Saturday, April 9, 2011
I've decided I pretty much am the Disappointing Gay Best Friend (aka Tyler Coates). I even spent last night, Friday, ordering in pad thai and watching Netflix. Although, I didn't have an overly enthusiastic straight best female friend egging me on to go to Connections (Louisville's gay club) with her and pigeonholing me into a narrow cookie cutter caricature for her own amusement to fill some type of void in her life. Lizz (my roommate) was here, although she had a low key evening with some rented videos herself. Luckily, she doesn't fit that bill. These videos have been making their way around the blogrolls. I'm a little late to jump on it here, as usual. There has also been a Salon article. Even though in an Advocate interview, Mikala Bierma, the "hag" of the video claims the intention was in no way a response to the Sassy Gay Friend series, I can't help but see it as a contrast, along with many other commenters. I don't really have any new insights or fresh material to expound on. These videos resonate with me as a gay man. I can't count how many times I've been in social situations where women demand I fit this role, or think that I somehow will. The encounters range from subtle hints and comments to outright belligerence. Example:
Flashback to my senior year of college in good ole' small town Murray, Kentucky. It was Halloween. As usual, I had grand ideas for a costume but then got lazy, and none of them ever materialized into a killer Oh-My-God-I-Love-Your-Costume stunner. I think that year I thought about being a Smurf instead of a Michael Holladay in a green flannel shirt and jeans. My friend Jessie and I watched The Nightmare Before Christmas and drank at a friend's house. No big plans. However, we came back to her place, since her roommates were throwing a party. A good friend of mine was there, and some of her friends were visiting (I'm leaving out names here, just in case, in the off chance anyone involved in this event may actually stumble upon this blog, they won't be embarrassed. I like to pretend my readership extends beyond my work friends and sister. Thanks, guys. Oh, and you better be reading this too, Alex!). Her friends were a couple from her home town. She introduced me to them. When the female half of the couple deduced I was gay, she flipped out. She bombarded me with hugs and kept saying, "I love this guy!" Throughout the night, she would come to my side, clutch her arm around mine, turn, and announce to anyone in earshot, "Look at us! We're just like Will and Grace! You're just like... what's his name? Jack!? Or is it Will? I love this guy!" In a conversation with her boyfriend, he spoke of nothing else but how cool he was with gay people. Gee, thanks. I gathered that he was doing this to comfort himself, because I could detect a level of threat he felt about his girlfriend hugging and kissing all over another man. These people were from Chicago, not a small town in Kentucky or Indiana. My good friend graciously apologized to me, and of course I take no offense from her, told her so, and I said that I understood. I'm not sure that I do, though. Maybe a part of me does.
I said I didn't have much more to contribute to the conversation of the sassy and fierce gay stereotype and "fag hags," but I do have some thoughts. I think it's interesting how these videos portray a distinct stereotype, not in the gay man, but in the "fag hag." Some hardcore feminists tend to criticize the misogyny of gay men, but this unintentionally explores underlying homophobic attitudes women can have toward gay men when they think they're being accepting. I don't blame them, because they are inculcated with limited ideas of gay men from the media. See Will and Grace and the exhausted triteness it's built around. That's not to say that female supporters of gay rights should go unappreciated. The gay rights movement owes a great deal to women. Straight female advocates help bring gay men into the mainstream. However, I question the consequences this has had, and they're demonstrated in these two video series. In his Salon article from a few years ago on the subject, Thomas Rogers notes how gay visibility in the 90's and early 2000 in the media directly links to a strong female presence: "It was no coincidence that the first wave of gay male TV characters shared most of their screen time with straight women -- it made us palatable to mainstream America." He then quotes Justine Pimlott, director of the documentary "Fag Hags: Women Who Love Gay Men," in which she explains, "'It was celebrating the feminine side of gay men, not about going into the bar scene,' says Pimlott. 'It disarmed their potential threat.'" I've always felt we must move beyond this safe celibate image in the mainstream. I also like how he addresses the marked difference between genuine friendships gay men have with women and the expectations of women who know nothing about gay culture, women who claim they're just dying to go to Connections for the first time with you and then cringe two hours later when two men are kissing on MTV. There was my good friend at that party, and then there was her friend who embarrassed me, and mostly herself. We are not Lady Gaga's pretty pink poodle accessories, or any woman's for that matter.
I would be remiss not sharing that many of my good friends -- some of my best friends -- are women. This isn't because I can help them pick out curtains or go scarf shopping with them or help them with their make up, none of which any woman would want me to do, believe me. It's not much different from the reasons I'm friends with straight men. I don't consider anyone my "hag." I consider them friends who are people I share a connection with, and I know they regard me the same way.