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November 16, 2017

Stop saying “No homo”

Most young people have witnessed some variation of the following scenario: a group of males are in conversation. One of them, the speaker, is either describing his admiration for another male or saying something purporting to be effeminate. Then he says, “No homo,” reassuring his compatriots that he is not gay.

The phrase is, of course, used on Facebook, as well. One girl I know had a profile picture of herself at the camera as a golden retriever licked her face. The caption said “rest in peace,” an homage to her deceased dog. Some guy commented “no homo cutest picture… again said no homo.” He felt the “need” to reiterate it twice. One of the girl’s friends later commented “you only say no homo if you say ‘cute pic’ to a guy.” To this, the male responded, “no I say no homo when something I say sounds homo.” He further explained that to say, “‘what a cute pic’ about anyone sounds homo, coming out of any guy’s mouth.”

Why do some males constantly feel the need to reassure friends of their heterosexuality? This phrase stigmatizes homosexuality and perpetuates a narrow understanding of masculinity. I am not saying that everyone who says “no homo” is stupid or hateful. But this phrase is a problem that must be addressed. “No homo” is an expression of insecurity and homophobia that males need to both stop saying and discourage others from saying as well.

Kanye West (MCT)

The phrase was popularized by rap music, and has now seeped into dorm rooms and dining halls everywhere. Cam’ron, Lil Wayne, and Kanye West are all known for their prolific use of “no homo,” yet these rappers are highly flamboyant. Cam’ron and the Diplomats wear pink and purple furs, Kanye is a fashionista, and Lil Wayne has been photographed kissing his mentor, Baby. According to Jonah Weiner of Slate Magazine, the phrase “can seem a bit like a gentleman’s agreement, nodding to the status quo while smuggling in a fuller, less hamstrung notion of masculinity.” To Weiner “no homo” is “still a concession to homophobia… in a way, it’s progress.”

I cannot agree. Using the phrase does not promote a more complete understanding of masculinity because it still tells a man he must explain himself for behaving in a way that could be considered “gay.” Furthermore, “no homo” is more than a “concession” to homophobia – it is an active promotion of it. Though Kanye West spoke out against gay bashing in 2005, he has contributed to the stigmatization of the LGBT community by using “no homo” in his songs repeatedly. Saying “no homo” implies homosexuality is negative, and that men must bash being gay to insure their place as hetero is inherently assumed. Despite the fact that the phrase can be cleverly inserted into their rhymes, rappers are upholding an exclusive, hateful, and limiting definition of masculinity by saying “no homo.”

People use “no homo” as a way to insulate their words from the scrutiny of common gender conventions, real of perceived. Guys sometimes use it as a disclaimer, for they fear that what they are about to say defies gender binary norms and will earn them ridicule from their peers. Or men use the “no homo” banner as a postscript, assuring their peers that they did not mean to imply anything but hetero-masculine feelings by their previous, possibly nuanced statement. But people who are confident with themselves and their sexuality do not feel the need to defend their masculinity by saying “no homo.” It is understandable why so many males lack confidence, especially when expressing warm emotions leads to taunting and teasing of potential homosexual feelings. Peer groups and the media constantly impose and reinforce unreal stereotypes of masculinity, especially on men of color. But using this phrase only serves to legitimize and perpetuate these unreal stereotypes, and make “no homo” users appear unsure of themselves.

Men are almost always the ones to say “no homo,” but sometimes women say it, too. Females using the phrase are no less damaging than males employing it. In addition to slandering gays and lesbians and imposing an unreal sense of masculinity on men, it reinforces restrictive female gender roles. “No homo” brands certain activities as exclusively feminine, which limits the range of acceptable behavior for women.

We must stop saying “no homo” because it is a phrase which promotes homophobia and a narrow understanding of masculinity. But not saying it is not enough to end its deployment. We must discourage others from proclaiming “no homo” by telling them why it is detestable. I admit that for years, I have only been silently irritated when I have heard friends of mine say “no homo.”  But last night I saw “Phallacies,” a performance addressing many issues of masculinity, here at UMass. One of the skits, called “Masculinguistics,” defined sketchy terms used by men, and “no homo” was one of them. I learned my silence only enabled my peers to continue slandering homosexuality. We must confront homophobia and our culture’s narrow understanding of masculinity in all forms, including “no homo.”

