STFU with the GBF: Why The “Gay Best Friend” And “Positive Stereotyping” Are Still Offensive

Today’s Irish Independent features a piece by Lorraine Courtney about the phenomenon of the so-called GBF – the gay best friend. I’d put the effort into describing what a GBF is, but Courtney does it best herself when she says the GBF…

“…comes complete with a shared interest in accessorising and men. With a gay guy you also get stringless access. You can phone him up at any hour of the day or night when you’re single and sad, take him to Ikea, borrow his moisturiser and ask him for sartorial advice.”

Now there are a lot of problems in the world. There are even a lot of problems in the gay world, and a lot bigger than the concept of trying to educate Lorraine Courtney on what is and isn’t reductive and ignorant. But how and ever.

The concept of the GBF is one of the more virulent and difficult to stamp out offensive stereotypes that have cropped up in recent years. Mainly because the vast majority of “believers” are women, the concept is ostensibly complimentary, and it is also backed up by the shared portrait of gay men as espoused by television and movies.

It’s still offensive, though, and let me explain way.

Reason The First: It’s reductive to gay men. It says that the concept of a gay man is something that is entirely wrapped up in moisturiser, fashion and shrill cocktail-swigging in fancy bars. Some gay men are like that, and that may be fine, but these blanket assumptions hurt everyone — because they reduce gay men to “just one thing”. They’re also guilty of gleefully de-sexualising the gay man, which is something that is constantly presented in the media (though things are arguably getting far better in this regard).

Courtney adores her GBF for being “non-competitive, mutually supportive and blissfully without any sexual potential”. The phrasing here says it all: the neutering of gay men by the media, and especially Hollywood, has been a tried and tested strategy to appease audiences uncomfortable with homosexuality. A gay person is not someone who has attraction to and sex with members of their own gender, instead a gay person is a “smooth down there” Ken doll who exists solely to orbit around our main character’s story arc. Perhaps Courtney has seen one too many rom-coms, and in her attempt to create some sort of Carrie Bradshaw-esque faux journalistic personality she’s decided to get all the accessories and the GBF to go with it.

But there’s another reason why Courtney’s article is hopelessly misguided.

Reason The Second: It’s reductive to women.

Courtney’s article begins:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every woman should have an extensive shoe collection, serum and a gay best friend (GBF).

This sentence is why I believe Courtney’s article is not based on any malice or deliberate ignorance, but that she’s genuinely so myopic about human beings that she believes they can be so easily categorised. Her view of women is of the fashion obsessive, the cocktail-sipper.

And her view of women is (ladies, this one is worth remembering) of the bitch. Courtney trots out benefits like “bitching about other women’s vpl [sic]” when it comes to the GBF, and makes it seem as if meanness and behind-the-back sniggering are the occupation of every woman out there.

Some women are like that. Most women aren’t. Some gay men are happy to be store-bought GBFs. Most gay men aren’t.

It is not a case of positive stereotyping to say that all gay men are castrated bitches, but even if it were – stereotyping is still stereotyping. I do not ask my BBF (Black Best Friend) to exercise her athletic prowess by running to the shop for me, I do not ask my JBF (Jewish Best Friend) where the best bargains are, and I do not consult my LBF (Lesbian Best Friend) for advice on purchasing Birkenstocks.

It’s lazy thinking that becomes lazy stereotyping. And some day, boys and girls, if you study real hard, you’ll get to turn it into lazy journalism.

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About alfla

Playwright, screenwriter, sometime improv enthusiast and full-time television lover. You know, in THAT way.
This entry was posted in LGBT Rights, Sober Thoughts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to STFU with the GBF: Why The “Gay Best Friend” And “Positive Stereotyping” Are Still Offensive

  1. Very well put man. Shocking how crap like that is allowed to be printed in a national newspaper.

  2. Holy crap, it was in a national newspaper?!?!?!
    I was going to say something else, but shock and awe made me forget what it is (why, why is there still shock and awe, I’m American, so I shouldn’t be surprised by this–and yes, I’m eating two cheeseburgers while watching reality television and myopically judging literally everyone else in the world (simultaneosly) and wondering why our “guvermint ‘aint invaded ’em yet?!”)

    Oh yea, I was going to say “awesome post” . . .

  3. cftc10 says:

    Reblogged this on cftc10.

  4. Tim says:

    “A Carrie Bradshaw esque faux personality” You know, I’m a heterosexual guy. I hadn’t a clue what that meant. Seemed like a weird combination of words to me. Some form of insult obviously but without any sensible meaning. Lorraine explained to me that the stereotype is that only women and gay men would understand. I guess that stereotype holds up here.

    “So why are you like a sex and the city character?” I’ve heard of sex and the city. All my friends say it’s something that gays and women watch.

    “She’s a journalist who writes in bed wearing sexy underwear”

    This is the most stereotypical thing a gay man can do! Admit he knows about Sex and The City!! Lol! In a blog against stereotyping!!

    You know, Lorraine is lovely. And upset that she gets hate mail over a tongue in cheek article that obviously needn’t be taken too seriously. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves. You need to grow thicker skin and hold your fire for people who are actually anti gay.

    • I understand that you may be a friend of Lorraine’s, but what she wrote was offensive, and was anti-gay — stereotypes cut both ways. To praise a gay person simply for being gay is insulting. To imply that all gay people are the same — even in a good way — is insulting.

      Would she feel comfortable standing by an article on why every girl needs a Black Best Friend — and how all black people are the same in ways A, B and C?

