On the train back from Montreal (I love taking the train) two college age male hockey players sat in the seats across the aisle next to me. As they settled into their close seats, one turned to the other and announced, “No Homo”. To which his seatmate replied, “Yeah man, I know”.
They then stripped down to their tee-shirts, leaned into each other to watch a movie on the tiny screen of a laptop, shared one set of ear buds to listen and then ate a meal together picking at each others food.
I only recently heard of this “No Homo” term, which is used by some straight men of high school and college age. I imagine its intent is to clarify their sexual orientation in the midst of a situation that feels more intimate than is usually socially acceptable for straight men—a disclaimer of sorts. This then gives them permission to sit closely to each other while taking the pressure off about intent.
Looked at in a generous light, it might be a way of saying, “We are going to experience some intimacy that we will enjoy, but I do not want to mislead you to think that I view this encounter as romantic”.
By stating their No Homo status aloud in a public place, they proclaim to the rest of the folks sitting near by them that these men are decidedly NOT homosexual.
Perhaps it also reveals the fear that some straight men have where they believe a gay man may exploit a vulnerable situation to take advantage of the straight men. In this way they are saying “No Homo” to express, hey you are safe with me; I’m not going to mess with you.
(It makes me wonder where this assumption arises. When a young straight guy sits close to what he perceives to be a hot young gal, does he take advantage of her by sneaking a peek, or covertly touching her, and thus assume a gay guy would act the same way with another man?)
Of course as the homo sitting two meters away, it sent the message that being a same-gender loving man was a bad thing. And for the first hour I felt a lingering feeling of shame whenever I happen to glance in their direction.
In fact, I felt a strong compulsion to look at their bodies and lust after them. I sat with that desire for a few moments, then held it up to the light and quickly realized how dishonest it seemed. I understood that my lust arose from hurt and shame and powerlessness. I felt powerless over what I perceived to be their assumptions about ‘homos” and felt the desire to get power over them.
And although I had nothing directly to do with their exchange, I felt judged by it yet did not feel free to address it directly. Interestingly once I understood and acknowledged my real feelings about the situation, the desire to objectify these men through lust evaporated.
So here I am a fairly well adjusted same-gender loving man and activist who feels marginalized and affected by a casual remark by two young men on a train. How do queer youth cope with this every school day of the year?