Why Women Love Gay BFFs

Many hetero women and gay men form close bonds of friendship. But what is it about this combo that's so solid? Antonio_Diaz/iStockphoto

Dating sites are nothing new. But there's a new twist in online matchmaking: EveryGirlNeedsAGay.net, a site planned for “heterosexual women seeking their male gay BFF” (or should that be GBF?) is — or was almost — a real thing.

Inspired to create a matchmaking website for straight women seeking gay men for friendship, Gini Garbick — who was "lost without her 'gay'" after moving from the Midwest to Boston — was looking to capitalize on this “special connection.” According to the site, a girl needs a GBF because straight women and gay men "balance each other out while simultaneously turning up each other's FABULOUS." And it's allegedly based in science: “Now that science has finally proven what we've known all along about the special connection between straight women and gay men.” According to the site, “this pairing has never been more — dare we say — en Vogue."

But, back to it ALMOST being a thing.

The site was criticized for promotion of outdated attitudes of gay male/heterosexual female friendships and for promoting stereotypical characterizations of all parties. The critiques led the site to change its platform into an all-purpose friend-finder instead. But there's still the lingering question: What is it about the relationships between straight women and gay men that makes them feel special to those in the friendships?

Straight Women Trust Gay Men

As it turns out, while it's not the first time anyone has tried to study the unique relationship between straight women and gay men, Eric Russell, doctoral student and graduate teaching assistant in the University of Texas at Arlington's Department of Psychology (and formerly at Texas Christian University), is the first to empirically study these friendships. In other words, it's the first time these friendships have been observed and measured based on evidence gathered by actual observation or experience.

Back in 2013, Russell and a research team at Texas Christian University designed a psychological experiment to evaluate the benefits of having a GBF for heterosexual women — and, for gay men, the benefits of a straight female BFF. During this study, a small group of heterosexual women and gay men were evaluated on their hypothetical ability to hypothetically befriend a hypothetical person named “Jordan” based solely on Jordan's social media profile. In support of their hypothesis, the research team concluded that it's what's lacking in the friendship that gives it its “special connection.” They theorize that because there is no competition over romantic partners in these friendships, nor is there an uncomfortable sexual interest within their relationship, gay men and straight women could be natural allies.

More recently, Russell and team at UTA again looked into the friendships between straight women and gay men, specifically exploring the perceived level of trustworthiness in their friendships compared to other combinations of less-likely BFFs, such as straight men and lesbians.

Let's take all the romance out of a first encounter for a moment: A series of experiments were conducted with straight women and gay men as participants. According to the study authors, when a heterosexual woman is seeking a heterosexual male mate, other hetero women become the competition for those potential mates, and that competition may undermine the trust in friendships between straight women. But gay men aren't in competition with their heterosexual female friends. And that lack of a common sexual interest may be, researchers theorize, what leads both gay men and straight women to perceive each other as more trustworthy when it comes to unbiased relationship and dating advice. Advice from lesbians, other gay men, heterosexual males or other heterosexual women is perceived as less trustworthy than the opinions shared in the hetero woman/gay man friendship.