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“How Queer Eye taught me the life-changing magic of queer friendships”

“Friends equate to family, and having a secure and solid community that can relate and empathise with your experiences is essential to your existence…”

It’s a cold, crisp December’s eve, and we’re talking about dicks again. 

I can’t decipher how they managed to (literally) penetrate our conversation this time around. All I know is that it’s 11pm, I’ve been nursing the same glass of wine for the past three hours and the two friends sitting opposite me are describing in great, unnecessary detail, the advantages of abnormally large penises. I shiver as the word ‘girth’ drifts through the air.

These particular conversations aren’t unusual; we are, after all, red-blooded women in our 20s, sharing our sexual experiences with each other in a bid to navigate our way through the often turbulent world of dating. The only difference is that I have been navigating through this particular world with one particular person for the last nine years, and they happen to be a woman (no girth necessary – all vaginas are made equal). 

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I came out as bisexual when I was 19, although not in the traditional sense of the word; after a brief but very intense teenage fling with my partner, we began a serious relationship and my decision was never truly questioned by my friends (this was, presumably, because they thought that it wouldn’t last, given that she was my first and only same-sex relationship and I was only attracted to boys before that). 

While many of the girls in high school toyed with the idea of being with a woman, I was the only one of my friends who went to university with a female partner, and it has remained that way to this day. And so it happens that all of my friends are straight. I am the only ‘gay’ in the village. 

queer eye season 3

“In the latest series of Queer Eye, their chemistry is undeniable”

This by no means makes me feel defunct of any but one thing: sexual relatability. I can talk to my friends about anything, from politics, to moon cups, to nipple chafe. We love each other with such might, we’re candid and honest with each other and we’ve created an integral and solid support system that can withstand anything. 

And yet, when the topic of relationships comes up, I find myself yearning to talk about subjects they cannot understand – the emotional intensity of a lesbian partnership, or sex, or how to deal with homophobia, or how my family, after nine years, still don’t take my relationship seriously (‘so, are you two still…partnering together, then?’).

This lack of queer friendships is, in part, my fault. My partner and I never actively immersed ourselves in the lesbian community because of the stereotypes that surrounded it – the only events we were aware of consisted of singles’ nights, designed for women to seek out potential partners. The only lesbian bar in London, Candy Bar (RIP), was a sweaty basement thumping with bass and oestrogen, and because our friendship circle was so close-knit and content, we never felt the desire to befriend others just because they liked the same body parts as us. And yet, something was missing – every time I wanted to laugh about lesbian bed death syndrome or dismantling the patriarchy through veganism and strap-ons, I felt alone.

When Netflix rebooted Queer Eye last year, the world lost its mind – here were five beautiful gay men bettering other people’s lives, existing as this joyful quintet of love, hope and compassion. Not only did they smarten up wardrobes and encourage self-care, but their distinct and vibrant friendships with each other were – and still are – so authentic and pure that they shine through the screen. 

In the latest series of the show, their chemistry is undeniable – the continuous banter, emotionally supportive Instagram commentary and willingness to be open and honest about their experiences are all gentle nods to each other that yes, we are queer, and yes, we support each other.

In an interview with The Guardian, Tan France said that before appearing on the show, he had no real gay friends – and he only auditioned for the show because his husband encouraged him to do so. That really hit a nerve. 

antoni and tan on queer eye

Tan France said that he had no real gay friends before appearing on Queer Eye

The L Word, Showtime’s ground-breaking and paramount show about the lives of lesbians living in LA, was the first time queer female friendships were truly represented on prime time television. Shane, Bette, Alice, Tina, Jenny and Dana would spend their sleepy mornings gathering at The Planet sharing hearsay, perving on women and discussing all the different names they had for their vaginas

It was a breath of fresh air; these women had a community, a sense of queer solidarity, and they weren’t friends just because they were lesbians. The show was also one of the first to depict queer women living actual lives – having children, developing careers, managing family and mental health issues. It was revolutionary for queer women all over the world, and still remains the most successful television show about lesbians to date.

While establishing queer friendships wasn’t essential to me earlier in life, I now find myself craving them. When my partner and I travel, I scour Time Out and Lonely Planet, combing through the best lesbian bars in the city in a bid to impress the locals with my witty British humour. 

When I spy another queer girl at a party or event, I suddenly get an overwhelming desire to sit cross-legged on the floor and discuss flannels and the turbulent mental state of Jenny Schecter. The older I get, the more I realise how integral these connections are – now that I’m planning my wedding and will eventually be starting a family, all I want is to seek advice from someone who’s done it all before. 

queer eye fab five
Tan France with his Queer Eye castmates.

Ultimately, more emphasis needs to be placed on the importance of queer friendships. For many young gay women who are neglected by their parents or forced out of their homes due to their sexuality, friends equate to family, and having a secure and solid community that can relate and empathise with your experiences is essential to their existence. 

With apps such as Meet Up readily available for people looking to find friends, it’s easier than ever to find queer companions. We just need to be brave enough to venture out and discover them. 

Images: Netflix

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