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“This is my gay bestie,” a new acquaintance chirps, pulling forward her homosexual arm candy with the same proud smile one might use to present a great prize. It’s a phrase I hear often in one form of another from almost every straight girl I know. Now that we’re on the winning side of the culture war, gays are faced with a funny phenomena: where once we were shunned, now we are fetishized.
I suppose it’s an improvement, but it’s not equality. How straight people objectify gays is different for women and men: gay men are treated as glittery accessories for any straight girl worth her clutch; lesbians are objectified as non threatening fuck puppets for straight male consumption and ejaculation. Neither role puts emphasis on our humanity, just our utility. It’s like once the mainstream stops wanting to destroy something, they start wanting to possess it. And we, the rainbow-tinged masses, are now in the very strange position of being in demand not for who we are but what we represent.
The modern woman doesn’t just need to have a black friend to be cool; she needs a gay friend to tell her how FIERCE she is. And lucky for her, gays seem far less threatening to white heteros than blacks. So unthreatening straights feel comfortable, nay entitled, to treat and refer to gay people as objects well within earshot. Frankly sometimes I wish straight people were a little more afraid of gays. It would make them less annoying. The role of GAY BFF has fallen squarely on the shoulders of gay men, not gay women. I’m super glad about that, but I still can’t help but wonder why? Why does the term “gay BFF” seem to apply only to men?
Original Cindy: Dark Angel‘s Lesbian BFF
I suspect there are several reasons that friendship with a lesbian isn’t prized as highly as friendship with a gay man. First, the obvious: gay men are sexually unthreatening. Since lesbians by definition are attracted to other women, straight women might feel less comfortable around us. That reasoning, while flawed, is still acceptable.
As lesbians, we know perhaps more than anyone how traumatic and uncomfortable attention from straight men can feel; I could never begrudge straight women for not wanting to be hit on by women. That being said, HELLO, honey, like you could get this. Lesbians do sexualize women; it’s fun! However we also share the female experience and are much less likely to put unwanted sexual attention or pressure on straight women than men. Most straight girls I know are pretty chill about the “lesbian thing” but once and awhile I tell a girl I’m gay and she defensively retracts, emphasizing “I’M NOT” as quickly as possible lest I fall for her incomparable charms. My favorite response to that is “Relax I’m only into model types,” which you can totally use if you like. But I digress!
The second reason lesbians aren’t seen as Gay BFF material is that lesbians are stereotypically perceived as being overly masculine, while gay men are seen as overly feminine. And a lot of lesbians do present themselves in a “manly” way (by straight people standards) or possess traits like independence or assertiveness that are traditionally and incorrectly connected with masculinity. But that doesn’t make us straight guy wannabes, and it sure as hell doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate a good sale.
Before I came out, I was very much a girl’s girl. I’m still a girl’s girl, but it’s different to be a girl’s girl when you like girls because you’re no longer exactly one of the girls. I’m not going to commiserate about how CONFUSING men are (they seem pretty simple to me) or how HARD it is to find the right man (how could it be so hard there’s an insane amount of them). We can’t all go to the club and mack on cuties because my kind of cutie has a booty and hangs out at a different club (those gay clubs straight girls go to when they just want to DANCE and be worshiped like in Sex and the City). Before I came out, I didn’t notice how important men are to female friendships. Now I feel like a walking Bechdel test, and no one likes a test.
Leslie Shay is Dawson’s LBFF/Dawson is Shay’s Straight BFF on Chicago Fire
The third and final reason lesbians aren’t in demand as gay men for the role of dazzling arm adornment is simple; lesbians aren’t perceived as being very much fun. Unless we’re having sex with each other and therefore catering to the male gaze, our utility is diminished. We’re man-hating uber feminists who secretly want to be men. We exclusively wear plaid and Kmart jeans. Our sole means of entertainment is playing with our dozens and dozens of felines. Basically, by rejecting the odious embrace of men, we’ve been cast in the role of “miserable spinster” by a society that prizes male attention above all other.
This is unfortunate, because the lesbians I know get rowdy. We drink, we smoke, we have awesome hair, our clothes are carefully curated to express that certain je ne sais quoi that will lure women to our side. The lesbians I know bare little resemblance to the haggard debs looming large in the minds of American culture. We’re not accessories, but we’re still treated as two-dimensional objects rather than complex individuals in our own right.
Having a passion for women’s history, this story brings a tear to my eye for a few reasons…
It demonstrates how one person can change the world, shows the bravery people can have in spite of the terrible consequences, shows human warmth and compassion in immeasurable depth, and sadly, the corrupt and ridiculous nature of power and politics in this world…