      Also, at some point in your comment you started quoting something that I didn’t write (“So why are you like a sex and the city character?”), so wasn’t quite sure what you were going for there. I will say that admitting to a knowledge of Sex & The City (I fucking hate the show, but that’s neither here nor there) only feeds into stereotyping if you think that I — as one gay person — somehow represent every gay person. In other words, the exact same trap Lorraine fell into.

      Look, I know there are bigger fish to fry, and I do spend time frying them, but Lorraine’s article reduced gay people to just one thing. And that, by its very definition, is discriminatory.

      • Tim says:

        Crumbs Alan!

        How often do you think us heterosexual guys get stereotyped in the media? All the time! That’s pretty much all the media does!

        We’re dirty, we leave the toilet seat up, we’re afraid of commitment and only like soccer and drink huge amounts of beer then get in fights! It’s nonsense! I don’t write in to newspapers or name the writers on the Internet ! I forget about it and go on being hetroseual in the real way !

        Lorraine doesn’t have a GBF. The article is a tongue in cheek fluf piece. There are many about heterosexual men by other writers.

        She is very pro gay rights. You should also dig deep to find the serious articles she’s written. You’d be surprised. Village magazine this week.

        You did hurt her. I know you think you are justified but their not just faceless names in papers.

      • alfla says:

        The difference between stereotyping heterosexual men (which, to be fair, I don’t agree with either) and stereotyping homosexual men is that heterosexual men are a majority. They have the power and the unanimity that means it’s impossible to really victimise or paint broad strokes of them. Think of “heterosexual men” and people think of everyone from Einstein to Hulk Hogan, but think of “homosexual men” and there are stil many people who jump to one specific stereotype – a stereotype that Lorraine’s piece bolsters.

        I don’t think that Lorraine’s piece was based in bigotry, sadly I think it was based in ignorance. If it wasn’t based in ignorance of the real diversity of gay people, then it was based on the ignorance that the article would be reductive and hurtful.

        And my dinky little blog doesn’t compare to an article being published in a national newspaper, so I think I’m perfectly within my rights to comment without worrying about Lorraine’s feelings – since she didn’t seem to mind about the feelings of the gay community when she wrote her piece.

        I’d love to talk to her about it because it seems she’s still (from what you’re saying) unaware that anything she wrote was wrong, and that’s a real problem.

  5. Tim says:

    Hi Alfla,

    Tim here again….Can’t believe I’m getting drawn into this!!! LOL!

    Before you guys ask, I’m Lorraine’s boyfriend. Or maybe that’s a strong word…. I think she’s still interviewing me for the job. Also, she doesn’t know I’m writing this… I think she’d kill me if she did.

    There was really only one point to Lorraine’s article. A homosexual man and a hetrosexual woman do not really compete with one another. Women cannot really have male friends. Eventually I’d get jealous (more stereotyping of hetros?). The compete excessively with other women, both in dress, thinness and for other men. That doesn’t happen with gay friends…. That’s the only point! The reason it doesn’t happen with gay men is that they’re not after the same sexual prey, so they’re no need to compete. There was never meant to be stereotyping.

    Also Alfla, You have totally stereotyped Lorraine. You called her a faux Carrie Bradshaw. I can guess that every guy who read this blog has a stereotypical viewe of her. Ditsy, young blonde who writes rubbish in the Indo. Goes out to parties, does her nails, air kisses her friends and reads Cosmopolitaan.

    The Indo only publishes nonsense , fluff pieces. Get a little too serious and it doesn’t get published. This has happened lots of times.

    It’s not just this blog, Alfla, there was a large amount of hate mail on this issue. All the same theme. Insulting her and stereotyping her.

    The real Lorraine flew out to Lebanon to report from Shatila refugee camp. She told me about the hate mail the night before she went. She is published today on page 76 of Village magazine. This is what she does and really you shouldn’t steotype her either.

    Incredibly, the Indo refused to publish these articles….. What can writers do? They do real journailism and it doesn’t get published. They write fluff and nonsense and the public lap it up.

    Tim

    • alfla says:

      Tim, I didn’t respond to this for so long because I didn’t even know what to write. I’m not sure how to take an “interviewing boyfriend” coming on here to defend her, it’s a bit… strange.

      But either way, I’m familiar with the Indo’s reporting, of course I am, but you can’t honestly say that she shouldn’t take responsibility for something she’s actually written? Once you put your name to something — and, crucially, you take money for doing it — then you have to stand by it. You can’t just cry foul after you’ve pocketed the cash and claim “that’s not what I meant” and “the newspaper made me do it”.

      I’m happy to look at her other articles, but I don’t have to — I was commenting on this piece, I shouldn’t have to do extra reading to have an opinion on this piece. This piece is very much an opinion one, as in her expressing her opinion — that’s why I believed it was fair to address her in the response. I did not “stereotype Lorraine”, because you can’t stereotype one person. I took her opinion and framed it in the nonsensical attitude that it peddles, one that was indeed peddled by Sex & The City. That’s a valid reference to fiction in the context of the piece, not stereotyping.

      The article took some of the most basic stereotypes about genders — men and women can’t ever be friends! Women are bitchy! — and spun it into a fluff piece. It reinforced the idea of there only being one type of gay person and acted as if it was a compliment to treat a whole sub-set of society as an accessory. What’s more, in your response you seem to actually buy into this idea that men and women will always want to have sex with each other, and that women can’t be friends because of their competitiveness – and that the generic “gay man” could never find anything to argue over with a woman.

      If you can’t see why the piece is reductive, then it’s really neither here nor there. I have a right to reply, and she should stand by her piece if she got paid for it.

      Last I’ve got to say on the topic.

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