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Being a GBF

Oh yes, I am definitely a bad gay boy in so many ways. For much of my adult life, I have been surrounded by girls clawing to lay claim to me as their Gay Best Friend (GBF). But the truth is, it is a title I’m not keen to give out so easily. And while many of the girls I know have their own merits that warrant them as a contender, I’m more inclined to think there’s enough gay in me to go around: Can’t they all have a bit? Can’t I be shared?

And if not, why can’t Etv commission a TV show that has all my possible ‘fag hags’ battling it out a la Gladiators until we have a winner? But, you see, there’s the thing: I said ‘fag hag’, and that’s a term that has slowly been rejected in favour of ‘GBF’ to describe the homo – as opposed to the girl – in the gay-boy/straight-girl conundrum.

Oh yes, we (queer folk) don’t own the girls anymore: we belong to THEM. Twenty-first-century women – strong, independent, Stylist-reading, have rebuffed the ‘fag hag’ mumbo-jumbo and instead coined a phrase that places them in the driving seat. And good for them. You can, after all, forgive the average heterosexual lady for taking umbrage at the original term. In Grandmaster Flash’s seminal hip-hop classic The Message, for instance, the ‘fag hag’ character isn’t doing so well. ‘Crazy lady livin’ in a bag/Eatin’ out of garbage pails, she used to be a fag-hag,’ Joseph Sadler tells us. And it gets worse: ‘She had to get a pimp, she couldn’t make it on her own.’ Not great is it? And, in Fame, which gave us one of the term’s first appearances in the mainstream’s vernacular, the resident hag was Doris, who, let’s be honest, had awful hair.

So, if ‘fag hag’ equates to bad hair, endless Irene Cara and eventual prostitution, you can understand why the women have had enough. I knew a girl once who took such offence to the term that she rebuffed it completely, instead opting to call me her ‘fag bangle’. Apparently, I was her gay accessory. I kind of liked it.

And while I know we shouldn’t have favourites, I do; especially the female friend of mine (Karen*) whose colleagues don’t actually know my real name but merely know me as ‘Gay Best Friend’ and refer to me as such in Facebook updates, status comments and Tweets directed at our drunken, ridiculous antics.

Will & Grace is to blame, mostly: or, at least, Jack and Karen. And the list of pop culture Gay Best Friends is endless, in fact: Carrie and Stanford, Linda and Tom, TOWIE’s Harry and Amy, George and Geri… Well, maybe not George and Geri, but you see the point. In short, girls and gays belong together. And yes, while the obvious connection is the shared penchant for cock, there’s definitely more to it than that.

There is, apparently, actually some science behind it all too. Experts claim that ‘gay men offer females an insight into both worlds’, whatever that means. According to a recent newspaper article ‘a gay man notices everything, in the way that your girlfriends might but your man probably won’t … You might ask your partner how you look in your gorgeous new top and he’ll just grunt: “Ok”,’ reads the article, ‘But your gay friend will notice how it brings out the colour of your eyes and go on to suggest the perfect skirt and shoes to wear with it.’ That’s right, all we queer folk are good for is a spot of fashion advice…

The article also suggests that, because sex has been removed from the GBF equation, unlike when you’re dealing with a friendship between a heterosexual man and woman (When Harry Met Sally, anyone?) or two gay men, come to think of it, these relationships (females and gay men) offer a unique honesty. ‘You can rest assured that your GBF will never let you get away with anything. Just as he won’t hesitate to tell you when you look great, if you’re having a horrendous hair day or you’ve just fixed that run in your tights with nail varnish, hoping no-one would notice, he will.’

And while these stereotypes are tired and cliché, my friends and I (at least) are suckers for the best of them: after all, it’s nice to be able to define a friendship on your ability to drink copious amounts of Tassies on a Sunday afternoon. Or your ability to completely ignore the fact you don’t really have a long-term plan and are, actually, as your parents keep telling you, just ‘floundering’. Or your ability to sing Glee songs completely off-key, convinced you sound way better than Rachel Berry and co, and then to cry, uncontrollably, because you haven’t had a date in six months and REALLY DON’T CARE ANYWAY. And, honestly, who else can a girl do that better with than with a gay man?

As writer Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City and creator of some of literature’s greatest gays and fag hags, wrote in the foreword to the book Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, ‘I shared everything [with my fag hags]: my exploits at the baths and the heartbreak that inevitably followed when I tried to turn playmates into lovers. I was braving the masculine wilderness for the first time and it helped immensely to have women on my side.’

For me and Karen that idea of sharing has always been paramount to the beauty of our friendship. In the early days she once walked in on me having a bath (I had forgotten to lock the bathroom door), commented on how nice the water looked, and hopped in with me. You can’t get much closer than sharing bathwater. At the same time.

More recently, at a mutual friend’s wedding, as the final dance approached, the DJ ordered everyone to grab a partner. We, inevitably, grabbed each other. With a flourish and a mock-indignation, we began to spin each other around the dance floor: ‘Oh great! Me and the queer!’ she cried, as all our friends partnered up. ‘Oh great! Me and the single girl!’ came my reply.

The truth was we couldn’t have been happier. It was an honour to dance by her side.

*Name changed to prevent drag queens from stealing her away.