I am privileged to live in an age where opinion is changing rapidly on homosexuality. Surveys show our generation is overwhelmingly accepting of same-sex couples and of homosexuality itself. And yet, there remains one particular, pernicious expression of disrespect for gay men, almost entirely unique to well-meaning straight women. It is this: the Gay Best Friend.
For the uninitiated, the Gay Best Friend (n.), also Sassy Gay Friend or abbreviated simply as Gay Friend, is a fabulous creature full of sassy advice, put on earth for the sole purpose of advising hapless straight girls bogged down by the weight of decisions about boys and fashion and stuff. For more, see: the Bravo Network.
I was recently reminded of the prevalence of this idea. First, a girl invited a (lowercase) gay friend of mine to her special dinner, because, turns out, she was in a competition with her girl friend “to see which of our Sassy Gay Friends is funnier!” While I was at Stanford in Washington, people jokingly discussed our mock political futures, as Stanford students are apt to do during a quarter in D.C. One oft-repeated suggestion for my future was that I become Chelsea Lately. I was in month three of researching financial access and inclusion in Latin America with an economist at the World Bank, but apparently my future was to be a half-drunk, female late-night talk show host. Finally, not long ago, a drunken girl I’d met an hour ago told me, “I want more Gay Friends. Gays are the best! I hope that’s not offensive,” she added.
Well, it is. I am not your Gay Best Friend. Your Gay Best Friend is not your Gay Best Friend. He is a person, three-dimensional, who experienced significant pain coming to terms with his homosexuality. Growing up gay leaves many of us with a perceived need to constantly be on defense, and this manifests itself in us gay guys, yes, getting a little sassy sometimes.
Stereotypes don’t invent themselves, after all. Being someone’s Sassy Gay Friend brings with it a perverse form of acceptance that we feel we need. Yet this acceptance doesn’t happen on our own terms but is dictated by stereotypes from popular media. Gay men are being reduced to a collectible grab bag of sassy one-liners and catty witticisms. These friendships aren’t real. They are friendships in which if I try to open up, as friends do with each other, her eyes glaze over as if she’s wondering “when will he start saying ‘guuurl’ again?”
True acceptance comes when you find friends like the ones I’ve been lucky enough to make, both gay and straight. Friends that expect conversation and not a caricature, and who don’t think it’s funny when I show my Southern California roots by calling people dude, because I “sound so straight.” So the next time you catch yourself talking about your Gay Best Friend, stop and think about what kind of Straight Best Friend you’re being to him.
Cooper Williams ‘13