No Homo

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?

This post has 11 Comments

  1. CrackerLilo on March 22, 2006 at 2:54 am Reply

    I hear str8 men chuckle nervously that they like or love or respect each other, but “not in a Brokeback way.” I haven’t heard “No homo” yet, but I’ve seen the spirit at work, most definitely.

    As a woman, sometimes I do get men trying desperately to reassure me that they “don’t mean anything.” My best friend growing up was a boy (we’re still close), and we’d always say something like “He’s a boy and a friend, but he’s not my boyfriend.” (Switch genders for “Milhouse”‘s point of view, yanno.) And my wife and her male best friend can’t spend time together around other people without invoking the phrase “just friends” at least once.

  2. mudd on March 22, 2006 at 3:35 am Reply

    I have been hearing it for the past few weeks from a couple of my HS students…

    I have been treating it as a violation of my Safe Zone policy. My students use the term ‘No Homo’ without thinking–merely as passing (empty) words. I had to ask them to refrain because to me it would create a (more) hostile environment in my class. In fact, for a while, they would use ‘No Homo’ just to irritate me.

  3. Bruce Garrett on March 22, 2006 at 4:44 am Reply

    What they really need to do is exchange Kinsey ratings. Because while you may not be a Kinsey 6, or even a 5, that doesn’t mean you’re entirely safe are you? Of course the problem with that is in order for straight guys to feel completely safe with each other, they both have to be a zero, and thus, the conversation would go something like…

    “I’m a zero.”

    “Yeah man…I know. Me too.”

    So everyone feels, like, totally safe around each other, because they know they’re both a couple of morons and a moron isn’t anything to worry about.

    Beauty is skin deep after all…but stupid goes right to the bone.

  4. Joe G. on March 22, 2006 at 5:17 am Reply

    I liked this post, Peterson. I completely identify. Little indignities are like the little fox in the chicken house: so seemingly small yet can cause such problems. If I had been on the train with you, I’d more than willingly say loudly to you, “Yes, homo?” and then snuggle near you to watch the video screen (I can bring a laptop as needed). I’m not sure about sharing the ear buds, however… 🙂

  5. Bob Painter on March 22, 2006 at 3:04 pm Reply

    Clever response, Joe G! HA!

    Extremely vulnerable post there, Peterson…Thanks for not only sharing the incident and the emotions involved but also an effective method for working through those feelings.

    I can most certainly relate to being marginalized by “no homo” folks. “Kids [the uneducated and/or unkind] can be so cruel.”

    BOB

  6. Rob on March 22, 2006 at 9:15 pm Reply

    Huh. I’ve never heard of or seen this “no homo” behavior before. It’s really rather odd. Even in really machismo cultures, you find men embracing, putting there arms around each other’s shoulders, and just being close. North American men seem so uncomfortable with how they relate to one another. For example, I often hear guys refer to their friends as dude, buddy, or bro. What’s wrong with, “He’s my friend”?

    As a homo then, I find it really weird when other men (particularly other gay men) say, “Hey dude!” or “Hey bud.” I always pause, and think, “I’m not a DUDE–I’m not your BUDDY.” I feel like those aren’t words that apply to gay guys, as though we’re outside the “dude, man, buddy, bro” fraternity.

    It’s the same fraternity, as it was explained to me, that thinks it’s okay to refer to woman as “bitches” as long as they’re not within earshot, as in when one guys says to another “you got any bitches with you tonight?” I pointed out how deeply wrong this was to a guy once (he was straight) and he fundamentally didn’t get it. “It’s just a word dude,” he said. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

  7. Jonathan on March 22, 2006 at 9:42 pm Reply

    Peterson!

    WOW! You hit on something that rang really true in my own life. When I’m in situations that leave me feeling powerless, or hurt or even filled with shame, I instinctively head towards behavior that as a decently well-adjusted male, I shy away from. Understanding why we do certain things goes such a long way to helping us overcome our baser desires.

    j.

  8. Bob Painter on March 23, 2006 at 2:51 pm Reply

    Rob,

    I’m quite intrigued by your aversion to certain terms of “endearment.”

    I call my gay friends buddy, dude, and bro and have never considered that they might be offended by such references.

    I think I won’t change my behavior until someone is bold enough–like you–to tell me that he is offended.

    I don’t have many straight guy friends so my buddies are gay. But thank you for sharing your peeve: it will help me be more considerate in the future.

    BOB

  9. Peterson Toscano on March 23, 2006 at 9:59 pm Reply

    wow, awesome comments. I’ve been surprised at how some blog entries somehow encourage lots of responses. Cool stuff. Thanks all for joining in.

  10. JJ on March 23, 2006 at 11:44 pm Reply

    It’s funny, but as I read this I started thinking about how I have the opposite tendancy… I tend to tell girls I’m attracted to that I’m gay and, well basically “yes, homo”. I’m not sure why, I think it might be that I think it would be unfair to them to not know. It could even still be a guilt/shame thing… I haven’t figured it out yet.

  11. ken on March 27, 2006 at 11:35 am Reply

    I have challenged male friends, Christian and non-Christian at times when one has made others comment fearfully for their sexuality. On reflection, I think that no-one’s going to enjoy their sexuality if all the straight guys are fearfully looking over their shoulders lest anyone think they’re anything other than a Kinsey 0 (I must say: all the cool kids are at least Kinsey 1 😛 ), and this Het.Man fear is going inspire more fear among same-gender-loving people, creating a climate of fear, not love.

    Also, I think it’s a great thing, both in terms of my own security and identity and in terms of people being nice to one another, to be able to compliment a male friend, for example, for the effort he’s put into gym-work toning his body. But that compliment must be deliverable without sexual subtext or overtones, or I don’t get to choose what my words mean.

    Take care.
    love K3n.

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