JJ Vincent thinks that a certain pair of words need to be banished to the land of “Things You Never Need to Say”.
“Nice shirt, man. No homo.” “Great haircut, man. No homo.” “Did you see that guy’s abs? Totally ripped, dude. No homo.” “I miss you, man. I miss it that you’re not the last person I talk to every night, uh, yeah, no homo.” “Me, too. No homo.” No homo, no homo, no homo.
No homo. Can someone tell me when it became homosexual for one man to compliment another?
I was pondering this with a lesbian friend and she said, completely straightfaced, “So if I compliment a woman, should I say ‘no homo’? Just so she knows I’m not hitting on her? If it’s a guy, should I say “no hetero, so he knows I’m not hitting on him?”
The obvious answer is no. The obvious question is why should you even have to say “No homo” in the first place”?
A lot of men must walk around with the constant threat that some random stranger, or even the guy they’ve known for years, is suddenly going to be gay, or think they are gay. And what might happen if people thought that. Because even though there’s been an big growth in public support for gay rights, and plenty of men will cop to knowing a gay, or having a gay friend, they still want to keep a light of suspicion from being cast on themselves.
I don’t hear this as much in older men, but it’s still part of the conversation in younger ones, who seem to need to strongly assert their heterosexuality by making sure that anyone in earshot, especially their friends, knows that they are “no homo”.
There a veritable tool kit of behaviors that men have adopted as flags of their heterosexuality, or at the very least their “not gay-ness”; the public “man hugs” (very tight with a manly grunt, or the “wrap and two taps”, which when administered too vigorously can result in bruises on your back…trust me on this), avoidance of certain colors of clothing (re: the giant fuss made when men wear pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month practically has the words NO HOMO built into the publicity), careful use of “gay credentials” when wanting to appear supportive but not themselves gay (“My mom has gay friends”, “I had gay friend in college”, and the ever popular, “Some of my best friends are gay.”), and extreme discretion in who they share certain interests with, if those happen to have a stereotype attached (figure skating, anyone?).
And no homo extends far beyond tagging those words onto the end of a compliment or an emotional statement. It’s ingrained in men’s bathroom culture (whenever possible, leave one urinal between you and him and do not talk), movie theatres (“gay gap” or no “gay gap”), buses and trains (there’s a crotch or a butt in front of you-look anywhere else), airplanes (“I have to pass this guy – do I give him the front or the back?), standing in line (a foot between you, minimum, if you can)…add your own to this list, please.
We learn these because we are told them, or, more usually, in the School of Life. After a few dirty looks, a muttered “fag”, a not-so-gentle bump, you learn pretty quick that invading personal boundaries is not just seen as a lack of manners, it’s an intrusion on someone’s manhood, possibly their sexuality. Men invade women’s personal space on a regular basis and think nothing of it. Women invade women’s personal space and think nothing of it. Women invade men’s personal space and think nothing of it. I’m not saying that any of these are ok. But a man invading a man’s personal space, even accidentally, a little too often….this can be dicey. Who wants to be the “fag” in the room?
More importantly, who wants to be perceived as the “fag” in the room?
Author’s note: This post was prompted when a friend sent me a tweet about someone’s frustration when she hears the words “no homo” after a man-to-man compliment. And I agree. That men, especially young men, who you would think would be more enlightened having grown up in a more gay friendly culture than existed 20 years ago, still feel the need to proclaim, “OMGIAMNOTGAY!” is a sad wake-up call to reality.