How Not To Be A Dick To Your Lesbian Friends

Unsurprisingly, I experience a lot of dickishness at the hands of mostly well-meaning straight people. And so, I’m here to tell the rest of you mostly well-meaning straight people how not to be a dick to your lesbian friend.

Jul 1, 2013 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

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I’m a lesbian. A dyke. A muff muncher. A clam diver. A queermosexuelle. Whatever word you like using to describe girls who like other girls, that’s me. 
 
But that’s not so shocking, right? There are tons of lezzers in the world. No big deal! Except. The vast majority of my friends and family members are straight. And for a lot of them, I’m the only lesbian they know. Hell, I’m the only gay person they know. As a result, I’m often that token dyke -- that one friend who is mainly useful to my straight counterparts for proving that they’re not homophobic asshats. 
 
Unsurprisingly, I experience a lot of dickishness at the hands of these mostly well-meaning straight people. And so, I’m here to tell the rest of you mostly well-meaning straight people how not to be a dick to your lesbian friend.
 
Don't congratulate her on the fact that she's a big ol' dyke:
 
"OMG!" a new friend squealed when I came out to her. "That's so exciting! I was soooooo happy when gay marriage passed in New York. Good for you!"  
 
My gayness is not cause for celebration on your part, like I'm some kind of pitiful puppy who just learned a new trick. Don't jump up and down with glee, or pat me on the head, or hug me when you find out the news that I'm a big huge dyke. Did you high-five your boyfriend when you first discovered he liked to lick pussy? No? I didn't think so. Don't do it to me either. It's totally patronizing.
 
Don't tell her that she's really too pretty to be a lesbian, and is she sure that she's gay? Girlfriend could totally get a hot guy if she wanted to. 
 
Once upon a time, a straight guy friend of mine had a serious crush on me. Unfortunately for him, I'm a lezzer! And I had a girlfriend!
 
"Really?" he asked me, upon discovering this super disappointing news. "Are you sure? You're really gay? I totally didn't see that coming." 
 
If you really had no idea she was gay, like this poor guy did, than a certain degree of shock is appropriate at first. You're caught off guard! Blindsided! You totally thought this girl was a viable piece of ass, and now you discover that's she's not at all. You're allowed to be surprised. Your gaydar sucks.
 
But then years go by. This particular straight guy and I remained friends, laughing off his ill-advised crush on me. He even got friendly with my girlfriend -- what a good sport! But then my ladylove told me he was texting her, asking if I really was gay? How could I possibly be gay? I was just too girly and sexy and delicious to be totally disinterested in dick.
 
Soon after, said straight guy started asking me if I was sure I was gay, or did I just make that up to get out of dating him, specifically? This is three years after his initial rejection. I mean, come on, he pointed out, I looked fab in a dress and could totally snag any guy I wanted, I was so damn fine. That must mean I wasn't as dykey as I claimed.

Stop this right now. Dykes are hot! We're sexy! We look fab in dresses, if we like wearing them! When you question our gayness based on how attractive you deem us to be, you're implying that REAL lesbians have invariably been hit with an ugly stick. So insulting.

You're also, again, being incredibly patronizing to imply that we aren't sure about our gayness. Some of us are questioning, and that's totally cool. But if we tell you, unequivocally, that we're lesbians? Then you should take our word for it.
 
Don't be shocked when she tells you about all of the homophobic bullshit she has to put up with every fucking day.
 
I recently wrote a column about how difficult it's been for my partner, who's a wildly handsome butch, to find gainful employment. Telling others about said column has resulted in a lot of shocked, suspicious facial expressions, accompanied by an exclamatory, "Really??!!"
 
Apparently, the many straight folks who populate my life find it hard to believe that being visibly gay or gender variant makes it tough to find a job. In fact, they've told me it's hard to believe that her gender presentation would cause any out-of-the-ordinary behavior from others at all.
 
I hate to break it to you, but homophobia is a real thing. It's not just on the news, or outside of major cities, or in movies like "Boys Don't Cry." It's real. And we deal with it. Every. Day. Every day! When you are shocked that the only real gay person you know also has to deal with real problems because she's really gay, realize that this means you probably know very little about your gay friend's life.
 
Take it as an opportunity to learn more, to care more, to be a better friend and a more sensitive straight person. Don't just laugh us off in disbelief, totally dismissing the reality of our lives.
 
Stop treating her like she’s a permanent child if she’s not getting married, having babies, or doing whatever else it is that you straight people expect other people to do.
 
Awhile back, I was talking with a straight, married friend about committed relationships. I had been living with my partner for some time, and had been her primary caretaker through a recent bout of debilitating illness. Yet, at some point in our conversation, my breeding friend shut me down with a definitive, “You really have no idea what it’s like to be in a serious relationship.” Why the fuck not? I was super confused. “Because, DUH, you’re not married. You have no clue.” Oh. Well then. 
 
But that wasn’t all. “Plus, you don’t have any kids,” she continued. “You don’t even know what love IS until you have kids. Or responsibility for that matter.” Basically, she thought I was some kind of carefree, permanent teenager, because I hadn’t reached the same milestones that she had. 
 
But the things is, I might never reach those milestones. And a lot of the queer folks I know won’t ever reach them either. But does that mean we’ve got Peter Pan syndrome, refusing to grow up in exchange for a life of perpetual adolescence? HELL TO THE NO. 
 
It’s OK if we never meet your milestones. For many of us, the conventional life path that leads to them just isn’t attainable, or is inapplicable, or doesn’t really translate to the different circumstances of our lives, or is just plain unappealing and we don’t want any part of it. And that’s all fine.
 
Our road to adulthood may look different than yours, and it’s OK if you can’t make sense of it. You don’t need to. But you DO need to respect it. So don’t belittle or infantilize me because my life looks nothing like yours. That just shows how big of a dick you really are.
 
Don’t try to police or micro-manage her life decisions, as if she’s got something to prove to you.
 
My partner and I are getting married next month (OMGSOEXCITED), and we’ve been under the microscope ever since we got engaged last year. We’ve received tons of puzzled looks, pointed questions, and unsolicited advice about how to make sure we have a real wedding -- and it’s incredibly frustrating.
 
According to countless straight people, we simply MUST have formal father-daughter dances (even though it’s a heterosexist tradition based on an Oedipal concept of desire that totally doesn’t apply to us), we MUST get married by a spiritual -- ahem, religious -- leader (because otherwise, no one will take our marriage seriously), and why is our legal ceremony separate from our formal wedding? (Because that just makes no sense.) 
 
Sometimes, these interactions with the straight folks in our lives come from a genuine desire to understand our experience. And that’s super awesome! But most of the time, all of that judge-y advice comes from a controlling place, where straight folks try to manage and police how us queers can participate in a hetero-dominated world.
 
Whether it’s telling us how to validate our relationships or how to wear our hair, this kind of judgmental, control-freaky behavior signals to your lesbian friend that she’s got something to prove in order for you to see her as a person of worth and value. And that’s a seriously dick move. We don’t need straight person babysitters to tell us how to live our lives. We’re doing just fine on our own.