Getting your gay on isn’t ever as easy as pie. Whether you’re new to the identity — fresh out of your sexual awakening — or have been wearing it for years, social footing can be hard to find. Especially in our heteronormative society.
Coming out is like a second puberty — with just as many confusing thoughts and intense feelings as the first. The biggest difference is not everyone is going through it and often, we come out to gaggles of straight friends who struggle with understanding what all of this even means — while we’re trying to navigate through it too. It’s complex.
Luckily, Generation Y has been better with embracing queer culture than previous generations (there are always a few exceptions) — and often, straight friends are happy for their friends who have recently become born-again-baby dykes and want to support them. But often, straight people just don’t know how.
While some of us are privileged to have progressive social circles who know just what to do, others rely on the support from their own social circles to help them with this complicated growth so that the gay can really come out in full bloom.
Now, let’s talk about how straight folks can help support their lesbian friends and stand by them as the most solid straight allies.
Listen. Offer support but don’t try and give advice to your lesbian friends.
The reality is this: queer relationships are different than heteronormative relationships. It may be tempting to regurgitate some generic relationship advice you found oh so wise from a recent issue of Cosmo — but don’t do it. The relationship issues are not the same.
Listen. Support your friend and let them share their stories with you. Don’t try to reduce their experience to a stereotype you’ve heard, that one queer character from that movie you saw (though, this is why representation matters) or what you think you know about the gay community. Let their experiences be real — let them set their own frame of references in their own personal history.
Acknowledge the differences and respect them.
Attend girl events with your lady loving friends.
If your lesbian friend is new to the queer scene, help scope out local girl nights and attend them — be the wing bitch. Of course, it’s important to remember to enter these spaces in a respectful way — as a straight ally there to support your lesbian friend.
While integrating into the local gay scene is somewhat inevitable for your friend, being present in queer spaces surrounded by likeminded folks is important for them. Making friends is just as significant as getting a girlfriend — so show your support by encouraging your friend to get out there.
Throughout my twenties, I was fortunate enough to have incredibly supportive straight allies who happily made their way to the gaybourhood with me to shake our tails in lady loving spaces. They didn’t make me feel like I needed to adopt a new social circle; instead, these progressive straight friends did all they could to make these experiences awesome for all of us. Sometimes, Kippen or Lisa would even suggest a night out at Slacks (RIP sweet, sweet Friday nights).
Avoid judgment and keep an open mind.
Now that you have an entry point into the queer culture, enjoy these experiences with an open mind and leave any kind of judgment out of it. While it may be exciting to hear a fresh queer perspective on life, remember your lesbian friend is still a human being and not just a novelty. The gay world is different — it’s awesome — but remember it’s made up of people who deserve respect and aren’t just there for your personal entertainment.
Consider it a privilege to get the anecdote about a gin-fueled sapphic romance that sparked late last night in a washroom stall with the foxiest femme — straight from the source. These girl-on-girl spit-swapping stories are a privilege to hear — so get sex-positive and listen respectfully.
Take interest, understand the value of this invitation into their world and do your best to promote the same understanding amongst the heteronormative spaces that take up the majority of this society.
Let’s emphasize the promotion of good messaging amongst heteronormative culture.
This means speaking up when someone says something homophobic and stupid and fighting against the harmful stereotypes against queer people alongside the LGBTQ+ community. You can’t consider yourself a straight ally by being a friend to a lesbian one-minute and laughing when an asshole says something against gay folks the next. Follow through — correct people if they make inaccurate statements, stop them when they tell homophobic jokes and stand strong as an ally.
Passing along the right message is so important.
Educate yourself on queer culture.
This doesn’t mean you have to immerse yourself completely — but get your hands on some literature. Watch a few examples of popular culture (TheFeminismProject.com provides an entire ‘Entertainment’ section). Ask questions (carefully). Entry point knowledge is just a click away — if you’re reading this now, it’s an excellent start.
A special note of gratitude to the good hearts in my life who made doing the gay thing so much easier in my twenties. While establishing new connections with my queer friends, my straight friends were right there holding my hair back while I threw up all the rainbows.
Extra thank-yous for allowing me to use their faces for this piece.