Occasionally, you happen upon a colloquialism so casually offensive, so ridiculously mean, that you cannot compute what you’ve heard until years later. For me, that was the phrase “No homo.” You know the one: it came with the advent of the ultimate masculine brohug, a tool invented to signal “This is platonic, man.” Because, you know, showing affection for someone you love is, like, totally gay.
The first time I heard the phrase “No homo,” I was sitting in my friend’s dorm room the night before second semester classes started. We had just returned from an arduous winter break full of cheap liquor and awkward run-ins with old high school classmates. Relieved to have returned to school, we were all talking about our Christmas haul.
One guy, let’s call him Xander, got Ugg boots for Christmas.
“Dude, that’s so gay!” yelled another. Let’s call him Scoot. I’ll let you decide how you feel about someone who still uses “gay” as a substitute for “stupid.”
But their third roommate, Bubba, was like, “I dunno, man. They look comfy. I like them. No homo, bro.”
What was this? I had heard the eye-rolling epithet gay-meaning-stupid for years and had learned to simply write off that person as a total fuck-ass and move on with my life. “No homo,” however, was a whole new ball game. Were we really so far down the homophobia hallway that we couldn’t even dole out compliments for fear of being mistaken as—DUN DUN DUNNNN—gay?
It might be one of those things where you never see red Ford Fiestas until you meet someone with a red Fiesta, and then suddenly they’re everywhere. But I started hearing this phrase all the fucking time. And it didn’t always make sense. (As much as fearing you’d be perceived as homosexual for being nice could make sense.)
“I moisturize. No homo.” Nothing wrong with that. Taking care of your skin doesn’t make you gay. Vain maybe, but not gay.
“I just want to stay in tonight. No homo.” Seriously, getting beauty rest is a prerogative free of sexual preference.
“Bro, your girlfriend’s so hot. No homo.” This one really didn’t make sense. I mean, you’re discussing a woman’s positive physical attributes. It doesn’t get much more heterosexual than that. Unless you’re a lady.
But, you know what? Straight people are just fucking stupid. So that’s why I’m happy to introduce my newest product.
I mean, I know we’re not past this. I know. We’re still arguing over whether or not people should have the same rights based on which genitals they like to touch. I get it. But “No homo” is so much worse to me. I’ve written before about how seemingly-inconsequential things like bad music or stupid pictures on Facebook have a huge impact on our collective consciousness. These things sneak up on you and affect your thought process before you can say “It’s okay to be gay!”
In all seriousness, language shapes thought just as much as thought shapes language. It’s a two-way street. So, when you allow something like “No homo” to enter your everyday vernacular, you are telling yourself two dangerous things. The first is that it is, under no circumstances, okay to be homosexual. Second: being nice to someone of your own gender—which eventually extends to being nice to anyone—is something you cannot do without having an ulterior motive. That boils down to: being nice is suspicious, and therefore wrong.
Get it? So next time you hear someone say “No homo,” give them the old slap-n-tickle and ask them if they’re really sure about that.