A PSA for my fellow Gay men, and perhaps anyone else in the LGBTQ community.
I’m gonna start this by laying out a little scenario:
Let’s say you’re a Gay man who primarily has non-LGBTQ (a.k.a. cisgender-heterosexual or “straight”) men as friends (which you likely applaud yourself for, daily…but that’s another issue). Y’all are just casually hanging out and they’re all talking about sex. They’re exchanging stories of their recent “conquests,” and are having an absolute ki. And then, you try to chime about your last sexual experience, in the exact same way that they just did.
…but you feel the good vibes noticeably drop. It gets awkward, and you immediately get the hint that you should back off from your story. You deflate, retreat into your own head (where you’ll likely quietly replay that moment in a cringeworthy loop), and let them take back over the conversation.
This is likely not an unfamiliar experience for Gay men who hang around folks who are non-LGBTQ. And many people’s go-to response may be to just roll with it and not see it as a big deal. But let’s be clear about one thing:
Those dudes are not your friends. They’re just keeping you around for “diversity,” more than anything. And I can assure you, they’ve likely weaponized you and your “friendship” against folks who have called them on their bigotry, at some point or another (I know…I’ve had to call several of them on such via social media). They’re bigots, and should be avoided as much as feasibly possible.
Sexuality may seem “small,” but it’s often a red flag for bigger issues and should be heeded as such. Not only does sexual identity hugely shape how one interacts with the world, at-large, but matters around “small” issues almost always carry larger implications. Most anyone who’s repulsed by Gay sex, specifically, is absolutely repulsed by Gay people, period. In my experience, exceptions to this are virtually negligible.
Any non-LGBTQ man who’s truly content in himself and his sexuality will be perfectly fine engaging your sexuality the same way he does when it’s his hetero friends. He’ll be fine engaging you as a full person. Rather than treating you like a token that he can use as a shield from accountability for his anti-Gay bigotry.
And to you non-LGBTQ folks, who know you’re guilty of what I’m saying, but think it’s not an issue because your Gay “friend” isn’t saying anything? Let’s be clear about another thing: Gay folks put up with that shit because society makes us feel forced to.
Many Gay men, and LGBTQ folks in general, are in situations where we just don’t have a strong or visible enough Gay scene in our reach. Therefore, we can’t afford to be as critical of those around us. Maybe we live in a small town. Or we haven’t mentally gotten to a place where we can love and accept our own selves enough to wanna seek out more affirming spaces. Oftentimes, many of us know the ways that our peers treat us isn’t right (even if we don’t have the language for it), but we decide to just settle for whatever camaraderie we can get. Because it literally feels like a matter of tolerating bigoted shit or not having friends at all.
In the case of Black Gay folks, in particular, there’s additional layers. Many of us have allowed ourselves to knowingly put up with “soft” bigotry from Black cis-heteros because our most apparent choices were either them or having to deal with anti-Black racism from WhiteGayze™. Oftentimes, we also want to put our “race first” (another bullshit concept that I might break down in a future piece). With all of that in mind, we’ll settle on tolerating anti-Gayness from our Black non-LGBTQ “friends.”
Gay men are often tolerating that shit because they feel like they have no other choice. And you taking advantage of that, especially knowingly, is lowkey abusive.
I’m fortunate in that I’ve been afforded opportunities that allowed me to move around until I found fully affirming circles to put myself into. Not every Gay man gets such a luxury (Black Gays, even more so). I’ve spent years carefully curating my connections to ensure that any folks who have a problem with any parts of Gayness are not taking up space in my life. The handful of non-LGBTQ/cis-hetero folks I put myself around accept and embrace my sexuality, like they would anyone else’s. This has been hugely important in being able to unlearn the self-hatred that most all Gay men are socialized into. And it just makes life that much more pleasant for me.
Of course, I understand it’s not an easy thing. And I know critically engaging your friendships like this doesn’t seem like a feasible option (for reasons described above). But I do think it’s crucial to at least be cognizant of these things and move accordingly. And really, it’s my belief that it’s better to have a few affirming friendships, than many limited and empty ones.
It’s Pride month, and our year of 20-GAY-teen. Raise your standards and start expecting more from these folks or cut them out. They’ll do better by you if they want to. Trust me on this.
Happy Pride Month, LGBTQ fam!
If you enjoyed this post or any of my other work, consider buying me some bourbon!
Thank you for this fabulous writeup. The bigotry is why I limit my hands of friendship to straight people especially in Nigeria.