Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Odd Couples: Friendships at the Intersection of Gender and Sexual Orientation

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Odd Couples: Friendships at the Intersection of Gender and Sexual Orientation

Article excerpt

Odd Couples: Friendships at the Intersection of Gender and Sexual Orientation. By Anna Muraco. Duke University Press.208pp, Pounds 66.00 and Pounds 16.99. ISBN 9780822351771. and 51924. Published 12 May 2012

Can women and men be friends, not just across gender lines but also the Rubicon of sexual orientation? Can straight men be besties with lesbians; can straight women pal up properly with gays? The premise of such questions lies with what the late poet Adrienne Rich termed "compulsory heterosexuality", or what nowadays we prefer to call "heteronormativity": the naturalisation of "opposites attract", that men will always, essentially, be men and women will always be ladies. The 53 friends in this book throw a spoke into that.

It is de rigueur to claim "some of my best friends are gay". While this assertion represents some improvement over previous eras - thanks to five decades of lesbian and gay (and now bisexual and trans) liberation movements - what this phrase actually means in terms of lived experience is outlined here in an account of the sociologist Anna Muraco's empirical study of intersectional friendships during 2002-03 in the San Francisco Bay area of California.

The private reflections of the respondents make it real. Here is Sarah's somewhat condescending observation: "I think straight people don't get a chance to experience life outside their own little sphere unless they meet one of us." Some of the voices, such as Zoe's, are quite (unintentionally) funny: "I feel like I am a gay man inside. I'm completely anal retentive." She "know[s] all the terms. I hate 'fag hag', but I do like 'fairy princess' and 'queen bee'. I don't like 'fruit fly'." Rather more pragmatically, Wallis (whose terminology I think we can all recognise), observes of her friend: "He's one of a handful of men who I know who's not a shithead."

Social research like this breathes life into queer theory by grounding it in the mire of human proficiency. All of these best buddies demonstrate the skills required to maintain affection across sex/gender binaries in scenarios that are largely unscripted by dominant culture. Muraco selects vignettes that illustrate some of the delicate negotiations that transpire between lesbians and their straight male mates, and straight women and their gay chums. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.