“Dude, love the shirt” or “That guy has a cool haircut” or “Where did you buy that, it’s awesome”, the caveat “no homo” is always added onto the end of the sentence just to make sure that the other straight male doesn’t somehow mistake the complimenting straight male for gay. So a typical straight male to straight male conversation in Pittsburgh would go something like this:
Straight male #1: “What’s going on brother? You ready to hit the town tonight?”
Straight male #2: “No doubt! It’s been a rough week and I can’t wait to hang with all
of our friends tonight.”
Straight male #1: “Yeah I hear that. By the way, love the new haircut—no homo.”
Straight male #2: “Thanks man! I just got it yesterday. And you’re looking like the
ladies will love you tonight—no homo.”
You get the picture. And in no other city I have ever been to around the country have I ever heard of something like this before! It’s like “no homo” is just an everyday part of the language? I would love to say that I don’t know why they do this, but I do. Let me give you an experience from my own life:
To give some perspective as to what I am talking about, in 2006 I randomly ran into my old high school baseball coach. What was an insignificant chance meeting at a restaurant gave me a clear and painful understanding of were I used to be. I explained that I started a non-profit foundation that works to build bridges between the GLBT and religious communities. He smiled at first, and then started to laugh so hard I thought he had misheard what I said for something funny! When he was done laughing he said to me,
“Do you remember what you used to say in high school?”
I couldn’t remember, but I had a horrible feeling that I could guess what was coming.“You used to call everyone a fag and every other phrase out of your mouth was that’s so gay! I was a fag, other coaches were fags, teammates were fags, teachers were fags, your parents were fags and your best friends were fags. Everyone was either a fag or gay.”
Hearing what he said crippled my soul because his seemingly harmless memories of who I was really put everything in perspective. My former coach did not remember the school records I broke, nor did he remember that I was the first baseball player from my high school to receive a Division I athletic baseball scholarship to college. No. After almost seven years he only remembered that I called everyone a fag and whenever I was not satisfied with something or someone, I called them gay. I was the biggest Bible-banging homophobic alpha-male I knew; and I was embarrassed to leave that conversation realizing that I left such a horrible reflection as part of my life’s legacy.
At this point I know what you’re thinking, and please don’t make the mistake of coming up with some lame excuse as to why my thoughts or actions were ok; because they weren’t. I failed, and for the first time I had to face that head on.
So there it was, my old life in high school played out in the context of present day culture in Pittsburgh in 2009. Being years removed from where I used to be, intellectually and experientially, all I can say is this:
Just please, please stop using those terms. Take them out of your vocabulary. They might seem normal. They might seem like an everyday part of life. But you have no idea whatsoever who (whether you know the person or they just overhear you) those words might eternally impact—or worse yet, throw deeper into their own closet of pain and isolation. I wish I could take back all of those years, but I can’t. And today I sit here regretting every single time any of those words came out of my mouth; as harmless as I thought they were at that time. So please don’t make the same mistake, and then a decade later have to live with the same regret.