My Mind Made Public -

I held off as long as I could ...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

You Look Good (no homo)

(This is a picture of the beautiful city of Pittsburgh)
One of the very interesting things that I realized while being in Pittsburgh last weekend is that there is a saying that runs rapid with straight males—it’s an addendum added onto the end of a complimentary sentence that says “no homo”. Let me explain. When a straight male compliments another straight male with something like,

“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.

Much love.


Chase Callahan said...

I actually think I can totally and completely empathise with you on this matter. In high school, those were words I let fly when ever wherever. And the worst part of it. . . there was a guy in high school who came out, and I was just one of a bunch of people who made fun of him and called him names. . . I know realise that I was just insecure with my ownself and and trying to divert any attention from myself on to him. It apparently got so bad for him, he ended up transfering schools. But, it was in the past, and no matter how hard I would like to change it, I know I can't. The important thing is to just live in the now and look towards the future.

michael daniel said...

I will admit that i've done something along the lines of this from time to time when talking w/ my straight guy friends.

It's also hard to not just join them in saying that something or someone is "so gay" when we mean they are lame or something.

I don't know if you've heard of the Think B4 You Speak campaign but they've got commercials on tv now telling people not to say "that's gay" when they mean that they don't like something. They've got a few celebs in the commercials too which I think is helpful.

Jimmy said...


Thank you again for your courage and honesty. Because of who I am, a number of friends have come up to me and said, "Dude, if I have ever said something was so gay, I'm really sorry, and I hope it didn't offend you." And it's hard for my alpha-male friends to remove that from their vocabulary! I see them make the genuine effort to remove the language, and I feel grateful and appreciated when they do that.

So again, thank you for your example and bravery.

michael daniel said...

Hilary Duff ad

Think B4 You Speak

Dan said...


right on man. having just moved recently from that city i can attest to that experience being pretty normative. and probably more important (as you yourself pointed out) i am so ashamed to say that i used terms like that in my past as synonyms for 'lame' or 'bad' or whatever. i was so insensitive and now i understand the comments i used to make as nothing short of bigotry.

what a message we send people when incorporate a title or tag that describes them into our pejorative vernacular. and let's be real clear - for many of us this doesn't even raise an eyebrow - but we would get upset if we heard someone use the 'n' word or other such disgusting terms...

any way dude, thanks for keepin it real. and thanks for the reminder that love is for everybody.

Anonymous said...

"no homo" is a popular phrase here in Chicago as well among teens and young adults. I've even heard a group of teenage girls using it after what seemed like every other statement.

I know it's made it into popular music in the opening line of the rapper Lil' Wane's song "Lollipop"

Ken said...

Andrew...thanks for your blog bro and your work. can't wait for the book!