Every year as June arrives, we celebrate Pride month – a month set aside for the LGBTQIA+ community to celebrate our diversity and honour those who have fought for equal rights of the community around the world.

The reason June has been chosen as Pride month, comes from June 28th 1969, when police raided The Stonewall Inn, in lower manhattan, where US laws (aside from in Illinois) stated homosexual acts were illegal and bars and restaurants could be shut down for having gay employees or serving gay patrons, and those at The Stonewall Inn and allies of the community finally had enough and fought back.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pride (which began a year after the Stonewall Riots) and whilst a lot has changed in the world in the fight for equality and to stamp out homophobia in society, the undercurrents of homophobia still run rife in today’s society.

None of this is more true than taking a look through my own lens as a gay man growing up in England. Whilst I was fortunate enough to be born in an era (The 1980’s) where homosexuality was no longer illegal in our country, I grew up in a catholic household, where being gay is considered a sin.

Whilst I didn’t come to the realisation that I was gay until my teenage years, I was still completely conflicted in my mind by Catholicism. The fact that the Catholic church deemed being gay was a sin and yet I was molested by the priest at aged 9, even at that young age I knew there was something wrong, but it was until this year aged 35, was I able to talk about it with my therapist for the first time.

Now there have been many exposes in the last couple of decades about the Catholic church and the covering up of the sexual abuse at the hands of male priests and clergymen to young boys, which was widely known but unspoken of, as well as criticism of homosexuality being seen as a sin, but there is another area that gay men regularly face homophobia that is unspoken of, but nearly all gay men have experienced frequently throughout their lives, and that is homophobia at the hands of the heterosexual society.

When a gay man is introduced to a new set of people, be it via an existing friend, at a social event, in a new job, or a new environment they are entering for the first time, there will invariably be at least one person who will build up a conversation with the gay man in question and hitting it off well with them utter the infamous words every gay male has heard in their life “Oh my god, can you be my new gay best friend, I’ve always wanted a gay best friend!”

For so long I stayed silent and politely laughed off this homophobic comment that a gay man can be reduced to no more than an accessory; like their handbag! It is devaluing them as a person, we are more than just a gay man to be your best friend because you’ve always wanted one.

Over time I could feel this undercurrent of resentment towards these individuals; who at last count come in at over 1,000 people who have uttered these words to me, and would use variations of responses including “Unfortunately my gay best friend quota is full” to politely rebuff these homophobic comments.

But nowadays, being polite in the face of systemic homophobia is not enough – we must educate people, to let them know that No, I do not want to be your gay best friend!

Nor do I want to be your back up plan to marry you, or give you my sperm if you don’t find a husband to marry and have children with by the time you are 35 (currently at 20 back up plans and counting).

Nor do I want to accompany you on shopping trips whilst you try on loads of ‘fabulous’ outfits and how fun it will be (I’d rather gauge my eyeballs out with spoons)

Nor do I have an opinion on the latest Madonna album, where heterosexual people assume that. because I am gay I must like Madonna – one time in a meeting in front of 30 people I was asked this question and it was made explicitly clear it was asked to me because I was gay, and responded “Oh I didn’t realise being gay meant I must listen to the new Madonna album, I’ll have to refresh my memory on what the rules to being gay are.”

Nor do I want to date your one gay friend who you think we’d be perfect for, without you getting to know me, my type etc (You are not Cilla Black)

We are more than just an accessory for you to wheel out, a shopping assistant or stylist to accompany you on shopping trip, a back up plan if your attempts at a relationship or having children fail, a matchmaking project for you to set us up with your only other gay friend, or a stereotype to conform to a certain style of music, media etc.

Maybe get the time to know us and be our friend irrespective of being gay, find out if we are interested in shopping before telling us we must go shopping together, ask if we see a future with children in or would ever consider donating sperm before projecting your issues onto us and expecting us to be your back up plan… The list goes on and on.

It could help if you take the time to listen to understand our own story, rather than listening just to respond and not make sweeping generalisations on who we are as gay men, because of some stereotype you have seen played out in the media.

So No, I do not want to be your gay best friend, but I am open to creating a dialogue and if we get along becoming friends with you for who I am as a person and not just because of my sexuality.