“What’s in a name?” At some point in our lives, we’ve seen this line or skimmed past it during English class in high school. It comes from William Shakespeare’s famous play "Romeo and Juliet." While we may have breezed over it and gotten to the star-crossed lover’s profession of love and adoration, there’s something to be said about that phrase. What’s in a name?
Society is obsessed with names. We’re named after successful social figures, family members, representations from pop culture or a name that our parents thought would best suit us. To be frank, names are very important. Our name is the first and arguably most vital piece of our identity. Think about it; we don’t introduce ourselves by the profession we’re in, the schools we attend or the color of our clothes that we’re wearing. Not only are those really poor and potentially temporary ways to identify oneself, I would be alarmed if someone came up to me and said "Hello, I’m the man with the Red Polo and Khaki pants.” I’d probably ask if they worked for Target and could get me a discount. But that’s beside the point.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with the “GBF.” Don’t click away just yet. Like a fine wine we have to sit and let it soak up the flavors before we give it out for tasting. We’ve just corked the bottle, and sent it out to the site. We’re almost there!
For those who don’t know what a “GBF” is, you're in luck. A “GBF” is a “Gay Best Friend;” a token member of a friend-group who is a man but imbibes in everything that his female counterparts can. People think of a “GBF” as someone who you can drink appletinis and sing Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” with after you’ve gossiped about good-looking boys and gotten your nails done. And, to a very limited extent, this can be true! The key words of the phrase being “very,” “limited” and “extent”.
One of the worst things that comes from people seeking out a “GBF” is just that — they’re looking for someone who will fulfill that very stereotypical role without considering the fact that they are people with names and personalities. The GBF is merely a complement to the woman, an accessory if you will. When looking for someone to be a friend with these qualities, society is perpetuating the idea that gay men are just glorified Ken dolls (perfect hair, smoothed over genitals and all). This socially-accepted marginalization of the gay-male community is something that should be addressed because there’s a vast amount of diversity within it. The gay culture does not solely consist of Frankie Grande and Jonathon Groff look-a-likes; there are people who look like Larry the Cable Guy, Hulk Hogan and Michael Cera, too. (As a note, not all of the aforementioned men are actually gay — the only fire that I'm here to start is the one that burns down this awful stereotype.)
The “Gay Best Friend” stereotype is just that — a stereotype. It can lead to shallow relationships founded on materialism, glamorization and downright cultural appropriation that leaves a majority of the gay community outside the box. By leaving these people out, you're just missing out on the opportunity to meet some amazing human-beings that'll bring you more joy than a Starbuck's run and a Victoria's Secret bag. There's a societal value placed on those who can fulfill the GBF stereotype that comes with the diminution of worth for those who don't quite fit that role. This is unacceptable. There's more than enough discrimination going on within and outside of the LGBTQI community; I don't think it's wise that we continue to set limits on the worth that people have for the sake of role perpetuation.
So, what does this have to do with names?
In short, solely searching for someone to be your manicure man-friend is like taking away their name; you lose out on the salsa that makes them the spicy specimen that they are. And, what's a good friend-chip without some nice salsa? (I better guac away from this conversation before you get jalepeñ-my business for the bad puns).
Regardless, there's more to a person (and a good friendship) than the novelty that they may come with. This isn't to say that you can't go out with this friend to try on clothes and sip cosmos like you're on "Sex and the City." Just remember that they're a complex person, too. And, one day, instead of having a "GBF," you'll just have a BF that just happens to be G.