I’m a junior in high school and have been out of the closet for about a year and a half. Upon coming out, most of my friends took it well, including my closest friend. Lately however, she has taken to joking very inappropriately about my orientation. At first I was alright with it; friends tease each other on occasion. But then it began occurring more frequently and it’s getting to the point where I feel extremely uncomfortable. She also has since started to use stereotypes to define me, rather than the person she knows I genuinely am.
I’ve tried talking to her about it, but she simply dismisses me. I’ve known her for quite some time and the friendship is one that I value, even though I’m not sure I feel secure in it any longer, at least when she acts that way. I’m not sure how to proceed. Can you help?
Anna says: Unfortunately, we all have to deal with homophobic remarks at some point in our lives. Sometimes we don’t even have to be gay — just looking gay can incite people’s bigotry. I had a straight guy friend who was carrying his girlfriend’s jacket one night and got just jumped for that.
So I’m sorry you’re being singled out by your friend. If it had just happened once, I’d say ignore it, but clearly this is a pattern and you have try to address it. I’d take her aside. Don’t confront her in a group setting because that might make her put up her defenses and not listen to what you’re saying. It’s important to stay level-headed and cool, which can be challenging, given the fact that you’re being punished for simply being who you are. I’ve gotten in a few screaming matches with friends and one family member who suggested, in all seriousness, that perhaps I had been “gay poisoned” by drinking the tap water in Tucson.
Once you’ve gotten her alone, tell her calmly how it makes you feel when she makes homophobic slurs. If she tries to brush you off again, be firm, and use real world examples to back you up. I’m sure she’s heard of the recent flood of gay teen suicides that started with jokes and harassment, and eventually sparked Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign. If she hasn’t, inform her. Sometimes people need dramatic examples to get them thinking outside their own lives and worldviews. Especially in high school.
My second suggestion is to use humor. Don’t let those comments slide if they make you upset. You’ll just internalize them and it’ll make you feel worse and worse. The next time your friend makes a stereotypical reference, like let’s say, “Oh, I bet you want to be a P.E. teacher when you grow up,” you can fire right back with something like, “Yeah, and I bet you’ll make a lot of casseroles and knit tea cozies for your many offspring while watching The View.” That might be too confrontational for some people, but sometimes countering a stereotype with another stereotype shows people how ridiculous they sound.
If your friend still doesn’t stop, or continues to dismiss your feelings outright, then it might be time to dump her. It’s up to you how much of an investment you want to put into maintaining the friendship. But hang in there. You’re already way ahead of the game by being true to yourself and your identity. And hey, it does get better.