I recently made a gay joke, and I should know better. Actually, I made two, and one of the jokes backfired. For guys, the term “gay” is an adjective that means “not masculine.” Chamomile tea? Gay. “Wicked: The Musical”? Gay. Capri pants? Gay. In the new bombshell Rolling Stone article about General Blabber and his knitting circle of kvetching combat hens, one of his aides refers to a diplomatic meeting with the French as “gay,” as if the talks were to be conducted with mimes wearing pink berets. I’ll kindly remind that while the French can be over-intellectualizing flowers, they did manage to invent the fist execution machine, write the blueprint for the modern military dictator, and ran a colonialist, mercenary army. Not to mention, inspire the first cartoon skunk rapist.
“That’s so gay” is an insult, a pop cultural punch-line, and a casual, socially acceptable form of prejudice. Prejudice is fear on the offense. It will never cease to amaze me how even the beefiest, baldest, baseball-cap wearing frat-beast is utterly terrified, and convinced, that every gay man in a half-mile radius has a zombie hunger for his junk. To be fair, it’s terror, and just a little bit of vanity … that traditionally feminine vice.
I sincerely hope that somewhere, two gay men have witnessed a bro icing a bro, then turned to each other and sneered, “That is so … dude.” For those who don’t read The New York Times [Or The Frisky? -- Editor], “Bros Icing Bros” is a popular, erotically-charged prank where one guy ambushes another guy and presents him with a sickly sweet malt liquor beverage that is all the rage with pedophiles. The guy presented with the bottle must drop to one knee, and chug. Within this choreography are the essentials of superficial male bonding: booze, peer pressure, and someone on his knees. Sick burn, dude! Mostly, bros icing bros is harmless fun. But, oh, the subtext is fertile ground. Please note: I wrote “superficial” male bonding. I have male friends who are like brothers to me. I have got their backs. And I’m not ashamed to give them a hearty, 10 second, back-slapping bro hug to affirm occasional manly benchmarks, like a new job, a new love critter, or a new grill.
I’m not a big fan of political correctness. I prefer my bigots loud, so I can see them coming. Homosexuals are not martyrs, or fashion accessories. They are people, too. Which is to say, flawed, annoying, selfish, and prone to asking me three times if the movie theater seat where I have strategically laid a backpack AND a coat is “taken.” Yes, it is taken. “Jerkface” knows no race, creed, religion or sexual orientation. I have known some flamboyant queens who also happened to just be terrible people. In fact, the two things had nothing to do with the other.
The Texan in me staunchly believes that good fences make good neighbors, and believe me, I take my fences with me wherever I go. I’m always wearing a white-picket halo. Stay out of my yard, unless I invite you to the porch … of my mind. Until then, let’s just all mind our own business. Don’t piss on my rose bushes. My political platform is simple: I’m pro guns, ganga, and gay rights. I believe that all Americans have the sovereign right to whisper sweet nothings to a 9mm, smoke a blunt the size of a five-dollar footlong, and to savor the future joys of same-sex divorce. But of those three, the right to love, and to have that love protected by law is the most important. Rights denied to some are rights denied to all. Eventually.
So I’m sitting at my local bar the other day and the World Cup is on the television. It was one country from the board game RISK playing another. A guy sits down next to me. He’s dressed like a gangsta who grew up on the mean streets of Greenwich, Connecticut. But he wasn’t a hobo, or even worse, a stockbroker. At one point he looks at me and goes, “Soccer is so gay.” If by reflex, I agreed. I would blame the beer, but the truth is, I wanted to chew the proverbial fat. I agreed, and launched into a series of gay jokes. Soccer is gayer than a Middle Earth elf giving a hobbit a piggyback ride! Gayer than disco ballet, than lemon meringue pie, than a penis ejaculating Skittles … and with that, I was on a roll. I cemented my alpha dog status by putting down a graceful sport beloved around the world and loathed here because it’s impossible to wrap commercials around!
Not only that, but I validated my own fragile masculinity by insulting an entire group of people whose only crime is being different … which really pisses off us conformist junkies! The upper-middle class thugling laughed and laughed. Then it hit me. Why I should know better. I’ll tell you in a moment. But I was slapped with guilt, and desperately thought about how to make amends. A beer or so later, the dude punched me in the arm and said, “You are effing hilarious. I am so glad I came into this bar. Man, you’re the best. No homo.” Yes! I swear. “No homo,” is a hip-hop term that’s basically a conversational clause. A little piece of punctuation that renders something said as not being “gay,” as if by magic. It’s like a devout atheist saying, “Jesus makes the flowers pretty. No Pope-o!” I decided to redeem myself in my own eyes. My snarky retort: “Man, I think you’re the best. Yes homo!” Playa looked at me like I was wearing ruby slippers. We both finished our beers in silence.
I have told a gay joke before that went awry, and I should have learned my lesson then. See, I was the victim of a straight bash. I must have been 15 or so, and I ran up to a group of friends of mine, one of my best guy friends and two chubby, albeit delightfully slutty, drama chicks. My crew smoked cigarettes, listened to Nine Inch Nails, and categorically rejected the idea that these were the best years of our lives. I was out of breath, but I had just been told The Funniest Joke In The World. I will recount the joke, in its entirety: “How do you sit four fags at a bar? Turn the stool over.” What can I say? Fifteen-year-old boys are singularly obsessed with the butt. What comes out of it, what goes in; a comedy two-for-one deal. I cracked up, until I noticed that no one else was joining me. My friend, who I’ll call Dennis, wasn’t amused. His face twisted with anger and he dealt me two swift blows to the gut. I doubled over, gasping for air, and as my eyes welled up with tears, I stumbled away, a limping, gulping Quasimodo.
As I hobbled around looking for a place to catch my breath, I ran through the reasons why he’d attack me. Did I forget to return his Pixies cassette tape? Did I steal his joke? I felt shocked and betrayed and rejected. And, I’ll be honest, my face was full of snot. When you’re 15, what your friends think of you is so important.
Eventually, Dennis found me sitting in the football bleachers. He was blunt. He was gay. He had come out to all his friends save for me, because he was afraid I’d react the way some of his family members had. This was the early 90’s — it was still a very dark time for a young gay man to come out in a Southern suburb. It really wasn’t that long ago, but once upon a time, to be gay was to be a potential grim reaper. At that point, on those bleachers, I could tell that he was suddenly older than me, more grown up. He had glimpsed a world that not only doesn’t care if you’re special. But I tell you, when he told me he was gay, I was relieved. I thought it was something worse, like he hated my Silver Surfer shirt. He was my friend. I politely told him that I was, in fact, not gay, and I hoped that would not adversely affect our relationship. He chuckled.
Dennis was a good friend to me. Loyal. Sarcastically honest. He gave me some of the best girl advice I’ve ever gotten. Granted, he was actually dating other people, and I spent most of high school desperately trying to steal second base. We would sneak into R-rated movies, and drink coffee, and go to parks. I remember him talking about his first boyfriend, and learned that love has nothing to do with genital organs. I haven’t talked to him in years, and I probably should. Some friendships are touched by eternity, and never need revisiting. They exist forever. I hope he’s happy. I told you I knew better. Or at least I did, as a kid who accepted people as they are, not as they “should” be. And if that’s “gay,” then so be it.
Follow John DeVore’s preening narcissism on Twitter.