Gay Men, Lesbians and the Ocean Between Us

It may not be the topic that most LGBT activists are clamoring to address, but the unspoken differences that divide the boy bars from the girl bars can be seen and felt throughout the country.

It's not because lesbians prefer acoustic rock, and gay men require the thumping beat of a disco queen. Nor is it because there is any real issue of substance that keeps our brunch tables mutually exclusive. Simply, gay men and lesbians feel isolated from one another because we are two completely different animals who are forced to share the same cage.

When I evaluate my close circle of friends and allies, I'm ashamed to say it's hard to think of one lesbian who I can call when I need her. Sure, I know many wonderful gay women who I would love to ring up for a coffee date or share cocktails and laughs, but for some reason, there's a quiet division that has kept these platonic boy-girl dates from happening.

In high school, my best friend was a lesbian, and we were like brother and sister. This was the time when the alliances of gay youth were slim, and you stayed as close as you could to your kind. We did everything together, and I would have scoffed at the notion that our relationship would change outside the confines of the schoolyard. But as we grew into our adult years, I flocked to the glitter and gay heartbeat, and she was drawn to chill lesbo house parties and acoustic concerts.

Cliché? Absolutely. But it is also the truth.

I have struggled with the glaring absence of gay women in my life. We are kindred spirits, after all, but there seems to be a mutual agreement that we don't share the same pleasures, same vices and an identity we need to be all our own. (And why don't gay men have a cool term derived from Greek mythology, eh?)

Yet, in the cafeteria that is life, there is still only one table that all gay people are supposed to sit at. So, eventually, the boys only talked to the boys and the girls only talked to the girls.

This is not to say that gay-lesbian friendships are an anomaly in the community just because I, personally, don't have any gay ladies coming to my dinner party. Just as many hetero-homo relationships flourish, two individuals can strike a commonality that can turn into a wonderful relationship, regardless of sex or sexual orientation. But there's a reason gay women need to have their own label that is completely separate from the boys.

The experiences, challenges and characteristics gay men and lesbians go through are completely distinct and should be recognized separately for their own merit.

In the heterosexual community, women and men have long held their own identities that are recognized and celebrated, but due to the nature of the gay rights movement, gay men and lesbians haven't been counted as two separate demographics.

As natural allies, we banded together to create a united front in the face of adversity and ignorance. One thing we will always have in common is that we've shared the same discrimination and prejudice. This shared burden has forced gay men and lesbians to discard their differences and form a singular bond for the sake of the greater gay good.

Another bond we share is the conviction that who we are as same-sex lovers is nothing but good. In a way, the lesbian-gay man relationship can be compared to that of fraternal twins. We are of the same bloodline but get annoyed when we are forced to wear matching outfits and speak in unison. This annoyance can sometimes lead to resentment.

Some lesbians harbor anger when lumped in with the party culture. Certain gay men scoff at the "serious" lesbian stereotypes as if we forgot we have our own.

And when we have to take a family photo, the mutual exasperation with one another can seem palpable.

This is to be expected. The growing pains of growing into our own category are natural. Now that the gay and lesbian culture has matured into the mainstream, it's only normal the twins will go off and seek to define themselves with their own individuality.

It's not that gay men and lesbians are put off by sharing the same label the outside world knows us by, but like any other group, we want to be recognized for what makes our category unique. As a gay man, I have always considered myself a feminist. I'm passionate about the issues women, gays and straights still face, but I certainly would never liken my struggles with the women's because they're not the same. And I would venture that a woman today could not relate to all of the struggles gay men still face in our society. This rule applies in all directions.

It's in the recognition of our differences that we can truly come together in the fight for equal rights. When I evaluate my circle of friends and allies, I have no shame in admitting there aren't many lesbians on my short list for my make-believe wedding. It's just that our twin sisters want to stand on their own footing and those feet happen to dance to a different beat than us gays.

Fortunately, as the gay community continues to develop, and our identities feel more defined, we just might discover there is no better friend a person can have than his or her twin brother or sister.

But only after we burn those horrid matching outfits our straight relatives made us wear for so long.