Let’s get this out of the way: I am a white, straight male. There it is, I said it. By basically every metric that exists, I’m a member of the most privileged social class in America. To add to that, I’m southern and I grew up in a conservative family with a minister for a father. So, obviously, I’m the best person to speak out about the state of homosexuality in our country, right?
Okay, maybe not, but I was having a conversation with a couple good friends of mine the other day, and I thought it was something that the TSM audience would be interested in. See, living in Los Angeles and working in the entertainment industry, I’ve made friends with many guys who are fabulous, watch reality shows vociferously, and enjoy having sex with other guys. The two friends I was hanging out with were no exception. In many ways, they fit into the stereotype of gay men that we see everywhere in culture now: snappy dressers, sassy talkers, wildly opinionated, and phenomenal at insulting you in the most unique and hilarious ways. Both of them also have several really close girl friends who they, unsurprisingly, call “girlfriend” with a little finger wave.
If there’s one thing that many girls raised in a more socially conscious world crave (besides Nutella and Golden Retriever puppies) it’s having a fabulous, gay best friend. The reasoning on its surface is pretty harmless. Gay guys make for phenomenal friends. They give great dating advice, fashion opinions, have all the best gossip, and won’t stand for anyone disrespecting you, ever. Those are great qualities to have in a friend, to be sure, but the problem is that so many of them are appreciated for just those reasons.
What I’m saying–and this is what my friends are concerned about–is that gay men are often brought into a circle of girls simply to be the “gay bestie.” If you really think about it, this person isn’t a friend at all; he’s just another stereotype. The problem we’ve encountered in our quest to be a more equal and accepting society is that the people we claim to seek equality for are instead reduced to tokenism. Gay men obviously aren’t the only people this has happened to. Many groups have their token black guy, token slut, or even token white guy (depending on where you are). Hell, being in L.A. means that I’ve sometimes found myself being the token southern guy. I’ll be out with a bunch of people on a Friday night, and somehow I’ll find myself as the spokesperson for all gun-owning, science-hating, semi-racist Republicans, even though only one of those labels actually applies to me (I’ll let you guess which one).
I’m obviously not saying that my experience is comparable, only that I can very easily see how belonging to a rare group of people can devolve into being your identity. The reasons that girls hang out with gay guys are pretty simple. They share a lot in common, but maybe even more importantly, they’re the one type of guy who girls don’t have to worry about having ulterior motives. The problems arise when girls start looking at their gay besties to fill the role that they see in TV shows and movies. Think about it. Are any of the stereotypical gay besties you see in “Sex and the City” or various shitty reality shows representations of actual people? Or are they really just shallow personifications of sugar, spice, and sassiness twice?
This is what I want to put to all of you. On behalf of my two friends–and gay guys who love hanging out with girls everywhere–I’d just like to ask you to think. If you have a gay bestie, think about why you hang out with him. Is it because he’s hilarious, kind, listens to your problems, and stands up for you? And more importantly, do you truly believe that you do the same for him? Or is it because he checks off a “type” on your list? Because, and this is a quote from a frustrated gay man, “It’s bad enough for a bigoted asshole to treat you like you’re nothing more than their stereotype, but it’s even worse when a girl you’re supposedly friends with does it.”