My Straight Best Friend
By E. Lee Hess
Copyright 2017 E. Lee Hess
Chapter 1: A Dedication and Introduction
The idea of the “gay best friend” has always been popular. Who doesn’t want a gay best friend (or GBF as some people call them)? Even my best friend used to always say how much she wanted a gay best friend to which I, a gay female, would give her a look that said, “Excuse me. What about me?” This was always met with an eye roll and something to the effect of, “You know what I mean! I want someone to go shopping with me. That’s obviously not you!” There are plenty of books and movies dedicated to the GBF (normally consisting of the friendship between a straight female and gay male), but nothing talking about the straight best friend. By straight best friend, I am referring to a straight female who is friends with a gay female or the straight male who is friends with a gay male.
Before I continue, let me explain myself. I know I already mentioned a bunch of stereotypes and labels, but please realize this was all in good fun. I’m not trying to put a divide between straight and gay individuals. I am actually doing the very opposite. This is a book about my friendship with my (very straight) best friend, Alyssa.
By telling the story of our friendship and dedicating this book to her, I hope it serves to remind us “gay best friends” how much we need to appreciate our “straight best friend.” I also want it to be dedicated to all of you out there who have put up with the ups and downs of someone who is struggling with their sexuality. While this is the story of my best friend and I, it also serves as a thank you to all the other amazing and supportive friends in my life and I hope whoever is reading this is able to share it as a thank you to someone else.
Chapter 2: Growing up
Alyssa and I have been friends forever. I honestly couldn’t tell you the exact moment we actually became friends. I just remember her always being there. We lived right down the street from each other. Anytime I wanted Alyssa to come over, I had to walk down the street and meet her halfway. Then when she went home, she always had me walk her halfway again. We would spend the rest of the way yelling down the street to each other to make sure we were both ok. This continued until we were old enough to drive and Alyssa insisted on doing the 15 second drive to my house.
Growing up, we were the type of best friends who never actually said we were best friends. We didn’t flaunt the half heart bff necklaces or wear matching outfits (Alyssa is actually a huge critic of the matching outfit thing – she went on to judge me for it later in life. Apparently, couples in matching outfits aren’t cool). But we were both members of the Monkees and S Club 7 Clubs (we actually made up 2/3 of the membership) and played tackle football together with our other neighborhood friends. But to be honest, I probably didn’t show Alyssa the appreciation I should have all those years. Looking back, I really should have made her a friendship bracelet, forced her to wear the same clothes as me, and proclaimed her as my one and only bff on xanga. She really had to put up with a lot from me – including ungodly amounts of complaining when I had to go shopping with her.
Aside from our completely different tastes, which often had to do with the fact that I made it a point to dislike anything she liked, she also had to deal with the confusion that comes with having feelings for people of the same sex. To me, these weren’t romantic feelings. I saw it as girls that I really wanted to be friends with, which often resulted in me pushing Alyssa to the side for my new “bestie.” If I had realized these were crushes back then, I could have gone to Alyssa, talked about the girl I had a crush on, and she most likely would have reminded me that I had no chance (since they were all straight) and warned me that I better not choose this girl over her. I believe I would have been understanding of that. I always hated when my friends would get a boyfriend and forget about me. Alyssa had to constantly hear about how much I hated her middle school boyfriend (or should I say her on-again-off-again movie date) and she almost never chose him over me. To be honest, I was probably worse about it than most of my friends. I’d like to believe that I would have tried harder if I realized what I was actually doing, but I guess we will never know!
Alyssa also had to deal with knowing that I was gay, but not being able to do anything about it. I’m not exactly sure of the exact moment when Alyssa knew I was gay, but I would have to guess it was around middle school. It could have been around 7th or 8th grade when she wrote me a note telling me how “proud” she was of me for getting my period and asking if I “like boys more now,” then quickly realized that I did not. Whenever it was, she definitely had to go through many years being aware of something that I wasn’t even aware of yet. She had to watch me fall for someone in high school and say nothing about her concerns because this person was just my new “best friend.” Although she never actually told me when she knew, I’d have to assume that she figured out pretty quickly that we weren’t just best friends. Still, she stood back and let me live my life, supporting me and continuing to be my best friend through it all. She knew that I was hiding the biggest part of my life from her, but still kept a smile on her face and acted like the persona I was portraying to everyone was the same person I was behind closed doors.
