it was at my 27th birthday party when i finally had to confront the truth; the gays and the straights had separated like oil and water, with the gay guys in the kitchen and dining room (the bar!) and the straight people in the living room and deck. and it was then that i realized that gay people didn’t really want to spend time talking to straight people—that i didn’t really want to talk to straight people anymore. (luckily all my straight friends are grandfathered in 😉 but in all honesty it has become increasingly difficult to keep in touch with my straight friends outside of one-on-one hangouts…)
in college, i only had gay friends by happenstance. now, i only have straight friends by happenstance. (the tipping point was probably right after party cat was dismantled and i had my gaywakening.)
it’s difficult/unsustainable to keep up with people who aren’t friends with each other (which is probably one of best things about being in a clique). in some ways, it’s sort of like real time strategy games; it’s easy to have 100% gay friends or 100% straight friends. or you can skirt dangerously at the 50/50 equilibrium with both friend groups perfectly balanced. but if you have slightly more of one, it generally is just easier to tip to one end of the spectrum with a few straggling one-off awkwardly-attends-your-birthday-party friends (OMG yes millions of exceptions). i feel like this applies to cliques as well; if you’re part of two cliques, one will likely win out over the other.
anyway, i digress. every once in awhile i hear this phrase: being gay doesn’t define me. i think of people as more than their sexuality. and it can be offputting to deal with people who do identify primarily by their sexuality.
there was a time when i used to strongly believe that statement, through college and the beginning of my professional career; now, i would probably say the opposite.
why do gay people love to hang out with each other? here are some reasons why it’s less likely for gay people to be friends with straight people and more likely to be friends with gay people:
gay topics of conversation. there are certain go to gay topics (and gay terminology) that every gay guy is well versed (!) in. this includes working out, eating habits, gay dating, hot guys, and gay sex. man, gay people love talking about guys and sex. and, again, given the small gay community, there is likely a lot of gossip. discussions about weekend activities and venues are all things that your gay friends likely all know intimately. sometimes i start talking to straight people and honestly they sometimes hang out at totally different places and watch different tv shows and it can be hard to know what is an easy conversation topic.
the gay experience is something we all have in common. more generally, we all have the shared experience of being gay. it’s no different than people of the same race hanging out together, or people who do the same activities or work in the same industry or were part of the same frat or grew up in the same area or are part of the same religion or socioeconomic class tend to stick together.
being gay is a lifestyle, and shared experiences make for an automatic sense of community and rapport and belonging. so many gay people have gone through their lives hiding and lying and feeling abnormal, and the gay community provides a welcome change from the rest of our past where we’ve felt scared or lonely or abnormal or silenced.
i was at a wedding recently, and there was an older fella who was being friendly (in a wedding way, not in a creepy way), and then he made a comment about my boyfriend and then it all clicked why he was being so nice (unfortunately not because i’m a good or fun dancer). and then we became instant friends! and we talked about how pride was that weekend and how we were missing out, and how he was worried that he would be the only gay person there and how he was glad to see us, and how he once saw the groom as a boy call a waiter “gay” and how he scolded him for doing so, how he had been married to a woman and had kids. it was so easy! i can’t imagine trying to find stories of equal relevance with a straight stranger.
because love and sex are life’s greatest motivators. things people would never do for their friends, they will do in a heartbeat if it gives them a chance at sex or love. not to mention, there is a strong networking effect where each gay person can introduce you to exponentially more gay people. nothing in life is more distracting than looking forward to a sexual encounter. people will move mountains to get a first date with a crush. nothing can throw someone into a state of depression like heartbreak. especially if you’re single and/or ready to mingle, hanging out with straight people, especially going out with straight people, suddenly becomes much less alluring.
networking. the gay community in san francisco is, at the end of the day, not a huge community. (yes, pmc, you can be vindicated.) for every given gay person that you meet, there is a very nontrivial possibility that you will see them again. there are only so many gay venues and everyone is friends (with benefits) of friends (with benefits). and that makes interactions with every gay guy you meet infinitely more fulfilling than any interaction with a straight person. everyone is a friend of a friend, and having a familiar face in a crowded bar can be immensely comforting.
senses of humor. somewhat controversially… i think gay people are funnier than straight people. *hides from the boos*. though it sometimes works against the community to have the predominant senses of humor be this mix of catty, sarcastic, sassy, shame-y, sardonic, double entendre-y rapidfire. okay, put less controversially, there are many different flavors of straight people, and there are comparatively fewer flavors of gay people. and if you like those flavors/learn to thrive in those flavors, then you will like gay people more. (OF COURSE it should be said that i know many incredibly incredibly funny straight people as well.)
interesting factoid: definitely a great “seemingly innocuous but deeply personal” question to ask a gay person why they think gay people only like spending time with gay people and using it to understand their motivations and values in life. (thanks to sean STK, pmc, josh, mason for participating in my psych study.)
my… 28th birthday is coming up this weekend! and… i’m still not sure if i should have a separate gay table and a separate straight table. (okay AFTER THAT WHOLE ENTRY a lot of straight people will actually be coming on sunday :|)