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.