Four years later, when I had my heart broken, she showed me comfort over “losing a friendship” when she knew I had lost something more. I can only imagine how much it killed her to clearly see me suffering and not being able to do anything about it. She always wanted to respect me and allow me to come to terms with things on my own time, but I’m sure it was hard to not just blurt out “God Erica! I realize you’re gay and that’s fine! Just do you girl!” It was also probably hard when I told her about my relationship and heart break (over a year after it ended) and guaranteed her, “but I’m totally not gay! This was just a one time thing!”
I’ve been on the other end of this. I have seen friends suffering and haven’t been able to say anything. It’s hard to do. But Alyssa did it with such grace. She never left my side and was hardly ever angry toward me. For about 23 years, she had a best friend who wasn’t completely honest with her and still was proud to claim me as her best friend.
Chapter 3: Coming Out
Much to Alyssa’s dismay, coming out was not a quick process for me. I remember the first time I ever questioned my feelings was 7th grade. For a split second I thought, “Could I be…” but before I could even finish the statement in my head, I decided it wasn’t the case. I refused to think about this again until I fell in love around age 17, but even at this time, I told myself that this was an “exception” and a “phase.” I knew it would pass as soon as I found the right guy. Even when my heart was completely shattered around age 20 or 21, I convinced myself I would move on with a guy. I am a very religious, conservative person and it took me a long time to really make sense of my sexuality with my beliefs and values. It took me years to feel confident that God was ok with me being gay. In this time and even when I got to the point of being pretty positive that I was gay, I still didn’t share my thoughts with Alyssa.
Looking back, I’m not sure why I shut her out like this. Maybe part of me was worried about losing the most important person in my life (although I don’t know how I could ever think I would lose her, especially over something like this). By the time I told her I was definitely gay, I was 23 years old.
I remember the night I came out to her perfectly. We were at a party of my friend’s house, where everyone was drinking but us. Up to this point, I hadn’t been comfortable with coming out to anyone. One of our other friends was going through a phase where she would give inspirational speeches every time she got drunk. I remember her standing on a table and claiming that this was our time to live our lives and be free. She then spotted Alyssa and I, jumped off the table, and continued her speech with just us.
From what I remember it went something like this, “Guys.. listen. We have a lot to be thankful for. I mean just think about your life. You have it good. You’re healthy, your young, and you have great people around you,” she looked at me for some reassurance before continuing, “So we really shouldn’t stress. Anything that you are worried about right now, just drop it. Think about it. Honestly, is it really that bad?” I nodded my head as she gave us a drunken hug and stumbled away.
To her, it was just another Friday night and another speech that she would quickly forget. But for me, it was a turning point. For me, this was a gift from God and the beginning of the rest of my life – the beginning of my true life. In that moment, I was reborn and knew things would never be the same.
I asked Alyssa if we could please leave because I really needed to talk to her. She didn’t even hesitate to say yes even though we had been having such a good time with our other friends, so I have to assume that she knew exactly what was coming right from that moment. We said our goodbyes and hopped in her car. It was silent for at least five minutes while Alyssa drove. Finally, she pulled into the parking lot of the mall close to our neighborhood and said, “OK Erica, what do you need to tell me?”
At that moment, I got extremely anxious and realized I had never said those words out loud. I had texted another friend about it and had come to the conclusion with her that I was gay but even that conversation went more like this:
Me: Do you think I’m confused about my feelings because I know how I truly feel but don’t want to deal with it?
My friend: Yes.
So, up to this point, the words “I’m gay” had never been said or even written by me. I started to get worried and wondered what I would do if Alyssa wasn’t accepting of it. I’m not sure why this was even a thought. Alyssa never judged me for anything my whole life, constantly reminded me that she would be my friend no matter what, and often talked about how much she “loves the gays.”
I started stumbling over my words and talking in circles about how I hoped nothing would change between us and I just wanted to be honest with her. Alyssa let this go on for a few minutes and then interrupted me by saying, “Erica.. you do realize I know what you’re going to say, right?”
