Stereotypes often have negative connotations, which people use to characterize and judge other individuals. Some stereotypes, like the “Gay Best Friend,” have been labeled a positive stereotype because of their appeal and desirability. The Gay Best Friend, also known as the Sassy Gay Friend, is ‘absolutely essential’ for a woman to have. He makes the perfect shopping partner because an impeccable fashion sense is ingrained in gay men. He gives amazing advice because gays are more emotionally aware than straight men, but less gossipy than women. And, of course, he is hilarious because well, that’s just to be expected; there is no valid reason for it.
Actually, there is no valid reason for any of the preconceived notions that exist about gay men. No biological link exists between homosexuality and sass, personal style, aptitude to provide emotional support or any of the other ridiculous assumptions people have made. The gay community is diverse in ethnicity, socioeconomic status and religion; lumping such a variety of individuals into one role is ignorant. The Gay Best Friend stereotype neglects so many other important qualities and characteristics of a human being, and that is exactly why my friend Sebastian* rejects this stereotype and encourages society to do the same.
About a month after Sebastian came out, a female in his class realized she had an opportunity. “It seemed like she wanted to be my friend because of it,” he said. He had been subjected to the obsession with the Gay Best Friend. When women specifically seek a Gay Best Friend, they consider gayness and nothing else. This reduces men to their sexual orientation and ignores other qualities that gay men, and the general human population, possess. In the eyes of many females, it does not matter if this person shares the same political opinions or theological views, or whether they are loyal, intelligent, caring and genuine. According to Sebastian, the Gay Best Friend stereotype: “makes it seem like we’re an accessory instead of a human being.” Moze Halperin, the Associate Editor of Flavorwire, echoed Sebastian’s thoughts, saying, “Like domesticated dogs, they could cuddle when comfort was needed, they could bark when criticism was needed, and most importantly, they were neutered.”
The idea of a Gay Best Friend has flourished because of the way homosexual men are perceived by women. The Sassy Gay Friend provides the male perspective but is less catty and dramatic than female friends. But what if gay men feel pressured to act a certain way because of the expectations this stereotype has placed on them? Sebastian acknowledged the influence of the Gay Best Friend stereotype in behavior of gay males, saying, “When we’re with a girl and we’re her best friend, like how she wants us to be her Gay Best Friend, we do act a little differently than we would with our other friends.” It is nearly impossible not to. Sebastian says men can tell if a woman is pursuing a friendship to earn bragging rights by having a Gay Best Friend, so even if the men have no interest in fashion or gossip, they feel pressured by women to maintain character and fit the Gay Best Friend role.
Being a gay male in our present generation is a vulnerable, difficult, oppressive and lonely position for many to be in. With politicians discussing the revocation of legal gay marriage, in addition to the prominence of hate crimes towards the LGBTQ community, Sebastian says gay men are looking for friendship and acceptance, especially when they first come out. He said, “In the beginning when guys come out and don’t have a lot of people who know, having someone who likes you for being gay is comfortable.” This is valuable insight into the manipulation inherent in the Gay Best Friend stereotype; women benefit slightly from the vulnerability of the coming out process. If males do not have emotional support, they will likely accept it from females who seek a Gay Best Friend. But Sebastian notes the flaws of this friendship, saying, “Once you have people who support you and don’t care about your sexuality, then you realize how offensive that stereotype is and you realize that girl only likes you for your sexual orientation and not who you are as a person.”
This does not mean that women should not befriend gay males, or that every friendship between a gay male and a female is insincere – it is absolutely possible for a gay man and a woman to bond and create a guileless friendship. But it is very important that women realize the detriment of labeling gay men in an attempt to fulfill a social goal of having a Sassy Gay Friend. As Sebastian says, “There is more to people than their sexual orientation. Do not perpetuate a stereotype and assume that a person is what you see in the movie theater.” Sexual orientation is an influential aspect of our personal views and individuality, but it does not define who we are as human beings; we are the sum of all our parts, not just one. Gay best friends are not Gay Best Friends. They are friends. Nothing more, nothing less.
*name has been changed to maintain privacy of individual