By: Emma Marcella
That’s gay. Did I get you? Did I make you do double-take? No, that’s really what it says, you’re not reading it wrong. It’s funny how this one phrase can make people flabbergasted when used in this context, but not when used in the real world. You’re lying if you say you haven’t used this phrase at least once in your life or any variation of it. I mean, hey, if you haven’t, congrats. You’re better than half the people out there. Those of you who choose to deny it, if it helps you come to terms better with reality, I’ve used it before. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I myself have called someone gay for sitting on someone’s lap of the same sex or wearing an article of clothing catered more towards the opposite sex. While I’m not proud to say I have, it’s true. Whether or not it was caused by peer pressure or internalized homophobia, I have uttered the exact words that pushed me further into the closet. What is internalized homophobia? Internalized homophobia is an external projection of homophobia, used as a coping mechanism for internal conflict with one’s own sexual identity. Phrases like “that’s gay” are direct examples of non-homophobic homophobia.
What is non-homophobic homophobia? While homophobia can be defined as a dislike of or prejudice against gay people, there is also non-homophobic homophobia.
This term is used to refer to anything homophobic that a homophobic person would say is “just a joke”. While it’s not an actual term, it’s a term I made up to put into words exactly what it feels like to be stared at when I wear “boys” clothes. It’s the perfect phrase to describe what it felt like when the girl next to me in music class said that one of our classmates looked like a boy when she cut her hair short. Now, can you get reported for not liking someone’s haircut? No. Can you get reported for saying that gay people make you uncomfortable? No. Can you get reported for saying all gay people should die? No. This is where freedom of speech comes in. If you were to act on that statement, then yes. Can you get reported for threatening to kill all gay people? Absolutely. There is a fine line between freedom of speech and a hate crime. It’s both a blessing and a curse because while freedom of speech and the freedom to a peaceful protest can be used for good, they can also be used for bad.
Okay, okay, I get what non-homophobic homophobia is. Now, what’s so bad about it? Non-homophobic homophobia is the reason I spent 7th and 8th grade talking myself off a ledge. Every day I was surrounded by remarks like the one from the girl in music class, general variations of “that’s gay” jokes, and gossip surrounding the kids who did come out. I believed that the feelings I had buried deep inside truly were a sin. I was taught that society would not accept me. I was taught that I was not “normal.” By freshman year I had been called the f-slur, though it wasn’t directed towards me in a derogatory way. Yet everything I’d worked so hard to accept, learned to love, was diminished so quickly by one syllable. One syllable that reminded me I wasn’t “normal” One syllable that reminded me that I would be judged for the rest of my life for something I couldn’t control. One syllable can cause people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity, to feel that society will not accept who they are.
Normalize not being “normal”
How can you stop non-homophobic homophobia? Hey, I get it. “It’s just a joke” except it’s not “just a joke” When yet another teen is found dead because they didn’t feel that who they were was acceptable, then it’s not just a joke. After you’ve made a homophobic “joke”, you can continue on with your day without hesitation, but the person you just harassed will remember the words you’ve uttered for the rest of their lives, and that I can promise. So no. It’s not “just a joke”, it’s the fine line between pushing someone off of the ledge or grabbing them before they fall.
Image Citation: The Daily Beast