I gave her a confused look and realized that this really hadn’t ever crossed my mind. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize that she would have figured it out by now. She had always known me better than I even knew myself and this certainly wasn’t going to be the exception. She then continued, “Do you really think I would care? Er Bear.. you know I don’t judge you for anything. Your my best friend.” I breathed a sigh of relief and then she asked me to say what I needed to tell her. I thought to myself, “Maybe she doesn’t actually know what I’m telling her. Otherwise, why would she need to ask?” I expressed this to her by saying, “What if you’re wrong about what I’m about to tell you and you don’t actually feel that way?”
What happened next will probably always be my favorite memory of our friendship. She started flipping through the songs on her iPod and said, “Here. Let me give you a little pump up music.” At that moment, she put on Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and it was confirmed that she knew exactly what I was trying to say. We both danced in her car singing along to the song. Alyssa pointed at me as she belted out the line, “No matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgendered life, I’m on the right track baby. I was born to survive.”
We both laughed as the song came to an end. Then she looked at me and said, “Alright say it!”
“Why do you need me to say it if I clearly already know?” I questioned. She told me that I didn’t need to say it for her. I needed to say it for myself.
I took a deep breath and finally found the courage to say, “I’m gay.” It was the first time I let myself say it and it was such a freeing experience. I could feel my confidence growing exponentially just from letting those words leave my lips. I was no longer hiding. I was finally me. I will forever be so thankful to Alyssa for forcing me to say those two words and allowing me to be myself.
Alyssa continued to be my biggest cheerleader and also my shoulder to cry on as I came out to the rest of my friends and my family. Alyssa even gave me my first gay bar experience. She knew I would never suggest going so one weekend she said the two of us should go. We went to a crappy, rundown bar and Alyssa checked out girls for me while I awkwardly stared at the floor. She also stopped me from drunkenly using the pick up line, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Taylor Swift? Because you belong with me.” In my defense, she really did look like Taylor Swift. At least I think so…
Chapter 4: Not Just An Ally
Let’s be honest. Unless you’re gay, there is no way to completely understand what it feels like to be part of the LGBT community. I’m a lesbian and still could not completely understand what it feels like to be a gay man or a transgender individual. You could say that Alyssa (along with many other friends of mine) is an ally since she is not gay, but still fights for my rights and supports me. The term ally doesn’t seem to do justice to what Alyssa is to me. I would say she is more of an extension of me – kind of like a very straight limb that isn’t actually attached to my body.
When I have gotten hurt due to my sexuality, Alyssa hasn’t just sympathized with me. She feels empathy toward me. She isn’t sad for me. She is sad with me. The same is true for times of celebration. I’m pretty sure when the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage would be legal in all 50 states, Alyssa felt like she had just won the right to get married.
It’s nice to have people in your life who have gone through the same things you have and can completely relate to you, but I think it’s even nicer to have people in your life who couldn’t possibly know exactly what you are going through (because they never had to) that make it a point to put themselves in your shoes. It’s really comforting to know that there are people who don’t need to be affected by the things that affect you, but they choose to anyway. Alyssa is one of those people to me and I’m so lucky to have someone like that in my life.
Chapter 5: Finding Our Soulmates
Alyssa and I were never the type of people to date around. We spent most of our time single rather than trying to “play the field.” We each waited patiently to meet our soulmates (well… Alyssa waited patiently – I did not). I’ll focus on my experiences first since I met my fiancé first.
I met my now fiancé, Michelle, in January of 2013. We met on the online dating app okcupid and, in true lesbian fashion, fell in love very quickly. At the time Alyssa was spending 6 months in another state for an internship so it wasn’t until May that they had the chance to meet in person. Michelle was so nervous to meet my best friend that she had heard so much about. Pretty much she knew that if Alyssa didn’t like her, we couldn’t last. Alyssa was also just as anxious about meeting Michelle. I had spent the last few months telling Alyssa all about the girl that I had fallen head over heels in love with and Alyssa was worried about whether she would be good enough for me. I had a tendency to be attracted to not-so-great girls. Luckily, they both got along well from the very beginning.
Alyssa even ended up moving in with Michelle and I for a few months in 2015(much to Michelle’s dismay, I actually cried when she moved out). When I proposed to Michelle in June of 2015, Alyssa was the one who helped me pick out the ring and pull off the proposal.
