Already Out? Thank Your Straight Friends

“I’ve been out for years, so how am I supposed to participate in National Coming Out Day?” asked one of my gay friends. My reply: “Thank your straight friends.”

No, really. Thank your straight friends.

One of the great things about National Coming Out Day is that it sets aside a day for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender to publicly affirm their sexuality. It’s a day of celebration and cathartic release for these individuals. However, the individuals who celebrate are mostly LGBT individuals who have recently come out or who are in the process of coming out. Other LGBT individuals may feel differently about this holiday. In my experience, I have encountered lesbian women and gay men who brush this holiday off because 1) they are already out, and 2) they don’t feel the need to reaffirm their sexuality. Although there is really no changing how gay man and women feel about issue, National Coming Out Day should be more than just affirming your sexual identity. Specifically, Coming Out Day should also be a day where we show our sincerest gratitude and appreciation for those who supported us and accepted us from the very beginning: our straight friends.

coming out

Taking a step back from my usual blog posts, I want to emphasize the important role that gay-supportive men and women (a.k.a. allies) have played in helping young gay men and lesbian women make their transition. Without the unconditional, loving support from our straight friends, there would probably not be a National Coming Out Day. At least in my personal experience, my straight friends were my foundation when I was coming out. I hardly knew any gay people at the time, so I had to rely solely on the support of my straight friends. Reflecting back 5 years ago (seems like only yesterday), not only did my straight friends accept me for who I was, they also provided me with a sense of belonging. That is, even though I thought the words, “I am gay”, automatically isolated me and made me different, they reassured me that nothing had changed. I was still their friend, and I was still Eric. These simple actions taken by my straight friends made all the difference, and their support has ultimately shaped who I have become today.  To me, that is definitely worth celebrating.

Therefore, in honor of today, I say will say this: Celebrate your sexual identity, but also celebrate the straight friends that have supported you.

3 Ways Women Help Gays Come Out

For most gay men, coming out is one of the most important and pivotal events in their young lives. Even though this event can be particularly stressful and challenging, gay men may look to women in particular to assist them through this process. Here’s how women can help:

1. Keeping a secret. Even before a gay man comes to terms with his sexual orientation, a female friend is usually the first person to “know”.  Similar to a mother in this respect, women are pretty good at noticing certain patterns in a man that do not line up with the stereotypical straight male. Because female friends have this hunch early on, they might be more mindful of the topics that they discuss with their closeted gay friend. Rarely are female friends motivated to “out” their gay friend without their friend’s consent. Genuine female friends allow gay men the time and the space that they need in order to make their cathartic transition.

“Matt probably is gay, but he hadn’t told me. That’s the hard thing: there’s a difference between knowing and ready to embrace it. That’s why I think ‘outing’ is a terrible thing. I don’t think it’s constructive, and it could damage the relationship. I mean if you’re in private and the question comes up you can ask, but I never felt the need to.” (Cathie in Straight Women, Gay Men: Absolutely Fabulous Friendships)1

closet

2. Creating a safe space. When young gay men discover that they like boys, their gut instinct is usually to tell their female friends before anybody else. Gay men know and are somewhat confident that their female friends will be the ones to accept them for who they are regardless of their sexual preference. Also, if gay men notice that their female friends are non-judgmental, accepting, and supportive towards other gay men who are “out,” they may be more willing to come out themselves.

3. Being proponents. On average, women’s attitudes towards gay men are much more positive than straight men’s attitudes2. Not only that, but straight women seem to prioritize helping their gay friends through the coming out process.  Some women may be passive, sympathetic observers for their gay friends, but others may actively support their gay friends through their transition. However, this is not to say that women “force” their gay friends out of the closet; rather, many women encourage their gay friends to be who they are. If gay men know they have a supportive friend and ally through their transition, they may be more willing to come to terms with their sexuality and make friends with other LGBT individuals.

References:

1. Hopcke, R. H. & Rafaty, L. (1999). Straight women, gay men: Absolutely fabulous friendships. Berkeley, California: Wildcat Canyon Press.

2. Herek, G. M. (1988). Heterosexuals’ attitudes towards lesbians and gay men: Correlates and gender differences. Journal of Sex Research, 25, 451-477.

Confessions of a “Fag Hag”

By: Ashley Hart

Personally, the term “fag hag” is something I will identify with only with friends. It has become an inside joke; immediately forgiven and accepted as fact. Outside of that relationship, it makes me feel like a creepy old witch who collects gay men like mail-order Precious Moments figurines. I didn’t hunt down gay men with Liza Minnelli tickets in hopes they would be my friends. Obvious gay man stereotype aside, it wasn’t a conscious decision to be a “fag hag.” I happen to come from a family where the LGTBQ community was accepted and during my undergraduate years my best friends happened to be gay. As a “fag hag” (please someone come up with a better term), I was subjected to stereotypes. Surely, I must have dated him before he came out a) as his cover or b) because I had no idea he was gay. Also, since I am a “fag hag” I am automatically a loud, broad-like character who struts around in extravagant clothes and is perpetually single.

fag hag buttonDear people of the world, do you like being put in a box because of a label? Me either.

