By Patrick L. Riley, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Patrick L. Riley is a New York-based independent writer who last contributed to CNN.com's Martin Luther King Jr. Monument coverage in October.
(CNN) - I've known my BFF Natalie Palmer since ninth grade.
She's still my best friend 21 years later. We've shared some defining moments: her wedding and the birth of her two children; my coming out of the closet as a gay man; losing my mother at 23 years old; our 20-year college reunion. I couldn't imagine making it through any of these milestones without her by my side.
Though I have one loving sister, I easily consider Natalie a sister from another mother. More important, she set the standard for an ilk of relationship that I have grown to treasure and celebrate: the bond between gay men and their straight girlfriends.
Judging by popular depictions, a straight woman's connection with a gay man offers only the shallow benefit of an enthusiastic shopping buddy or a sassy hairstylist. But through the lens of reality and closer inspection, these relationships run deeper and wider. And there seems to be a growing acceptance of the unique duo.