I once knew this awful gay man. Before realizing how truly terrible he was, we were friends. He got into the habit of texting me explicit, crass come-ons. When I didn't return the favor, he grew angry and denied his sexts were an invitation, saying that's simply how gay men spoke with each other. "You don't know because all your friends are women," he spat, pouring extra venom on the last word.
While his statement was an exaggeration, it was true that many of my friends were, and remain, women. Aside from the numerous insults he flung at me, the dig at my female friends took me most by surprise: Having women friends is not advisable? I thought, with real worry. Among gay men, hanging out with women is a liability, like bad breath?
I was reminded of this animosity after reading Tyler Curry's recent Advocate.com op-ed, "6 Straight Women Gay Men Should Avoid." The story was a lighthearted look at bar culture, describing drunken female louts who treat gay men as accessories. I didn't find the tongue-in-cheek piece especially offensive, but the story's comments brought me right back to that unpleasant exchange with my lady-hating former friend. It was suddenly open season against straight women, with much umbrage toward women daring to assemble at gay bars (Do not get in the way of our cruising, bitch!).
Coincidentally, an article called "The Myth of the Fag Hag and Dirty Secrets of the Gay Male Subculture" appeared on the women's site Jezebel just a few days after Tyler's piece. Gay guy Rohin Guha shared his experiences with his female friends and described how he often sees gay men judge, objectify, fondle, or chase women out of the corner queer bar.
It's no surprise to me that some clueless gay guys have a warped sense of entitlement with straight women where they touch them inappropriately and tell them white jeans aren't good for their body shape. You know him: that gay who's hyper-aware a woman is in his presence and that she's very different from him. He can't talk to her like a human being, but has to bring up hair, boobs, or purses. I know gay men who've surrounded themselves with men and only men for so long that they've grown ridiculously uncomfortable around women. What I've only recently realized is that there's a sizable segment of gay men who actually hate anyone without a dick.
Without a doubt, many gay men have women, especially straight women, as friends or acquaintances. But I've always been one who counted women as among my closest friends; I don't just talk the talk, I walk the walk. I travel with my straight "girlfriends," make dinner with them, I've lived with some of them. These aren't individuals I simply discuss American Horror Story with in the break room, but people I share my deepest insecurities and most ridiculous dreams with, and they've done the same with me. The older I get, the less I see of relationships like the ones I enjoy.
One of the most insidious comments on Tyler's column was, "Every gay guy has female friends when he first comes out -- a few years later? They're gone." That has yet to be true for me, but I'll admit going to gay bars and often seeing gaggles of gay men with no estrogen anywhere. How do you get 20 guys together and no one has a female friend, cousin, or sister who wants to come along and have a cocktail? You often hear the vaguely misogynistic assumption that when a group of women gather there is bound to be fighting and cattiness. Yet I've seen my share of nastiness rise to the surface when gay guys congregate, maybe because there's more at play. Crushes and jealousies often develop among gay men, but are less common in the dynamic between them and straight women. She's not envying my Ben Sherman polo; I'm not upset she doesn't want to sleep with me.
The dearth of sexual energy is, to me, one of the best benefits to having straight, or gay, female friends. There is no confusion over intentions, and the relationship is based on mutual interests or admiration, not attraction (unless your straight GF is delusional or the Jennifer Aniston character in The Object of My Affection). With my gay male friends, who I love just as dearly, there is often a complicated backstory; we slept together once after getting drunk or we tried being boyfriends and it didn't work or one liked the other but the feeling was one-sided. It's very freeing to be in an environment where sex is completely off the table, even if you two drink yourself under it.
I love the conversations I have with straight women, discussing topics I often don't with my fellow gay men. Gay brunch subjects don't often touch upon desires for children or frustrations with family, maybe because many gay men believe they'll never have kids and some are estranged from their parents. Regardless, I enjoy those topics as much as I do art, entertainment, or dating.
The sad thing is that to some gay guys, that's not sexy. My former friend would say it's not hot to talk about feelings or babies or moving to the "burbs," just as he would claim it's not attractive to surround yourself with women. His implication is that having women around too much feminizes the men around them. How terrifying and irresponsible for a man to let himself become less masculine! It's high time we all grasp the idiocy of that sentiment and write off anyone who judges us by the chromosomes we keep.
NEAL BROVERMAN is a columnist for The Advocate and the editor in chief of Out Traveler. Follow him on Twitter @nbroverman