I recently participated in a city tour of Toronto run by Peter Odle – a friend and colleague of mine (check out UrbanExpeditions.com). It was fabulous and I saw parts of the city I have never seen before, in addition to learning a lot about the city’s history. (By the way, Peter and I are running an event in Toronto on May 31st called The Great Escape – a combination of team building, leadership development and diversity & inclusion. If you live in Toronto, create a team of 3 co-workers or friends and come join us..and escape from the ordinary and the confines of assumptions!
But I digress. On the tour, as the small group walked and chatted, one of the other tour participants (a young man) used a phrase I have not heard in a long time. We were talking about cats vs dogs and he said “no homo” as he shared his thoughts about cats.
It took me a moment to replay what I had heard to make sure I had heard correctly(who knew cats…well…could suggest you were gay…?!). And then I planned my approach. Speaking up is an interesting thing – sometimes immediacy is what’s required, and sometimes timing is important. This time, I decided to wait.
A few moments later when we were at the top of the field overlooking the Brickworks, I asked him about the phrase and what it meant. His response was a fumbling combination of explanations that started with this: it was something you said when you didn’t want someone to think you were gay. And upon further probing included this: to let the person you were speaking with know you weren’t being homophobic.
It was a bit confusing. I couldn’t tell if he was confused too, or if he was just nervous explaining it. Still, I pressed him a little more: “So what you’re saying is you’re giving yourself an out to say homophobic things but that by saying ‘no homo’ you won’t be seen as homophobic?”
He smiled uncomfortably, and I let that one sit.
It reminds me of when a conversation starts with: “I don’t mean to be offensive/racist/etc….”
When it starts like that you know what’s coming is going to be whatever the person is telling you they don’t mean it to be. Like if we acknowledge that we are being bigoted or hateful it’s ok to proceed.
I’ve since found an article on ‘no homo’ that explains the history and the possible positive spin. It’s an interesting exploration by someone who is a psychologist and an LGBTQ activist.
But for me, using the caveat of ‘no homo’ to get an out from being thought of as gay, or for being seen as homophobic? I don’t think it flies.
Have you heard ‘no homo’ lately?
And if so, what did you do when you heard it?
Let me know in the comments section.