Dean Curran is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at dmcurran@student.umass.edu.

Comments
9 Responses to “Stop saying “No homo””
  1. Dwayne McKnight says:

    Interesting read.

    I know I’m assuming a lot when I say this, but I have a feeling that you wouldn’t be chastising a demographic of homosexual people saying “no homo” or even “no hetero” (whether ironically or otherwise), just like one normally wouldn’t criticize most of the black hip-hop artists you mentioned regularly using the word “nigga.”

    As a while male who has admittedly rarely (re: very infrequently, but NOT never) been approached with some sort of “slur” or quasi-demeaning phrase based on race/ethinicity/gender/etc., I know this sounds very shortsighted when I say this, but I feel that the people who make huge deals out of phrases like this are the ones that give it any negative power it might actually have. This is not to say that I condone all forms of prejudice and/or demeaning behavior – if someone beats a person up because they’re gay, that’s a terrible, heinous crime that should be responded to with outrage, but if someone utters the phrase “no homo” in public, I find it hard to be enraged about something like that. I just get the feeling it’s not actually harming anyone.

    My reasoning for that conclusion is this: in your fifth paragraph, you say, “Saying ‘no homo’ implies homosexuality is negative…” I don’t really subscribe to that belief. Is saying “black pride” or “gay pride” asserting that any race besides black or any sexual preference besides homosexuality is inferior? Absolutely not.

    I’m not trying to attack you here, I was genuinely interested in your article, and likewise, I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts regarding my comment.

  2. Michael Rohm says:

    I miss the days of the Seinfeld-inspired, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

    Perhaps combining the two phrases would help. “You look good in that pic, bro. No homo, just saying. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…”

  3. Dean C says:

    Dwayne: I appreciate your comment. The tone of the article is not one of rage, but rather disapproval. You are right, it would be silly to get up in arms about a phrase. But it isnecessary to voice disapproval of ways in which our society subtly deems homosexuality as something to be ashamed of. Also, saying “black pride,” and “gay pride” is not the same thing as saying “no homo.” The equivalent would be saying something like “straight pride”, both assert positivity. There is nothing wrong with being proud of who you are. This is exactly my point, for saying “no homo” does not say heterosexuality is positive, but rather implies that homosexuality is something to distance oneself from. Meaning, it is negative.

  4. tom says:

    I don’t understand why you are blaming rappers. They are the only artists cited for having homophobic tendencies. I think that is irresponsible to put a picture of Kanye West up against this article, as if he is somehow hoisting the banner of homophobia to new levels. I agree that rappers often have a wordchoice that is less than PC, but to call them out as some top proprietor of a common vernacular seems like you are playing a very tired game of blame-it-on-the-[ ]. I say this because it follows your Facebook comment, which was a beautiful illustration of the words use in common settings.
    As artists, which rappers are, their tacit job, their role, is to mirror the cultural tongue. Not only that, race, class, and of course, gender, are huge parts of this make-up. I can see where there article is picking up its steam from using rappers as a common-media context, but they aren’t telling kids or people to use the words they use for their acts. Maybe parents should raise children better, maybe schools should be chastized for their horrible public programs, maybe newspapers should be given more trouble for their lax editorials and blame shifting. Because these are the institutions and paridigms that make society and phrases like “no homo” so prevalant, not rappers. Anyone who reads this article and agrees (and many should agree, the sentiment is absolutley on target) will look at the journalsit, who has the responsibilty of informing the viewer of cultural standards and relevance (which, btw, rappers do not do) will no look at a piece of art, a cd by Kanye, or an Odd Future mixtape, and say “no, they are bigots”. I realize not many will do that, but thats what you are trying to imply. Which isn’t fair to the artist. It’s even worse that you don’t explicitly say it, you imply that rappers are a cause, or at least a root to the problem, that they shroud this evil word in the name of “progress”. The picture of Kanye simply implies that he is at the top of this list. Like-look at this evil man, with his evil wordchoice, and his hate, and his absolute ignorance towards humanity. Need I mind you that many rappers, usually black, also say the word “nigger”.

