What Your Gay Bestie Wants You to Know
Emil Lendof

This article appeared in the March 2014 issue of ESSENCE magazine.

First things first: Though I may fit some stereotypes about gay men, I don’t fit all. Sure, I’ll watch Scandal with you and talk about how horrible men can be while noting we each need one. And, yes, I’ll try my wonky gaydar at your request, with a disclaimer that there’s no way to prove a man is gay unless you catch him having fun with another penis. But not every gay man obsesses over RuPaul’s Drag Race or rushes to the gay club to see a drag queen perform Patti LaBelle’s “Over the Rainbow.” I am just as varied a character as any woman while being all man.

Most of my best friends have always been women and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It has nothing to do with wanting to be one of the girls and everything to do with a genuine appreciation for women. I was turned off by the hypermasculinity that surrounded me while growing up in Houston. Once I accepted my sexuality at age 21, I realized the homophobia I faced was directly linked to the misogyny that women deal with routinely. Patriarchy hates us both, I figured, so we might as well stand together.

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It is through my friendships with women that I have felt empowered as a man. My female friends allow me to express myself without judgment, whether I’m dancing to my lord and gyrator Beyoncé or reciting the lines of Nicki Minaj and UGK. Still, there are times when I witness women banter quite flippantly about their gay besties, and it makes me a little uneasy. I get the sweet sentiment behind the phrase “gay husband,” which can be as endearing as “play cousin.” (Definitely don’t try to use “gusband.” That word is like “fetch.” It’s not happening.) But a gay friend can quickly morph into the LGBT equivalent of being “the Black friend.” We start to sound like objects instead of human beings.

I once heard a friend use gay husband to describe me, then list the gay stereotypes I embody, like my heavy use of “girl” in conversations. As with Black women, the media’s depiction of Black gay men in subservient roles has impacted how we are treated and viewed. So don’t take cues for how to deal with your gay friends from reality TV.

If you find yourself a “gay hubby,” remember to treat him as your partner, not your pet or a new purse. As I get older, I think about where these relationships will lead. A dear friend suggested that should she not get a bun in the oven in a few years, she and I can make a baby. I don’t know how I feel about that, but the question itself speaks to a bond that only a great love can produce.