Back Talk: Why can't we be friends?

Friendships with straight people can be a lot of work.

Share on Nextdoor

I chewed on my straw and watched people that looked like an adult version of the Peanuts gang walk by the café. I understood that Roach just wanted to expand her social circle, maybe find a guy to date, but I started to think about the importance of having an integrated circle of friends. How hard should the LGBT community go out of their way to try and befriend more straight people?

My grandmother recently said to me, "A straight guy would probably have to have a good self-image to hang out with an out gay guy in public." She and I were talking about my friends from high school and why I haven't tried to contact any of them since I moved back to the area. She is pretty open-minded and wise, so I don't think she was passing judgment, just stating what she has observed.

"If you weren't out, you'd probably have more friends," she added. "Otherwise, they'd probably be worried that if anyone saw you guys together in public that you were an item."

This was a hard truth for me to hear, like it's my job as a gay person to make others comfortable, but she is right on point. As a queer human, I have to constantly reconcile my past full of judgment with my present.

If I were to try and reconnect with high school friends (who knew me before I was out) they would probably be friendly to me because they knew me "before I was gay."

I basically came out at the end of my first year of college, where I had a lot of straight friends, mainly because I keep the same level of honesty and awkwardness with most people I meet.

A lot of times, gay-straight friendships start when a person is not "out" about their sexuality. Trying to continue a relationship with a pre-out friend can be very difficult and sometimes painful.

While I understand that as marginalized people, the LGBT community often has to educate (for our own acceptance and safety) our peers, explaining our issues and struggles can sometimes be challenging. As a marginalized group, we have to go out of our way to make other people comfortable. With some, acceptance is like serving Taco Bell to the Queen of England — it’s just not happening.

The matter of friendship is not just confined to straight men, but also to women who want a "gay best friend" to go shopping with and paint their nails or something. These types of relationships effectively just reduce LGBT people to accessories.

The LGBT community is full of people who are trying to figure out where their bodies and selves fit into the politics and landscape of society; it's not just populated by people who consider Perez Hilton a late-breaking news source.
The process of continually outing — letting any new friend know that you aren’t straight — can be taxing. I get tired of explaining to a straight friend why it’s not cool to say something is "gay" even if they "don't mean it that way, you know, just, like, when something isn't right" or that not every gay man wants to jump a straight man's bones. They justify it by thinking, "Well, I have a friend who is gay, so it's OK."

Being a friend is more than just occasionally drinking fruity drinks and shutting down a bar on a Friday night. Friendship is about actively trying to understand another person's perspective and circumstance. I love our straight friends and allies, and appreciate them trying to help our cause. I think it's great to have all types of friends, not limited by sexual preference.

Friendship without understanding or compassion is kind of like playing solitaire: It might help pass the time, but after the novelty wears off, you are still just playing by yourself.


By Tyler Gillespie

Two Saturdays ago, my future-roommate and female friend Roach and I set out on the most epic of quests — finding a reasonably priced two-bedroom apartment in downtown St. Petersburg. Roach and I had lived together for a year in Orlando, and it hadn't turned into a situation like The Roommate — oh wait, you didn't see that movie with Leighton Meester in it either?

Anyway, Roach and I had decided that we were going to shack up together again — the economy and apartment-gods willing.

That Saturday, she picked me up from where I currently live in Clearwater, and around noon, we arrived downtown. A friend of ours from Orlando met us there to help us look for an apartment and to catch up a little.

With downtown daydreams floating in our heads, the three of stopped at Central Café & Organics on Central Avenue and ordered food. Sitting in their open-air patio, our lunchtime conversation started out about relationships past and present, which led to a discussion about the present state of our social lives.

"I think I want more straight friends," Roach said. “I think it could be fun."

"Straight friends can sometimes be a lot of work," I said. "Some people think that just because they have a gay friend or know a gay person that they are progressive or an activist or something."

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.