I’m not sure what the science behind it is, but gay men and I have a chemistry which has repeatedly proven successful. I get along well with gay men and they think I’m dandy; we bond over chatting, and a mutual adoration of my big hair and pouty lips. I’ve always had a hard time with girlfriends but gay men were a great compromise of friends who wanted to discuss dudes with me, but not compete for them.
I had the privilege of growing up in New York City, where gays have had a welcome home base for decades. Plenty of blood was shed so the 1990s and 2000s homosexuals can parade pridefully. I went to college at NYU in Greenwich Village, the whole neighborhood, a tributary historic landmark.
My senior year of college, my part-time corporate job had gotten serious and I created a schedule so all of my classes fell on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I worked the standard 9-5pm schedule, the three other days. I had my first business trip with that job, to Chevy Chase, Maryland. They put me up at a DoubleTree Suites within a fancy mall. I was 20 years old sitting in this two-room suite wth a plate of my welcome warm chocolate chip cookies.
My boss was Ray and he was gay. (I never noticed the rhyme before!) On this trip, he rented the car (I was under 25!) and did all the driving. His organization skills were inspiring and his neatness was admirable. He was kind, peaceful and never got flustered. He trusted me with responsibilities far beyond my years’ experiences, never discriminating based on my age. After a year of working together, Ray contracted hepatitis C from something he ate. He would be out of work for over a month and needed someone to bring him files. This was back in the 1995 pre-pdf days. Just as eagerly as I volunteered, other coworkers reacted in a strange manner, surprised I would “risk my life.” They compared it to AIDS, which I knew was ridiculous because the Merck Medical Manual was my favorite, well-read book.
I felt very Jerry McGuire “Who’s coming with me?” and it was just me. In this moment was the first time I felt the tiniest iota of what perpetual gay discrimination must feel like. Like a gay antisemitism; and I felt extra bad for gay jews.
I loved going to Ray’s house, where just as I had imagined, everything was meticulous and orderly and even though the whites of his eyes were the yellow of yolks, Ray seemed healthy! He was upbeat and served me tea with cookies and a platter of fruit (which I did not hesitate to eat even though he washed and cut it). Bonus, I got to go during office time and got paid to hang out with my gay Ray.
Over the next decade, I worked at advertising agencies and in the theater industry and collected many gay friends and associates. I developed a close friendship with a gay man at the theater marketing company where I worked. One day a group of us decided we would give blood. He shocked me by informing me how gays weren’t allowed to donate blood. This was 2009 and I cried for two solid hours at work.
In all my years of friends and confidants, I have always held my gay friends in high respect (highest, even), but as a non-gay women, I never felt like they took me as one of them. I was never cool enough. I didn’t discuss intimate sexual details with any of my gay friends like I had with even heterosexual men. We never discussed tops or bottoms or what happens if you get hemorrhoids. It’s like I walked on eggshells a little, afraid I would say the wrong thing and accidentally insult my favorite population.
That is probably connected to why I was hesitant to publish this piece. I’m not gay so I don’t really actually know where the invisible line lays. Strangely, I am fearless when it comes to asking inappropriate questions and provoking conversations with 5-95 year olds, extracting the nitty gritty as I tend to do so well. It is officially time I crossed over and am rightfully inducted as a gay friend or friend of the gays. Hopefully membership comes with a brochure of dos and don’ts … and one of those rainbow flags!