Think of your ten best guy friends: the dudes you grab a beer with, play ball with, get high with and have been there for some of the best nights of your life. You've probably known some of them since middle school, and probably had sleepovers with when you were kids -- well, the truth is at least one of them is gay. If you were our age and reading this ten years ago, that would have probably hit you like a ton of bricks, and less like the gentle thud you probably felt.
You know you know gay people. You realize by now that they're all around. You've been on baseball teams and in locker rooms and rushed frats together. Whatever your religious take on them, we, as the impossible to define bunch known as Gen-Y, have become increasingly cool with our gay brothers and friends. We've ditched "no homo" for "yeah, bro" when hanging with our openly gay friends, and we're civilized enough to know that the "F" word makes us look even more absurd than when your crazy uncle throws the "N" word around after three drinks at Thanksgiving.
How did we get here? The answer is one that is only going to make our high school English teachers continue to curse our love of shiny things over books: TV and movies.
When we were kids, the only gay people we saw on a daily basis were on reruns of Will and Grace. You either had the self-loathing, totally harmless and well-to-do lawyer in Will (the kind of guy your mom would be so proud of you for knowing) -- or Jack, the cartoon queen we've all gotten drunk and pretended to be as we made fun of someone we all thought was "almost too gay too function" -- which is a Mean Girls reference, just ask your girlfriend.
Those weren't exactly the best role models for you to learn about the kinds of guys you were inevitably going to live with when you made it in the big city. And it didn't even come close to giving you a clue about the kind of guy sitting next to you in class -- who was going through more shit in his head than you could possibly imagine. What it did do was bring gay people out of the shadows and right next to our favorite Friends -- Monica and Chandler. We started to see that all the crap we were fed from people older and more uptight than us was crap. Gay people aren't all pedophiles and monsters. They're real -- and often pretty damned hilarious and awesome. They're our friends, our neighbors, our teachers, our relatives. They stopped being a "them" -- and started being part of "us."
At the risk of typing the gayest sentence of my career: thank goodness for Glee. Say what you want about showtunes on prime time, but that show gives it to you how it is -- and doesn't once apologize for it. Not the singing and dancing part, but the teenage angst part that goes with trying to figure out who the hell you are. Glee, which is on Fox -- among the most uptight, ass backward networks on air -- puts a boy in a dress right next to the straight couple fighting a pregnancy scare. It may seem a bit ridiculous when they sing -- but the situations are real, and are happening in schools all over the country right now. Probably even in yours.
Whether you're gay or straight (or anywhere else on the spectrum), high school -- and college -- are times of incredible change and growth. Even the coolest jock among us questioned all the weird shit we felt inside. Whether it was hormones, harassment or horniness, we all went through some rough times fitting in. Take that lowest low you ever felt and add the fear of being kicked out of your home, expelled from your private school and all the stories of burning in hell thrown at you day after day. That kind of compassion that you just felt in the split-second you thought about how damned hard it is for that kid is exactly what's made Gen-Y so cool with 'the whole gay thing.'
Our parents grew up in a time when gay actors in movies were giggled at for playing 'those guys.' But now Zach Quinto is kicking ass in outer space in Star Trek and Wentworth Miller was such the ultimate bad ass in Prison Break -- and no one cares who they're sleeping with. It's certainly not hurting their popularity. It's all because we care about content and character -- the way we should -- in both the shows we catch and the people we care about bringing into our lives.
We're a generation so over labels we could spit. It seems like everyone is experimenting with everything and the last thing we want is to be put into neat little boxes for the purpose of someone else's statistics. Which takes us back to your ten best bros. Like I said, one of them is statistically gay. The thing that makes you, and the rest of Gen-Y, so damned great is that we don't care. We know there's a lot more to him to care about. So, yeah, he's gay -- he's also funny as hell, a killer Candy Crush player, your girlfriend's best friend (which probably can't hurt your sex life to know what she really wants) and he's just plain cool to be around. With guys coming out every day in pro sports, from the NBA to WWE, these sports don't get any less great to cheer for -- and neither do your friends. If anything, they're just a little bit more awesome because you have a friend who has chosen to be completely real with you and doesn't need to keep any of the fronts up that we felt we had to for so long.
So, as one of your gay brothers who loves college football and playing Wii as much as he loves a good showtune, thanks for being awesome, my fellow Gen-Y'ers. Thanks for making "No homo" no more.
This piece first appeared on Elite Daily.