chelsea Handler, the idea of having a gay best friend has been widely socialized into many a cosmopolitan would-be Carrie Bradshaw.
Don’t get me wrong, the urban myth of the young, gay man is great. He’s your perpetual trendy brunch partner who listens to your stories, and accepts your bitchiness while dishing it back with fervor. He loves to really let loose with you in a way that would make your boyfriend shudder, and would like never, ever back-stab you or compete with you like your best girl friends can do. And most importantly, he will always give you honest feedback about how you really look in that dress.
Even for a group as great as the gays, this is pretty fanciful. Beyond fanciful, it is patently false.
The first problem lies in the stereotype that exists of gay men, a cartoonish image that some fulfill but many more detest. The problem with seeking out this nice, idealized homosexual to fulfill the hole in your life, that should be filled with a fairy godfather in Prada loafers, is that it is misleading and offensive. As with any collective group of human beings, the defining characteristics we assign to gay men are, more often than not, false and rather arbitrary. It would not be okay to fetishize a “black best friend” or an “Asian best friend,” seeking out good dance abilities and street-smarts or a talent for math, so why do we do the same thing to gay men and glorify it?
This version of the “gay best friend” is barely recognizable as a friendship, functioning on a dramatized view of the undying support a gay man can give a girl. In its best form, having a gay best friend is simply a friendship the way it should be, with no middle-school era labels like “best” and “gay” added to the front, adjectives that are unnecessary in defining any friendship. In its worst form, it is a status symbol, living proof that you have achieved an enviable amount of diva that others flock to. Why the same fascination has not arisen around having a lesbian best friend can be boiled down to the simplistic image girls are given: that gay men intrinsically have extra pizazz that will translate to them if they become friends.
Which is ridiculous.
None of this is to knock having friends who are homosexuals. I personally have many close friends who could be called “gay best friends,” but I abhor the label and connotations that come with the term because it is polarizing to both gay men and the people they befriend. For one, what happens when a man does not fit all of these outlandish requirements we imagine them to have? Many men deemed “not gay enough” are left in a gray area, not easily identifiable and therefore not surrounded by a gaggle of girls. But just gay enough to make some straight men uncomfortable, plagued by the image of what so many gay men are deemed to be, but in fact are not.
Beyond being the fabulous, fit, young homosexual that the media would have you believe, gay men are really just men. In my many interactions with groups of just straight boys and just gay boys of varying shades, I’ve noticed very few differences. Straight men really don’t just sit around and talk about sports the whole time, the same way gay men don’t just sit around and gossip and talk about shoes all the time. In fact I’ve noticed that, especially when both groups contain only members of this university, the conversation is strikingly similar.
It’s a shame that a stereotype girls so lovingly relinquish onto their gays keep more of these interactions from happening. Despite these setbacks, straight girls are often times the greatest allies to the gays. Just look at how many of their profile pictures are now pink equal signs. Not that this isn’t great, but so many of our versions of what a gay man should be are inaccurate and harmful.
Your gay best friend is not your platform for social justice. He is not your gossip partner, brunch partner, club partner, dance partner, fun arm candy accessory, never-be-seen-alone safety blanket. It is not his job to pick up the “pieces of your life” when you and your boyfriend break up. He can’t even legally get married in most states, so trust me, he has more problems than you do.
Yes, support for the same-sex marriage movement is certainly easier when you personally know someone who has struggled with the stigma, and criticism, that comes with being a homosexual in America. However, there is no excuse for adding to that stigma that gay men are only here to help us shop and give us sage and sassy advice when we need it.
So yes, support gay marriage. And support the fuck out of it, because it is a civil right that deserves to happen now, not in 10 years, and certainly not in 50. But in doing so, make sure you are not spreading an idea just as vicious as the one that gay men are unequal–the idea that they’re all the same.