The Gal Pal Phenomenon: Are They Lesbians? No, They Are Just Friends

By Ariell Branson


When Lori Interlicchio donated a kidney to her girlfriend, Alana Duran, she probably didn’t anticipate becoming the latest victim of what is widely referred to as the “Gal Pals Phenomenon.” The Gal Pals Phenomenon refers to the media’s tendency to label women in lesbian relationships as simply close friends. Not only is this patronizing and inaccurate, it strips lesbian relationships of their legitimacy. Sadly, this happens almost exclusively in the lesbian community. Very rarely are photos of two men or a man and a woman kissing met with the response, “Wow! They’re such great friends!”

When an article discussing Interlicchio’s selfless act was posted online it was met with responses like, “Now that’s the power of friendship!’ even though the two were visibly kissing in the photo accompanying the article and they were labeled as girlfriends. Two other notable examples of this happening are model Ireland Baldwin and rapper Angel Haze and actress Kristin Stewart and singer Stephanie “Soko” Sokolinski. While both pairs were open about their relationships, the media continually referred to them as simply close friends. This contributes to the belief that relationships between women are simply phases and passing flings, a mentality that is damaging to all lesbian and bisexual women, but especially those who foresee themselves spending their lives in homosexual relationships.

The Gal Pals Phenomenon is directly impacted by the societal misconception that women who engage in sexual intercourse and romantic relationships with women are just exploring their sexuality. While that is the case with some, for most women who identify on the queer spectrum even settling down with a man won’t make them a heterosexual. On the flip side, many of these women will continue dating other women for the rest of their lives and never marry a man – to reduce lifelong behavior to a phase is both inaccurate and ignorant. It’s time to stop blatantly ignoring women in homosexual relationships and to treat them with the same respect we would show any other couple. The next time you hear two women self-identify as a couple, don’t jump to dismiss them and refer to them as friends and, for the love of god, please don’t call them gal pals.