The “Gay Best Friend” trend still hasn’t died, and I’m sick of it

Having frequented the gayer corners of the Internet for years now, I’ve been distantly aware of the “gay best friend” phenomenon for some time now. But since starting college, I’ve been directly confronted with this obsession that (cisgender) straight women seem to have with (cisgender) gay men. It’s easy to deny the existence of this culture from when looking at society as a whole, but the fact of the matter is that some straight women still can’t seem to get it over their heads that gay men are not toys for them to play with or gods to be idolizing, but human beings with flaws and thoughts and emotions.

Admittedly, this may only be a phenomenon on high school and college campuses. I can’t speak much for the world outside the educational sphere of influence, but it seems to be a universal issue in younger circles.

If you or someone you know is guilty of committing one or more of the behaviors below, tell them to go watch Paris Is Burning or Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine, so they’ll appreciate the great lengths and sacrifices our community has taken and made just so they can turn LGBT Pride into a sick hetero party.

1. Dehumanization.

Straight women love gay guys because they’re funny, sassy, and everything they aspire to be. But these grossly stereotypical generalizations set unrealistic standards, not only for these men to live up to but for women to expect of them, which leads to the association that only your stereotypical gay man with a lisp and an effeminate side can be perceived as gay. Any gay- or bisexual-aligned male who exudes even a hint of masculinity gets hit with the classic, “but you don’t look gay!”

But what does it mean to “look” gay? This straight take on gaydar relies entirely on stereotypes, sensationalizing gay men to conform to these expectations that straight women have of them.

The fact of the matter is that gay men as a whole are no more funny than the average straight woman. The expectation should not be that gay men are any more feminine than their straight counterparts. Wearing crop tops and talking like a valley girl aren’t what make you gay — all you have to do is identify as a male and be attracted to other males.

2. Objectification.

Every so often I’ll have the misfortune of meeting gay men with “groupies” of straight women that idolize them simply because of the common connection that they experience attraction to the same gender. They want someone to bond with over their mutual affinity for Lady Gaga, Pretty Little Liars, and white feminism. Gay men aren’t people to these straight women — they’re accessories, tools to prove that they’re the perfect ally.

Fun fact, Kelly: just because your best friend is gay doesn’t mean you’re not contributing to the heteronormativity our culture perpetuates.

3. Fetishization.

Now we get to the dirtier side of things. It’s no big secret that straight women love gay porn. I’m not going to make an argument that any cisgender straight women who’s masturbated to a gay porn video or two is on my blacklist, but let’s consider what’s harmful about this. The gay erotica industry is dominated by straight women, and there are a plethora of gay porn blogs on Tumblr run by straight women as well. This leads to a reversal of the dilemma we see in major straight porn industries; whereas straight porn is largely made by and for straight men, gay porn — specifically gay erotica — is largely made by and for straight women. Gay men are left at an impasse in their search for meaningful representation in erotica in the same way that straight women are with porn.

Here we see the escalation from objectification to fetishization. It’s a fine line to cross, so I won’t accuse every straight woman who enjoys watching gay porn of fetishizing gay men because I get it. But it’s certainly something to keep in mind.

4. Religious-based ostracization.

Fanart and fanfiction featuring gay couples in a sexual context are often captioned or tagged with such worrisome descriptions as “sinful” and “dirty.” I’ve yet to find any articles written about this phenomenon, but just scrolling through the fanart tag on Tumblr for virtually any slash couple known to man should yield results. And, more often than not, the perpetrators are straight fangirls.

In a society like ours where we’ve been subliminally taught to conform to Judeo-Christian values — unless explicitly raised otherwise — it’s not surprising that the darker corners of the Internet are muddied by this form of ignorance. But no matter how well-meaning a person may be, homophobia is homophobia. And if you’re not also calling yourself “trash” for wanting to see or read a fictional straight couple having sex (which is also problematic, but that’s another story), there’s no excuse for your behavior.

5. Appropriation.

Selfies posted by gay men are often flooded with comments like “Work it” and “YAAAS,” both of which are traditionally from AAVE. Gay culture is already known for appropriating black (female) culture, and having these straight, usually white — or, at the very least, non-black WOC — adopt their vocabulary only perpetuates the normalization of appropriating black culture. (As if we non-white peple haven’t done enough of that already.) The LGBT civil rights movement may have been spearheaded by trans women of color, but that doesn’t give gay men the right to steal their culture. I believe our community’s history has been whitewashed enough.

So, what could be the cause for all of these damning behaviors? The short answer is heteronormativity. The long answer is, “our capitalist society operates on the assumption that the typical romantic and/or sexual relationship is between a man and a woman, so many of us feel the need to reconcile this indoctrinated belief by choosing to read gay couples in a heterosexual lens.” I’m sure essays have already been, and will continue to be, written on the topic of heteronormativity, so I won’t drag this one out any longer.

The long and short of it is that gay men are human beings who shouldn’t be seen as anything else. They are not women in any way, shape, or form because of their attraction to men, because your attraction to any gender has nothing to do with your gender identity. So let’s stop placing expectations and enforcing stereotypes on gay men and move on with our lives.