Every Girl Needs A Gay Best Friend (Or Not)

Every woman needs a designer handbag, a little black dress, a pair of killer heels, and a gay best friend. The ideal gay best friend is impeccably dressed and overflowing with gossip. He is ready at all times to defend your honor with a sassy yet aggressively pointed finger and to deliver a perfectly timed comeback.  He is in your court no matter what and ready to be summoned at any time. And let’s not forget the fierce walk.

The idea of a Gay Best Friend (or GBF) has seeped into popular culture through movies, television and, perhaps most prominently, “The Real Housewives” franchise. Dwight Eubanks, a regular on the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” (RHOA), has almost 40,000 Twitter followers, a catch phrase, and a successful salon. Yet, despite his own success, he has become best known as a supporting character, as the Gay Best Friend of the whichever Real Housewife is the favorite of the week. His flamboyant outfits, outspoken opinions on style, and penchant for dramatic behavior in public are featured only when doing so strengthens the spotlight on the show’s female stars.

The concept of a “gay best friend” is built on an extraordinarily problematic stereotype. Would you enjoy being compared to the aforementioned handbag, little black dress, or heels? Probably not, but that’s exactly what women are doing to gay men when casting them as their GBF. Having a gay best friend is framed in popular culture as similar to shopping for a new lip color: it’s an accessory or embellishment that straight women are supposed to use to make themselves seem cooler or more “on trend.”

Films like “G.B.F.” make this trend even more ingrained in the American psyche. In the movie, the popular girls in high school compete for an openly gay student’s attention because having him as a friend is seen as a competitive advantage in the race for prom queen. The openly gay character (who is, in fact, coerced into coming out in front of his entire school) is a pawn in the competition for social superiority. In many ways, he might as well be an adorable puppy.

People aren’t accessories. Feminists believe that women should be respected as humans, not bodies. It only makes sense to extend this level of respect and acknowledgement to all humans, including the gay men in our lives. Sadly, it seems that not all women have gotten this message and continue to wear gay men on our arms to restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.

There are thousands of examples of gay men being commoditized online including a WikiHow for “How to Find Your Gay Best Friend” and an article that touts gay men as great friends because they are clean and want to talk to you about boys. If you want to go the extra mile you can also purchase an inflatable Gay Best Friend on Amazon for 6.99 UK.

Watching dramatized and plausibly scripted catfights between gay men on the “Real Housewives” might make for good viewership, but it isn’t funny. Reducing these men to an accessory is not just dehumanizing, but sets a standard of dehumanization for everybody because if one group of people can be commoditized, than any group can. Being a feminist isn’t just about women’s rights: it’s about the belief that no person should be treated differently due to their gender, sexual orientation or any other aspect of their identity. A trait with which we were born shouldn’t define us let alone put us on a shopping list next to Louboutins.

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Pippa B
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