Alyssa started dating her boyfriend around the end of 2014. I always wondered what kind of guy Alyssa would end up with. She has a strong personality, so she needs someone who can handle that while still being able to challenge her. As soon as I met her boyfriend, I knew he was the perfect guy for her. I absolutely adore him. Alyssa also adores him. Suddenly, my best friend who used to always make fun of me for being so sentimental became just as bad as me. I make fun of her for that any chance I get.
Finding our significant others has just been more proof that our different sexual preferences really don’t make us different at all. Sure, we had completely different journeys that led us to finding the person we were meant to be with, but our goal was the same. We each wanted to find someone to make us happy, but more importantly, we each wanted the other person to find someone who made them happy.
That’s what is so amazing about best friends. You don’t have to have the same tastes (or even like the same gender) to share your hopes, dreams, and heart break with each other. Just like Alyssa’s reaction to the legalization of gay marriage, when she started dating her boyfriend I felt like I had just started dating someone. I truly couldn’t be happier for her.
Chapter 6: Thank you
Now that you have taken the time to read about my friendship with my best friend, it is time for the chapter that you have probably been waiting for. This is the part where I tie it all together and make it relatable to you.
To all of my fellow lesbians: Please take the time to thank your straight best friend. As I have pointed out throughout this book, we aren’t always the easiest to put up with. We spent a lot of our life confused about the feelings we were having and used this as an excuse to be dishonest and push away our best friend at times. Our best friend stood by and allowed us to make mistakes, learn, and grow. They stick up for us and root for us. Sure, they don’t actually know what it feels like to experience attraction to the same gender, but they will fight forever for our right to live the life we were meant to. They don’t see us as flawed or less or even any different than them. They just see their best friend, who has been there through it all. They just see the person that they would do anything in the world for. In the end, they just want the same thing for you that you want for them – to find happiness in this crazy, mixed up world.
To all the straight best friends: From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You have stuck by us through all of our confusion. You have dealt with other girls coming into our life and taking time away from you. You had to stand by and watch us suffer, unable to do anything about it. Thanks for your patience. Thanks for putting up with our obsessive gayness when we first came out and were excited to finally be ourselves. Thank you for fighting for our rights and sticking up for us. Most importantly, thank you for always seeing us as that same little girl that grew up down the street from you.
If you have a friend that is gay that hasn’t come out to you yet, my best advice is to be patient. It is a very personal experience and everyone handles it in their own way and on their own time. Just because they are not ready to share that part of themselves with you does not mean that you are any less important to them. We tend to convince ourselves that even the most loving, accepting relationship in our life could be changed by the fact that we are gay and that is very scary. Just realize that you mean the world to your best friend and that hasn’t changed. Show them love and support. Make sure they know how much you care and that nothing will ever change that. In the meantime, enjoy all the parts of their life that they do share with you until they are ready to share every part.
Whether you are lesbian with a straight female as your best friend, a straight girl with a GBF, or two completely straight or totally gay best friends, take the time today to tell your best friend how much they mean to you. In the end we are all the same. We are just looking for someone who knows us inside and out, has seen our ups and downs, has been there through failed and successful relationships, and has loved us just the same. Thank your bestie for being that person for you.
Epilogue: To Alyssa (and all my other besties)
Thank you for all of the support you have shown me through the years. Thank you for putting up with me as I worked through all of my crap. Thank you for taking the backseat when I needed to figure things out on my own and thank you for being there to pick up the pieces after that inevitably didn’t work. Thank you for dealing with all my complaints when I have to go shopping for you and thank you for letting me know when my outfit looks like something an 8th grade boy would wear. Most importantly, thank you for the countless hours laying around watching tv, eating chips, and drinking Dew. And thank you for watching all three seasons of South of Nowhere with me while I continuously claimed to not be into girls.
To all of my other besties – I haven’t forgotten about you! Thank you also! I couldn’t have gotten through the hardest years of my life without you guys. You know who you are and nothing I say will ever be good enough to express how thankful I am to have you in my life!
There is are a lot of movies and books out about the "gay best friend." Most of these represent the friendship between a gay male and straight female. Here is a book that focuses on the straight best friend - the straight male or female that has a gay best friend of the same gender. By telling the story of my friendship with my best friend, I hope to show appreciation to all of those people who have been a constant support to someone struggling with their sexuality. It is a way to say "thank you" for fighting for a cause that doesn't personally affect you.