When I couldn’t be my unapologetically queer self around my male counterparts, I looked to women. Around them, I could be whoever I wanted to be. I could finally let down that thick wall between masculinity and femininity and allow myself to be as fluid — in terms of gender expression — as I wanted to be. This was, of course, before I met other queer men. Through watching my queer male counterparts interact with cis-heterosexual women, I was able to see the error in my interaction with all women.
I grew up on shows like Sex and the City and Will and Grace, where there was always at least one token gay actor. He’s always dramatic. He’s always feisty. He always surrounds himself with queer women. He always has the sassiest reads.
Around my lady friends, I could be that token queer man. I had all the gossip, the funniest reads, and I never started or ended a sentence without using the word “bitch” in it. I was the original NeNe Leakes — only with a dick, facial hair, and without the Trump checks. My lady friends allowed me to call them a “bitch” and I allowed them to misgender me and call me a “fag.”
They allowed me to be misogynistic, and I allowed them to be homophobic. I didn’t see how I could be sexist if I surrounded myself with women, and I didn’t see how they could be homophobic if they surround themselves with me. Words were nothing but words. However, if I learned nothing else, words are seeds that plant the tree of toxic friendships between queer men and cis-heterosexual women.
Whenever my friends came under fire for being homophobic, I was the person who absolved them; I pardoned them from being homophobic, ignoring how they made other queer men feel. I became my lady friends’ homophobia clearance card. And there was an exchange: they became my misogyny hallway pass. I’d defend them against accusations of sexism and they defended me against accusations of sexism. We scratched each other’s backs and helped one another become monsters.
I became the type of queer person who Kim Kardashian calls on when she’s accused of being homophobic. After her online feud with Tyson Beckford, she excused herself by saying, “All my best friends are gay.”
I became the type of queer person who Cardi B and Offset will call on when they’re accused of being homophobic. After Offset came under fire for rapping “I do not vibe with queers,” Cardi B jumped to his rescue, saying “I see him around gays and he treats them with the same respect he treats everybody.”
I became the type of person Azealia Banks would call on after one of her many homophobic tirades. I don’t need to say anything else; we all know just how many times the rapper received backlash for her antics and who she called upon to absolve her for her actions: her gay friends.
But how are queer men any better? How can we ask women to check themselves for being homophobic when we’re not ready to accept the role we play in institutionalized sexism? We call them “bitches” and “whores” and then we’re shocked when they justly call us sexist. This is counterproductive, and this perpetuates toxic relationships between queer men and cis-heterosexual women.
At some point, we have to look at our behavior. We have to begin holding ourselves accountable for the toxic friendships we allow to blossom. The first thing we must do to rectify those mistakes is to realize the role we play in each friendship. Are we the enabler? If so, let’s just stop being the fucking enabler.