When I was a journalist, I didn’t have a lot of gay (and lesbian) pals other than those I already befriended since college. I was never actually “in the closet”, so you could imagine how I had to try so hard to blend with my straight colleagues.
Some of these acquaintances became good friends (some girlfriends became my fag hags but, wait, do we still use that term? I prefer “fruit fly”, to be honest. It’s more empowering than “fag hag”), while others became what people call “frenemies.”
The guys made gay jokes about me (one of them involving teasing me, saying that I was actually into one of my sources) and, even though some of these jokes were really hurtful, I tried to just smile, and laugh, and play along.
At one point, though, I became so sick of them that when my friend asked me whether I wanted to hang out with her and some of the guys one Saturday night I told her that I just did not feel like it.
“Why?” she asked.
“I just don’t feel like hanging out with straight people at this point,” I replied jokingly. “I think I want to hang out with my gay friends tonight.”
She laughed. However, the truth is, I was not 100 percent joking. I was so tired of trying to fit in with my straight friends.
I was so tired of hearing what I call “straight guy jokes” and how they often made comments about women in a slightly patronizing manner. I was so sick with their choice of music and movies (like, one of them said how they hated “musicals”, prompting me to snap back, “well, maybe musicals don’t like you, either.”)
I was also exhausted by some ignorant comments my straight friends usually made such as “Can you go shopping with me?” or “So are you ‘the man’ or ‘the woman’ in your relationship?” or “So how did you do it (and by “it” they mean “sex”)? I felt like a dissected frog in a biology class.
Once I read an article by an Indonesian gay blogger about “Heterophobia (Heterophobe)”, and I asked myself: am I becoming a heterophobe? (Sidenote: according to UrbanDictionary, “heterophobe” is “someone one who has an irrational fear or hatred of those that lead the heterosexual lifestyle.”)
I mean, if our straight friends can be homophobes (or as writer Rizal Iwan put it, “closeted homophobes”), why can’t we be heterophobes (or closeted heterophobes)? Wouldn’t that make us about square?
I asked Rizal about this after reading his article and he was like, “nah, any kind of ‘phobe’ is never a good thing.”
Guess he was right.
I still have a few good (straight) friends within the media industry, even though it’s been years since I left that business, and I feel blessed to have them in my life. As for those “friends” who likes to make mean gay jokes, I don’t hang out with them anymore but I’m 100 percent okay with it.
I am at that one point when I don’t feel like I need to beg people for friendship anymore.
But don’t get me wrong: I respect them. I mean, kudos for them to actually try to “accept” someone like me, but sometimes I think it’s healthy to let them know that we also have the right to feel objected when they (intentionally or not) demean us.
Yes, what other people think of us is none of our business, but when they actually tell that to your face I think you have the right to retaliate (just make sure you have a good sense of witticism.)
Acceptance is something that people like us always want, but lowering ourselves just to feel accepted is not a good thing either. Life is too short to spend it with anyone who makes you feel unhappy.
Amahl S. Azwar is an openly gay writer who currently divides his time between Bandung, West Java and Shanghai, China, where his ‘husbro’ lives. Follow @mcmahel on Twitter and blog www.mcmahel.wordpress.com.