Gay Men Are Not Your Latest Fashion Accessory

Between the dazzling pride parades hosted around the nation and the tenth season of Rupaul’s Drag Race well underway, it’s easy to get lost in the glitz, glamour and rainbows of gay culture. I recently had a conversation with my closest friend about his new friends at college, and why one of them suddenly was not in the picture anymore. It lead me down a rabbit hole of investigating the phenomenon of, commonly, heterosexual women treating gay men as, for lack of a better term, ‘pets’. Here is what he said to say*:

When did you first realized you were gay?

Seventh grade.

How old were you when you first came out to someone?

I kept it a secret until the second semester of my freshman year of high school. It would have been longer if I wasn’t forced to come out by the first person I came out to. I wasn’t really ready, but I guess she really loved the idea of having a gay friend.

When did you start to realize you were seen as different because of your sexuality?

I never felt different due to my sexuality. I’ve always just seen my constant personality in me. I’ve definitely acted differently in fear of negative attitudes towards gay people, but I’ve never really let it shape who I am. I’m just who I want to be.

How has it impacted your experiences, friendships, etc.?

My successful friendships are not based around my sexuality at all. The best ones consist of people liking me for my personality. On the other hand, I have had a huge amount of friendships around people who want to be my friend just because I am gay. It’s kind of the worst feeling ever when you find out someone is using you as an accessory. Makes you feel less than a human. They don’t really focus on your emotions or life, it’s more like “Hey, do a little show for my Snapchat story!” or “Which top should I wear out?”. It gets really depressing doing that over and over and having to really sift through friendship after friendship until you can actually find a genuine one. Plus, all the girls I drop for being a pain in order to better myself become very rude. They literally feel like they own me.

Do you think people do this intentionally, or is there some outside factor to blame, such as the media and its portrayal of LGBTQ+ people?

The media is obviously a huge factor of this awful treatment. I feel like a lot of people see the stereotypical gay guy on television or YouTube, and they think: “Hey, I know a gay guy, he has to be like this!”. False. Gay people are all different and have different feelings about friendships. Sure, you might find a stereotype, but you sure as hell better still get to know that person and understand that they are a human being, not your purse.

What’s the solution? How can we address this issue?

When you enter a friendship with a gay person, realize that they are a human. They have the same emotions, they have the same need to socialize, they are not a worker bee for your wardrobe. Treat the first interaction you have the same way you would when first meeting a straight person. Don’t stereotype every gay person, know they might have a very individual, one of a kind personality. Quit making pets of other people.

Any final thoughts?

No one owns another person. You should not treat someone like they are an accessory for your own entertainment. Don’t dehumanize us in hopes that it’ll make you look cooler. Learn to treat us like a friend instead of a handbag because it’s depressing for us.

(Photo by Joshua Stitt on Unsplash)

It isn’t enough to have a gay friend and consider yourself an activist. Be informed, stand up, and be a supportive ally for the LGBTQ+ community.

*Some answers edited for length or clarity.

(Thumbnail by Yannis Papanastasopoulos on Unsplash)