Gal Pals, “Gal Pals”, and Friendship Goals
Recently, Samira Wiley of Orange is the New Black and The Handmaid’s Tale fame, married her girlfriend, TV writer Lauren Morelli. To queer women, the sight of the beautiful brides on their wedding day caused an eruption of emotion: we were elated, euphoric, validated, thrilled. Even when queer women are strangers to each other, we still feel kinship to each other.
However, for readers who get their soft human interest from People and Us Weekly rather than Autostraddle, Wiley and Morelli aren’t exactly at A-list levels of recognizability. It wasn’t long before someone found an errant wedding photo, assumed Wiley and Morelli were bestest gal pals doing a double wedding (to the Invisible Man and his brother, seemingly), and tagged it #FriendshipGoals.
Lesbian and bisexual women are exposed to micro and macro levels of erasure every day. Any form of affection between two women short of hardcore sex is attributed to intense friendship. Straight women often refer to each other as wives and girlfriends (which, please stop), and it contributes to the willful ignorance of romance between women.
However, it’s a fine line between respecting queer romance and erasing platonic affection. My best friend is 100% straight, and the number of times I’ve seen her in a romantic/sexual light rounds out to a cool, crisp zero. But we do call each other “honey” and “sweetie”, buy each other jewelry for special occasions, and end our phone conversations with “I love you.” I don’t want to share a wedding day with her, but I do want to spend our AARP years snarfing cheesecake in our shared Miami home with a couple of other close friends.
If anyone were to witness us eating food off of each other’s plates or casually draping ourselves over each other while we watch a movie, there’s a good chance we’d be seen as #besties #galpals #friendshipgoals — and that assumption would be correct. (Seriously, we are the best best friends. People should want to be us.)
While we’re trying to highlight queer visibility, we also need to highlight the fact that platonic love is the very equal of romance, if not it’s superior. Friendship is not only it’s own animal, but can also provide all the love and support that a person’s family and romantic relationships may be lacking — a truth long acknowledged in the queer community.
From the outside looking in, it’s not always easy to tell whether the closeness between two women has more to do with romance or a more sisterly affection. It’s important not to straight-wash queer couples, but don’t delegitimize friendship by romance-washing a pair of best friends. Celebrate each for what it is, and if a picture or video gives you pause, use the most tried and true method of investigation and just ask.