    Where is the power of a word? Is it in the artist who reflects society or is it in the institutions that make it up? You have a fine article, I guess, the binary world of positive/negativ, masucline/feminine, full/lack, is slowly being deconstructeds, but let the artists make their art. They’ll stop saying “no homo” once there is no charge behind the word.

  5. Dean C says:

    I’m not really blaming rappers per se- everybody says it. But rap music popularized the term; therefore I had to mention it.

  6. Dan Dominic says:

    If I’m expressing to my gay friend as a straight guy that I like his art or something and then I add no homo at the end and he understands, then that seems ok. If you know the people you use it with, or who use it, and you realize its implications in the world then there shouldn’t be anything wrong with it. Is the problem with homophobia that we apply qualifiers of non-masculinity to it too? In ‘reality’ do the two things actually conflate? Or is sexuality a finely limited thing that we talk so much about. If sexuality weren’t acknowledged in conjunction with “masculine” “trans” or “gender neutral”, then would we even have such terms as homophobia? What are the real open displays of sexuality? An ignorant and neutral bias would say, displays of affection and then sex. In europe that wouldn’t even count, the mob bosses, masculine and hierarchical kiss and express appreciation for each other, etc… In africa mature adult brothers hold hands like its nothing. With that in mind, I’m more likely to say thats less of a display in which the reaction at a very stripped and bare bones level of ‘human’ or world cultural identification is related to sexuality than the masculine qualifiers which apply to it. In ‘reality’, if I’m making myself clear, the range of non-repressed gay pride and homosexual culture, the things that yield phrases like no-homo, are more to do with the confusion of masculinity sexuality. No homo seems to imply that the sensitivities expressed in facebook replies are fears of being misinterpreted as something gay or turning gay. That makes little sense in semantic reality. I tell my homosexual friend who makes art for a living that his art is nice and might be more semantically justified in saying ‘no homo’ because he might feel I’m hitting on him. Not that I would use this, but saying this is light-hearted, and might even be taking as a familiar kind of humor. The word itself is offensive, and is currently being used by many guys. But are there ways in which it can lose its “charge”? If a random ‘bro’ I don’t know has exaggerated and over the top masculine tendencies makes a gay slur to me, I take that more as irony or lampoon than condescending. I think alot of straight guys would understand that. Gay guys who make fun of themselves openly for being gay, or even straight guys who act gay just because they think its funny would probably jibe with this idea. Think about it, a bro who’s big and goofy looking probably knows the world doesn’t have to take him seriously, might openly perform his lack of giving a shit, or just not care that world doesn’t take him seriously when he’s not playing football. If he exaggerates his masculine tendencies in ways that make it clear he doesn’t want to fight and just ‘bro out’, and used a satirical inflection and constipated facial expression when he says no homo, then it carries less or even no aggression or insecurity. Discussions about these need to be acknowledged as wasteful, despite the fact that they are interesting. I don’t think the world really needs to talk about sex so much. We can be masculine without being sexual right? people in the army are masculine but are like uniformly non-sexual. We can express sensitivity without being sexual (poetry, nature writing, etc…things that are worthy of a ‘no homo’). We can express our desire for sex and romance when we no there’s no one around who doesn’t want to hear about it. I don’t give a shit about how many people you have sex with or this or that, I know you like to talk about girls with your guy-friends, but maybe I’m not your guy friend. I respect people who keep sex private and anonymous or secret. I’m tired of people who scream and fake orgasms just so the whole world can hear them, thats fucking stupid. We’re like monkeys constantly short circuiting when we hear about porn or see a hot girl in a magazine. We feel the need to comment randomly when a sexual obsession pops into our heads. people,

    we’re actually kind of retarded.

  7. Ryan C Stith says:

    The term “No Homo” appears 25 times in the article that is strictly about not using the term “No Homo”. I use the term “No Homo” to make fun of other males who are uncomfortable in their sexuality and constantly reprise the role of alpha male every chance they get.

  8. Thank you for articulating why I hate this phrase so much. I now have a much better understanding of my frustration when I hear the disclaimer.

    Life gives to the giver and takes from the taker.
    JordanMiller311

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