Lesbians and the men they call their friends


I’ve always been perplexed by the "man-hating lesbian" stereotype. Ever find yourself included in a mass e-mail of man jokes? If you have, I’m sure you’ve noticed that most of the recipients — and the sender — are straight females. It makes sense, because why on earth would lesbians, whose dating drama doesn’t involve men, ever be compelled to unleash such vitriol against guys?

Here is a snippet from an actual e-mail that was passed along by a straight woman to 10 other straight women — and me.

Q: What do you call a handcuffed man?

A: Trustworthy.

Q: What does it mean when a man is in your bed gasping for breath and calling your name?

A: You did not hold the pillow down long enough.

Q: Why do female black widow spiders kill their males after mating?

A: To stop the snoring before it starts.

Seriously, I can’t relate. Send me an e-mail about an exciting new product with which you can spray the walls of the one or two lesbians bars in town to repel your exes so that you can scope the ladies in peace, and I’ll think about being amused.

Fortunately, however, the world is coming to realize that lesbians and straight men have a lot in common and might even gravitate towards each other as buddies. A recent feature in Details magazine examined the relationships between lesbians and "Lezbros," or "straight guys who like, but don’t like like, lesbians."

Here’s an excerpt:

For a lesbro, the company of Sapphic sisters offers something he just can’t find in his straight friends of either gender. Sometimes it’s testosterone-free talk; other times, an insightful appreciation of the fairer sex; still others, a get-out-of-jail-free card.

When Eli Kulp, a married 31-year-old chef in New York City, goes out with a thirtysomething lesbian couple he knows, they usually wind up at a dive bar, drinking and shooting the shit until well past midnight. Kulp tells his wife where he’s going and who he’s going with, and because of his companions’ orientation, she has "no issue" with his choice of company.

For some lesbros, the foundation of a platonic friendship is the shared sexual attraction.

"When you hang out with a lesbian, you have this thing in common: women," says Matt Gross, a travel writer who counts numerous gay women among his close friends. "I have a harder time discussing relationships with straight guys. You want to seem tougher, more manly. With lesbians you have the ear of a woman who understands exactly what you’re talking about." As with all bro-banter, it’s not exclusively G-rated. "You can say, ‘She’s clearly a hottie. How do I talk to her?’ and a lesbian will get it," says Dan Levitan, a 26-year-old publicist from Brooklyn.

For the lesbian, hanging out with a lezbro may provide more freedom to engage in unfiltered commentary about other women, which can sometimes be a no-no among groups of lesbians. Let’s face it: Sometimes you want to relax and unleash your inner frat boy, and you don’t want to be pilloried for being un-PC or coming across as unenlightened.

"I can talk to a straight guy about sex in a way I can’t with lesbians," says Dina, a lesbian who often hangs out with lesbro pals at New York City bars like Cubby Hole. "If I say, ‘That girl’s got great tits!’ They’ll say, ‘Yeah, she does!’ but lots of lesbians have hang-ups, and get mad at me for objectifying women."

Mentioned in the Details article is the short film Lezbros, which made the rounds in the festival circuit last year. The film, produced by a collective of queer filmmakers called "4 Dykes Presents" based out of San Francisco, is a lighthearted anthropological study of men who share a bond with lesbians, and it concludes with a humorous theme song and music video. I was able to catch Dara Sklar, creator of Lezbros, for a few minutes last night to answer some questions about the film and lesbian/lezbro relationships in general.

AfterEllen.com: Since I am designating you – and your fellow filmmakers — as the experts on lesbian/lezbro relationships, tell me why lesbians and guys make natural buddies. For example, your co-producer, Brynn Gelbard, was quoted in Details as saying, "There is just this really amazing bond between men and lesbians. That absence of sexual tension allows you to talk openly." Would you agree?

Dara: I actually conceived of Lezbros because I saw Brynn having these extremely close friendships with men that fascinated me. I had never really had guy friends, and here she was living with guys, being trusted companions and supporting each other like family. They all came out to help "4 Dykes Presents" make Lezbros too, creating the graphics and theme song, helping edit and put on performances.

On and off screen we dove deeper into what sustains the lezzie/lezbro relationship and to determine if its unique just to Brynn or San Francisco. Taking the film to festivals all over the world, we discovered that lezbros are a global phenomenon with common characteristics from Zurich to Seattle to Sao Paulo. Sure, there are shared interests (yes — girls!), but the lezbros also described a freedom to not "be the dude" or have to "be the seducer" which creates a space to express emotions and be vulnerable in a way men said they don’t often feel allowed.

AE: In the film, a schoolteacher draws what appears to be the queer family tree on a blackboard, which includes the "lezbro" descending from the "bear" branch and the "fag hag" descending from the "twink" branch. Both have a little bit of "drag queen" in them, but based on your diagram, fag hags and lezbros are located on opposite branches of the queer family tree. Why is this the case? Is the lezbro a completely different species from the fag hag?

Dara: While most people associate the lezbro with his unfortunately named sister, the fag hag, few know that she is actually only his half-sister. The lezbro is a direct descendant of the drag queen and bear, and he inherited both his mother’s impeccable style and father’s rugged good looks.

On the other hand, it was a drunken evening of dancing and other debauchery with a twink after which drag queen gave birth to his fun-loving half-sister. Perhaps the fag hag’s little-known heritage explains her ever-youthful attire and biting sarcasm.

AE: The Details article cautions that among true lezbros lurk "turners," i.e. men who pretend to be friends with lesbians but are actually trying to get into their pants. Have you ever come across such a specimen? What advice would you give to a lesbian whose lezbro is revealed to be a turner?

Dara: I don’t think desire is as simple as gay, straight or bi, so its hard to say what "turn" means. As you’ll see in the movie there is often a playful element to the lezzie/lesbro bond and its not uncommon for lezbros to kiss or even make out with their lesbian friends. And I certainly know some dykes who want to top their lezbro dudes.

I wouldn’t say that anyone is being "turned" by those experiences, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some Chasing Amy types or bi-male-curious dykes with ulterior motives too. I’m an advocate for respect and being clear about boundaries as well as being willing to stretch preconceived limits sometimes too.

AE: So do you think the "man hating lesbian" stereotype is finally gasping its last breaths? Are we going to see a post-gender, post-orientation, post-Dworkin reality — at least in terms of friendships?

Dara: In many ways Lezbros epitomize post-identity friendships. While at first glance the "lezbro" may seem another addition to the identity laundry list, the concept of "lezbros" actually questions what is "masculinity" or "straight" and even "lesbian," making "man hating lesbian" pretty much extinct (finally). In its place we now have a name for the genuine loving, nourishing and unique connection that perhaps has always existed between dykes and guys.

The best part about making this film is hearing from women all over the world declaring love for their Lezbros and guys telling us how much they adore and value their lesbian friendships. We would love to see your pictures of you and your Lezbros and invite creative remixes of "Way to Go Lezbros" too (located at http://www.myspace.com/Lezbros) that share your special bonds.

AfterEllen.com has procured an exclusive preview of Lezbros, which you can see below. The entire film will be premiered on LOGO, both online and on Real Momentum at 8pm on August 28. (Also, be sure to check out the latest "4 Dykes Presents" project, Jew Lo, if it comes to a festival near you.)

More you may like