Whenever someone accuses an anti-LGBTQ politician of bigotry, they often respond with, “No I’m not, I have gay friends” as proof of how not bigoted they are. But a 2016 study recently mentioned in The LA Times shows that this is basically bullshit. Saying “I can’t be queerphobic, I have queer friends,” is kind of like saying that you can’t be a carnivore because you were once nice to a cow.
Having queer friends doesn’t make you queer-friendly. In fact, it mostly just shields conservatives from criticisms of bigotry without ever addressing their bigoted actions underneath.
Queer writer Nico Lang mentioned the 2016 study in a recent opinion article commenting on how anti-gay conservatives like pastor Rick Warren and politicians Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz will often cite their gay friendships as proof of their pro-gay credentials.
If the “friend argument” were valid, that would mean conservative legislators would be passing fewer bills targeting queer and trans populations as they increasingly come into contact with these emerging communities. The opposite is true: Last year, over 200 anti-LGBT bills were filed at the state level.
As further proof of this bullshit, Lang referenced a 2016 study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. The study showed Asian and white participants an anti-Asian social media post made by a white guy. Both groups viewed the racist post negatively, but they viewed it less so when the offender claimed to have Asian friends or appeared in a picture with said friends.
“The presence of Asian friends made the conceivably racist comments seem relatively benign, and observers were less offended and upset by them,” the study concluded. “The data suggest that minority friendships can partially offset costs associated with expressing prejudice.”
Put another way, having gay friends isn’t proof against homophobia, it’s merely a way to defend one’s homophobic actions after the fact. People with gay friends can still be homophobes because your actions, not your social circle, most define your character.