Hey there! It’s a been awhile (longer than I had realized) since my last post. Several versions of grad school have gotten in the way, but I read an article today that reminded why I started this blog in the first place, so here we find ourselves!
If any of you happen to hate-read the Huffington Post, as I do, you may have seen an article in the “Gay Voices” section today, originally entitled “Why Every Woman Needs a Gay Best Friend.” The title has since been changed to “Why Gay Men And Straight Women Make The Best Friends: 4 Great Reasons”, because this is apparently somehow better. You can read the “article” here.
Before the “great reasons” even start, the author promises the reader that by the end they’ll be “best girlfriends” even though he’s a guy. The gays “serve an important purpose in your life.”
“You see, the trusted “gay best friend” helps offset the frustration of navigating a world of bitchy girls and bozo boys, and of course we empathize with your raging, mood-swingy hormones, too. (Well, everything except those menstrual cycles. We’re not quite sure what to do with those even though we have our own version of them).”
Never before have so many groups of people been essentialized with so few words. It’s almost impressive, in its way. “Oh Baird”, you say. “Surely this was written by a snappy gay teen, dealing with his own raging hormones like only a character on GLEE ever could.” Incorrect. This article was written was by a self-described “old gay guy.” That this guy is apparently still a slave to his hormones is a worrisome side note. What’s really troubling is that this man is apparently unclear on what “to do” with a menstrual cycle. I’ve identified as a man for my entire life and for many of those years, I have identified as a gay man. In those 28 years, I do not recall ever being asked to “do” something with a friend’s menstrual cycle. And I certainly don’t recall “having my own version.” Assuming that I am not alone in my lack of man-struation, I have no choice but to read this as the kind of “cute” misogyny in which only the GBF can engage. The kind of brutal (often unsolicited) honesty that usually consists of a (gay) man playing both sides of the chauvinism fence, while saying some really awful things to someone they profess to care about.
But hey, that’s just the introduction. Let’s get to these four “great” reasons.
At first glance, these seem great. Who doesn’t want a friend with these qualities? And that’s precisely my point. You should have friends with these qualities. Not one GBF who protects you from the rest of the, to borrow a term, “bitchy girls and bozo boys.” But the author presents these as services only your gay best friend, who was, remember, divinely placed on earth solely for this purpose, can possibly provide.
Let’s break it down.
1. “We admire and adore you.” Great. Wonderful. I can safely say I admire and adore all of my friends. Why would I be friends with someone that I didn’t admire and adore? What is problematic is the author’s implication that we admire and adore our straight female friends because on some level we want to be them.
Our jealousy comes from the fact that your feminine energy has a way of making the male species become putty in your hands. True, we can do that, too, just not as well as you can. And, we watch you a lot. We’re dying to learn all your tricks for manipulating guys into doing anything you want. (Of course, let’s be truthful girls, manipulation shouldn’t be something we’re proud of unless it means manipulating a better deal on a pair of shoes … right?)
Now, I am all for gender bending. Everybody’s got feminine and masculine energy in various amounts and in disparate situations. But are we really to believe that your best. friend. should be a person who admires your ability to manipulate guys? It’s not just insulting to gay men, it’s insulting to women. At the end of the day, this is just one more case of how women’s lives are constructed around, and in service to, the men they are desperately trying to trick into sex/love/marriage. But how fun, now the gays get to play, too! I have many wonderful friends, of a variety genders, and I can safely say that their ability to manipulate people into sex is not at the top of my list of their best qualities.
2. “Girl, we feel your pain.” Once again. Seems like perhaps one of the most basic requisites for friendship, right? WRONG. To quote the author “as for loving ourselves, we all go to the same church—Sisterhood of the Perpetual Inferiority Complex.” Did you know that all women and gay men are forever broken inside? (WHY WON’T A MAN TELL ME I’M PRETTY?) What I find most disturbing about this particular “great reason” is that it hides a grain of truth. Many women and gay men (and queer people writ large) experience legitimate pain and abuse at the hands of a society that normalizes our suffering. Rather than focusing on the myriad ways in which we might understand these processes of aggression, the author continues
…if we had a dollar for every minute that girls/women and gay men spend in front of the mirror, checking themselves out to ensure we look good, we could pay off the United States National Debt! (Just don’t tell the politicians that, they’d never give us a cut of the funds for the discovery.) But yes, we gay men and tweens, teens, and grown-up women are obsessed with body image!
Swing and a miss.
3. “We want you to be uniquely you.” I quote:
I’m not sure what you know about gay men and gay culture, but we tend to have a reputation of being a racy, sexually active and an over-the-top bunch. First of all, that’s just throwing stereotypes on people, which isn’t right. Stereotypes should just be outlawed. People should be allowed to just be themselves, and that includes you, Miss Thing!
Why let a straight man tell you what kind of woman to be, when you could let a gay tell you what kind of woman to be? I think this one speaks for itself, and I’m so happy the author has made his position on the danger of stereotypes so clear.
Finally, 4. “We’re the boys who won’t break your heart”
Boyfriend break up with you? Just head on over to your GBF’s house for some low-fat fro yo and shoulder-crying! He’s got nothing better to do. And he could never break your heart! Who’s ever heard of a straight teenage girl falling in love with an unattainable gay teenage boy? Certainly not everyone, right?
I think number 4 irks me the most, because it goes to why I find this whole “article” to be so dangerous. The premise of the GBF is based on the closeted gay teens we have all known (and/or been). Your GBF probably is jealous of you, especially if you’re in high school. Not because your game with the menfolk is so on point, but because you are allowed to live like an actual person.
There is a reason your GBF is there when your boyfriend breaks up with you: it’s because he can’t have a boyfriend of his own. There is a reason your GBF was your prom date: he couldn’t ask the guy he actually wanted to go with, for fear of having the shit beat out of him.
The concept of the GBF is one that inherently requires the dehumanization of your gay friend, and it requires to you to be excited about it. The optimistic part of me wants to believe this problem is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. The movie GBF (poster above) is so great (really, check it out) because it ultimately makes the point that the GBF can’t exist in a high school where he lives openly and honestly. The main character is allowed to be a person, and *spoiler alert*, this prevents him from having to play the part of a chaste but anatomically correct Ken Doll for the various teen girl stereotypes in the movie. He is not wrapped in their lives, because he is allowed to be wrapped up in his own.
While I suspect this is changing, we still have a long road ahead of us before LGBTQ high schoolers can stop being scared to lead full and authentic lives, and articles like this are not helping. Instead of glorifying a societal category the depends on queer oppression and silence, let’s hope and work toward a day where LGBTQ teens are allowed to be full people, and where your GBF can just be your BFF, broken heart necklace optional.