A Question From A Friend
Random, As Always
I’d never really thought about the negative implications accompanied with using the phrase, “no homo” until a friend, who passed away in January of last year asked me randomly about it.
My best friend, who I met in the late 90s, died on January 19, 2020 due to Congenital Heart Disease and underlying conditions caused by Situs Inversus. He was twenty-six years old. I’d go over to his house every weekend for the best authentic Mexican food. His mom and dad are both excellent cooks.
As my best friend and I grew older, we drifted apart, each of us moving away from the neighborhood. Eventually, he moved all the way to California, and years later, we reunited. By that point I had already come out to everyone in my life and I hadn’t exactly told him anything about what he’d missed during our time apart.
Eventually, we had the conversation on Facebook Messenger and he learned that I was attracted men. At first, he was unsure of how he felt, being a devout Catholic and not really knowing anything about the community. But then, as he became an ally to me and other LGBTQ+ people he met in college, he started to ask questions.
No, they weren’t really that awkward and they were respectful. I was proud of him for supporting me. I didn’t really have any secrets. We’d been friends for twenty years. But, one day, he asked me randomly (as he always did), “What do you think about ‘no homo?’” My automatic response was, “I’m fine with it.”
Of course, my automatic response came simply from my narrow understanding of the phrase, not its origin or its modern-day usage in pop culture. As of today, I’ve discovered a great deal more about the phrase.
How The Phrase “No Homo” Came To Be
A Retrospective on the 90’s
I grew up in the 90s (yes, I know I’m old), which was an interesting time in history to grow up. While congress voted for Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), gay and lesbian characters were constantly popping up on TV and in Film. I grew up with Will & Grace, Xena: Warrior Princess, The Birdcage, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer and even Seinfeld won a GLAAD award. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Oh, we can’t forget to mention Dawson’s Creek as well.
Back in the 90s, I wasn’t fully aware of my attraction to the same sex. And I certainly didn’t balk at the increasing inclusion of LGBT characters. In TV and film, there seemed to be a slow approaching acceptance of these kinds of characters and that trend continued on into the early 2000s.
Yet still, as a young boy, I witnessed many boys made fun of because they were “effeminate” or “emotional” or “wimpy”, and thusly gay. These qualities, and not an obvious attraction to other boys were tell-tells of homosexuality. My quality was sensitivity back then, and because of that, I was constantly made fun of and accused of being gay. Being emotionally and possibly gay was unacceptable on the schoolyard.
So, despite all the increased representation in TV and film, why was “being gay” or even remotely “sensitive” still such an issue growing up? Well, a lot of it has to do with the influence of the 90s rap and hip-hop scene (the best decade of rap if you ask me). Rappers were using the phrase “no homo” as a derogatory term, a sort of affirmation that homosexual men or men who appeared to be homosexual, were not welcome in society or in the confines of the rap/hip-hop space.
Why I Think “No Homo” Is Okay
And That It’ll Go Away Eventually
Despite all the negative connotations around this phrase, I’m still convinced that it does less harm now than it has once done in the past. In fact, I believe the inclusion of this phrase has relaxed tensions attached to homosexuality and the idea that if you express your emotions that you’re somehow gay.
“No homo”, as I understand it now, is used by straight guys who want to give their bros a compliment without being perceived as being homosexual OR to ease awkwardness when having a deep emotional moment. That’s what I believe it has become. It will likely vanish as the need for such a comment becomes obsolete. Bros are opening up with each other more and unabashedly showing appreciation and affection for each other.
My advice to them is to just be true and honest with your friends. They will be there for you. Don’t forget to appreciate them, let them in, and tell them that you love them. No homo, though.