As a gay male who has mostly progressive-thinking friends, I tend to participate in spaces where I don’t run into anti-LGBTQ attitudes or micro-agressions. This doesn’t mean that I forget that there are still attitudes like these present in our society, but it does mean that I usually have to take a minute to assess when it happens. Most homophobic things that people do are fairly predictable, like using the term “gay” as an insult, saying unnecessary junk like “no homo,” and letting the term “faggot” slip out when they’re upset at someone. However, there’s one thing that happens that not a lot of people seem to get fed up with, yet it’s been hitting a nerve with me more and more.
It’s when people act like the mere act of a man flirting/hitting on another man is hilarious.
I see it most often with straight guys who want to pretend that flirting with one of their friends is so gosh darn funny. It’ll usually happen because the man who’s the target of the flirting displays some intensely masculine traits, such as a full beard, or muscles that show that they actively go to the gym. I can tell that it’s happening because they get this tone that suggests that the “flirtation” that’s coming out of their mouth (which sometimes could just be a simple compliment) is just something they’re saying to try and be funny. Because, you know, guys flirting with guys is just a hilarious concept.
Not only that, but we have a slew of comedians who use same-sex attraction as the butt of a joke, which doesn’t really help changing society’s view on homosexuality. Yeah, Seth and James. I haven’t forgotten about this, and I’m sure many others haven’t, either:
I mean, that’s how it goes, right? Two guys touch each other and make weird faces while doing it so everyone can laugh. You two basically know what it means to be gay! (That’s sarcasm, for those who can’t detect it over written language.)
Though this isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s something I see happen so non-chalantly in most groups I interact with that aren’t my immediate friend groups. Though I didn’t usually get angry about it in the past, I would often ask myself why they thought it was funny. Now that I seem to notice it constantly, I think it’s worn on me to a point where it seems like much of society doesn’t actually take the idea of a man being with another man seriously. It seems so innocent at first, jokingly flirting with another man or poking fun at two guys who are close to the point where you think they could be dating, but the real-world implications can be pretty harmful.
Talking about straight people’s attitudes toward same-sex attractions makes me think of the time a straight man told me he knew a lot about gay culture because he has a gay cousin. My story isn’t about that, though; it’s about another semi-ignorant something he said shortly before he said that semi-ignorant thing. He told a group of guys at this party, “A gay guy hit on me once, and I thought it was gonna be weird, but I was actually flattered.” In that moment, I felt like he didn’t take same-sex attraction seriously, and I knew he couldn’t have been the only person to feel that way. I get that the gay guy flirting with him wouldn’t do much for him other than offering a potential ego boost, but what makes it “weird” compared to a girl flirting with him for the same reasons? Is it because, oh, I don’t know, he thought a gay guy flirting with him would be awkward enough to laugh about it with his friends, later? I can’t attest to that, but I also wouldn’t put it past him.
I can already hear a bunch of people reading this and dismissing me for being a “social justice warrior” or “being too sensitive,” but I guess I’m just fed up with people making jokes about guys being together. It’s not that I hear someone make a joke about men dating and immediately become furious; it’s that I’ve heard people make these jokes over the course of almost 10 years that I’ve been openly gay, and I’m getting pretty angry that people still think it’s a quality joke.
This is where micro-aggressions occur, a term you may have heard of when it comes to marginalized communities. It’s when people outside of that community (usually straight white people) make a joke or remark that is more subtle than outright discrimination, but those micro-aggressions build up over time to a point where we’ll react to them the same way we’ll react to outright racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. Imagine it like being poked in the stomach repeatedly. Sure, the first few times aren’t bad, and it’s not like it really hurts, but after a while, you get the urge to grab the finger and hurl the person through a window. Then, someone else might come by and poke you in the stomach without realizing you’ve already had your fair share of getting poked, so then you immediately get the urge to throw them out the window without any warning due to the pent-up rage you’ve already gained from being poked in the stomach several times before. Mind you, I rarely blow up at anybody who’s metaphorically poked my stomach in that same spot, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t fall victim to someone who has a shorter fuse.
So when you, as a straight guy, make a joke about being butt buddies with your straight guy friends, I’m not necessarily mad just because you did it that one time. I’m mad because it wouldn’t be the first time someone thought it would be funny to make a joke about guys being attracted to each other, and the optimistic side of me hoped you’d be better.
I get that there was a time where homosexuality was a strange topic to navigate, so making jokes about two men or two women being together must have seemed like a good way to have conversations around it. Now that we’re in a time where we’re trying to normalize LGBTQ+ identities, I feel it’s demeaning to be making jokes that frames their attractions in a way that makes it seem like they, themselves, are a joke. I also get that people’s intentions when making these jokes aren’t malicious, but it doesn’t change the impact of those remarks. So while it seems like I’m making a big deal out of nothing, it’s actually me making a big deal out of something that’s bothered me for almost a decade, and despite how much progress we’ve made, it still happens regularly.
Let me know how you feel about this in the comments! I can’t imagine I’m the only one, but I could also be the only one. Anything is possible, y’know?