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Some of My Best Friends Are...

Some of My Best Friends Are...


You've heard it before, "My best friend is (gay)/(trans)/(bi)(pansexual)!" Here's how to appreciate the sentiment instead of blowing a gasket.

The other day I got off the stage after delivering a completely forgettable set of jokes and was saying my goodbyes when someone called out my name and called me over. This is a common thing, and I figured it was someone preparing to fawn over my set and tell me how awesome and funny I was (they never call you over to tell you that you suck after you get off stage -- they usually tell you while you're on stage). When I caught sight of who it was -- a white, almost-middle-aged woman with overpriced casual jewelry (if you guessed turquoise, get yourself a cookie) a glass of rose in her hand, and one of those hip suburban mom haircuts. I cringed.

I cringed not because of the daunting cliche of this woman, but because I had done some of my transgender-themed material that night. You see, this is what happens when you tell jokes about being LGBT on stage; some people laugh, but someone always has to tell you how brave you are. It's not really brave to tell jokes about being transgender, it's been done a lot; it's just a a source for material that no one else can do. But the reason I cringed is because I knew what was coming, I just didn't know how bad it was going to be this particular time.

She immediately took me by the arm, leaned far enough in for me to know that this wasn't her first drink of the night (also, that she had curry earlier) and said, "Oh, my God, you were so funny." I smiled and thanked her and began to attempt my getaway since I was tired and a little grouchy. That's when she leaned in again and said, "Oh, Amanda, let me tell you something..."

No, not this.

She proceeded to tell me all about how she was a conservative Christian, how she always voted Republican, and about her gay best friend who was also Christian and Republican. Great, I was stuck in the most frustrating of all situations -- the "We're not so different you and me" conversation. You know the ones -- where they tell you about all the ways that you aren't alike at all, usually in some pretty important and serious ways, but try to bond with you on some usually trivial matter that makes their being ideologically opposed to you not so bad. They tell you about how much they believe in God or how they vote for political candidates who aren't good for people like you, but it's always OK because they have a gay friend or relative they like, and now of course they like you too. They just stand there telling you about their lousy politics and beliefs and all you can do is smile, nod, and not grab them and shake them violently while yelling, "Arghhh, shut up! I don't care about your gay friend!"

So this woman just kept talking about how she was a conservative Christian and most of her business clients were Muslims, and, oh, she had a gay best friend -- the kind who would be there for her if her husband left her tomorrow. She was drunk and telling me the same annoying story over and over.

Eventually her husband managed to drag her off after we were the last three people left in the club and I had wanted to leave 20 minutes earlier. She insisted I look her up on Facebook so she could get me more shows in front of more people. I kept wishing there was a way you could play dead and get out of these things sooner. I walked out of there and thought, Man, she just wanted me to like her so much, didn't she? Ugh, what was her deal? I felt quite assured that I had kept my high-minded ideals and avoided becoming a token for her, and I knew I was a great person for seeing that. I walked down the street with my head held high and then it hit me.

I'm being a jackass.

Sure, she was being a bit of an obnoxious drunk, but she wasn't calling me a tranny freak. She kept telling me how she had been friends since high school in a very conservative part of the country with a gay man. Her whole point she kept trying to make in that roundabout, drunken, rambling way was that even despite the fact we had different politics and beliefs, we can still accept each other with our differences. Yeah, it was disjointed and confused, but it was exactly what I think and have written about dozens of times. I had walked away from the conversation thinking less of her because she kept implying, "Please like me because I'm an open-minded conservative." So what if she was trying to do that? Isn't that what we want out of religious, Republican people, for them to be more accepting of us? Many of these folks aren't versed in the latest critical theory lingo. They don't know a microaggression from a microwave, and they think intersectionality is yielding to oncoming traffic. They'll say something wrongheaded or offensive to those of us versed in the modern parlance. Yet a lot of these people really want others to be treated equally; they just have different ideas on politics, faith, and values.

We've gotten so used to expecting that those who have different ideologies naturally hate us, think less of us, want to marginalize us, that we enter into situations believing these people are just going to berate and insult us; that they're going to be polite, but judgmental and condescending. Maybe we should take a breath before we start attacking them out loud or in our minds. Really think about what they are trying to say. Assuming the worst from interactions with religious or conservative people is acting the way we expect them to: prejudiced.

Amanda-kerrix100AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @eternalkerri.

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