There is a level of comfort that can be provided by gay men. Men and women think differently. Our approaches to various situations differ. By having a gay friend, I am able to discuss potential partners freely without having to worry whether or not there is sexual tension between him and myself. I have straight male friends and anytime I mention someone I’m interested in I am usually met with the responses “Why are you asking me?” and “I don’t know.” Meanwhile I talk to my gay friend and he will be bluntly honest, which is all I really need in the moment. Alternatively, we can be each other’s wing-people. There is no competition between us and there is no underlying reasons to purposely hinder our advances. It is not about gay and straight: it is about being genuine with another person.

The LGTBQ community has taken ownership over the word “Queer,” a word formerly used as a social slur. Overtime it has been embraced and has become a term that swiftly identifies one as a member of the LGTBQ community without need of further definition (or a break-down of an every-growing acronym). Meanwhile, the term “fag” is still looked down upon and considered derogatory. By forcing it into a cute rhyme scheme with the word “hag” (cue the Witch’s theme from The Wizard of Oz) you are forgiven the offense. It doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t even make sense. Two negatives may make a positive in math, but in a social setting, it just makes things awkward. It is like being outed as a gay man groupie, which you’re not. Meanwhile, straight men who are good friends with gay men are deemed “fag stags.” Why are they this majestic creature in the woods, and why are women becoming the fairy tale character who eats children?

So for your personal entertainment here is a list of other colloquialisms that seem to embrace a smattering of potentially offensive terms:

salkdfjlkStraight Man-Gay Man: “Fag Stag”

Straight Woman-Gay Man: “Fag Hag,” “Queen Bee,” “Homo Honey,” “Fruit Loop,” “Goldilocks,” “Flame Dame,” “Fairy Princess,” “Gabe,” “Cherry Fairy,” “Queer Dear,” “Gayboy Bunny” (this one is for the more attractive “fag hags” that are in stable relationships)

Lesbian Woman-Straight Man: “Dutch Boy”, “Lesbro”, “Dyke Tyke,” “Dikey Likey” (UK)

All Of The Above-Gay Men: “Fruit Flies”

A good rule of thumb is to use these terms with caution. Words have significant power and you do not want to abuse it. As a straight woman, I have a right to determine which title I identify with, just as much as other members of the LGTBQ community. For all intents and purposes, I am an Ally. I have to know you better before I tell you the intricacies of my private life.

 

Ashley Hart is a current graduate student at Florida State University. She is pursuing her master’s degree in literature and cultural studies.

What is a Fag Hag?

In literature and pop culture, women who enjoy the company of gay men are portrayed as overzealous, clingy, and despising straight men. These women are often referred to as fag hags:

fag-hag: heterosexual woman extensively in the company of gay men. Fag-hags fall into no single category: some are plain Janes who prefer the honest affection of homoerotic boy friends; others are on a determined crusade to show gay boys that normal coitus is not to be overlooked. A few are simply in love with homosexual men; others determine to their chagrin that their male friends are charming but not interested sexually. No matter how you cut it, fag-hag has an ugly ring to it.

– The Queen’s Vernacular: A Gay Lexicon (Rodgers, 1972).

Miss_Fag_Hag_Coney_Island_Mermaid_ParadeAlthough this term is not necessarily seen as a positive one, it is still widely used in the LGBT community. Obviously, no gay male likes being called a ‘fag,’ and no straight female like to be referred to as a ‘hag.’ Yet, some females take pride in the term while gay men have no problem using it to refer to their female friends. Why?

The gay male’s perspective: In situations where fag hag is used in an enduring way among friends, the term may be used to symbolically affirm a woman’s membership and acceptance among her gay male friends. Gay men may see the term as a way to share and express (humorously) the stigma of being gay in our society to a supportive female who is of no threat1. However in some cases, women who are “gay friendly” may not be called fag hags as many gay men reject this label.

The female’s perspective: Many females do not like being referred to as a fag hag due to the “hagginess” of the term. However, some women wear it as a badge of honor. This may be due to a female’s wanting to be included in a group a men who will accept her for who she is and won’t compare her to the “ideal” female beauty (like straight men do). But, many women disagree with the stereotypical portrayal of fag hags as outdated, noting that the “new” fag hag is a woman who seeks out friendships with gay men for inherent pleasure, not necessarily out of desperation for male attention2.

Although the term fag hag may sound like an insulting term, it is still widely used in and out of the gay community. By understanding its roots, we can ultimately learn why it is still a pervasive term in our society.

References:

1. Moon, D. (1995). Insult and inclusion: The term fag hag and the gay male “community”. Social Forces, 74, 487-510.

2. Thompson, D. (2004). Calling all fag hags: From identity politics to identification politics. Social Semiotics, 14, 37-48.